Paul Brunton Philosophic Foundation homepage > Notebooks of Paul Brunton > Perspectives > Chapter 24: The Peace within You

The Peace within You

The Overself remains always the same and never changes in any way. It is the hunger for this quality, thought of as "peace of mind," which drives men to seek the Overself amid the vicissitudes of health or fortune which they experience.

Young souls look for happiness, older ones for peace, calm, and equilibrium.


The importance of cultivating calmness is well known in India. The Brahmin youth at puberty when initiated into his caste status and given the sacred thread is taught to make the first sought-for attribute calmness. Why is this? Because it helps a man to achieve self-control and because without it he becomes filled with tensions. These tensions come from the ego and prevent him from responding to intuitive feelings and intuitive ideas. For the student of philosophy it is of course absolutely essential to achieve a composed and relaxed inner habit.

It is far subtler than the first ecstasies of a newly made mystic, much more refined than the personal joys of a religious saint. It is deeper, quieter, more relaxed yet, withal exquisite--this peace.

To be at peace means to be empty of all desires--a state the ordinary man often ridicules as inhuman or dismisses as impossible. The spiritual seeker goes farther and understands better, so he desires to be without desire--but only to a limited extent. Moreover, some of his desires may be hidden from consciousness. Only the sage, by which I do not mean the saint, is completely free from desires because the empty void thus created is completely filled by the Overself.

There is a materialistic serenity and a spiritual serenity. The first comes from the possessions of money, property, position, or affection. The other comes from no outward possessions but from inward ones. The first can be shattered at a single blow; the other soon recovers.

No pleasure which is brief, sensual, and fugitive is worth exchanging for equanimity and peace, not even if it is multiplied a thousand times during a lifetime's course.

To attain knowledge of Brahman, the mind must be held in the prerequisite state of being calm, tranquil, and in equilibrium--not carried away by attachment to anything. After this is established, and only then, can you begin enquiry with any hope of success. Unless the mind is balanced you cannot get Brahman.

When the I is no longer felt then all the problems and burdens associated with it are also no longer felt. This is the state of inner calm which philosophy seeks to bring about in a man.

Holding on to the future in anxiety and apprehension must be abandoned. It must be committed to the higher power completely and faithfully. Calmness comes easily to the man who really trusts the higher power. This is unarguable.

After he has learnt to practise inner stillness during the set daily period, he must learn how to carry it into his ordinary activities.

Does the phrase "peace of mind" suggest that he will not suffer in a suffering world? This can hardly be true, or even possible. As actual experience, it means that his thoughts are brought under sufficient control to enable him to repel disturbance and to retain sensitivity. The sacred stillness behind them becomes the centre.

Do not confuse inner detachment with callous indifference. Do not search after impossible results. A worthy goal for human beings cannot be devoid of human feelings, however elevated they may be: it cannot be a glacial one.

Being detached from the world, which philosophy practises, is not the same as being indifferent to the world, which mysticism preaches.

This is what he has to learn--and it can be learnt only by personal practice, not from any book--how to keep in beautiful equipoise receptivity to his sacred Centre and efficiency in attending to the world's demands. This is answering Jesus' call to be in the world but not of it. This is the union of busy actuality with central tranquillity.

In deepest contemplation, the Nirvikalpa Samadhi of the Indian yogis, both egolessness and blissful peace can be experienced. But it is a temporary state; return to the world must follow, so the quest is not finished. The next step or stage is application, putting into the active everyday life this egoless detachment and this satisfying calmness.

It is not that he has no likes and dislikes--he is still human enough for them--but that he knows that they are secondary to a true and just view, and that his inner calm must not be disturbed by them.

The Buddha tried to teach men to look only on the decay and death and suffering inherent in existence on this physical plane. This is as unfair and as extreme--if isolated--as the teaching of modern American cults which look only on the growth and life and joy which are also inherent here.

After the brief hour of peace come the long months of storm: its purity is then contested by opposition, its light by the world's darkness. It is through the varying episodes of experience that he must struggle back to the peace and purity which he saw in vision and felt in meditation. True, he had found them even then but they were still only latent and undeveloped.

He becomes not only a spectator of others, but also of himself. If such detachment is seldom seen, it may be because it is seldom sought.

Try to do your new duties with inner calmness and outer efficiency. But whatever you are doing, try to keep ever in the background of consciousness the remembrance of the Overself; it will be both a form of yoga and a protective influence.

He can find the Overself even if he is caught up in the work of earning a livelihood. But his participation in the world's activity and pleasure will have to be a limited one. Not other men's voices but his own inner voice should say how far he should go along with the world.

In the foreground of his thought he deals with practical affairs in a practical way; in the background he remembers always that they are only transitory manifestations of an Element beyond all transitoriness, an Element to which he gives his deepest self. But only when his power of yogic concentration is complete and his knowledge of philosophic truth mature, does the possibility of achieving such harmony arrive--not before.

To be detached from the world does not mean to be uninterested in the world.

To turn one's mind instantly towards the divinity within, when in the presence of discordant people, is to silence harsh thoughts and to banish hurtful feelings. This frequent turning inward is necessary not only for spiritual growth, but for self-protection. Everything and everyone around us plays a potent influence upon our minds, and this is the best means of detaching oneself from this ceaseless flow of suggestions.

Do not be anxious about making provision for the future, if you are in a state of surrender to the Overself; but if you are not, then indeed you need to be anxious. The first relies on a superior power, the second on an inferior. If you will trust the Overself today, it will provide for you tomorrow. If you repose trust in the Overself, it will never let you down and you may go forward in surety. It is indeed the "Father who gives us each day our daily bread."

We think that this or that will bring us to the great happiness. But the fortunate few know that in meditation the mind is at its most blissful when it is most empty.

Joy and sorrow are, after all, only states of mind. He who gets his mind under control, keeping it unshakeably serene, will not let these usurpers gain entry. They do not come from the best part of himself. They come from the ego. How many persons could learn from him to give up their unhappiness if they learnt that most of their sorrows are mental states, the false ego pitying itself?

He may become detached without becoming dehumanized. He may live inwardly apart from the rest of the world without lessening his goodwill and good feeling for others.

Those activities which belong to a human existence in the world may still go on, and need not be renounced, although they may be modified or altered in certain ways as intuition directs. His business, professional, family, and social interests need not be given up. His appreciations or creations of art need not be abandoned. His intellectual and cultural life can remain. It is only demanded of him that none of these should be a self-sufficient thing, existing in total disregard of the Whole, of the ultimate and higher purpose which is behind reincarnation.

Where others get caught in this whirlpool and spend themselves, their energies, and their years in the piling-up of earthly possessions or the exhausting of earthly pleasures, he says to his instincts: "Thus far, and no farther." For him there is satisfaction in a restrained enjoyment of this world, with enough time and thought and strength for study of the great gospels and the practice of going into the Silence.

We must use the material things, yes, and not abandon them; but we must do so without attachment. We may love the good things of life like other men, but we ought not to be in bondage to this love. We should be ready to abandon them at a moment's notice, if need be. It is not things that bind us, not marriage, wealth, or home, but our craving for marriage, wealth, or home. And what is such craving in the end but a line of thinking, a series of mental images?

He becomes detached when he frees himself from the universally prevalent tendency to connect every experience with the personal ego. Detachment takes him out of himself and saves him from getting emotionally involved in his environment.

If he is to keep his inner peace he must always keep the innermost part of himself aloof and deny the world any intimacy with it.

The complete happiness which people look forward to as the objective of their life on earth can never be attained. For it is mostly based on things and persons, on what is outside the seeker, and on what is perishing. The happiness which they can truly attain is not of this kind, although it may include and does not exclude this kind. It is mostly based on thoughts and feelings, on what is inside the seeker, and on what is abiding.

The disciple's serenity must remain unbroken whether he succeeds in any enterprise or not, and whether he is able to do so soon or late. For it must not depend on these outward things; it must depend on inward realization of truth. He should do all that is humanly possible to succeed. But, this done, he should follow the Gita counsel and leave the results in the hands of God or fate. Thus, whatever the results may be, whether they are favourable or not, he can then accept them and keep his peace of mind.

Even if he is doubtful about a favourable result, he must resign himself to the situation as being truly the Overself's will for him just now. By this acceptance, the sting is removed, and patient resignation to the divine will is practised. He will then have no feeling of frustration but will retain his inner peace unshattered. He should remember, too, that he is not alone. He is under divine protection, for if he is a true disciple he has surrendered himself to his higher self. Therefore let him cast out all worry in connection with the matter, placing it in higher hands and leaving the issues to It. Let him refuse to accept the depression and anxiety. They belong to the ego which he has given up. They have no place in the quest's life of faith, trust, and obedience. Let him resort to prayer to express this humble resignation and trust in superior guidance, this belief in the Overself's manipulation of the results of this matter for what will be really the best in the end.

Fate provides him with difficulties from which it is often not possible to escape. But what must be borne may be borne in either of two ways. He may adjust his thinking so that the lessons of the experience are well learnt. Or he may drop it, for he need not carry the burden of anxiety, and remember the story of the man in the railway carriage who kept his trunk on his shoulders instead of putting it down and letting the train carry it. So let him put his "trunk" of trouble down and let the Overself carry it.

No other person can bring us happiness if he or she does not possess it in himself or in herself. The romantic urge to seek in a second individual that which neither of the two has, can never find successful fulfilment.

The attitude of Emerson, which induced him to call himself "a professor of the science of Joy," is more attractive than that of Schopenhauer, who taught the futility of life, proclaimed the vanity of existence, and spread the mood of despair. Emerson declined to accept the massive Oriental doctrine of melancholy resignation along with the Oriental gems of wisdom which he treasured. "This world belongs to the cheerful!" he said.

Pleasure is satisfaction derived from the things and persons outside us. Happiness is satisfaction derived from the core of deepest being inside us. Because we get our pleasures through the five senses, they are more exciting and are sharper, more vivid, than the diffused self-induced thoughts and feelings which bring us happiness. In short, pleasure is of the body whereas something quite immaterial and impalpable is the source of our happiness. This is not to say that all pleasures are to be ascetically rejected, but that whereas we are helplessly dependent for them on some object or some person, we are dependent only on ourselves for happiness.

From the moment that a man begins to look less to his changeful outer possessions and more to his controllable internal ones, he begins to gain the chance for real happiness. When this truth breaks upon the intelligence, he learns to keep his final reserves hidden in his heart. Then whatever happens, whatever course fortune takes, no one and nothing can take it from him. So long as he can carry the knowledge of truth in his head and the peace of God in his heart, he can carry the best of all his possessions with him wherever he may go. Not having lodged his possessions--whether material things or human affections, capitalized wealth or social honours--in his heart but having kept them outside it where they belong, he can remain calm and unmoved when Fortune's caprice disturbs or even destroys them. He has learnt to keep within his heart only inalienable possessions like wisdom and virtue, only what renders him serenely independent of her revolutions.

He who depends on externals plays dice with his happiness. He who depends on his own Overself attains unfailing serenity.

"Sadness does not befit a sage" is the reminder of an ancient Confucian text. "He is a man inwardly free of sorrow and care. He should be like the sun at midday--illuminating and gladdening everyone. This is not given to every human--only one whose will is directed to `The Great' is able to it. For the attribute of `The Great' is joyousness."

It is not that the years pass by unregarded, nor that he is dead to human feelings, but that at this centre of his being to which he now has access, there is utter calm, a high indifference to agitations which compels him to treat them with serene dignity. He is a dweller in two worlds more or less at the same time.

Gautama's assertion that "life is suffering" may be matched with Socrates' assertion that "life is terrible." But both Indian and Greek sage referred solely to life in the ego. Is it quite fair to stress the misery of human existence without pointing to its mystery? For that is just as much there even if attention is seldom turned toward it. Man, in order to complete and fulfil himself, will and must rise to life in the Overself with the ego put into place, belittled and broken.

There is a silence born of ignorance and another born of knowledge--mystical knowledge. The right interpretation comes only through the intuitive faculty--not through the intellect.

This stillness is the godlike part of every human being. In failing to look for it, he fails to make the most of his possibilities. If, looking, he misses it on the way this happens because it is a vacuity: there is simply nothing there! That means no things, not even mental things, that is, thoughts.

The spirit (Brahman) is NOT the stillness, but is found by humans who are in the precondition of stillness. The latter is their human reaction to Brahman's presence coming into their field of awareness.

The Stillness is both an Understanding, an Insight of the mind, and an Experience of the being. The whole movement or vibration comes to a stop.

It is not easy to translate this sacred silence into comprehensible meaning, to describe a content where there is no form, to ascend from a region as deep as Atlantis is sunk today and speak openly in familiar, intelligible language; but I must try.

As his centre moves to a profounder depth of being, peace of mind becomes increasingly a constant companion. This in turn influences the way in which he handles his share of the world's activities. Impatience and stupidity recede, wrath at malignity is disciplined; discouragement under adversity is controlled and stress under pressures relaxed.

Truth lies hidden in silence. Reveal it--and falsehood will creep in, withering the golden image. Communication by speech or paper was not necessary.

Whatever the trouble be which distresses any man--be it physical or mental, personal or public, worldly or spiritual--there is one sure refuge to which he can always turn and return. If he has learnt the art of being still, he can carry his trouble to the mind's outer threshold and leave it there, passing himself into its innermost recess of utter serenity and carefree tranquillity. This is not a cowardly escapism or a foolish self-deception, although with the unphilosophical mystic it could be and often is. For when he emerges from the inner silence and picks up his trouble again, he will pick up also the strength to endure it bravely and the wisdom to deal with it rightly. This will always be the case if his approach is through philosophical mysticism, which makes inspired action and not inspired dreaming its goal. Furthermore, his contact with the inner Mind will set mysterious forces working on his behalf to solve the problem quite independently of his conscious effort and knowledge.

Truth may be written or spoken, preached or printed, but its most lasting expression and communication is transmitted through the deepest silence to the deepest nature in man.

The reason why this silent, inward, and pictureless initiation in the stillness is so much more powerful ultimately, is that it reaches the man himself, whereas all other kinds reach only his instruments or vehicles or bodies.

When the personal egos, thoughts and desires are stripped off, we behold ourselves as we were in the first state and as we shall be in the final one. We are then the Overself alone, in its Godlike solitude and stillness.

When he temporarily achieves this lofty condition, he ceases to think, for his mind becomes inarticulate with heavenly peace.

However dark or blundering the past, however miserable the tangle one has made of one's life, this unutterable peace blots it all out. Within that seraphic embrace error cannot be known, misery cannot be felt, sin cannot be remembered. A great cleansing comes over the heart and mind.

To complain that you get no answer, no result from going into the silence indicates two things: first, that you do not go far enough into it to reach the intuitive level; second, that you do not wait long enough for it to affect you.

The effort should be to find inward stillness through a loving search within the heart's depths for what may be called "the soul," what I have called "the Overself." This is not the soul thought of by a judge when he passes the sentence of death and asks the Lord to have mercy on the condemned man's soul. It is the Holy Ghost of Christian faith, the diviner part of man which dwells in eternity. The nearer we get to it in our striving, the greater will be the mental peace we shall feel. It can be found and felt even whilst thoughts continue to move through the mind, although they will necessarily be thoughts of a most elevated nature for the baser ones could not obtain entry during this mood.

The attention must be concentrated at this stage solely on the hidden soul. No other aim and even no symbol of It may now be held. When he has become so profoundly absorbed in this contemplation that his whole being, his whole psyche of thought, feeling, will, and intuition are mingled and blent in it, there may come suddenly and unexpectedly a displacement of awareness. He actually passes out of what he has hitherto known as himself into a new dimension and becomes a different being. When first experienced and unknown, there is the fear that this is death itself. It is indeed what is termed in mystical traditions of the West as "dying to oneself" and of the East as "passing away from oneself." But when one has repeated periodically and grown familiar with this experience, there is not only no fear but the experience is eagerly sought and welcomed. There I dissolved myself in the lake of the Water of Life.

In this deep stillness wherein every trace of the personal self dissolves, there is the true crucifixion of the ego. This is the real meaning of the crucifixion, as it was undergone in the ancient Mystery Temple initiations and as it was undergone by Jesus. The death implied is mental, not physical.

He who attains this beautiful serenity is absolved from the misery of frustrated desires, is healed of the wounds of bitter memories, is liberated from the burden of earthly struggles. He has created a secret, invulnerable centre within himself, a garden of the spirit which neither the world's hurts nor the world's joys can touch. He has found a transcendental singleness of mind.

Only he is able to think his own thought, uninfluenced by others, who has trained himself to enter the Stillness, where alone he is able to transcend all thought.

A man may fall into the sin of vanity because of the facility with which he is able to work up the devotional feelings or excite the spiritually rapturous ones. But those who enter into the Void because they are able to enter into the innermost part of themselves, cannot fall into this sin. They are detached not only from the emotions but also from themselves. This is why they live in so great and so constant a peace.

The truth which leads a man to liberation from all illusions and enslavements is perceived in the innermost depths of his being, where he is shut off from all other men. The man who has attained to its knowledge finds himself in an exalted solitude. He is not likely to find his way out of it to the extent, and for the purpose, of enlightening his fellow men who are accustomed to, and quite at home in, their darkness unless some other propulsive force of compassion arises within him and causes him to do so.

If he has succeeded in holding his mind somewhat still and empty, his next step is to find his centre.

It is not enough to achieve peace of mind. He must penetrate the Real still farther and achieve joy of heart.

If you investigate the matter deeply enough and widely enough, you will find that happiness eludes nearly all men despite the fact that they are forever seeking it. The fortunate and successful few are those who have stopped seeking with the ego alone and allow the search to be directed inwardly by the higher self. They alone can find a happiness unblemished by defects or deficiencies, a Supreme Good which is not a further source of pain and sorrow but an endless source of satisfaction and peace.

If the mind can reach a state where it is free from its own ideas, projections, and wishes, it can reach true happiness.

That beautiful state wherein the mind recognizes itself for what it is, wherein all activity is stilled except that of awareness alone, and even then it is an awareness without an object--this is the heart of the experience.

This is that ultimate solitude to which all human beings are destined.

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