A Step Away from Peace

John Ptacek

Imagine that you are standing under a waterfall. The water pounds down on your head and shoulders and pins your feet to the ground. The steady rush of water feels good. At times, it feels ecstatic.

But often the force of the water is too much. It hurts. You want it to stop. You tilt your body slightly, hoping to find a gap in the sheets of water cascading down on you. You do, and for a moment the pain lessens. But then the full force of the water finds you again. The pain is intense. You feel trapped.

Now imagine that one day, for no reason you can think of, you step back from the waterfall. You had no idea there was a space behind you the whole time, a cavern cut into the rock that easily accommodates your frame. The relief you feel is immense. Your body feels light. You witness the water pouring down inches from your nose. The inches seem like miles. Now the water begins to flow from you. Tears of joy are streaming down your cheeks. You have stepped away from the steady rush of water, from the endless cycle of pleasure and pain you’d been experiencing for as long as you can remember.

We spend our lives immersed in a flood of thoughts, unaware that another dimension of consciousness is available to us. It is a dimension in which we come to know ourselves as something other than thinkers. By taking a step back, we become the witness of our thoughts. Of the millions of steps we’ve taken in our lives, this subtle but radical step may be the most important because it leads to a profound sense of peace.

We cannot think our way into this witnessing dimension. It only emerges when thought subsides, hopping like a bunny from the bushes when the coast is clear. The thoughts that pleaded for our attention gradually recede in the presence of our steady witnessing gaze. In this transformative moment we have stepped back from the flow of thought into the serene space of our awareness.

This space is not as mystical as it might seem. Haven’t we all experienced moments when we’ve witnessed the thoughts flowing through our minds without getting dragged into their current?

Ramana Maharshi — Abide as the Self (C)

Ramana Maharshi -- Abide as the Self - Videos
ABIDE AS THE SELF: The Essential Teachings of Ramana Maharshi - Book

Abide as the Self is a transforming video which takes one on a meditative journey into the teachings Ramana Maharshi and the path of Self-Knowledge. Comprehensive film footage of Ramana comes alive, with emphasis on the teachings of Self-Enquiry and its practice. A special collection of rare photographs enhances Ramana's presence and captures the compassion and grace of one of the most respected sages of this century. A heartfelt narration by Ram Dass provides an overview of Ramana's teachings. There are also interviews with H.W.L. Poonja, Douglas Harding, and Allan W. Anderson, as well as others who sat in the Maharashi's presence.

Ramana Maharshi — Abide as the Self (A)
Ramana Maharshi — Abide as the Self (B)
Ramana Maharshi — Abide as the Self (C)
Bhagavan Ramana Maharishi Rare LIFE Photos

Realization.org: Self-Inquiry
Website: Sri Ramanashramam


Peace Chaplain

William T. Hathaway

From the Book
RADICAL PEACE: People Refusing War
By William T. Hathaway

RADICAL PEACE is a collection of reports from peace activists in the USA, Europe, Iraq, and Afghanistan. A seminarian contributed this chapter about learning to love her enemies. Because of her activism, she prefers to remain anonymous.

To celebrate Armed Forces Day the military base near my seminary held an open house, a public relations extravaganza to improve their image and boost recruiting. They invited the public in for a marching band parade, a precision flying show, and a sky diving demonstration. They even offered free lemonade and cookies.

A subversive seminarian, namely me, decided to disrupt the festivities and remind people that the military's job is murder. I bought a jump suit and dyed it orange like the uniforms the prisoners in Guantánamo have to wear. I bought two U-shaped bike locks, three diapers, and a pair of old-people's rubber underpants.

All suited up, I had a friend drive me onto the base before people started arriving for the celebration. She dropped me off at the traffic circle just inside the main gate, kissed me on the cheek for good luck, and drove back out the gate. In the center of the traffic circle stood a flagpole flying the Stars and Stripes. I ran to the pole, fastened my foot to it with one bike lock and my neck to it with the other — pretty uncomfortable — and started shouting, "Close Guantánamo! No More Abu Ghraibs! Free the Prisoners!" People gawked as they drove by, some laughing like I was part of the show, some waving, some giving me the finger.

I had an anti-war speech all prepared to give the reporters. I had a bottle of water in one pocket and a bag of trail mix in the other and was wearing the diapers and rubber underpants for toilet emergencies. I was locked on for a long stay.

A couple of minutes later, a van and a truck full of soldiers drove up. The GIs jumped out and surrounded me. They stood at attention facing the traffic, blocking me off from view. The van backed in next to me. I shouted my slogans louder, and they started singing "The Star-Spangled Banner" to drown me out. To people driving in, it must've looked like a patriotic demonstration — soldiers around the flag singing to greet them.

The Confession of All Georgia on the Day of Repentance

Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia Ilia II

A Prayer to the Most Holy Mother of God

Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia Ilia II


Translated by A.F.Price and Wong Mou-Lam


Thus have I heard. Upon a time Buddha sojourned in Anathapindika's Park by Shravasti with a great company of bhikshus, even twelve hundred and fifty.

One day, at the time for breaking fast, the World-honored One enrobed, and carrying His bowl made His way into the great city of Shravasti to beg for His food. In the midst of the city He begged from door to door according to rule.

This done, He returned to His retreat and took His meal. When He had finished He put away His robe and begging bowl, washed His feet, arranged His seat, and sat down.


Now in the midst of the assembly was the Venerable Subhuti. Forthwith he arose, uncovered his right shoulder, knelt upon his right knee, and, respectfully raising his hands with palms joined, addressed Buddha thus:

World-honored One, if good men and good women seek the Consummation of Incomparable Enlightenment, by what criteria should they abide and how should they control their thoughts?

Buddha said: Very good, Subhuti! Just as you say, the Tathagata is ever-mindful of all the Bodhisattvas, protecting and instructing them well. Now listen and take my words to heart: I will declare to you by what criteria good men and good women seeking the Consummation of Incomparable Enlightenment should abide, and how they should control their thoughts. Said Subhuti: Pray, do, World-honored One. With joyful anticipation we long to hear.



Where Do We Take Our Instructions?

Vincent Di Stefano

We tend as a society to remove from sight those realities that may disturb our sense of order, of control, of comfort, of civilised pleasantness. It is very tempting to arrange things so that one lives a predictable and well-cushioned life shielded from the human wreckage that lies just below the surface. Yet something as simple as spending an hour or two in a railway carriage outside of peak hour can reveal how wafer-thin the veneer of social order and civility can be. And the surprising number of young people begging for food and money in and around the streets of central Melbourne reveals further what lies behind the façade of affluence and self-satisfaction that is everywhere projected. One does not need to walk the streets of Calcutta to know the faces of the dispossessed and the privation and deep need that everywhere burdens the life of so many.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta was born of a peasant family in Albania in 1910. Her father died when she was a young child and she was raised in the simple faith of her community. She joined the Loreto Sisters at the age of 18, having already decided when she was 12 years old that she would one day serve as a missionary in India. After a short stay in Ireland, she arrived in north India in 1929. Over the next 20 years, she formalised her religious vows and served as a teacher in a Loreto convent school for girls in Calcutta.

In 1948 after experiencing a profoundly transformative personal revelation, she departed the convent, replaced her regular Loreto habit with a plain blue-lined cotton sari, and immersed herself in the street life of Calcutta. After securing modest accommodation, she immediately started a small school for girls and began visiting the destitute and the dying who were everywhere to be found in the city. Her work was sanctioned by Rome in 1952 and the small group of women that had formed around her took on the name "Missionaries of Charity."

The Gospel of Thomas

The Nag Hammadi Library
Translated by Stephen Patterson and Marvin Meyer

The Gnostic Society Library

There is a growing consensus among scholars that the Gospel of Thomas – discovered over a half century ago in the Egyptian desert – dates to the very beginnings of the Christian era and may well have taken first form before any of the four traditional canonical Gospels. During the first few decades after its discovery several voices representing established orthodox biases argued that the Gospel of Thomas (abbreviated, GTh) was a late-second or third century Gnostic forgery. Scholars currently involved in Thomas studies now largely reject that view, though such arguments will still be heard from orthodox apologists and are encountered in some of the earlier publications about Thomas.

Today most students would agree that the Gospel of Thomas has opened a new perspective on the first voice of the Christian tradition. Recent studies centered on GTh have led to a stark reappraisal of the forces and events forming "orthodoxy" during the second and third centuries. But more importantly, the Gospel of Thomas is awakening interest in a forgotten spiritual legacy of Christian culture. The incipit (or "beginning words") of Thomas invite each of us "who has ears to hear" to join in a unique quest:

These are the hidden words that the living Jesus spoke, and that Didymos Judas Thomas wrote down. And He said: "Whoever finds the meaning of these words will not taste death."

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