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Lions Roar : September 2007
lationships—about open communication between parents and children, about keeping love fresh between husband and wife, about the importance of non-discrimination and mutual un- derstanding in the increasing number of relationships between couples of different religious and cultural backgrounds. By then I’d already interviewed some of the great Buddhist leaders and religious thinkers of the world—Robert Thurman, Joseph Goldstein, Huston Smith, Mark Epstein, S.N. Goenka, Reggie Ray, even His Holiness the Dalai Lama—and had come to expect nothing less than highly relevant profundity in such lectures, Buddhology at its best. “Aren’t there enough relationship gurus?” I asked when we met. I was thinking of Dr. Phil, John Gray, Oprah, and others who impart their versions of “truth” to us between commercial breaks, in books, in books-on-tape, on DVDs and videos ad nau- seam. “Aren’t there more important issues to discuss?” “Such as war, violence, death, economic problems, terrorism?” he asked rhetorically. My tape recorder strained as much as I did to hear his softly spoken and carefully selected words. “The con- flict in the Middle East, tension between religious groups—these are about relationships. The Buddha identified ignorance as the second noble truth. We create ignorance through poor commu- nication. Misunderstanding begins in the microcosm, between two people. It creates fear, and fear creates violence. When you act with violence and anger, you create more violence and anger. The majority of the people who come here suffer from relation- ship, health, and work problems. But if your relationship is good, then you are happy, your health improves, and you’ll be more successful in your enterprise.” I had forgotten, as we all so often forget, that profundity comes in the simplest truths. And, in the manner of the dharma teachers, Thay brought his abiding message back to the cushion. “It all starts with a spin on an old adage: ‘Don’t just do some- thing; sit there,’” he said. “With all this socially engaged work, first you must learn what the Buddha learned, to still the mind. Then you don’t take action; action takes you.” Action of that quality has guided and informed the missions of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, the International Network of Engaged Buddhists, the Zen Hospice Project, the Sarvadoya Shramadana Movement of Sri Lanka, and so many more that its truth and wisdom are undeniable. Those groups, their lead- ers, and I symbolically circumambulate the lotus pond at Plum Village in honor of the foundational work of Thich Nhat Hanh, Sister Chan Khong, and their Tiep Hien Order. ♦ 6. Do not maintain anger or hatred. Learn to penetrate and transform them when they are still seeds in your consciousness. As soon as they arise, turn your attention to your breath in order to see and understand the nature of your anger and hatred and the nature of the persons who have caused your anger and hatred. 7. Do not lose yourself in dispersion and in your surroundings. Practice mindful breathing to come back to what is happening in the present moment. Be in touch with what is wondrous, re- freshing, and healing both inside and around you. Plant seeds of joy, peace, and understanding in yourself in order to facilitate the work of transformation in the depths of your consciousness. 8. Do not utter words that can create discord and cause the com- munity to break. Make every effort to reconcile and resolve all conflicts, however small. 9. Do not say untruthful things for the sake of personal interest or to impress people. Do not utter words that cause division and hatred. Do not spread news that you do not know to be certain. Do not criticize or condemn things of which you are not sure. Always speak truthfully and constructively. Have the courage to speak out about situations of injustice, even when doing so may threaten your own safety. 10. Do not use the Buddhist community for personal gain or profit or transform your community into a political party. A reli- gious community, however, should take a clear stand against op- pression and injustice and should strive to change the situation without engaging in partisan conflicts. 11. Do not live with a vocation that is harmful to humans and nature. Do not invest in companies that deprive others of their chance to live. Select a vocation that helps realize your ideal of compassion. 12. Do not kill. Do not let others kill. Find whatever means pos- sible to protect life and prevent war. 13. Possess nothing that should belong to others. Respect the property of others, but prevent others from profiting from human suffering or the suffering of other species on earth. 14. Do not mistreat your body. Learn to handle it with respect. Preserve vital energies (sexual, breath, spirit) for the realization of the Way. Be fully aware of the responsibility of bringing new lives into the world. Meditate on the world into which you are bringing new beings. ♦ Excerpted from Learning True Love: Practicing Buddhism in a Time of War by Sister Chang Khong. © 2007 Unified Buddhist Church. Reprinted with permission from Parallax Press. SHAMBHALA SUN SEPTEMBER 2007 65 SEPT 58-65.indd 65 SEPT 58-65.indd 65 6/25/07 5:05:00 PM 6/25/07 5:05:00 PM