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Lions Roar : January 2016
Engaged Buddhism We walked mindfully right alongside suffering, in the places where people were still running under the bombs. We created the term “engaged Buddhism” during the Vietnam War. As monks, nuns, and laypeople during the war, many of us practiced sitting and walking meditation. But we would hear the bombs falling around us and the cries of the children and adults who were wounded. To meditate is to be aware of what is going on. What was going on around us was the suffering of many people and the destruction of life. So we were motivated by the desire to do something to relieve the suffering within us and around us. We wanted to serve others and we wanted to practice sitting and walking meditation to give us the stability and peace we needed to go out of the temple and help relieve this suffering. We walked mindfully right alongside suffering, in the places where people were still running under the bombs. We practiced mindful breathing as we cared for children wounded by guns or bombs. If we hadn’t practiced while we served, we would have lost ourselves, become burnt out, and not have been able to help anyone. Engaged Buddhism was born from this difficult situation; we wanted to maintain our practice while responding to the suffer- ing around us. Engaged Buddhism isn’t just Buddhism that’s in- volved in social problems. Engaged Buddhism means we practice mindfulness wherever we are, whatever we are doing, at any time. Engaged Buddhism is Buddhism that penetrates into life. If Buddhism is not engaged, it’s not real Buddhism. This is the attitude of the bodhisattvas, beings whose whole intention and actions are to relieve suffering. We practice meditation and mindfulness not only for ourselves; we practice to relieve the suffering of all beings and of the Earth itself. With the insight of interbeing—that we are inherently interconnected with all other beings—we know that when other people suffer less, we suffer less. And when we suffer less, other people suffer less. Good Citizens: Creating Enlightened Society (Parallax) The Seeds of War Stopping the war in our minds and hearts, we will know how to stop the war outside. Violence is never far away. It is possible to identify the seeds of vio- lence in our everyday thoughts, speech, and actions. We can find these seeds in our own minds, in our attitudes, and in our fears ESSENTIAL TEACHINGS OF THICH NHAT HANH PEACE and anxieties about ourselves and others. Thinking itself can be violent, and violent thoughts can lead us to speak and act violently. In this way, the violence in our minds manifests in the world. We usually think of violence and war as an act or event with a definite beginning and a definite end. But when we look into the true nature of war, we see that, whether war breaks out or not, the seeds of war are already here. We do not have to wait until war is officially declared to recognize its presence. When we recognize the violence that has taken root within us, in the everyday way we think, speak, and act, we can wake up and live in a new way. We can make a strong determination to live mind- fully, to live in peace. Shining the light of awareness on the roots of violence within our own hearts and thoughts, we can stop the war where it begins, in our minds. Stopping the war in our minds and in our hearts, we will surely know how to stop the war outside. Creating True Peace (Parallax) The Human Behind the Label Peeling away all the labels so the human being can be re- vealed is truly a practice for peace. We are separated by labels, by words like “Israeli,” “Palestinian,” “Buddhist,” “Jew,” and “Muslim.” When we hear one of these words, it evokes an image and we immediately feel alienated from the other group or person. We’ve set up many habitual ways of thinking that separate us from each other and we make each other suffer. So it’s im- portant to discover the human being in the other person, and to help the other person discover the human being in us. As human beings we’re exactly the same. But the many layers of labels prevent other people from seeing you as a human being. Thinking of yourself as or calling yourself a “Buddhist” can be a disadvantage, because if you wear the title “Buddhist” that may be an obstacle which prevents others from discovering the hu- man being in you. The same is true whether you are Christian, Jewish, or Mus- lim. This can be an important part of your identity but it is not the whole of who you are. People are caught in these notions and images and they cannot recognize each other as human beings. The practice of peeling away all the labels so that the human being can be revealed is truly a practice for peace. Once understanding and compassion are born in our heart, the poisons of anger, violence, hatred, and despair will be trans- formed. The path is quite clear. The only solution is to get the poisons out and to get the insight and the compassion in. SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2016 62