The Nature of Inner Peace

Most of us, when we reflect on the quality of “peace” think about finding an external situation that is quiet and isolated from the activities of the social body, whether it be politics, the economy, or inter-personal relationships. Peace for us is something that exists through the absence of disturbance. We then say we are “at peace”. We also tend to relegate “peace” to the dead and departed when we say “rest in peace”. The peace of death is, for many, the ultimate description of “peace”.

For Sri Aurobindo, however, peace is a stage in the progressive evolutionary development whereby we achieve a state of quiet, calm, receptive and even joyful harmony preparatory to moving beyond the limits of the existing body-life-mind complex and opening to the next level of consciousness. Peace is the foundation for detaching ourselves from the pressures and limitations that keep us boxed into the existing framework. Developing a basis of peace implies that we have shifted the standpoint away from our reactive vital nature and the mind’s attachments and habits.

The peace that Sri Aurobindo describes is not a “negative” state in any sense, but one that can be present and active even in the midst of activity and external events. Cultivation of this status is one of the important activities to be addressed by the practitioner of the yoga, as it involves overcoming all of the demands of the body, life and mind and freeing oneself from attachment even to specific outcomes or results. There is no peace if one has expectations or demands from life that are not being met. This is, however, not intended to imply some kind of avoidance or inaction; rather, it is the inner relationship to things, events and situations that is being addressed here.

Sri Aurobindo notes: “Peace is more positive than calm — there can be a negative calm which is merely an absence of disturbance or trouble., but peace is always something positive bringing not merely a release as calm does but a certain happiness or Ananda of itself. … There is also a positive calm, something that stands against all things that seek to trouble, not thin and neutral like the negative calm, but strong and massive. … In peace there is besides the sense of stillness a harmony that gives a feeling of liberation and full satisfaction. … It is quite usual to feel an established peace in the inner being even if there is disturbance on the surface. In fact that is the usual condition of the yogi before he has attained the absolute samata in all the being.”

“When the peace is fully established everywhere in the being, these things [reactions of the lower vital] will not be able to shake it. They may come first as ripples on the surface, then only as suggestions which one looks at or does not care to look at but in either case they don’t get inside, affect or disturb at all. … It is difficult to explain, but it is something like a mountain at which one throws stones — if conscious all through the mountain may feel the touch of the stones, but the thing would be so slight and superficial that it would not be in the least affected. In the end even that reaction disappears.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 5 Bases of Yoga, Quiet, Calm, Peace and Silence, pp. 118-122

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