We live in a world where violence is commonplace, ubiquitous. We see it everyday on television, social media, we experience it in our neighborhoods, our homes, and at times even exert it on ourselves. Based on statistics, the status of peace in our world has not seen much improvement. The Global Peace Index 2014 shows that since 2008 peace has increased in 51 countries, but declined in 111 countries.

Violence is one of the leading causes of death in the world for persons aged 15 to 44. The World Health Organization in Geneva estimated that violence is the cause of more than 1.6 million deaths worldwide every year. Sadly, for every $1,885 spent on military budgets around the world, only $1 is spent on conflict prevention.

A pertinent question that arises is: what are the most effective and efficient investments to ensure conflict prevention? And the overarching answer is clear: we must invest in developing and nurturing the attitudes, structures and institutions that underpin peaceful societies. We must focus on securing the foundations of societies that will organically reproduce peace and remove that which perpetuates violence at its roots. The education of our future generations is essential to this solution. Education, whether it be formal, non-formal or informal, provides a platform through which humanity can evolve itself to become that which it aspires to be.

Currently, at a global level in the field of education, we often try to solve problems by snipping away at the weeds rather than digging them up by the roots. For example, we focus on getting 100% school attendance, rather than improving the quality of the schools first; we emphasize teaching children the “3 Rs” (Reading, wRiting, aRithmetic), rather than helping them learn the essential skills and attitudes to live peacefully. If you have travelled to countries with a high poverty rate and low participation in formal education, you may have found that the natives are able to learn outside of formal schooling how to effectively contribute to society and to lead meaningful lives. Today, the ability for individuals to educate themselves is made even more possible with the surge of self-learning opportunities available through the Internet. In other words, people, without government intervention, will learn what it takes for them to survive and to make a living. Would it not then follow that national/federal and international education organizations could focus more of their energies on establishing the foundations to ensure peaceful societies.

If we can agree on this point, a second question arises: How do we teach peace? Our Guruji, Shri B.K.S. Iyengar shared his perspective, “Before peace between the nations, we have to find peace inside that small nation which is our own being.” (Sparks of Divinity). This wisdom echoes that of Lao Tzu, the ancient Chinese philosopher and poet, who wrote that if there is to be peace in the world – there must be peace in our own heart. The importance of teaching inner peace has been known for thousands of years, yet education systems have not made it a priority.

Nevertheless, there are many non-governmental institutions that have made a difference in promoting inner peace within individuals around the world through education. One of the major relevant movements that has gained great popularity worldwide is the Yoga movement. Although there are many misunderstandings of the meaning and purpose of Yoga, an astoundingly high commercialization of Yoga, and a plethora of Yogi charlatans and shams, there are some redeeming features of this movement that will surely move the world in the direction of peace.

Most importantly, this movement has planted a seed into people’s minds that inner peace is critical for outer peace. It has also made clear for people that there is a critical connection between the body and mind in nourishing inner peace. Understanding of these two points is critical. Through Yoga individuals can experience inner peace in their body and mind, as well as the positive effect it has on their life and relationships.

Schools of Yoga as well as educational and business institutions that integrate aspects of Yoga are spreading due to the increasing awareness of the practice’s benefits. And although the approach to Yoga (Hatha, Iyengar, Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Power, Hot, etc.) can make a great difference in the degree of awareness and positive change toward inner and outer peace that the individual experiences, they still remind us that we are responsible for our peace and give us some knowledge and skills to experience it. They point out that change starts from within and that if we want to see a different world, we must start from the foundations, from our individual selves.

Nations and international organizations could potentially play a powerful role in not only expanding the practice of Yoga to formal educational institutions and governmental organizations, but in examining the effectiveness of the various approaches in bringing about peace. This support, provided genuinely and properly, could help popularize the approach that is the safest and most effective in developing inner peace and harmony. To learn of an approach that has the power to meet these needs, please see: the Yoga training section of the Himalayan Iyengar Yoga Centre & Himalaya Shanti Ashram for the various Yoga and Meditation Trainings, Courses and Retreats.

Polina Mischenko


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