Peace begins within, not with warfare and the threat of violence against our neighbors, and not with razor’s-edge international diplomacy. Peace begins when we subdue ourselves.
Those were among the themes emphasized at World Peace Day 2013 last Saturday at the Isha Institute for Inner-Sciences just off Highway 8 on Harrison Ferry Mountain, some 15 miles southeast of McMinnville.
Attendees were told calming the inner conflicts and soothing the internal tensions are the necessary first steps toward securing peace in the home, the community, the school and the planet. Also, quieting the quarrels within and bringing our desires under control – showing respect for others and the environment that sustains us – are essential to personal peace and contentment.
“What’s happening in society is a manifestation of what’s going on inside us,” Sadhguru J. Vasudev, founder of Isha Yoga and global humanitarian leader, told an audience of some 750 inside the institute’s Mahima convocation center, the largest free-standing domed structure in the Western Hemisphere. The graceful, copper-covered edifice is near the center of the institute’s 1,100-acre wooded campus straddling Warren and Van Buren counties.
Sadhguru, as he is respectfully called by his students in the non-religious, nonprofit institute, engaged in a two-and-a-half-hour dialogue with Arianna Huffington, founder and editor-in-chief of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Huffing-ton Post. Acclaimed for her advocacy of human rights, open and fair democratic governance and accuracy and responsibility in the media, Huffington was named earlier this year as one of Forbes magazine’s World’s Most Powerful Women. Time magazine twice listed her among the globe’s 100 most influential people.
“If you want to change the world, start with changing yourself,” Huffington replied, quoting Russian-born novelist Alexander Solzhenitsyn. “We have the responsibility to make the world better for those around us.”
“If you know you have an expiry date,” Sadhguru said, “you do important things well. The human body is a piece of the Earth. We are all on loan from nature.”
A large part of wisdom includes an appreciation of our own mortality and fragility. The Huffington Post recently appointed a full-time reporter to cover death, but “not in a morbid way.” Rather the concentrating on sadness at dying and death, the online magazine celebrates the lives, struggles and victories of people who have contributed to the well-being of mankind, Huffington explained.
“Stress is the inability to manage your body,” the imminent yogi responded. Stress, he said, “is a form of friction … It’s like trying to run you car without oil in it.”
“At least 70 percent of illness is self-created. If there is no stress, there is no need for maintenance and repairs,” Sadhguru said, noting he has never been a hospital patient and does not have a regular physician.
In the drive for positive social change, the Indian-born mystic observed that people are not held accountable for that which they lack the power to do. But he said if we ignore opportunities to help our fellow human beings, we have failed morally.
“If we do not do what we can do it’s a disaster,” Sadhguru said, adding that 21st Century science and technology already offer all the intellectual and physical tools needed to solve most of the world’s problems. It’s a matter of humanity, compassion and will, he stated.
Continuing the theme of compassion, Huffington told the audience her Huffington Post had formerly carried a regular feature called “Go-getter of the Week.” She said it was recently replaced by a column headlined “Go-giver of the Week.”
“Primary education is society’s investment in its future,” Sadhguru declared. He has led the creation and funding a number of Indian schools that work on innovative instructional practices, including the employment of teachers who are professionals and practitioners in occupations other than education.
In a lively question and answer session, McMinnville Mayor Jimmy Haley, a career educator and historian, suggested children sometimes don’t love themselves, and this leads to behavioral problems in school. Sadhguru described the work of a Canadian researcher who brought a real baby, 1 to 3 months old, into classrooms to teach lessons in emphathy. “The children immediately become protectors,” he said. At the end of exchange, Sadhguru invited Haley to visit India and observe his educational practices.
While Haley represented McMinnville city government, Warren County Executive John Pelham was also invited to the stage to welcome the visitors from across the United States and some foreign countries. Members of McMinnville’s Breakfast Rotary and Noon Rotary clubs were also present.
Several leading members of the Isha Institute community said they expect World Peace Day to become a regular annual event at the mountaintop meditation and convocation center.
Local public radio 91.3 WCPI will broadcast an hour-long program of audio highlights from the Isha Institute World Peace Day. The centerpiece of the program will be an extended interview with Sadhguru.