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Maintaining goodwill amid hostility

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  • CHAN Beng Seng
    Maintaining goodwill amid hostility Sanitsuda Ekachai Deep listening and loving speech as a way to solve the southern strife? No, this is not a joke or
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 18, 2007
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      Maintaining goodwill amid hostility
      Sanitsuda Ekachai

      Deep listening and loving speech as a way to solve the southern strife? No,
      this is not a joke or preacher's advice that has no place in real life. It
      is a piece of advice from Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh who lives his life to
      show us by example that being Buddhist is not about reciting prayers, giving
      alms or going to the temples.

      But it is about maintaining goodwill amid hostility. It is about making
      peace a reality in our daily life, be it in our personal relationships, our
      work, or with other groups in society.

      And most important of all, it is about cultivating mindfulness and peace in
      ourselves.

      On Visakha Bucha Day today, his is timely advice we should contemplate on.

      Deep listening and loving speech has been the main theme of Thich Nhat
      Hanh's public talks during his current visit to Thailand, where anxiety,
      fear and hatred is fully blown at a time when Thai Buddhists should be able
      to joyfully commemorate the day marking the Lord Buddha's birth,
      enlightenment and the end of his cycles of birth and death.

      In his talk entitled ''Non-discriminatory Love,'' Thich Nhat Hanh directly
      addressed the ethnicity-linked violence in the deep South and offered a
      Buddhist way out, step by step.

      First, however, he reminded us what meditation and true love means.

      ''To meditate is to be there, to observe, to see deeply. The work is similar
      to the work of scientists. We should have the object and time to look deeply
      into that object, to understand its true nature.''

      True love (brahma vihara) in Buddhism, meanwhile, is non-discriminatory and
      inclusive (upekkha). It is based on our capacity to love and make our loved
      ones happy (metta), to free them from suffering (karuna) and to offer them
      joy (mudita) by doing our best to understand their needs without imposing
      ourselves on them.

      It follows, then, that we need to meditate on the nature of terrorism.

      And any effort to undo it must be based on loving kindness and understanding
      to live as one, not a desire to eliminate and oppress.

      In Buddhism, violence results from fear, hate and anger stemming from wrong
      perceptions.

      The southern violence is no different.

      To win over hate and anger, re-establish communications and remove wrong
      perceptions in any violent situation is possible through sincerity, empathy
      and lots of loving kindness.

      This requires deep listening and loving speech.

      The southern violence is no different.

      Thich Nhat Hanh's advice: Organise peace dialogues. Recruit the best of
      Buddhist and Muslim brothers and sisters who can listen deeply and who can
      use loving speech. Allow anger from the oppressed to be expressed freely.
      Look deeply into their pain in order to understand them.

      Refrain from stopping them or making excuses, despite accusations and blame.
      Apologise when realising our wrongs which create the belief that we are out
      to destroy the other party's way of life and religion. Apologise for the
      wrong perceptions we ourselves harbour about them. And introduce information
      to correct their wrong perceptions only bit by bit later, not during the
      listening sessions, to avoid imposing our views.

      The chance to speak up freely and the feeling of being fully accepted as
      equals is healing. Deep listening is, therefore, loving kindness in action,
      which waters the seeds of love and understanding in both parties.

      ''It is the only way to peace,'' said the Zen master.

      For him, the Buddhist approach to the southern strife must be in line with
      non-discriminatory love and deep understanding of oneness.

      ''The Buddhists are like our right hand. The Islamic brothers and sisters
      are like our left hand. If you make one side suffer, you suffer. If we can
      take care of each other like our left and right hand, we can restore
      peace.''

      Sanitsuda Ekachai is Assistant Editor (Outlook), Bangkok Post.

      Email: sanitsudae@...
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