Sunday, October 26, 2008



By Kevin Stoda

About 28 years ago this autumn, I met the Peace Pilgrim. That day she was in the midst of a fast of silence for a few weeks, so I was not able to communicate with her well. However, her eyes were special and she certainly glowed with spiritual bliss.

One year later, she would pass a way, but her memory is still around.

The Peace Pilgrim was born in 1908, so this year is the 100th Anniversary of her birth. She was born in New Jersey and began a perpetual pilgrimage around the world in the 1950s, i.e. in the Dark Era of Potential Nuclear Winter, which the planet knew as the Cold War.

She was constantly on a journey of witness for peace and was known by U.N. circles in her day--even as her feet took her over 25,000 miles around the planet between 1953 and her death in 1981. (NOTE: After 25,000 she kept walking but stopped counting the miles.)

At the end of this decade of global turmoil, a film on the Peace Pilgrim’s journey and lifelong witness has become available on-line in both English and Spanish. It is entitled: PEACE PILGRIM—AN AMERICAN SAGE.

The Peace Pilgrim’s journey was naturally also a spiritual journey in the 1950s—long before such a radical spiritual journeys were in vogue.

In turn, Peace she was an environmentalist and a poet, too. She walked America for decades vowing to "remain a wanderer until mankind has learned the way of peace, walking until given shelter and fasting until given food.”


Peace wrote a little booklet on Steps to Inner Peace that was published in many languages, including Russian and Chinese, over the past decades.

These steps are summed up as the Four Preparations, Four Purifications, and Four Relinquishments:
1. Assume right attitude toward life
This means living in harmony..
2. Live good beliefs.
“Obedience to these laws pushes us toward harmony; disobedience pushes us toward [being] inharmony. Since many of these laws are already common belief, you can begin by putting into practice all the good things you believe. No life can be in harmony unless belief and practice are in harmony.”
3. Find your place in the Life Pattern.
“You have a part in the scheme of things. What that part is you can know only from within yourself. You can seek it in receptive silence.
4. Simplify life to bring inner and outer well-being into harmony.
“Unnecessary possessions are unnecessary burdens. Many lives are cluttered not only with unnecessary possessions but also with meaningless activities. Cluttered lives are out-of-harmony lives and require simplification.”
1. Purification of the bodily temple.
Are you free from all bad habits?
2. Purification of the thoughts.
“It is not enough to do right things and say right things. You must also think right things. Positive thoughts can be powerful influences for good. Negative thoughts can make you physically ill. Be sure there is no unpeaceful situation between yourself and any other human being. . .”
3. Purification of the desires.
“Since you are here to get yourself into harmony with the laws that govern human conduct and with your part in the scheme of things, your desires should be focused in this direction.”
4. Purification of motives.
“Obviously your motive should never be greed or self-seeking, or the wish for self-glorification, you shouldn't even have the selfish motive of attaining inner peace for yourself.”
1. Relinquishment of self-will.
“You have, or it's as though you have, two selves: the lower self that usually governs you selfishly, and the higher self which stands ready to use you gloriously. You must subordinate the lower self by refraining from doing the not-good things you are motivated toward, not suppressing them but transforming them so that the higher self can take over your life.”
2. Relinquishment of the feeling of separateness.
“All of us, all over the world, are cells in the body of humanity. You are not separate from your fellow humans, and you cannot find harmony for yourself alone. You can only find harmony when you realize the oneness of all and work for the good of all.”
3. Relinquishment of attachments.
“Only when you have relinquished all attachments can you be really free. Material things are here for use, and anything you cannot relinquish when it has outlived its usefulness possesses you.”
4. Relinquishment of all negative feelings.
“Work on relinquishing negative feelings. If you live in the present moment, which is really the only moment you have to live, you will be less apt to worry. If you realize that those who do mean things are psychologically ill, your feelings of anger will turn to feelings of pity. If you recognize that all of your inner hurts are caused by your own wrong actions or your own wrong reactions or your own wrong inaction, then you will stop hurting yourself.”

I particularly need to take some of Peace Pilgrim’s advice. Peace warns me personally in the film that I can’t expect to live in peace with others until I practice living a life of peace.
Incidentally, the on-line film shows us that in her own life, Peace had a life of unrest until she started her journey.
Eventually, after a decade of more, peace grew within the Pilgrim. Later, she was then able to change the consciousness of others.
Peace Pilgrim said, "We who work for peace must not falter. We must continue to pray for peace and to act for peace in whatever way we can, we must continue to speak for peace and to live the way of peace; to inspire others, we must continue to think of peace and to know that peace is possible."
NOTE: By the way, some writers compare Peace Pilgrim to my great-great-great-great grand-uncle John “Johnny Appleseed” Chapman.
One recent writer on the Peace Pilgrim sites Elise Boulding in trying to explain the Peace Pilgrim’s and other Peace Witnesses.
In Cultures of Peace: The Hidden Side of History, Boulding states: "The great humane nurturer-leaders of the past have always come walking. They do not sit either on thrones or horseback but engage in dialogue at eye level. [...And] they have always sought solitude and privacy in alternation with their work in the public arena."
Incidentally, FRIENDS OF PEACE PILGRIM have been working since the 1980s to spread the Peace pilgrim’s message and story of her journey and impact.
Peace Pilgrim, like Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., have left an impression on non-violent activists and peacemakers around the world.
Let’s teach our children about the Peace Pilgrim and other important heroes—and do it NOW before the children get too many modern distractions to listen to the silent witness of people like her—i.e. while we and our children are needing to search for inner and social peace.

I received a photo from my friend Bill Walker this past Christmas. Walker told me that he had been on the hill (the Mount of Olives) overlooking Jerusalem where Jesus had wept over the city two millennia ago.
Just moments after Walker left the chapel that overlooked the walls of Jerusalem and the garden of Gethsemane, he came across a silent Peace Pilgrim.
Walker saw an Eastern European women, dressed like her American counterpart of decades before in the USA.
This Eastern Europe was wearing baggy clothes--including wearing a sweater with the words “Peace Pilgrim” sewn on it.
This modern Peace Pilgrim was walking all the hills of Israel that very winter 2007-2008 praying and witnessing for peace.
We should be prepared for such a witness this year—and the next . . . . and the next . . . and the next.
In the meantime, download a book on the Peace Pilgrim—in her own words—at this website:



Blogger Kevin Anthony Stoda said...

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