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Thich Nhat Hanh Books
Intro to Buddhism
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Love In Action, $13.95
Love in Action is a collection of more than two decades of Thich Nhat Hanh's seminal writings on nonviolence, peace, and reconciliation. Reflecting on the devastation of war--from Vietnam to the Persian Gulf--Nhat Hanh speaks in the tradition of Gandhi and King of the need for mindfulness, and altruistic love as the basis for political action.
Foreword by Danniel Berrigan.
"Exploring the roots of war or describing the path to peace, nobody makes more sense than Thich Nhat Hanh."--Inquiring Mind
"[Nhat Hanh] articulates the central teaching that violence originates in each person...and that with the practice of mediation and mindfulness it can be overcome." The San Francisco Chronicle
ISBN: 0-93807762-5, Paperback, 154 pages.
A Peaceful Heart
Immediately after ordering the ground attack on Iraq, in February 1991, President Bush addressed his nation, saying, "Whatever you are doing at this moment, please stop and pray for our soldiers in the Gulf. God Bless the United States of America." I suspect that at the same moment many Moslems were also praying to their God to protect Iraq and the Iraqi soldiers. How could God know which nation to support? Many people pray to God because they want God to fulfill some of their needs. If they want to have a picnic, they may ask God for a clear, sunny day. At the same time, farmers who need more rain might pray for the opposite. If the weather is clear, the picnickers may 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.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught, "Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God." Those who work for peace must have a peaceful heart. When you have a peaceful heart, 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 belong to 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 will be put in a place called hell. He said 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 need only to kill in your mind and you are already there.
In the Persian Gulf, many people practiced killing in their minds--Iraqi, American, French, British, and other soldiers. They knew that if they didn't kill, the enemy soldiers would kill them, so they used sandbags to represent their enemy, and holding their bayonets firmly, they ran, shouted, and plunged the bayonets into the sandbags. They practiced killing day and night in their hearts and minds. The damage caused by that kind of practice is huge. I happened to see a few seconds of that kind of practice on TV. Even if President Bush had not given the order for a land offensive, a lot of damage was already being done in the minds and hearts of one million people in the Gulf. Those kinds of wounds last for a long time and are transmitted to future generations. If you train yourself every day to kill during the day and then dream of killing during the night because you have spent so much time concentrating on that, the damage is deep. If you survive, you will bear that kind of scar for many years. This is a real tragedy. We usually count bodies to measure the damage from a war, but we don't count these kinds of wounds in the hearts and minds of so many soldiers. We have to see the real long-term damage that war causes. Soldiers live in hell day and night, even before they go into the battlefield, and even after they return home.
We may think of peace as the absence of war, that if the great powers would reduce their weapons arsenals, we could have peace. But if we look deeply into the weapons, we will see our own minds--our own 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 start a war and give the opportunity to one million men and women to practice killing day and night in their hearts is to plant many, many seeds of war--anger, frustration, and the fear of being killed. I felt very sad when I learned that more than eighty percent of the American people supported the Gulf War.
"You 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 Christians actually practice this? There is a story about an American soldier who was taking a Japanese prisoner during World War II. While walking together, the American discovered that the Japanese soldier spoke English and that he had been a Christian before he abandoned his faith. So he asked, "Why did you abandon Christianity? It is an excellent religion," and the Japanese man said, "I could not become a soldier and continue to be a Christian. I don't think a good Christian can become a soldier and kill another person." He understood this passage from Matthew. There must be ways to solve our conflicts without having to resort to killing. We must focus our attention on this. We have to find ways to help people get out of difficult situations, situations of conflict, without having to kill.
"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."
This is nondiscrimination. 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 we look deeply into our anger, we see that the person we call our enemy is also suffering. As soon as we see that, we have the capacity of accepting and having compassion for him. Jesus called this "loving your enemy." When we are able to love our enemy, he or she is no longer our enemy. The idea of "enemy" vanishes and is replaced by the notion of someone suffering a great deal who needs our compassion. Doing this is sometimes easier than we might think, but we need to practice. If we read the Bible but don't practice, it will not help much.
"Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us." Everyone makes mistakes. If we are mindful, we see th
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