On a previous trip to the Big Island I drove to Pu’uhonua O Honaunau, the City of Refuge to which transgressors in ancient times would flee for purification and forgiveness by the Kahunas. The first time I visited I arrived by 8am and there was not a soul around for half an hour. During that time I felt such a deep experience of peacefulness and of being present to where I was that it was almost as if I had left myself behind at the gate. On my recent trip back to the Big Island I decided that even though I was staying on the other side of the island in Hilo, I wanted to go back to the City of Refuge again. So I started driving early in the morning leaving Hilo on route 11, driving past Volcanoes National Park, down and around South Point on the island, and up towards the Kona area. I arrived around noon, and yet even though there were other people around I again had that intense feeling of peacefulness while walking the grounds. It was as if that very physical spot on the earth is a portal to another experience. Once again, the visit prompted thoughts about peacefulness.
Different customs, different traditions, different religious approaches to the Divine are like lamps that are differentiated by their styles, by their colors, by what they are made of; what they all have in common, however, is that their purpose is to enable and support illumination. What the City of Refuge has enabled me to know is that once we go beyond differences we reach the level we call “mysticism”, a state in which we come into contact with that reality in which we all find a unity of peacefulness – our relationship to and with the Divine.
Peacefulness, however, is not essentially dependant upon location. Peacefulness is that flame of illumination which sheds light not only for itself but for all around it. Being a member of a “peace” movement does not, therefore, automatically ensure that one is peaceful. By its nature peacefulness is always particular to the individual, and progresses from inward, outward. It is inner peace that produces outer peace, and not the other way around.
We now possess the capability of destroying not only one another but our entire world as well. If a baby smashed something we would say that it was having a temper-tantrum; if we continue to feed the view of each other as “not me, not us, not ours” then the consequences will be much more traumatic than a mere temper-tantrum: We could eventually eliminate the possibility of life here… for the people, for animals, for sea-creatures, for the environment… giving rise to the possibility that the very planet itself might become a burned-out cinder. Despite this terrifying possibility it is also ironic that without our cultivation of interior peacefulness the Garden which was capable of giving birth to spiritual awareness and spiritual experience could become simply a rock once again, capable of engendering nothing.