Cultivating Compassion To Respond To Violence:
The Way Of Peace

All violence is injustice.

Responding to violence with violence is injustice, not only to the other person but also to oneself. Responding to violence with violence resolves nothing; it only escalates violence, anger and hatred. It is only with compassion that we can embrace and disintegrate violence. This is true in relationships between individuals as well as in relationships between nations.

Many people in America consider Jesus Christ as their Lord, their spiritual ancestor and their teacher. We should heed His teachings especially during critical times like this. Jesus never encourages us to respond to acts of violence with violence. His teaching is, instead, to use compassion to deal with violence. The teachings of Judaism go very much in the same direction.

Spiritual leaders of this country are invited to raise their voices, to bring about the awareness of this teaching to the American nation and people. What needs to be done right now is to recognize the suffering, to embrace it and to understand it. We need calmness and lucidity so that we can listen deeply to and understand our own suffering, the suffering of the nation and the suffering of others. By understanding the nature and the causes of the suffering, we will then know the right path to follow.

The violence and hatred we presently face has been created by misunderstanding, injustice, discrimination and despair. We are all co-responsible for the making of violence and despair in the world by our way of living, of consuming and of handling the problems of the world. Understanding why this violence has been created, we will then know what to do and what not to do in order to decrease the level of violence in ourselves and in the world, to create and foster understanding, reconciliation and forgiveness.

I have the conviction that America possesses enough wisdom and courage to perform an act of forgiveness and compassion, and I know that such an act can bring great relief to America and to the world right away.

Thich Nhat Hanh
18 September, 2001

The Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh will be fasting from the 21st-30th September as a way of prayer in action. He invites all of his friends and disciples to join him in this prayer and meditation, wherever you may be and for however long you wish, in order to embrace all those who have died and all who are suffering from the recent tragedy. Those who plan to participate in this act of peace may like to e-mail us at, and to write a letter to the President and to their Congress people to inform them of your intentions.

On 25 September, the Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh will visit New York City and give a public talk there. He will be addressing the relevant issues of peace in action and the cultivation of compassion. All are welcome to attend. For updated information, please visit our website,, call our monastery in Vermont, Green Mountain Dharma Center, at (802) 436-1103.