To Work For Peace, First Overcome Anger

Q: What is the hardest thing you practice?
Image Courtesy: plumvillage
A: The hardest thing is not to allow yourself to be overcome by despair. It is the worst thing that can happen. During the war in Vietnam, I could not see the light at the end of the tunnel. It seemed the war would go on forever. And young people came and asked me, “Do you think the war will end soon?” It was very difficult to answer them. If you said, “I don’t know what to tell you,” then you water the seed of despair in them. So we had to seek the leaders a few times and what they said was: “Since everything is impermanent, the war also is impermanent and should end someday.” We decided then to work for peace. 
We young monks, nuns and lay practitioners organised the School of Youth for Social Service and went into the war zone and helped the wounded and rebuilt villages that had been bombed. There was a village not far from the war line that was bombed and destroyed. Our young social workers entered it and rebuilt it. But it was bombed again, and they rebuilt it once more. Four times it was bombed and they rebuilt it each time. If we had given up, it would have created a feeling of despair. We saw thousands of French and American soldiers kill and be killed, and hundreds of thousands wounded.
 In a situation like that, with so many dead, you cannot survive without a practice. We practice in such a way that we preserve our hope and compassion. So when journalists came and asked us questions, of how Americans come and kill, we were able to say ‘they are victims, we don’t hate them’. They come because of a policy that is not very intelligent, based on fear of the communists taking over. 
In 1966, I was invited to come to America and I had a chance to talk to Americans about the war. And a very angry young American stood up and said, “You shouldn’t be here. You should go back and fight American imperialism in Vietnam and you have to kill the American soldiers there.” I had to tell him that the root of the war is here. The young American soldiers who come to Vietnam are just victims, and that is why I had to come to America to tell people that this war is not happening in Vietnam but here. 
Without understanding and compassion, you lose yourself in anger and then you cannot help others to understand. There was a peace movement in America during the Vietnam war, for example, but there was a lot of anger in this movement. I met these groups and I told them you cannot have a lot of anger in you and appreciate peace—you have to be peace before you can do peace. You need to write a love letter to your President that you want peace, and if you write a strong, angry letter, he won’t read it. I was able to speak like that and help somehow to end the war, and understand suffering and spread compassion. Only if you are free from anger and despair, you can help the cause of peace.

source and courtesy: speakingtree

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