by Reverend Dr. Lori Cardona
There is a story from the Buddhist tradition about a spiritual awakening that starts with a madman on the warpath. The madman was known for his vicious anger towards sages and siddhas. He would go from village to village chopping off the heads of the wisest and most revered wise men and women.
One day, while walking through a crowd that feared him, he came upon a monk nun peacefully sleeping by a Bodhi tree. The man hovered over her with a menacing look and waited for her to look up at him. When she finally did, he pulled out his sword and held it over her head. “What do you want from me?” she gently asked him. “Help me find peace,” he said, while secretly knowing that she would be like all the rest, all those who tried but who could not help him find the peace he inwardly longed for. The nun closed her eyes, took a long deep breath. “But you are unwilling,” she said. “You do not forgive, you love to tell stories of all the wrongs that have been done to you; you build walls with your anger. You see that sword you hold over my head? It is the sword you hold over your own. That is why you do not find peace. Peace is found when we remove all the blocks we’ve built against it. For that, you must be willing to lay down the sword.” The madman considered this idea and for a moment; he put down his sword. With compassion in her eyes, the nun said, “Now you will know peace.”
So often we go through our own lives like that madman, with our swords of defensiveness and fear held out in readiness for a fight. As we watch news of terrorist activity, mass shootings, domestic and sexual violence, hurricanes and political unrest, it’s easy to wonder if the entire world has gone mad. We become fearful and angry while yearning for peace. We try to find balance between our soul’s sacred journey which emphasizes peaceful living, and our ego’s pride which holds the high watch defensively and fearfully for signs of danger.
In A Course in Miracles, we are taught there are only two true emotions: Love and fear. The ego functions from a place of fear and mistakenly believes in the power of others to hurt us. It retaliates by taking on a defensive stand to protect itself from the possibility of harm. On the other hand, Love sees everything from a perspective of compassion, non-judgment, non-violence and true forgiveness. Errors previously considered as sins in need of punishment are understood to be mistakes in need of correction.
At a recent class for our seminarians at Sacred Journey Interfaith Seminary, we reviewed peace prayers from a number of faith practices. Not surprisingly, they each in their own way teach us that it is up to every individual to make a contribution and a commitment to peace. Step by step, thought by thought, we redirect our minds and hearts back to peace until we have a global consciousness of peace. We embrace humanity with the hope that we will see peace in our lifetime, even as we have evidence of so much unrest. We look in the mirror and then look at the images of terrorists and murders. As we know that we are one, we pray for and work toward the image to be unified in the peace-maker.
In his famous book, The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran wrote: “Beauty is life when life unveils her holy face. You are life and you are the veil, gazing at itself in the mirror.” May we all live as spiritual survivors, instruments of peace, visible love, forgiveness and compassion, and not as the madman with our swords held out in readiness for battle. As long as there is willingness, there is hope. As long as there is hope, there is motivation to move forward, with peace and love. And, with peace and love, we can change the world.
Reverend Dr. Lori Cardona is the founder, director and spiritual leader of LMC Interfaith Ministries. She is the co-founder and associate dean of Sacred Journey Interfaith Seminary, the only interfaith seminary in the southeast United States. For more information, call 954-632-0605, email [email protected] and/or visit SacredJourneyInterfaithSeminary.org.