Is Peace Another Utopia?


by Alfredo Sfeir-Younis



“Inner Peace Is The Only Foundation Of World Peace”

Lama Gangchen Tulku Rimpoche


We have lost our hunger for utopia.  This is a major tragedy in public and private policy making nationally and globally.  People would even question any positive meaning in the use of the term utopia, often used pejoratively to convey something naïve, or a non attainable state or a definite form of human fantasy. 


I am a utopian. 


Contrary to most people, I unconditionally believe in our capacity to live in a world free of crime, in societies where everyone is healthy, in countries that respect and fulfill human rights, in activities that do not harm the environment, and in a world at peace.  For most people, these are just utopias.


In the case of peace, things are even worse, as experts are telling us that the best we can do is to manage conflict and, if lucky, we will be able to avoid conflict.  A conceptual and policy architecture that limits our attention towards peace.   


Many are not really concerned about peace in its full expression.  Most often than not, human efforts go in the direction of understanding the source of conflicts and possible forms of conflict prevention.  This is done in the belief that whatever one can do to avoid conflicts is tantamount of attaining peace.  Certainly, a great fallacy.


Not less strong, is a group who uses all forms of violence to manage conflict and, they assure us that the use of violence is essential to attain peace.  Intrinsic in this approach is annihilating the “opponents” (presumably they are seen as the source of conflict) with the ultimate hope that one would create a stronger possibility for peace. 


Also, there are those who maintain that all along our history, humans have had some form of conflict and why not to accept its existence right now?.  They feel there is nothing “new” about conflict and no one can do anything about it.  Conflict, has always been part of our human existence and it will always be there and, thus, the best we can do is to learn how to manage conflicts. They question those like me who think that conflict –the way we are witnessing at this juncture in history—is unacceptable.   


Yet others advocate that conflict will be avoided if you have an equal material and destructive force on both sides of  those who may be prone to disputes.  This has been known as the theory of  “the balance of power”; i.e., arming everyone ‘equally’ will lower the probability for armed conflicts. 


Many people in the abovementioned groups feel they are very pragmatic and down to Earth in addressing peace.  Are they really?


All in all, what is most interesting is that these approaches have translated into the rational for the architecture of international institutions.  These institutions mirror image one of those approaches and practice their respective mandates in response to this notion that conflict prevention will be one day tantamount of peace.  This is nothing further from the truth. 


Peace is NOT equivalent to the absence of conflicts. 


The absence of conflict is simply the absence of conflict.


I am sure you may have other groups in mind[2].  However, the group that really interests me is the one postulating that avoiding conflict is not necessarily equivalent to a road towards peace.  That the road to peace demands a completely different approach, yet to be implemented in its entirety.  


To me, it is the self-realization of peace --as a unique state of being-- that will bring world peace. 


Inner peace is the only way towards world peace. 


There is a UNESCO declaration that, paraphrasing it, says: war and conflict begin in the mind of people and it is there where it needs to be addressed.


In this context, one should acknowledge that the paradigm which was responsible for the  creation of conflict will neither be the adequate one to avoid or resolve that conflict nor create and establish the foundations for the realization of peace.  This key principle in decision-making must be fully understood.


Each era of human history has its golden rule.  It is this golden rule that opens the way and determines how far and the pace of human progress and the levels of satisfaction we are able to attain in our lives.  The golden rule of the era of Picis, that is ending soon, has been “as I know, so I act”.  Knowledge and science have been at the heart of this era and I need not to explain this rule any further.  This golden rule has also represented the foundation of empowerment and the basis for creating authority in our societies.  Thus, for example, we see that one with a Bachelor’s degree “worth” less than someone with a Ph. D., under the assumption that the latter knows more than the former.  Our society “authorizes” the latter more than the former.


But, this golden rule will not apply with the same effectiveness any longer.  The new golden rule for the era of Aquarius is: “As I self-realize, so I act”.  A rule that “authorizes” as a function of one’s level of self-realization and nothing else.  In a social sense, this means to attain also high levels of  collective self-realization.


This golden rule demands we not only talk about peace or other human values (e.g., love, compassion, fraternity) but that we self-realize peace and those human values.  These human values are not just words, but they are profoundly subtle and essential states of our Being.  These states must not only be talked about, but they should be fully self-realized.  Thus, those who are to negotiate for peace should do so only if they have self-realized the state of peace.  If they are peace in themselves.  Otherwise, they have no clue what they are negotiating for.  Juts negotiating a cease fire is not tantamount of peace.


This process of self realization has certain characteristics worth noting. 


  • First, it happens at the level of the absolute within infinite spaces.  At that level, peace just “is”.  It does not happen in relation to anything else.  It happens in relation to itself.  


  • Second, it is a state of no judgment: there is nothing to change or establish one’s opinion on the matter.  It is totally non-judgmental state. 


  • Third, it is exact and precise.  There is no room for fluffiness or maybes.  The golden rule of attainment of peace is as precise and well define as anything in the material world it can be. 


  • Fourth, it is simple.  Many people think that the process of human self-realization must be complex and cumbersome, and full of twists and turns.  It is not my personal experience.  The great teachers have given so simple answers to our complex questions.  In many instances, the answers are so simple that the great majority do not want to even follow the advice. 


  • Fifth, the process of self-realization of peace is fully immerse and an integral dimension of The Laws of Nature.  Separateness does not exist in self-realization.  Thus, if we ignore or detach from natural law we constraint significantly our possibilities to attain peace and other humanistic values and states of being. 


  • Sixth, the process of spiritual self-realization is as much collective as it is individual.  The “me” and the “we” become one.  Thus, it is impossible to conceived self-realization as something for me alone.  It must be integrally linked and be part of  the totality we live today.  In some important sense, spiritual unfoldment is about the “other”. 


  • Seventh, every stage of this spiritual self-realization has specific material expressions in our everyday life.  The same applies the other way around: every act we perform in the material world will express itself in the spiritual.  This two way traffic is often misunderstood and, therefore, for example, we see no connection between the destruction of the natural environment and our path towards enlightenment and self-realization, both individually nor collectively.  We are mute of these connections and experience a wrong form of causality in life.     


Thus, a peaceful human transformation demands the
self-realization of peace.


There will be no peace in the world if we are not peace ourselves.  We have looked towards our outer existence to find peace.  But, in fact, you will never find peace in the supermarkets!!  It is time we look towards our inner existence, our inner self, our inner powers and experience for the true meaning of life in this beautiful Planet. We are part of a totality but we are also that totality. While separable, we are inseparable and completely interdependent.


Peace everywhere is not a utopia.  Peace is a normal state of our being.  A state we have lost through the thick filters of power, ego and duality.  The process of inner peace will dilute and get rid of these filters. 


Utopia is only in the heart of those who want an all embracing, inclusive and universal human destiny.  I invite you to join me as an utopian for the betterment of humanity.


Alfredo Sfeir-Younis[1]
Special Representative of the World Bank to the United Nations

[1] The views expressed here are solely of the author and should not be attributed to the World bank or any of its affiliates.  Errors and omissions are also of the author.

[2] Recent research has concluded that “contrary to popular opinion, ethnic tensions and ancient political feuds are rarely the primary cause of civil wars.  Instead economic forces such as entrenched poverty and heavy dependence on natural resource exports are usually to blame.” Thus, economic policy and economic practices must be carefully designed and implemented if we are to eliminate conflicts and, may be, one day to live in peace.  The World Bank, "Breaking the Conflict Trap:  Civil War and Development Policy."  2003.


International Day Of Peace       A Course In Miracles