Each time the Risen Christ appeared to his disciples he used the same greeting. He said, “Peace be with you.” We wonder what brought that on. It wasn’t that he had found them quarreling, and that he wanted them to make up. It seemed, rather, that he wanted each of them to be untroubled. He wanted each of them to be at peace with himself.
History acknowledges two great masters of the art of gaining interior peace. One was the Seventh Century B.C. Siddartha Guatama, the founder of Buddhism. The other was the Sixteenth Century A.D . Spanish mystic, St. John of the Cross. Both of them taught that the secret of interior peace lay in stopping our desiring. They differed in the motivation they proposed for putting an end to desiring.
Siddartha, prince of the Sakya Clan of northeast India, had wealth, power, and beautiful companions, but seeing that none of those things last, he was not happy with them. Then, one day he saw a sick old man who was smiling; and on asking for the secret of that man’s joy, he was told the man was happy because he had found enlightenment, or peace.
Siddartha gave up his wealth, power, and beautiful friends, and he wandered for decades, seeking out the answers for interior peace. Although it had meant little to him at the time, he often thought back on Alara Kalama, a hermit who spent his hours chanting the seven words, “God is all things, I am illusion.”
Wearied from years of searching, Siddartha planted himself beneath a fig tree, declaring, “Though skin and bones and blood dry up, I will not rise before I find enlightenment. He sat on and on, turning blue, and he found he could not shut off the memory of Alara Kalama chanting, “God is all things, I am illusion.” At last, he embraced those words, saying, “I am just an illusion, and as such, I have no business desiring peace, or anything else.” With that, he stopped desiring, and he rose up enlightened. He had become the Buddha, the “enlightened one.”
St. John of the Cross came to the same conclusion. He taught that since it was frustrated desires that robbed us of interior peace, stopping all desiring was the way to peace. In that he was in step with Siddartha. Where he departed from Siddartha was in finding motivation for stopping desires.