This is the keynote speech delivered at the International Peace Festival held on May 26, 2012 at Richmond Cultural Centre by Ashok Bhargava
One might wonder why we need to have a Peace Festival to discuss peace. Canada is a free nation and not at war with any country. We need to understand that peace is not just related to war and nations but also to individuals, cultures, economies and society. Therefore it is very important to create an environment of peace, understand peace and promote it. The quest for peace is as old as time. So we need peace festivals to bring all of the many beautiful cultures, ethnicities, religions and regions together as one community to live and to love.
I decided to ask some of my friends and family what peace means to them. Here are some of the responses – it is ability to sleep without anybody waking you up, it is throwing up your hands with a V sign while taking a photograph with your food. It is eating onion rings with spicy tomato ketchup and is awarded every year by the Nobel Committee. Peace is ability to laugh anytime, anywhere without fear.
Peace itself is not about anything specific. It is only understood when it is absent. Two things that matter most about peace are: what is it and how does it comes about? In 1945 after the 2nd World War, UNESCO was established under the auspicious of UNO with the mandate to create peace in the minds of men and women through Education, Science and Culture.
There are different kinds of peace. Inner peace is what most of us aspire for. Only an individual with inner peace will have an urge to maintain peace in the outside world. Another kind of peace is Social peace which is related to the society at large – cities, provinces and countries. An example of this would be Quebec which has unrest and agitation from time to time. In this context peace would be resolution of conflict between diverse groups. The Occupy movement aspires to create peace through economic equality, eradicating poverty, and restoring harmony and prosperity amongst the world’s citizens. The Arab Spring is an example of political peace by restoring democracy and good governance. In military terms, peace is the eradication of violence and war.
To explain what peace is, I would like to tell you a story. Some present here may have heard this story before. There once was a King who offered a prize to the artist who would paint the best picture of peace. Many artists tried. The King looked at all the pictures, but there were only two he really liked and he had to choose between them.
One picture was of a calm lake. The lake was a perfect mirror for the serene towering mountains and trees. Overhead was a blue sky with fluffy white clouds. All who saw this picture thought that it was a perfect picture of peace.
The other picture had mountains too. But these were rugged and bare. Above was an angry sky from which rain fell and in which lightening played. Down the side of the mountain tumbled a foaming waterfall. This did not look peaceful at all. But when the King looked, he saw behind the waterfall a tiny bush growing in a crack in the rock. In the bush a mother bird had built her nest. There, in the midst of the rush of angry water, sat the mother bird on her nest…perfect peace.
Which picture do you think won the prize?
The King chose the second picture. Do you know why?
“Because,” explained the King, “peace does not mean to be in a place where there is no conflict. Peace means to be in the midst of adversity yet still be calm in your heart. This is the real meaning of peace.”
Peace can come in many forms. Going to the mountains to hear and feel the energy of the earth or spending the day at the beach to see the majesty of the ocean. Having peace within you is so important. Feeling oneness with the Creator calms the heart and soul and allows the challenges of life to be refined through purpose. What is our purpose? I believe it is to help everyone around us, whether it is just a smile, a simple hello, or a helping hand. We are all brothers and sisters, we come from an almighty source and are here to love and support each other. Think about what you can do to help another person today.
Peace is a state of harmony characterized by the lack of violent conflict. Commonly understood as the absence of hostility, peace also suggests the existence of healthy or newly healed interpersonal or international relationships, prosperity in matters of social or economic welfare, the establishment of equality, and a working political order that serves the true interests of all. In international relations, peacetime is not only the absence of war or conflict, but also the presence of cultural and economic understanding.
In many languages the word for peace is also used as a greeting or a farewell, for example the Hawaiian word Aloha and the Arabic word Salam or Bale-cum- salaam. In English the word peace is used as a farewell, especially for the dead as in Rest in Peace, RIP.
Many cities are also named after peace. Jerusalem in Israel means Foundation of peace; Dar-es-Salaam in Tanzania means Harbour of peace. Kyoto, Japan, Amman, Jordan, and La Paz, Bolivia simply mean peace.
In conclusion I will like to recite a Vedic mantra that was composed probably five thousand years ago:
May peace radiate there in the whole sky as well as in the vast ethereal space everywhere
May peace reign all over this earth, in water and in all herbs, trees and creepers
May peace flow over the whole universe
May peace be amongst all gods of the world
And may there always exist in all peace and peace alone
Om peace, peace and peace to us and all beings!
Let there be peace between you and me. Please extend your hand to your neighbour to wish peace because the real meaning of peace is to live, love and laugh.