Monday, June 14, 2010

Spirituality in peacebuilding

Leonardo Boff's weekly columns are available in Spanish from Servicios Koinonia. Some of his older columns are available in English at

by Leonardo Boff (English translation by Rebel Girl)

All the factors and practices in different sectors of the personal and social life should contribute to the construction of the peace that is so desired nowdays. The efforts would be incomplete if we did not include the perspective of spirituality.

Spirituality is that dimension in us that responds to the ultimate questions that always accompany our searches. Where did we come from? Where are we going? What is the meaning of the universe? What can we expect beyond this life?

Religions tend to respond to these concerns, but they do not have a monopoly on spirituality. This is a basic anthropological fact like will, power and libido. It emerges when we feel part of a larger whole. It is more than reason; it is an oceanic feeling that a loving energy creates and sustains the universe and every one of us.

In the evolutionary process that we came from, human consciousness burst forth one day. There is a moment in that consciousness when it realizes that things are not randomly thrown together or juxtaposed, at random, next to each other. It suspects that a "Thread" goes through them, linking and re-linking them.

The stars that fascinate us on warm tropical summer nights, the Amazon jungle in its majesty and immensity, the great rivers like the Amazon -- rightly called river-sea, the profusion of life in the countryside, the symphonic voices of birds in the virgin forest, the multiplicity of cultures and human faces, the mystery of the eyes of a newborn baby, the miracle of love between two people who love each other, all that reveals just how diverse our universal world is.

Human beings have given a thousand names to this "Thread" -- Tao, Shiva, Allah, Yahweh, Olorum and many more. It boils down to the word God. When you pronounce this name with reverence something moves in the brain and heart. Neurologists and neurolinguists have identified the "God spot" in the brain. It is a point that makes the hertzian frequency of neurons rise as if they had received an impulse. This means that in the evolutionary process an internal organ emerged through which man picks up the presence of God in the universe. Obviously God is not only at this spot in the brain, but throughout life and the universe. But from this spot we were enabled to grasp Him. And moreover, we are able to converse with Him, lift up our prayers to Him, pay homage to Him and thank Him for the gift of life. Other times, we say nothing. Quiet and contemplative, we only feel Him. And then our heart is dilated to the size of the universe and we feel as great as God or perceive that God has become small like us. This is an experience of nonduality, of immersion in the nameless mystery, a merger of the beloved and the Lover.

Spirituality is not just knowledge, but mainly being able to sense the dimensions of the radical human. The effect is a soft deep peace that comes from the Deep.

Mankind desperately needs this spiritual peace. It is the secret source that feeds humanity in all its forms. It bursts from within, radiates in all directions, raises the quality of relationships and touches the hearts of people of goodwill. That peace is made of reverence, respect, tolerance, sympathetic understanding of the limitations of others, and acceptance of the Mystery of the world. It feeds love, caring, willingness to accept and be accepted, to understand and be understood, to forgive and be forgiven.

In a troubled world such as ours, there is nothing more sensible and noble than to anchor our quest for peace in this spiritual dimension.

Then peace can flourish on Mother Earth, in the vast community of life, in the relationships between cultures and peoples, and the human heart tired of so much seeking will grow quiet.

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