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#2611 - Thursday, October 12, 2006 - Editor: Jerry Katz

    Egoic Basis of Peace and War

by Petros

Where war comes from

Krishnamurti once said that "War is inevitable as long as man is living within the frontiers of ideology." And this is understandable. For ideology is that fantasy world that frames what we see in terms of self and other, of "us" versus "them." How can this not be a source of conflict? Ideology creates war, within and without, for it is ideology which creates the imaginary world we allow ourselves to live in, the world of competition, envy and strife.

But what is it that creates ideology? Like any concept, any type of human idea which exists to assert itself against others, it is a creation of the unenlightened ego. The ego is, among other things, the part of us that asserts itself against the whole of life and the whole of truth. It exists to set itself apart from life and apart from truth. Does it have its uses? Yes, within very strictly circumscribed limits; it imparts a focus to experience, it has certainly survival value in this regard; but its tendency is to want to expand its domain beyond these limits. And therein lies the seed of conflict.

Elsewhere along the same lines Krishnamurti wrote: "War is the ultimate expression of inner conflict. There is war going on all the time, in the business world, in the political world, in the world of the religious people, between the various gurus, the various sects, the various dogmas."

This is an expansion of the realization that the ego creates conflict. The conflict begins inside, inherent in the concept of "self" and "other;" when it grows past its boundaries, inner conflict leads to outer conflict. It is a matter of cause and effect (karma). And paradoxically, outer conflict also leads to inner conflict; its echoes resound within us, amplified by the ego once again, and thus a seemingly endless cycle is created.

The great Osho (Rajneesh) expanded on Krishnamurti's insights about inner and outer conflict: "Everybody is fighting with themselves, and when it becomes too much they start fighting with somebody else. That's why in times of war, people look happier.....They are thrilled because at least for a few days they will not need to fight with themselves; they have found a scapegoat outside. . . . It is an escape from the inner fight; in a very sick way it is relaxing. But one cannot go on warring continuously; sooner or later man has to turn inwards again. The politician creates war without, and the priest creates war within......"

In no case are we freed from conflict as long as we resist inner resolution. Reproducing the conflict within will not solve it. Even, paradoxically, fighting the ego itself will not diminish the error, though many on the spiritual path believe and teach this as the cure for conflict. For the ego thrives on conflict and will not readily surrender when directly confronted by any assertion from higher understanding.

Where peace comes from

What is peace? Krishnamurti defined it as a fundamentally existential condition: "Peace is a state of being in which all conflicts and all problems have ceased; it is not a theory, not an ideal to be achieved after ten incarnations, ten years or ten days. As long as the mind has not understood its own activity, it will create more misery; and the understanding of the mind is the beginning of peace."

This peace that Krishnamurti speaks of is not a passive state. Peace Pilgrim walked thousands of miles around the United States, Krishnamurti tirelessly spoke to thousands of people over five decades. Writing, speaking, even meditation are active roles that we as peace activists play. And we are not merely peace activists, whose motivations may be many and varied, but we are activists of awareness as well, indeed first and foremost, because peace grows naturally out of awareness.

Our awareness comes out of a break with conditioning. "The totality of our conditioning can be broken -- not bit by bit, which takes time, but immediately, by directly perceiving the truth of the matter. It is the truth that liberates, not time, or your intention to be free." (from "Conditioning")

We can see that Krishnamurti always spoke of being free, not in time, but in spite of time, out of time. When that is felt as reality, conditioning and conflict both come to an end, as they both see themselves for what they are. It comes from, as he said, directly perceiving the truth of reality. He noted elsewhere that we should not look for reasons to create peace, as that is only another dodge the ego uses to avoid being peaceful right now. The mind looks for reasons but doesn't particularly want to find them. When it stops this endless looking for reasons to be peaceful, it can conceive of peace as a state in itself; a state without causes, a state unconditioned. That is the free state: the unconditioned state.

And it is, most spectacularly, a healing state; it is not at all static or soporific. Only when this state is achieved can be finally see that peace is our natural state, and that conflict -- egoically motivated and sustained -- is the aberration. A Course in Miracles tells us that "Peace is stronger than war because it heals." (Text 70.)

Ways to get there

We cause change in the material world by first conceiving of that change in ourselves. In other words, our inner state is the field wherein we first plant what we want to be established in the outer world. This is true for good as well as for evil; both begin, for us, internally. We don't solve the problem of war and conflict in the material world by mindlessly resisting it -- since it feeds off of resistance. We solve the problem not by resistance but by acceptance, which does not mean giving in to the evils with a sense of defeatism, but by seeing it for what it is, understanding it on a deep spiritual level. With nothing to resist, and nothing resisting it, conflict ceases to have a purpose. It loses its momentum. It is easy to see how one becomes a bit like that one opposes; we unconsciously take on some of the attributes of those we are in conflict with, inevitably.

Osho recognized the dangers and futility of being stuck in a resistive mode of action when he criticized the typical pacifist mentality: "A man of peace is not [an ordinary] 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 of life is that of grace, that of prayer, that of compassion. Whomsoever he touches, he creates more love-energy." (from Zen: The Path of Paradox)


There is the eternal cosmic dance of Shiva Nataraja -- the Dancing Shiva -- god of destruction who lays the ground for inevitable renewal. We sit and watch this dance, but knowing too that we cannot escape it. Yet this dance cannot be purely destructive, for then there would be no possibility for renewal or transcendence. While conflict is, in itself, an unavoidable part of life, an unavoidable portion of our existence, it is also given to us to express our consciousness and our higher awareness to bring an end to conflict when it doesn't serve the highest possible interest, the greatest good for the greatest number.

War is a material symbol of the victory and the primacy of matter over spirit; peace represents the victory of spirit over matter. We cannot have external peace (peace in the material world) until we have internal peace (peace in the world of spirit.)

We have a quantum connection to the basic background energy of the universe -- our very neurons are connected on a subatomic level to the foundation of all that exists. Thus, peace and war are only two ends of a continuum and we are involved with the entire continuum. That means that both peace and war are within our grasp and our control.

Petros is an independent spiritual teacher. He may be contacted at

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