Inner peace (or peace of mind) refers to a state of being mentally and spiritually at peace, with enough knowledge and understanding to keep oneself strong in the face of discord or stress. Being “at peace” is considered by many to be healthy (homeostasis) and the opposite of being stressed or anxious. Peace of mind is generally associated with bliss and happiness.
Peace of mind, serenity, and calmness are descriptions of a disposition free from the effects of stress. In some cultures, inner peace is considered a state of consciousness or enlightenment that may be cultivated by various forms of training, such as prayer, meditation, T’ai Chi Ch’uan or yoga, for example. Many spiritual practices refer to this peace as an experience of knowing oneself. Finding inner peace is often associated with traditions such as Buddhism and Hinduism.
Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, emphasizes the importance of inner peace in the world:
The question of real, lasting world peace concerns human beings, so basic human feelings are also at its roots. Through inner peace, genuine world peace can be achieved. In this the importance of individual responsibility is quite clear; an atmosphere of peace must first be created within ourselves, then gradually expanded to include our families, our communities, and ultimately the whole planet.
Nirvana in Buddhism
The Buddha described Nirvāna as the perfect peace of the state of mind that is free from craving, anger and other afflicting states (kilesas). It is also the “end of the world”; there is no identity left, and no boundaries for the mind. The subject is at peace with the world, has compassion for all and gives up obsessions and fixations. This peace is achieved when the existing volitional formations are pacified, and the conditions for the production of new ones are eradicated. In Nirvāṇa the root causes of craving and aversion have been extinguished, so that one is no longer subject to human suffering (Pali: dukkha) or further rebirth in Samsāra.
The Pāli Canon also contains other perspectives on Nirvāna; for one, it is linked to seeing the empty nature of all phenomena. It is also presented as a radical reordering of consciousness and unleashing of awareness. Scholar Herbert Guenther states that with Nirvāṇa “the ideal personality, the true human being” becomes reality.
In the Dhammapada, the Buddha says of Nirvāna that it is “the highest happiness”. This happiness is an enduring, transcendental happiness integral to the calmness attained through enlightenment or bodhi, rather than the happiness derived from impermanent things. The knowledge accompanying Nirvāṇa is expressed through the word bodhi.
The Buddha explains Nirvāna as “the unconditioned” (asankhata) mind, a mind that has come to a point of perfect lucidity and clarity due to the cessation of the production of volitional formations. This is described by the Buddha as “deathlessness” (Pali: amata or amāravati) and as the highest spiritual attainment, the natural result that accrues to one who lives a life of virtuous conduct and practice in accordance with the Noble Eightfold Path. Such a life engenders increasing control over the generation of karma (Skt; Pali, kamma). It produces wholesome karma with positive results and finally allows the cessation of the origination of karma altogether with the attainment of Nibbāna. Otherwise, beings forever wander through the impermanent and suffering-generating realms of desire, form, and formlessness, collectively termed Samsāra.
Each liberated individual produces no new karma, but preserves a particular individual personality which is the result of the traces of his or her karmic heritage. The very fact that there is a psycho-physical substrate during the remainder of an arahant’s lifetime shows the continuing effect of karma.
The stance of the early scriptures is that attaining Nibbāna in either the current or some future birth depends on effort, and is not pre-determined