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Lions Roar : July 2007
SHAMBHALA SUN JULY 2007 27 AT THIS PEACE-BUILDING RETREAT you have been pre- paring for the United Nations Global Youth Leadership Sum- mit, one of whose themes is the problem of global poverty. When a few days from now you attend the summit, I urge you to raise this point to the assembly: The real way to end poverty is to first recognize the main causes of it. Yes, there are serious natural disasters that cause poverty, but among the causes that we can learn to control is violent conflict—war. Due to disrup- tions to the social fabric, loss of infrastructure, and economic chaos, violent conflict throws a lot of people into poverty out of which it is extremely difficult to climb. So to solve the prob- lem of poverty, we first need to solve the problem of perpetual war; we need to cease giving rise to violence as a means of set- tling disputes between people and nations. In short, we need peace. But how do we achieve it? Based on my experience of having read many books and heard many lectures, some by very famous people, the most common strategy for attaining peace is to change something external to oneself—either to change an existing situation or to change how people, ethnic groups or religions, relate to each other. The problem with this method, however, is that its ad- vocates are often so zealous in fighting for peace that they are extreme in their approach and they use force to attain peace on their terms. Throughout almost all of history it is this violent method of peacemaking that we have used, and it has brought us to a state of perpetual conflict. Since violence and war have not brought us peace, don’t you think that we need a new paradigm, a new approach toward creating peace? Don’t you think we need to consider methods of non-violence? War and global poverty are enormous problems and they are not something that, as very young leaders, you can easily tackle by yourselves. But there are things that you—that anyone—can do. At the in- dividual level we can practice non-violence, non-harming. If we treat people around us with an angry heart, people will inevitably respond with anger. We then have an environment of violence against violence. However, if we treat people with kindness and compassion, they will not find it so easy to re- main angry with us. So we need to start from within ourselves and learn to cultivate an attitude of non-harming and non- violence. Then we will have a standpoint from which to build peace. If we have peace in our mind, the world we experience will be at peace, even when from an objective point of view the world is in conflict. When we are at peace in our mind and we are not generating conflict and violence, then we can truly begin to help others attain peace and eliminate conflict. Another thing we can all do is to at least keep ourselves from falling into poverty, because if we can do that, then there is a chance we will be able to help others. What I mean is that if we are poverty-stricken, we cannot help other people over- come their poverty. By keeping ourselves out of poverty—and I here mean not just material poverty but also spiritual pover- ty—we can then cultivate a mind less motivated by greed. We will be able to find contentment with what we already have. A Buddhist Master’s Advice to Young Leaders Peace is the best way to fight poverty—both material poverty and the even tougher problem of spiritual poverty. This is one of the pieces of wisdom offered by Chan Master SHENG YEN to participants in a youth leadership retreat. Above: Master Sheng Yen speaks to a gathering of 70 young leaders from around the world at Dharma Drum Retreat Center in Pine Bush, New York. PHOTOBYTHEDHARMADRUMMOUNTAINBUDDHISTASSOCIATION