When we are angry we are blind to reality. Anger may bring us a temporary burst of energy, but that energy is blind and it blocks the part of our brain that distinguishes right from wrong. To deal with our problems, we need to be practical and realistic. If we are to be realistic, we need to use our human intelligence properly, which means we need a calm mind.
In an increasingly interdependent world our own welfare and happiness depend on many other people. Other human beings have a right to peace and happiness that is equal to our own; therefore we have a responsibility to help those in need. Many of our world’s problems and conflicts arise because we have lost sight of the basic humanity that binds us all together as a human family.
~~ His Holiness the XIVth Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso ~~
When we hear the word “war” today, it seems as though it could have no possible positive connotations. It brings up in us either fears of nuclear holocaust, or feelings of helplessness and fury about the waste of human life in Vietnam, in Northern Ireland, in the Middle East, around the world. “Holy wars” are perhaps the worst, meaning little more to us than a justification for atrocities sanction for fanaticism and brutality. Yet the holy men and the poet’s central myths and the great traditions do not shrink from war. They invoke it, urging us to battle.
In our time, when the need for peace seems more desperate than ever before, the call for inner war, the injunction to carry on a struggle inside ourselves rings true. We recognize that while we individually and collectively appear to wish for peace, we are nonetheless in conflict within and without. There seems to be no doubt that the unexamined and unresolved conflicts in us have a relationship to the chaos which we see so clearly about us. Buddhism often speaks of two wars…..one which we simply undergo, which rages around and through us without our participation, and another which we perceive clearly and enter willingly. It is only when we are engaged in the inner warfare that we can be at peace with others.
We can see that from the earliest myths of war in heaven, to the teachings of the Egyptian Desert Fathers on the spiritual warfare inherent in each individual, we can only seem to avoid conflict and struggle. From the beginning of time, we are told powerful forces must confront and oppose each other before any purpose of consequence can come into being. Myths from every culture speak of gods and heroes whose aim is supported and hindered by allies and enemies whose resolve is tested by difficulty and clarified by struggle and brute force. Forces of creation are opposed by those of destruction, forces of life struggle with those of death.
It is not easy to see how insights we are given about the interplay of forces on a cosmic scale apply on the level of the individual. It is difficult, first of all for us to see what is at stake in our own lives and to accept struggle as necessary and vital to our becoming in reality what we are now only potentially. For this we would have to see our own being as a battleground, itself a field of powerful forces always in movement, always serving one or another possibility.
We can see at least the inevitability of struggle once we set out to accomplish an aim ourselves. Only then are the lines more clearly drawn, the impulse countered by a resistance threatening it. While many things just happen, nothing we ever set out to do is achieved without persistent effort. And there are some goals that by their nature can never be attained but only enlarged as they are approached. In regard to the most challenging and highest possibilities in us, it is as though we are only able to see a further step once the first steps have already been made.
The fact of outer war, the war which we undergo, has been the backdrop of much of a good portion of lives of the young adults in our communities. Persistent questions about why human beings kill one another and why we are threatening the existence of our species have been inescapable. While these questions are rarely addressed directly by our politician, the relationship between the state of the individual and the kind of world in which he lives is implied in every utterance of the Buddha. Many of the causes of outer war may always be a mystery, but it is less likely that a remedy will be found for any of them if the war inside, the one we can know something about, is not faced and fought.