Sept. 12, 2001
With yesterday's tragic events, we may be on the brink of an
escalating war in the Middle East. I think that we must look into
our hearts and minds to see what we are doing--individually and
collectively--to alleviate or perpetuate these problems, and how we
might become part of their eventual solution.
I think a vengeful, eye-for-an-eye retaliatory approach is not
the most measured response at this time; it could simply result in
more tragic loss of innocent life. Nothing good comes from violence
and aggression, although it is certainly availible as a last resort.
But do our leaders agree?
The criminals who have perpetrated this terrible act of terrorism
must certainly be brought to justice. Terrorism cannot be allowed to
continue. We must condemn the crime, but not let our anger escalate
into unreasonable aggression, ethinc prejudice, racism, and even
more violence in the world. I believe we must get to the roots of
this, not just punish individuals. A nation retaliating against
another nation maintains the unsatisfactory status quo of previous
centuries, centuries of war and genocide. We must find another way
to create a new world order, peace, and security in our time.
Religion is supposed to further peace, happiness, and harmony,
not contribute to hatred, prejudice, intolerance, bigotry, violence,
and war. Nonviolence is the first precept of Buddhism and a
fundamental tenet of many world religions. Yet look what actually
happens in our world in the name of religion, most recently in the
Middle East and Bosnia, Belfast and Sri Lanka. Extremists are
utilizing the margins of history and the shadowy borders of rogue
states prone to religious fanaticism to tilt the balance towards
hatred and chaos; we must not play into their hands by thinking and
reacting as they do, or we are in danger of becoming what they are.
Here in America, guns in the schools and on the streets continue
to harm us. Violence is a major focus of concern, but we have not
made much progress in averting or dealing with it. Again, we must
look into the causes and origins of violence both at home and
abroad, and take whatever steps are necessary to solve those
seemingly intractable problems.
Martin Luther King said that we have two choices: to peacefully
coexist, or to destroy ourselves. Dozens of countries are in the
midst of war right now; yet we remain for the most part insulated
from that terrible reality. Here in America we don't feel first-hand
the death of war. But I don't think that war begins outside on a
battlefield, along some disputed border, in a diplomatic conference
room or economic summit meeting; war begins with the cupidity,
hatred, prejudice, racism, ignorance, and cruelty in the human
heart. The true battlefield, said Dostoevsky, is the heart of man.
Buddha said that hate is never overcome by hate; hatred is only
overcome by love. If we want peaceful coexistence in our world--and
I firmly believe that we all do--we need to face this fact. We must
learn how to deal with anger and hatred, and to soften up and disarm
our own hearts as well as work in larger contexts towards nuclear
disarmament and peace in our time.
We need to think globally and act locally, beginning with
ourselves and each other--at home, in our families, at work, and in
our communities, reaching out more and more in broad, all-embracing
circles of collective caring and responsibility. This is the path to
a more peaceful future for all of us.
Today is a time for prayer and reflection on what is most
important in our lives, for banding together, and to think about
what steps we might take towards nonviolence within ourselves and
our own lives as well as towards a more peaceful world.
I myself am thinking about what the Buddhist wisdom tells us
about how to deal with anger and hatred, grief and loss. Spiritual
wisdom from all over the world teaches us of the healing power of
forgiveness, kindness, compassion, and forbearance; how to apply
that to events today is not only the challenge of our leaders but
each and every one of us.