Dear Thay, dear Sangha,
One of the threads connecting the articles in this issue is the concept of volition. Our volition is our deepest desire. According to the Buddha, it is one of the four nutriments––sources of energy, or food. Our volition fuels us to do what we most want to do. Thay says, “To generate understanding and compassion, to be truly happy and to be able to help many people: that is good volition, good intention.” When it’s rooted in loving kindness, our wholesome volition can be a wonderful agent of change.
Thay’s Dharma talk teaches about volition as a framework for understanding our use of technology. This talk raises deep questions: Are we turning to email or Facebook to fill a void, to tune out our suffering? Are we at the mercy of our habit of going after pleasure? Thay urges us to examine our motivations and volition. Because of our unwholesome intentions and dangerous use of technology, he says, civilization is heading in the wrong direction. But he explains that if someone has bodhicitta, or the mind of love, nourishing his volition, then “he can reverse the trend of civilization.”
Sister Annabel, senior editor of the Mindfulness Bell, kindly shared her insights after reading the articles in this issue: “Our volition in the form of bodhicitta is always there in every one of us. It only needs to be uncovered and kept alive by the practice. Suffering is very important in helping us learn to uncover our mind of love. If we know how to handle our suffering, it will lead to the feeling of compassion for our self and others.”
The connection between bodhicitta and suffering is very alive in this issue’s stories by war veterans and their loved ones. These writers have been to some of the darkest places. They show how awakening into a volition of loving kindness has taken their lives in a whole new direction, one of awareness and commitment to service. For example, Jeff Nielsen’s article describes his harrowing times in war and his tireless work to reverse the legacy of war. In an email about it, he emphasized, “Again, my article is not about me. But, about the consequences of war, all war.” A volition that arises from compassion and inspires service is intensely personal and inseparable from the collective.
Contributor Beth Howard tells how she has been deepening her practice of peace as her sons have been deployed in military service. Sister Annabel observes, “The practice of Howard is also to see that her sons’ engagement in war is what keeps alive her compassion and peace work. Her sons’ being in the army does not bring about the desire to destroy those who want to go to war, because that is a kind of war in itself. As a mother she has a deep desire that no son will ever go to war and she does everything she can to make that possible and trusts that it will be possible. That is the most nourishing kind of volition food.”
May these offerings open our hearts and inspire us to nourish our true nature of compassion, our mind of love.
With love and gratitude,
True Ocean of Jewels