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Wednesday, March 19, 2003


"Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful speech and the inability to listen to others, I vow to cultivate loving speech and deep listening in order to bring joy and happiness to others and to relieve others of their suffering. Knowing that words can create happiness or suffering, I vow to learn ways to speak truthfully, with words that inspire self-confidence, joy, and hope. I am determined not to spread news that I do not know to be certain and not to criticize or condemn things of which I am not sure. I will refrain from uttering words that can cause division or discord, or that can cause the family or the community to break. I will make all efforts to reconcile and resolve all conflicts, however small."

The above training, which is the wording of the Buddha's Fourth Precept as taught by Thich Nhat Hanh, on this day of all days, is proving to me to be a more difficult koan than any other I have ever read, heard or studied! It makes "The sound of one hand clapping" or "Mu" seem almost irrelevant.

How can we cultivate loving speech today as troops ready themselves to attack Iraq? I feel the strong need to speak out against this action I feel is unjustified, motivated by greed, anger and delusion -- the three poisons blooming in our collective consciousness like weeds proliferating profusely. And yet, am I sure? Can I be sure? Can I truly say that I know for certain that this is the motivation for this war? Can I even ultimately be sure or certain that war -- this war in particular is wrong?

And whatever I say, there is bound to be someone who will be offended. So if I truly do not wish to utter words that can cause division, must I remain mute? How can I resolve conflict? What can I do to reconcile while I myself am so conflicted? Especially when I understand that "reconciliation begins within myself."

These are the questions I am being asked by others, and they are the questions I myself am sitting with. This is why we have a practice, and this is why we take refuge in the three gems. The trainings offer no real firm ground outside of ourselves. And this is as it should be, as there are ultimately no real answers outside ourselves.

I find myself filled with anger at President Bush and the present administration. I am disappointed in him and in his policies. I find myself not believing in his sincerity or his motivations. I find his rhetoric offensive, and when Republicans attack Tom Daschle for merely voicing his dismay with Bush and the administration, I feel betrayed by my country, allegedly "the sweet land of liberty." They speak about democracy while denying us our rights to voice dissent, calling it "unpatriotic." When French Fries are mandated by Congress to be called "Freedom Fries" in the Congressional Cafeteria, where are the cries of "Political Correctness" from the right (or the left!)?

And then a Sangha sister sends a note with Thay's admonition that "Peace Knows No Sides." When some seem "hell-bent" on war and others do not want war, how do we not create sides? Are they not foisted upon us? If I choose peace, and my goverment chooses war, am I not morally responsible to act? Civil Disobediance is taking sides. It is non-violent action, but is it not going to create discord?

Yet, when I am forwarded a message from Michael Moore, I must say that I find his vitriolic rhetoric unhelpful. I know that the way to act in the name of peace is to be peace. The present conflict is the flowering created out of the soil of the three poisons. And I know only too well that I truly am not "other" than those who now lead us into war. These three poisons are within my mind, and it is only up to me to do something about them -- in myself -- so that I can help transform them in the world. And because I am not separate from the world, any action I do to nourish love, compassion and wisdom wihtin myself is an action that brings peace to the world. At least to shine light on one corner of the world.

David Byrne has a song in which he sings, "We are all flowers in God's garden. That's why he spreads the shit around." In fact, where else but in this world of birth, sickness, old age and death are we to see the Buddha, to touch Nirvana? In Thich Nhat Hanh's commentary on The Diamond Sutra, he writes, "Nirvana is made of the same substance as attachment, and awakening of the same substance as ignorance. We should be able to sow the seeds of awakening right here on Earth and not just in empty space. The beautiful lotus grows out of the mud. Without afflictions and suffering, we cannot make a Buddha."

May we all use whatever situation we presently find ourselves in to wake up, and "make a Buddha."

.: posted by Poep Sa Frank Jude 2:19 PM

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