Recently I realized that I am not able to discriminate between “peace” and “calmness.” I have little idea how to apply them in daily life. Can you explain it?
It is not surprising that you find it difficult to discern between “peace” and “calmness.”
In many ways, they are similar. In English, they are often used together, referring to something as “calm and peaceful.” It is notable, though, that one uses both, because they do have a nuance of difference.
I think the problem comes when we think of these qualities at their perfected level, that is, close to their source in God. At that level, the distinction is difficult to see.
If you think of them, instead, at their most extended, in the middle of human activity, the distinction is clear.
Peace, in terms of human life, means the absence of conflict, stress, or even action of any kind. An empty meadow at dawn is peaceful. The house after the children have finally gone to sleep is peaceful. The quiet harmony between husband and wife as they fall asleep at night is peaceful.
Calmness, however, can exist in the midst of stress, conflict, and dynamic action. Two people can have an intense verbal debate, yet it is possible even at such a time to be fully engaged but inwardly calm.
(Photo: In regular daily meditation we gradually find a place within us where we know that peace and calmness are fundamental aspects of our nature.)
A soldier may be in the midst of battle, racing across a field with bullets flying, but he can, in himself, be calm. A child may have a tantrum, pounding with his fists on his mother, but she can remain calm in the midst of it.
Nothing about these scenes is peaceful, but calmness can exist even in the absence of peace.
Often in our lives peace eludes us. That is the time to concentrate instead on calmness. Which is to say, refuse to become agitated by outer circumstances, but even in the midst of agitating events, remain calm inside.
By cultivating calmness when it is easier, as for example in meditation, we can gradually develop the ability to remain peaceful in every circumstance. This is how Paramhansa Yogananda described the progress of a devotee’s “career” in meditation – at first, able to be calm only rarely, then calm some of the time, then calm all the time.