Meaning Well in a Mean World
Peace is Better than War
It is a no-brainer. Among the greatest famous champions of peace was Mahatma Ghandi. According to Ghandi, there is no way to peace. Rather, peace is the way. Hence, the title of the book. Among those who might be called spiritual successors to Ghandi, certainly Deepak Chopra would be included. He is something of a challenge to Western readers since his religious background is basically Eastern. But he is a great spokesperson for Eastern thought. He is remarkably good explaining terms that cause Westerners to blank out: Seva, Simran, and Satsang, to begin with. With only a modicum of concentration, however, the mysteries start to fade. It is the concepts that are important, which do in fact translate. Naturally, Buddhist scholars might heartily disagree, demanding much more than Chopra's conversational tone, more fitting, it would seem, to teatime than temple. Still, much is to be gained at the very least from an acquaintance with this prolific writer's position on so crucial a topic as peace. With every passing day, in fact, it is becoming more and more critical. If there is a chance -- for real peace, world-wide, and enduring -- then we would truly profit by paying heed. I am already a convert to the cause. All the same, I am well-read when it comes to books having to do with wars and atrocities, both current and in the past. Inhumanity, in a word, has not abated. The drums of war always beat. Not a day goes by without horrible injustices. But these are manifestations of something other than the urge for peace.
Actually, the three terms above are not hard to grasp. (1) Seva: "Your actions harm no one and benefit everyone." (2) Simran: "You remember your true nature and your purpose for being here." (3) Satsang: "You belong in the community of peace and wisdom." Early in his book, Chopra maintains that changing one's consciousness, in sufficient number, can destroy war, which, itself, feeds on an opposite set of terms. As a result, those in power, who have influence, and who set our trends, as well as fix our values, will always move us predictably toward war. In fact, theirs is not an opposing consciousness at all but crass materialism. It is quite possible to fight over basically nothing, but usually, historical analysis will show, economic prizes are the chief motivators when it comes to this grim business. To be sure, how to separate one's fondest hopes and dreams from crass materialism, in a plausible manner, is a fair question. But Chopra gives more than a hint as to how to turn the tide. Instead of giving in, we should take advantage of powers we already have, that are independent of the influential and their lackeys.
The War Against War: Fighting the Hydra
From the Athens Archeological Museum to Us
As depicted on this ancient cup, ending war seems an impossible task. Even having never heard of either Ghandi or Chopra, one understands that there is an abiding attraction to war. It seems from all appearances (television, books, videos, games, movies, and passive reflection) that the longing gets more intense the higher up the scale of political office. One need not go back to Hitler and Mussolini. Think of Muammar Kaddafi, Hugo Chavez, and lately, Kim Jong-un. They dress accordingly, gesticulate, display anger, walk straighter than normal, shoulders level, and have a way of comporting themselves as though they have an ultimate ace-in-the-hole. But these are my own observations. Chopra has his, too, such as pointing out how South Africa spent tons of money on a nuclear submarine while its AIDS programs went nearly unfunded. In fact, he takes pains to try to outline the psychological underpinnings of the warrior mentality, especially with its familiar emphasis on "us" and "them".
Chopra does not draw exceptions. In his worldview, war is bad, meant to be overcome in the greater interests of peace. He is nonetheless aware of items that require a strong stomach. Some have passed from the theoretical into actual theaters of combat. Others are being invented and tested. Take, for instance, the idea of a neutron bomb that would only kill human beings, leaving bridges, railroad tracks, and buildings unharmed. Employing new materiél can be dangerous. In the Iraqi War, the coalition against Saddam Hussein made use of depleted uranium. Useless for bombs, it was sensational in bullets. As a result, it is thought, Basra Hospital reported incredibly bizarre birth defects. Victims need only have inhaled. They did not need to be punctured. The point is that despite attempts to limit wars to certain "conventional" weaponry, there is really nothing holding back militaries from weapons that have only just been manufactured. Militaries, incidentally, excel at keeping things to themselves. Already, in WWII, bombs were being used that did not just come crashing down, but started fires, or were designed to haphazardly land in rooms, like uninvited guests. No doubting terrorists intend to use whatever they can. But we should not allow ourselves to become like them, especially in this particular regard.
Wars Are Interesting.
Glory in War Might Someday Not Exist
For the time being, purple hearts are still awarded to those who deserve them. But time is running out on conduct that is only too rare and exceptional. Count purple heart recipients and compare that number (multiplied, let's say, to include self-less global soldiering) against the number of people who have had something to do with atrocities. I would wager that the latter number is not only higher, but becoming higher still. Still, hopelessness in the face of greater odds is an attitude that can have only a single outcome, not the one so consummately desired. It is difficult to summarize in so many words the very precise outlines Chopra uses to guide "peaceniks" on the way toward perfecting themselves. The rather hotly contested topics about what to do about Russia, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, North Korea, Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas, Boko Haram, etc. are out of control. How can one eliminate from debates the minimal suggestion to at least point a few missiles? To be honest, Some of Chopra's beliefs are more than I can process at this point in time. But his overall theme is solid. Let us begin, one individual at a time. A significant, international change in consciousness would eventually give hawks pause. They know from Vietnam and similar actions that popular support is vital. It need not be given freely, no matter what is happening, or being heatedly promoted in the press. Nevertheless, Chopra himself admits that stateless terror is, at present, our greatest threat.
Something about Chopra's descriptions of Eastern concepts made me want to compare them to Herman Hesses's Siddhartha (1922). In particular, it is the protagonist's initial stage of personal development, beginning with "samanas" or ascetics, whom the Buddha Himself tries to enlighten. But I do not think that the change in consciousness being advocated necessarily involves rigorous fasting, mendicancy, and meditation. We need not become monks to eradicate violence. All I can say, honestly, is that Chopra's book and its ideas give new life to a cause that seems to be shriveling up as more and more people resort to guns and IEDs to solve their dilemmas. Put otherwise, there is no longer any such thing as a "clean" war. An effective response to any unjustifiable militant source would, to be sensible, require as much force as it takes. This, simply put, is how armed engagements must occur. I have done some research into the matter. The gorier nature of several conflicts that entered the history books with widespread, flag-waving acclaim, is not always well-known. Suffice it to say that, yes, war is hell.
"War is Hell"
War Without End vs. World Without End
There is no coexistence when it comes to this polarity. Quoting Sherman, refering to his notorious campaign against Atlanta, concluded in September 1864, is only a dodge. To be more specific is risky. Heightened emotions accompany almost any devisive topic at the moment that prods ordinarily dispassionate people into murderous frenzies. Chopra is well aware of key events that prevent the cause of peace from becoming a reality anytime soon. Thus, his book deliberately emphasizes otherworldly pursuits. Progressively coming to know the Creator, for instance, accounts for many pages. In "the . . . journey of transformation", war is not involved. It is good, useful, inspirational reading. It might even be imperative, for nothing else compares outside the usual rhetoric about how to solve problems that might well snowball into mutually assured destruction. If nothing else, an introduction to a relatively new, widely accepted spiritual leader can, like a thriving medical practice, true to its oath, do no harm. As Americans, we have just about concluded having lived through two utterly different White House approaches toward terribly hard problems, mostly situated in the Middle East. The Iraqi War is largely forgotten, supplanted by a controversial form of stasis that has served to keep Americans safe, who would, otherwise, help a growing number of innocents being daily turned into victims of either terror or indifferent states. What is to be done? Chopra strikes a chord when he likens an Islamic Paradise to the much maligned Workers' Paradise, neither of which enjoys a reasonable chance of success. Think peace, not war. Try it. The instruments of war are always available. It only takes longer to create, maintain, and sustain peace.