Analyse how the individual is guided towards acheiving inner peace in TWO religious traditions. (18/20)Inner peace is defined as an internal quality of calmness and security which puts the mind at ease and fills the adherent with a sense of tranquility and assurance. For adherents to Christianity and Islam, inner peace is an inevitable and hugely rewarding consequence of genuine faith. It is developed rather than striven for, through a unique combination of personal, communal, scriptural and doctrinal means. Christians believe that inner peace is obtained by being in a close relationship with God. This involves accepting the gift of love from God and accepting that grace is given and not earned. Christianity teaches God lives in the hearts of His people, all are made in His image and likeness, therefore Peace lies within. The Bible states: “Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God” (1 Peter 1:2). Christianity seeks to bring adherents to recognition; all who love God will gain peace, by living a life modeled after Jesus Christ.
Essentially, faith in God instills within the adherent a sense of security and meaning conductive to the development of inner peace.The Christian tradition indicates the primary way of focusing inner peace and improving efforts at peacemaking is by returning to the Gospels and the sacred writings of Christianity. The reason for doing this is to renew the Christian’s knowledge and understanding of Jesus as the model peacemaker. Throughout the New Testament, Jesus’ teachings are echoed by recalling his words and actions: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you” (John 14:27). The individual is guided toward inner peace through the Bible, which facilitates greater familiarity with the nature of God and acts as a source of practical, ethical and spiritual guidance. Christianity provides guidance for many forms of personal prayer using such means as scripture, writings from religious figures and various forms of meditation and contemplation.
Centering prayer provides guidance for the Christian to go to their ‘inner’ place and there encounter God. This sustains the adherent in everyday life and contributes to a sense of peace and wellbeing. In being thankful and expressing gratitude to God, believers experience inner peace. The World Community for Christian Meditation proclaims: “Meditation and prayer is a practice that can bring peace, not only to individual meditators, but also to the whole world”.A significant means in which Christianity guides adherents to find inner peace is through the concept of forgiveness. Jesus of Nazareth taught his disciples to pray:“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” (Matthew 6:12). Through the death of Jesus, forgiveness is available to the repentant sinner, allowing them to have peace with God which is the very foundation of ‘inner peace’.
Failure to forgive others leads to stored anger and resentment. The Protestant tradition places the emphasis on each person having the responsibility of speaking directly with God, who will grant absolution. It is the acceptance of the gift from God of forgiveness or wrongdoing which is the obtaining of inner peace for the Christian. Islam teaches that inner peace may only be found through complete submission to God’s will, which is primarily achieved by adherence to a prescribed set of guidelines for living. “In remembrance of Allah do hearts find satisfaction” (Qur’an 13:28). Acceptance of the will of Allah not only removes the fear and anxiety about the future, but concentrating on God can protect humanity from being overwhelmed by all aspects of life such as greed and fear which destroy inner peace. Jihad is central to this life of submission. Greater Jihad is the concept relating to the ongoing struggle to make oneself and one’s community ‘perfectly’ Muslim.
It embodies peace on a personal level, working through the individual and their role in the community.Inner peace is only possible when the Five Pillars are lived in faithful obedience to God’s will. Obligatory prayers, known as Salat, remind Muslims of Allah’s closeness to them. The Qur’an states: “Perform the prayer for my remembrance” (Qur’an 20:40). Attention is drawn repeatedly to Allah, marginalizing earthly distraction in order to devote more fully to the divine. Sawm or fasting, reminds participants of those who do not have enough to eat or difficulty living. In being reminded on these things, Muslims are reminded to place too much importance on material goods. They are reminded to place their trust in God for provision of food, which can help them to achieve inner peace. Hajj involves the spiritual, mental and physical journey from one’s normal place of living to Makkah. In the midst of a million pilgrims, the individual Muslim experiences the inner peace of the Ummah.
Sufism is an Islamic theology that began to develop in the first century of Islam. Sufism stresses that the traveler on the spiritual path must first abandon himself or herself to the will of God and then only will God’s peace enter their heart. A frequent Sufi proclamation is: “There will be no peace until there is inner peace”. The Australian Centre for Sufism and Irfanic Studies offers courses in spiritual development and Sufi psychology that aim to bring people closer to God and inner peace. One of the centre’s aims is to make people more aware that self-centeredness can be a barrier to spiritual enlightenment.Therefore, the religious traditions of Christianity and Islam present several means in guiding the individual to achieve inner peace. It is through the belief systems, actions and thoughts of these religious traditions, that those individual adherents can learn how to achieve inner peace and develop an understanding of peace so that it may be enacted.
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