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#2620 - Saturday, October 21, 2006 - Editor: Gloria Lee

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  • Gloria Lee
    #2620 - Saturday, October 21, 2006 - Editor: Gloria Lee The Nondual Highlights Archive, Search Engine, and How to Contribute Your Writing:
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 21, 2006
      #2620 - Saturday, October 21, 2006 - Editor: Gloria Lee

      The Nondual Highlights

      Archive, Search Engine, and How to Contribute Your Writing:

      Listening Deeply for Peace

      By Thich Nhat Hanh
      Shambhala Sun | November 2003

      Without deep listening and gentle loving speech it is very difficult to  move
      towards peace. Peace will only become a reality, says  Thich Nhat Hanh,
      when world leaders come to negotiations with  the ability to hear the
      suffering at the root of all conflicts. 
      A traditional Vietnamese Zen garden is very different from a  Japanese
      Zen garden. Our Zen gardens, called hon non bo, are  wild and
      exuberant, more playful than the formal Japanese  gardens with their
      restrained patterns. Vietnamese Zen gardens  are seriously unserious.
      For us, the whole world is contained in  this peaceful place. All activities
      of life unfold in true peace in the  garden: in one part, children will be
      playing, and in another part,  some elderly men will be having a chess
      game; couples are  walking; families are having picnics; animals are free
      to wander  around. Beautiful trees are growing next to abundant grasses
      and  flowers. There is water, and there are rock formations. All 
      ecologies are represented in this one microecology without 
      discrimination. It is a miniature, peaceful world. It is a beautiful  living
      metaphor for what a new global ethic could bring. 
      War is not a necessary condition of life. The root of war, as with all 
      conflicts, is ignorance, ignorance of the inherent goodness ­ the 
      buddhanature ­ in every human being. The potential for ignorance  lives in
      all of us; it gives rise to misunderstanding, which can lead  to violent
      thoughts and behavior. Although ignorance and violence  may not have
      manifested in your life, when conditions are  sufficient, they can. This is
      why we all have to be very careful not  to water these seeds and not to
      allow them to develop roots and  grow into arrows. 
      The Roots of War 
      When one country attacks another, it is out of great fear and a kind  of
      collective ignorance. For instance, the French fought to keep  Vietnam as
      their colony, because they thought that if they  possessed Vietnam, they
      would be happy. So they sent many  young men to Vietnam to kill and to
      be killed. We know, when we  look deeply, that happiness does not
      come from possessing  something or someone; it comes from kindness
      and compassion,  from helping to ease suffering. 
      If the American people had sat down and practiced looking deeply,  they
      would have seen that the Vietnam War was entirely  unnecessary, that
      their own lives could not be improved through  the suffering of another
      country or the suffering of their own young  men. The United States
      senselessly wasted many lives in this war  when it could have supported
      both North and South Vietnam in  their different models of development,
      helping the Communists and  the non-Communists alike to rebuild their
      societies. This would  have been much wiser than supporting one side
      and fighting the  other. If France and the United States had yielded
      autonomy to  Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand, helping these
      countries to  develop instead of waging war, all sides would have profited
      from  such a friendly relationship. After a long period of suffering, these 
      countries are finally moving in this direction, but this could have 
      happened much earlier without the terrible loss of life. 
      All violence is injustice. We should not inflict that injustice on  ourselves or
      on other people. Historians and teachers as well as  politicians should
      look deeply at the suffering caused by wars, not  just at the justifications
      that governments give for them. We have  to teach our children the truth
      about war so they learn from our  experiences and understand that
      violence and war are not the  right way, that they are not the right actions
      to take. We have to  show our children that people on both sides of war ­
      the French  and American soldiers in Vietnam as well as the Vietnamese 
      people ­ were victims of the ignorance and violence rooted in their 
      societies and governments. Remember, there were no winners. 
      As long as we allow hatred to grow in us, we continue to make 
      ourselves and others suffer. As we look deeply at the wars in our  recent
      history, we have to transform our hatred and  misunderstanding into
      compassion. We have to recognize that  those who have made us suffer
      are also victims. Many who had a  father, brother or friend killed in the
      Vietnam War have been able  to transcend their suffering and to
      reconcile with the other side,  Vietnamese and American. They have
      done this for their own sake  and for the sake of their children. 
      How can we as individuals influence the collective consciousness of  our
      nations and move in the direction of peace? We do this by  uprooting the
      roots of violence and war within ourselves. To  prevent war, we cultivate
      nonviolence. We practice mindfulness in  our daily life so that we can
      recognize and transform the poisons  within us and our nation. When we
      practice nonviolence in our daily  life, we see the positive effects on our
      families, society and  government. 
      Peace Is Possible 
      In the summer of 2001 in our community in Plum Village, France,  about
      eighteen-hundred people came and practiced with us.  Among them were
      a few dozen Palestinians and Israelis. We  sponsored these people
      hoping they could have the opportunity to  practice walking meditation
      together, to share a meal together, to  listen to the teachings of
      mindfulness practice and to learn the act  of deep listening and gentle,
      loving speech. The Israelis and  Palestinians spent two weeks with us
      and participated in all  activities. 
      At the end of their stay, the whole community gathered together  and our
      visitors stood up and gave a report. After only two weeks  of practice,
      they had transformed very deeply. They had become  a community of
      brothers and sisters, Palestinians and Israelis.  They said to us, "Dear
      community, dear Thich Nhat Hanh, when  we first came to Plum Village
      we couldn't believe it. Plum Village  did not look real to us because it is
      so peaceful. In Plum Village,  we did not feel the kind of anger, tension
      and fear that we feel  constantly in the Middle East. People look at each
      other with kind  eyes, they speak to each other lovingly. There is peace,
      there is  communication and there is brotherhood and sisterhood." One 
      member of the delegation said, "We spent two weeks in  paradise."
      Another person wrote to me after he returned home  and said, "This is
      the first time that I have believed that peace is  possible in the Middle
      What did we do to make the third truth ­ that well-being and peace  are
      possible ­ real to them? Honestly, we did not do much. We  just
      embraced these friends from the Middle East as brothers and  sisters.
      They learned to walk mindfully with us, to breathe in and  out mindfully
      with us, to stop and be there in the present moment  with us, and to get
      in touch with what is pleasant, nourishing and  healing around them and
      within themselves. The practice is very  simple, but supported by a
      practicing sangha, they were able to  succeed more quickly than on their
      own and to touch the peace  and happiness within each of them. 
      Together we all followed the basic practice: to do everything  mindfully.
      We established ourselves in the here and now in order  to touch life
      deeply. We practiced mindfulness while we breathed  and walked and
      talked and brushed our teeth and chopped  vegetables for meals and
      washed dishes. That is the basic daily  practice that our friends learned.
      We in the sangha offered our  support, sitting with our visitors and
      practicing listening with  compassion with them. 
      We trained them to speak in such a way that the other side could  hear
      and understand and accept. They spoke in a calm way, not  condemning
      anyone, not judging anyone. They told the other side  of all the suffering
      that had happened to them and their children, to  their societies. They all
      had the chance to speak of their fear,  anger, hatred and despair. Many
      felt for the first time that they  were listened to and that they were being
      understood, which  relieved a lot of suffering within them. We listened
      deeply, opening  our hearts with the intention to help them express and
      heal  themselves. 
      Two weeks of the practice of deep listening and using loving  speech
      brought a lot of joy to our visitors and to all of us in Plum  Village. We
      were reminded, hearing these stories, that during the  Vietnam War, we
      Vietnamese, too, had suffered terribly. Yet our  practice allowed us then
      and allows us still to see that our world is  beautiful, with all the wonders
      of life available every day. This is  why we know that our friends from the
      Middle East, too, can  practice in the middle of war around them. 
      There were moments during the war when we wished so hard that  there
      would be a cease-fire for just 24 hours. We thought that if  we had only
      24 hours of peace, we would have been able to  breathe in and out and
      smile to the flowers and the blue sky. But  we did manage to breathe in
      and out and smile, even then,  because even the flowers had the courage
      to bloom in the middle  of war. Yet still, we wanted 24 hours of peace
      during the war. We  wanted the bombs to stop falling on us. 
      During the war in Vietnam, young people came to me and asked,  "Do
      you think there will be an end to the war?" I could not answer  them right
      away. I practiced mindful breathing, in and out. After a  long time I looked
      at them and said, "My dear friends, the Buddha  said everything is
      impermanent, including war." 
      Before going back to the Middle East, our friends promised us that  they
      would continue the practice. They told us that on the local  level they
      would organize weekly meetings so they could continue  to walk
      together, sit and breathe together, share a meal together  and listen to
      each other. Every month they have had an event to  do this. They
      practice true peace even in the midst of war. 
      True Peace Negotiations 
      When you come to any negotiation, whether at work or in a  meeting with
      other parents, teachers or neighbors, you have hope  for peace. When
      your representatives go to a negotiation table,  they hope for peace. But
      if you and they do not master the art of  deep listening and loving speech,
      it is very difficult to move toward  peace in any situation or to get
      concrete results. If we have not  transformed our inner block of suffering,
      hatred and fear, it will  prevent us from communicating, understanding
      and making peace. 
      I beg the nations and governments who would like to bring peace  to the
      Middle East and other countries to pay attention to this fact.  We need
      our governments to organize peace negotiations so that  they will be
      fruitful. A very important factor for success is creating  a setting where
      true communication can be practiced, where deep  listening and gentle,
      loving speech can occur. It may take one  month or two just for people to
      learn how to listen to each other,  to talk so that the other side can hear
      and understand. It is  important not to be in a hurry to reach a conclusion
      or an  agreement about what to do for peace to be possible. One month 
      or two is nothing compared with years of pain and suffering. But if  we
      have a great determination, then five days may be enough to  restore
      communication between people. Two weeks were enough  for our
      Palestinian friends and our Israeli friends to begin to  understand and to
      accept each other as brothers and sisters, to  begin to practice and
      create peace. Two weeks were enough for  them to have hope. 
      Too often in the past, peace conferences have been environments 
      where people came and fought each other, not with weapons but  with
      their fear. When we are carried away by our fear and  prejudices, we
      cannot listen to others. We cannot just bring two  sides together around a
      table to discuss peace when they are still  filled with anger, hatred and
      hurt. If you cannot recognize your fear  and anger, if you do not know
      how to calm yourself, how can you  sit at a peace table with your
      enemy? Facing your enemy across  a table, you will only continue to
      fight. Unable to understand  yourself, you will only continue to fight.
      Unable to understand  yourself, you will be unable to understand the
      other person. 
      The secret of creating peace is that when you listen to another  person
      you have only one purpose: to offer him an opportunity to  empty his
      heart. If you are able to keep that awareness and  compassion alive in
      you, then you can sit for one hour and listen  even if the other person's
      speech contains a lot of wrong  perceptions, condemnations and
      bitterness. You can continue to  listen because you are already protected
      by the nectar of  compassion in your own heart. If you do not practice
      mindful  breathing in order to keep that compassion alive, however, you 
      can lose your own peace. Irritation and anger will come up, and  the
      other person will notice and will not be able to continue.  Keeping your
      awareness keeps you safe. 
      Peace conferences must create environments that can help people  calm
      down and see that they are suffering and that the other side  is suffering
      also. Many leaders have tried to sponsor talks and  discussion, but theirs
      was not the way of practice. They did not  practice to transform anger
      and fear into deep listening and loving  speech. When leaders do
      practice, there will be a chance for true  reconciliation. After the practices
      of deep listening and kind and  loving speech have dissolved bitterness,
      fear and prejudice,  people can begin to communicate with each other.
      Then reaching  peace will be much easier. Peace will become a reality. 
      Practicing Deep Listening with Other Countries 
      If America invests all her heart and mind into this practice, then  other
      people will also be able to tell her about their suffering. If  America goes
      back to herself and restores the spirit of her  forefathers, America will be
      truly great. She will then be in a  position to help other countries establish
      similar forums, to invite  other groups and countries to express
      The setting must be one of safety and love. Countries from around  the
      world can come together not as enemies that bomb and  destroy each
      other but as wise people sponsoring sessions of  deep listening. All
      nations could come and help with the practice;  people from different
      cultures and civilizations would have the  opportunity to speak to one
      another as fellow human beings who  inhabit the same planet. In addition,
      people who are not just  politically minded but humanists who understand
      the suffering of  others could be invited ­ people who know how to sit and
      listen  calmly, with compassion. These people would know how to create 
      an atmosphere of peace without fear so that others can have the 
      chance, the inspiration, and the desire to speak. We must be  patient.
      The process of learning about each other's suffering will  take time. 
      If such an international forum were broadcast around the world, 
      everyone could participate and have the chance to learn about the 
      causes of suffering. The first and second noble truths of the  Buddha, the
      awareness of suffering and the awareness of the  causes of suffering,
      could be practiced together by billions of  people. 
      The first and second noble truths will lead us to the third and fourth  noble
      truths; namely, the awareness that there is a path out of  suffering and
      that that path consists of certain concrete steps,  such as right
      understanding, right thinking, right speech and right  action. 
      Creating Peace in the World 
      The antidote to violence and hatred is compassion. There is no  other
      medicine. Unfortunately, compassion is not available in  drugstores. You
      have to generate the nectar of compassion in  your heart. The teaching
      of the Buddha gives us the means to  generate the energy of
      compassion. If we are too busy, if we are  carried away every day by
      our projects, our uncertainty, our  craving, how can we have the time to
      stop and look deeply into  the situation ­ our own situation, the situation
      of our beloved one,  the situation of our family and of our community, and
      the situation  of our nation and of the other nations? Looking deeply, we
      find out  that not only do we suffer but also the other person suffers 
      deeply. Not only our group suffers but the other group also  suffers.
      Once awareness is born, we know that punishment,  violence and war
      are not the answer. 
      The one who wants to punish is inhabited by violence. The one who 
      endures the suffering of the other person is also inhabited by the  energy
      of violence. Violence cannot be ended with violence. The  Buddha said
      that responding to hatred with hatred can only  increase hatred a
      thousandfold. Only by responding to hatred with  compassion can we
      disintegrate hatred. 
      The future is a notion. The future is made of only one substance,  the
      present. If you are taking good care of the present moment,  why do you
      have to worry about the future? By taking care of the  present, you are
      doing everything you can to assure a good  future. Is there anything else
      you can do? Live the present  moment in such a way that peace and joy
      may be possible here  and now ­ that love and understanding may be
      possible. Dwelling  happily and peacefully in the present moment is the
      best thing we  can do to ensure peace and happiness in the future. 
      We have to practice looking deeply as a nation if we want to get  out of
      this difficult situation of war and terrorism. Our practice will  help the
      other nations to practice. I am sure that America is very  capable of
      punishing. The United States can send bombs; the  whole world knows
      she is very capable of doing so. But America  is great when she acts with
      lucidity and compassion. I urge that  when we are suffering, when we are
      overcome by shock, we  should not do anything, we should not say
      anything. We should go  home to ourselves and practice mindful
      breathing and mindful  walking to allow ourselves to calm down and to
      allow lucidity to  come, so we can understand the real roots of our
      suffering and  the suffering of the world. Only with that understanding can
       compassion arise. America can be a great nation if she knows  how to
      act with compassion instead of punishment. We can offer  peace. We
      can offer the relief of transformation and healing. 
      It is my deep wish that the American people and the people of  other
      countries become spiritual allies and practice compassion  together.
      Without a spiritual dimension and practice, we cannot  really improve the
      situation of the world. We can come together as  a family in order to look
      deeply into our own situation and the  situation of the world. 
      Practicing peace is possible with every step, with every breath. It  is
      possible for us to practice together and bring hope and  compassion into
      our daily lives and into the lives of our families,  our community, our nation
      and the world. 
      From Creating True Peace by Thich Nhat Hanh © 2003 by the  Venerable
      Thich Nhat Hanh. Reprinted by permission of The Free  Press, a division
      of Simon & Schuster, Inc., NY. 
      Thich Nhat Hanh is a Zen teacher, poet and leader of the engaged 
      Buddhist movement. A well-known, anti-war activist in his native 
      Vietnam, he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Martin  Luther
      King, Jr. The author of more than forty books, he resides at  Buddhist
      practice centers in France and Vermont. 
      Listening Deeply for Peace, Thich Nhat Hanh, Shambhala Sun, November 2003.

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