The WorldPeace Peace Page
Home About John WorldPeace Contact Us Site Map
Blog Email
WorldPeace Web Design Peaceunite Us (Peace org Index) John WorldPeace Galleries

A Response to:

"Living Buddha, Living Christ"
by Thich Nhat Hanh

Copyright 1999-2002 by John WorldPeace

All  rights reserved


A.  Collective Awareness

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, "Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God."  To work for peace, you must have a peaceful heart.  When you do, you are the child of God.  But many who work for peace are not at peace.  They still have anger and frustration, and their work is not really peaceful.  We cannot say that they are touching the Kingdom of God.  To preserve peace, our hearts must be at peace with the world, with our brothers and our sisters.  When we try to overcome evil with evil, we are not working for peace.  If you say, "Saddam Hussein is evil.  We have to prevent him from continuing to be evil," and if you then use the same means he has been using, you are exactly like him.  Trying to overcome evil with evil is not the way to make peace.

Jesus also said, "Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment.  But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment...whosoever shall say, 'Thou fool,' shall be in danger of hell fire."  Jesus did not say that if you are angry with your brother, you are already in hell.  Anger is hell.  He also said that you don't need to kill with your body to be put in jail.  You only need to kill in your mind and you are already there.

The death penalty is a sign of weakness, an expression of our fear and inability to know what to do to help the situation.  Killing a person does not help him or us.  We have to look collectively to find ways we can really help.  Our enemy is not the other person, no matter what he or she has done.  If we look deeply into ourselves, we can see that their act was a manifestation of our collective consciousness.  We are all filled with violence, hatred, and fear, so why blame someone whose upbringing was without love or understanding?  Educators, legislators, parents, journalists, filmmakers, economists, artists, poor people, rich people, all of us have to discuss the situation and see what we can do.  Meditation can help.  Meditation is not a drug to make us oblivious to our real problems.  It should produce awareness in us and also in our society.  For us to achieve results, our enlightenment has to be collective.  How else can we end the cycle of violence?  We ourselves have to contribute, in small and large ways, toward ending our own violence.  Looking deeply at our own mind and our own life, we will begin to see what to do and what not to do to bring about a real change.

B.  Looking Deeply

We often think of peace as the absence of war, that if the powerful countries would reduce their weapons arsenals, we could have peace.  But if we look deeply into the weapons, we see our own minds -- our prejudices, fears, and ignorance.  Even if we transport all the bombs to the moon, the roots of war and the roots of the bombs are still here, in our hearts and minds, and sooner or later we will make new bombs.  To work for peace is to uproot war from ourselves and from the hearts of men and women.  To prepare for war, to give millions of men and women the opportunity to practice killing day and night in their hearts, is to plant millions of seed of violence, anger, frustration, and fear that will be passed on for generations to come.

"Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.  But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil:  but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.  And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also."  This is Jesus' teaching about revenge.  When someone asks you for something, give it to him.  When he wants to borrow something from you, lend it to him.  How many of us actually practice this?  There must be ways to solve our conflicts without killing.  We must look at this.  We have to find ways to help people get out of difficult situations, situations of conflict, without having to kill.  Our collective wisdom and experience can be the torch lighting our path, showing us what to do.  Looking deeply together is the main task of a community or a church.

C.  The Highest form of Prayer

"'Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy.  But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father who is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust."  Many people pray to God because they want God to fulfill some of their needs.  If they want to have a picnic, they ask God for a clear, sunny day.  At the same time, farmers might pray for rain.  If the weather is clear, the picnickers will say, "God is on our side; he answered our prayers."  But if it rains, the farmers will say that God heard their prayers.  This is the way we usually pray.

When you pray only for your own picnic and not for the farmers who need the rain, you are doing the opposite of what Jesus taught.  Jesus said, "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you..."  When you look deeply into your anger, you will see that the person you call your enemy is also suffering.  As soon as you see that, the capacity of accepting and having compassion for him is there.  Jesus called this "loving your enemy."  When you are able to love your enemy, he or she is no longer your enemy.  The idea of "enemy" vanishes and is replaced by the notion of someone who is suffering and needs your compassion.  Doing this is sometimes easier than you might have imagined, but you need to practice.  If you read the Bible but don't practice, it will not help much.  In Buddhism, practicing the teaching of the Budddha is the highest form of prayer.  The Buddha said, "If someone is standing on one shore and wants to go to the other shore, he has to either use a boat or swim across.  He cannot just pray, 'Oh, other shore, please come over here for me to step across!'"  To a Buddhist, praying without practicing is not real prayer.

D.  Understanding Brings Liberation

In Latin America, liberation theologians speak of God's preference, or "option," for the poor, the oppressed, and the marginalized.  But I do not think God wants us to take sides, even with the poor.  The rich also suffer, in many cases more than the poor!  They may be rich materially, but many are poor spiritually, and they suffer a lot.  I have known rich and famous people who have ended up committing suicide.  I am certain that those with the highest understanding will be able to see the suffering in both the poor and rich.

God embraces both rich and poor, and He wants them to understand each other, to share with each other their suffering and their happiness, and to work together for peace and social justice.  We do not need to take sides.  When we take sides, we misunderstand the will of God.  I know it will be possible for some people to use these words to prolong social injustice, but that is an abuse of what I am saying.  We have to find the real causes for social injustice, and when we do, we will not condemn a certain type of people.  We will ask, Why has the situation of these people remained like that?  All of us have the power of love and understanding. They are our best weapons.  Any dualistic response, any response motivated by anger, will only make the situation worse.

When we practice looking deeply, we have the insight into what to do and what not to do for the situation to change.  Everything depends on our way of looking.  The existence of suffering is the First Noble Truth taught by the Buddha, and the causes of suffering are the second. When we look deeply at the First Truth, we discover the second.  After seeing the Second Truth, we see the next truth, which is the way of liberation.  Everything depends on our understanding of the whole situation.  Once we understand, our life style will change accordingly and our actions will never help the oppressors strengthen their stand.  Looking deeply does not mean being inactive.  We become very active with our understanding.  Nonviolence does not mean non-action.  Nonviolence means we act with love and compassion.

E.  Understanding brings Compassion

Before the Vietnameses monk Thich Quang Duc burned himself alive in 1963, he meditated for several weeks and then wrote very loving letters to his government, hic church, and his fellow monks and nuns explaining why he had reached that decision.  When you are motivated by love and the willingness to help others attain understanding, even self-immolation can be a compassionate act.  When Jesus allowed Himself to be crucified, He was acting in the same way, motivated by the desire to wake people up, to restore understanding and compassion, and to save people.  When you are motivated by anger or discrimination, even if you act in exactly the same way, you are doing the opposite.

When you read Thich Quang Duc's letters, you know very clearly that he was not motivated by the wish to oppose or destroy but by the desire to communicate.  When you are caught in a war in which the great powers have huge weapons and complete control of the mass media, you have to do something extraordinary to make yourself heard.  Without access to radio, television, or the press, you have to create new ways to help the world understand the situation you are in.  Self-immolation can be such a means.  If you do it out of love, you act very much as Jesus did on the cross and as Gandhi did in India.  Gandhi fasted, not with anger, but with compassion, not only toward his countrymen but also toward the British.  These great men all knew that it is the truth that sets us free, and they did everything they could to make the truth known.

Buddhist and Christian practice is the same -- to make the truth available -- the truth about ourselves, the truth about our brothers and sisters, the truth about our situation.  This is the work of writers, preachers, the media, and also practitioners.  Each day, we practice looking deeply into ourselves and into the situation of our brothers and sisters.  It is the most serious work we can do.

F.  Understanding Transforms

If while we practice we are not aware that the world is suffering, that children are dying of hunger, that social injustice is going on everywhere, we are not practicing mindfulness.  We are just trying to escape.  But anger is not enough.  Jesus told us to love our enemy.  "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."  This teaching helps us know how to look at the person we consider to be the cause of our suffering.  If we practice looking deeply into his situation and the causes of how we came to be the way he is now, and if we visualize ourselves as being born in his condition, we may see that we could have become exactly like him.  when we do that, compassion arises in us naturally, and we see that the other person is to be helped and not punished.  In that moment, our anger transforms itself into the energy of compassion.  Suddenly, the one we have been calling our enemy becomes our brother or sister.  This is the true teaching of Jesus. Looking deeply is one of the most effective w3ays to transform our anger, prejudices, and discrimination.  We practice as an individual, and we also practice as a group.

G.  Understanding Ourselves Helps us Understand Others

In Buddhism, we speak of salvation by understanding.  We see that it is the lack of understanding that creates suffering.  Understanding is the power that can liberate us. It is the key that can unlock the door to the prison of suffering.  If we do not practice understanding, we do not avail ourselves of the most powerful instrument that can free us and other living beings from suffering.  True love is possible only with real understanding.  Buddhist meditation -- stopping, calming, and looking deeply -- is to help us understand better.  In each of us is a seed of understanding.  That seed is God.  It is also the Buddha.  If you doubt the existence of that seed of understanding, you doubt God and you doubt the Buddha.

When Gandhi said that love is the force that can liberate, he meant we have to love our enemy.  Even if our enemy is cruel, even if he is crushing us, sowing terror and injustice, we have to love him.  This is the message of Jesus.  But how can we love our enemy?  There is only one way -- to understand him.  We have to understand why he is that way, how he has come to be like that, why he does not see things the way we do.  Understanding a person brings us the power to love and accept him.  And the moment we love and accept him, he ceases to be our enemy.  To "love our enemy" is impossible, because the moment we love him, he is no longer our enemy.

To love him, we must practice deep looking in order to understand him.  If we do, we accept him, we love him, and we also accept and love ourselves.  As Buddhists or Christians, we cannot question that understanding is the most important component for transformation.  If we talk to each other, if we organize a dialogue, it is because we believe there is a possibility that we can understand the other person better.  When we understand another person, we understand ourselves better.  And when we understand ourselves better, we understand the other person better, too.

H.  Understanding Brings Forgiveness

"Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us."  Everyone makes mistakes.  If we are mindful, we see that some of our actions in the past have caused others to suffer, and some actions of others have made us suffer.  We want to be forgiving.  We want to begin anew.  "You, my brother or sister, have wronged me in the past.  I now understand that it was because you were suffering and did not see clearly.  I no longer feel anger toward you."  You cannot force yourself to forgive.  Only when you understand what has happened can you have compassion for the other person and forgive him or her.  That kind of forgiveness is the fruit of awareness.  When you are mindful, you can see the many causes that led the other person to make you suffer, and when you see this, forgiveness and release arise naturally.  Putting the teachings of Jesus and the Buddha into practice is always helpful.

Go To Chapter Seven

Return To The Table of Contents

How can we manifest peace on earth if we do not include everyone (all races, all nations, all religions, both sexes) in our vision of Peace?

The WorldPeace Banner

The WorldPeace Sign

To the John WorldPeace Galleries Page

To the WorldPeace Peace Page