Thursday, April 15, 2010

What does it mean to be a person of peace?

We are having a discussion about peace at the Culver City Interfaith Alliance and several people expressed the concern: what do I do if I am attacked? Don't I have the right to defend myself? I shared the following thoughts about self-defense and the martial arts from a little book called That Art of Peace by Morihei Ueshiba, trans. by John Stevens. According to the intro,

Morihei Ueshiba (1883-1969) was history's greatest martial artist. Even as an old man of eighty, Morihei could disarm any foe, down any number of attackers, and pin down an opponent with a single finger. Although invincible as a warrior, Morihei was above all a man of peace who detested fighting, war, and any kind of violence. His was was Aikido, which can be translated as "The Art of Peace."

There is much in this book that I can resonate with as a Quaker. He writes:
Foster and polish
The warrior spirit
While serving in the world;
Illuminate the path
According to your inner light.

Your spirit
is the true shield.

Opponents confront us continually,
but actually
there is no opponent there.Enter deeply into an attack and neutralize it as you
draw that misdirected force into your own sphere.

The Art of Peace is a
form of prayer that generates light and heat. Forget about your little self,
detach yourself from objects, and you radiate light and warmth. Light is wisdom;
warmth is compassion.

As this little book of wisdom makes clear, there are many ways to defend
oneself and one's loved ones without killing or maiming one's opponent, if we
are open to the inner light and to the Way. If we spent as much time training in
these nonviolent techniques as we spend watching movies that make us fearful, or
practicing how to shoot guns that usually end up killing the wrong person by
accident or getting stolen by criminals, we would feel and be a lot safer. True
security doesn't come from a weapon; it comes from being truly centered in the
Way that shows us how to respond to threats appropriately and nonviolently.

Guns and violence give us only illusory security. The only way to achieve peace is to be at peace with oneself

My friend Doris sent me this quotation in response (I would prefer inclusive language, i.e. "person of peace"):

A man of peace is not a pacifist, a man of peace is simply a pool of silence.
He pulsates a new kind of energy into the world, he sings a new song. He lives
in a totally new way his very way oflife is that of grace, that of prayer, that
of compassion. Whomsoever he touches, he creates more love-energy.

The man of peace is creative. He is not against war, because to be
against anything is to be at war. He is not against war, he simply understands
why war exists. And out of that understanding he becomes peaceful. Only when
there are many people who are pools of peace, silence, understanding, will the
war disappear.--OSHO. Zen: The Path of Paradox, Vol II"


  1. Well, then, I am not "a man of peace," because I am entirely against war. It not only works to destroy its many direct victims, but depends on, and perpetuates the ugliest of illusions in those who participate and those who just observe, while corrupting most everyone involved via some of their best qualities. I must be against it, as I ought to be against any epidemic of stupidity, any force of pointless suffering.

    But God, evidently, considers this evil necessary, better for us than leaving us quietly trapped in some "peace that is no peace." The same evils, if our nation weren't out contriving wars, would find another way to manifest.

    Fighting against war... is an oxymoron. And I don't know any technique, peaceful or otherwise, to end any war before God decides we don't need it anymore.

    I ain't no "pool of peace"; and I'm not going to try to impersonate one... God could have made me like that, and didn't. But I don't think, contrary-wise, that I'm supposed to fuss or to fear or to imagine there's any good reason for anyone to fight anyone!

    I do expect war to end... when people learn that power, and security, can't come from any gun, or any number of guns, but only from Who's inside us.

    Anthony, I don't know why I'm on something called a "Peace Committee"! I know there are things I'm supposed to be running around and doing, and the thought just makes me feel utterly futile! I think we'd need weapons of mass sanity, for this! And I don't see them being manufactured anywhere!

  2. Well said, Forrest. It is a good thing to be anti-war and also a good thing to be pro-peace. Fox was not a pacifist, he "lived in that power and life that takes away the occasion of war." In other words, he was (or tried to be) a man of peace. I agree with you that someday war will be as obsolete as slavery--a relic of our reptitian brain era. I hope and pray that human beings will end war before we do irreparable damage to ourselves and to our lovely planet.

    Let's talk about what you are doing to end war. Please email me at!