The Urban Dharma Newsletter... October 8, 2002


In This Issue:

1. Buddhism and Nonviolence ...by Sulak Sivaraksa
Buddhism and War- Combating terrorism is no crime! ...by Sarath Weerasekera
3. Buddhism and War
...by Ru Wickremasinghe
4. Book Review: Seeds of Peace
...by Sulak Sivaraksa
5. Temple/Center of the Week: The Buddhist Peace Fellowship


1. Buddhism and Nonviolence ...C H O I C E S ...Living Consciously ...by Sulak Sivaraksa

...from Seeds of Peace: A Buddhist Vision for Renewing Society (1992) by Sulak Sivaraksa- Parallax Press, Berkeley, California, www.Parallax.org

* http://www.bodydharma.org/choices/violence/sivaraksa.html 

Fifteen years ago, a notorious Thai Buddhist monk told the Bangkok press that "it is not sinful to kill a Communist." He later modified his statement, saying, "to kill communism or communist ideology is not a sin." He claimed that he did not encourage people to kill others. Nevertheless, he confessed that his nationalist feelings were more important than his Buddhist practice. He said he would be willing to abandon his yellow robes to take up arms against the communist invaders from Laos, Cambodia, or Vietnam. By doing so, he said, he would be preserving the monarchy, the nation, and the Buddhist religion. Young people in Siam were astounded that a Buddhist monk had tried to justify an act of killing. Although monks in the past have tried to condone "just war," none has ever been able to find any canonical source to support this claim. That is why our monk had to retreat from his earlier statement.

Christmas Humphreys, the founder of the London Buddhist Society, stated that one of the reasons that he abandoned Christianity was that during the First World War, when his brother was killed in serving his King and country, both English clergymen and German pastors invoked the same God to guide the soldiers in warfare. The emphasis on pacifism seems to be at once a great strength and a great weakness of Buddhism as an organized religion. It strengthens the religion in moral terms, but what happens when nation and religion are threatened by an enemy? Dean Inge of St. Paul's Cathedral in London once said, "If Christians had been as pacifist as Buddhists... there is scarcely any doubt that the 'legacies' of Greece, Rome, and Palestine would have been finally and totally extinguished."

Before the end of the Vietnam War, I asked Venerable Thich Nhah Hanh whether he would rather have peace under a communist regime that would mean the end of Buddhism or the victory of democratic Vietnam with the possibility of Buddhist revival, and he said that it was better to have peace at any price. He told me that preserving Buddhism does not mean that we should sacrifice people's lives in order to safeguard the Buddhist hierarchy, monasteries, or rituals. Even if Buddhism as such were extinguished, when human lives are preserved and when human dignity and freedom are cultivated toward peace and loving kindness, Buddhism can be reborn in the hearts of human beings.

In all of Buddhist history, there has never been a holy war. Surely Buddhist kings have waged war against one another, and they may even have claimed to be doing so for the benefit of humankind or the Buddhist religion, but they could not quote any saying of the Buddha to support them. The Buddha was quite clear in his renunciation of violence: "Victory creates hatred. Defeat creates suffering. The wise ones desire neither victory nor defeat... Anger creates anger... He who kills will be killed. He who wins will be defeated... Revenge can only be overcome by abandoning revenge... The wise seek neither victory nor defeat."

After waging many wars, Emperor Asoka was so moved by sayings such as these that he converted to Buddhism and became the model for later Buddhist kings. Buddhism retreated from India, China, Vietnam, and other countries rather than involve its believers in armed struggles to preserve itself. Again, this illustrates the strengths and the weaknesses of Buddhism.

On many occasions in the history of Sri Lanka and Buddhist Southeast Asia, monks have been asked by kings to initiate peace treaties. On the other hand, Theravada Buddhist monks have never been involved directly in warfare. They could not be, for to kill or to cause a person to be killed is a sinful act of such great magnitude that a guilty monk would immediately lose his robes. Personally a monk may agree or disagree with any war, but he is required to refrain from exposing his opinion in this respect.

In Siamese chronicles we find the story of a great king who personally fought the Crown Prince of Burma while both were on elephants, and the Siamese king won by slaying his opponent. Afterwards, he was angry with his generals for not following him more closely and allowing him to face the enemy single-handedly, and he condemned them to death. The Buddhist Patriarch and other senior monks visited the King and asked him to pardon the generals. The monks said that on the eve of the Buddha's enlightenment, if the Blessed One had been surrounded by all the deities, his victory over the hordes of Mara — the evil ones in various forms of greed, hatred and delusion — would not have been as supreme as the victory when the Buddha single-handedly overcame the army of sensuous desires. Likewise, if His Majesty had been surrounded by all his generals and won the battle, it would not have been as great a victory as His Majesty's single-handed victory over the Crown Prince of Burma. His victory cold be regarded as similar to that of the Great Buddha. Using this metaphor, the monks secured the release of all the generals.

Hsuan Tsang, the famous monk-traveler, was once asked by the Emperor of China to accompany him on a military campaign. The monk's reply showed his tactfulness and his adherence to Buddhist ethical codes:

Hsuan Tsang knows himself not to be of any assistance to your military campaign. I feel ashamed to be the object of unnecessary expenses and a useless burden. Moreover, the Vinaya discipline forbids monks to see military battle and displays of armies. As Lord Buddha gave such an admonition, I dare not, to please Your Majesty.

Sri Lanka has been invaded by foreign aggressors many times in its history, and Buddhist monks were so committed to pacifism that the lineage of the monkhood was at one point discontinued. To recontinue the lineage, the King of Sri Lanka had to send a mission to Siam for a group of Siamese monks to ordain Sinhalese novices and laymen.

The spirit of nonviolence permeates Buddhism. The first precept, not to kill, is the foundation for all Buddhist action. This idea is expanded in the notion of non-harming (ahimsa): that one should actively practice loving kindness towards all.

The Buddha said, "There is no greater happiness than peace." The ultimate goal for a Buddhist is to reach the peaceful state of nirvana and the means to reach this goal must be peaceful. To be a Buddhist, one is first of all required to observe the Five Precepts, to ensure that one does not take advantage of oneself or others. Being neutral towards all beings, one can embark on the spiritual journey of meditation and reach tranquility of the mind, so that eventually one might be enlightened and gain the insight or wisdom of seeing things as they really are (pañña or prajña). Buddhists call this the realization of total awakening or enlightenment (bodhi).

One day, a religious leader came to visit the Buddha and asked, "When one follows your Way, what does one do in daily life?" the Buddha replied, "One walks, stands, sits, lies down, eats, and drinks." The man asked, "What is so special about that?" And the Buddha answered, "An ordinary person, though walking, standing, sitting, lying down, eating, or drinking, does not know that he is walking, standing, sitting, lying down, eating, or drinking. When a practitioner of the Way walks, he knows that he is walking. When he stands, he knows that he is standing." This is mindfulness practice — to be mindful of every movement of body and mind. Without mindfulness, we get caught up in our thoughts and in the pleasures and pains of our senses.

To practice nonviolence, we must cultivate mindfulness. It is easier to do so in quiet, peaceful surroundings. We should pick a suitable time and find a secluded place where we can devote ourselves to practicing meditation, without interruption. To begin, we should assume a comfortable posture. The usual postures are sitting, standing, walking, and lying down. The ideal posture, if it is comfortable, is sitting cross-legged, with the spine erect and head straight, eyes half-closed, and hands resting on the lap. We follow each breath and develop concentration. During meditation, when anger (or some other emotion) arises, we know that anger has arisen. Meditation on the breath of loving kindness is as simple as this. We cultivate patience and joy, and we do not discriminate between what we desire and what we wish to avoid. We accept each thing as it comes, and then we let it go.

Then we embark on the development of metta, loving kindness, to dissolve all hatred and acquire the virtue of patience as a foundation stone upon which to build spiritual strength. The Buddha offered us many hints concerning how to maintain the proper attitude for meditation:

     In those who harbor such thoughts as, "He abused me, he struck me, he overcame me, he robbed me," hatred never ceases.

     In those who do not harbor such thoughts, hatred will cease.

     Hatred never ceases through hatred in this world; through nonviolence it comes to an end.

     Some do not think that all of us here one day will die; if they did, their dissension would cease at once.

     One should give up anger, and renounce pride.

     Let a man overcome anger by loving kindness; let him overcome evil by good; let him overcome miserliness with generosity; let him overcome lies with truth.

     One should speak the truth, not succumbing to anger.

     There is none in the world who is blameless.

     One should guard oneself against misdeeds caused by speech. Let him practice restraint of speech. Let him practice virtue with his mind.

     The wise who control their body, speech, and mind are indeed well-controlled.

Once we feel content and peaceful, we can spread our loving kindness towards others:

     May all beings be happy and secure;

     May teir hearts be wholesome.

     Whatever living beings there may be,

     Feeble or strong, tall, fat, or medium,

     Short, small, or large, without exception,

     Seen or unseen,

     Those dwelling far or near,

     Those who are born or who are to be born,

     May all beings be happy.

                                           (Metta Sutta)

When we sit in meditation, our body and mind are relaxed. We are not only peaceful and happy, we are also alert and awake. Meditation is not a means of evasion; it is a serene encounter with reality. When one person in a family practices meditation, the entire family will benefit. Because of the presence of one member who lives in mindfulness, filled with compassion, the entire family will be reminded to live in that spirit. All Buddhist communities need at least one experienced meditator to help create a peaceful atmosphere for everyone, to set a good example and to provide the sweet nectar of mindfulness for everyone to share and be nourished. This is so important for people of our time.

Every day, we find ourselves in conflict situations, ranging from minor inconveniences to serious confrontations. Conflicts can flare up over backyard fences or national borders, over cleaning up the kitchen or cleaning up the environment. They can involve our most intimate relations or the briefest acquaintances. Whenever people cannot tolerate each other's moral, religious, or political differences, conflict is inevitable and often costly.

But conflict can also open avenues of change and provide challenges. Conflict resolution skills do not guarantee a solution every time, but they can turn conflict into an opportunity for learning more about oneself and others. Violence and heated arguments, where people hurl abuse and become overwhelmed by their feelings, are sure signs of crisis. During crises, normal behavior is forgotten. Extreme gestures are contemplated and sometimes carried out. These are obvious clues that something is wrong.

Conflicts can be positive or negative, constructive or destructive, depending on what we make of them. Buddhists know that everything is impermanent, everything is changing; but in many conflict situations, we forget and become attached to our views, refusing to let them go. We tend to blame the other side alone for our problem.

Insight into impermanence can allow us to alter the course of events simply by viewing them differently. We can turn our fights into fun. Transforming conflicts in this way is an art, requiring special skills. The key Buddhist term, skillful means (upaya), refers to just this kind of process. We must try to develop skillful means to understand conflict. We must remember that crisis, tension, misunderstanding, and discomfort, including our fights and personal differences, are part of life. It is a mistake to expect to avoid conflict all the time. The best we can do is to make conflicts less painful by learning to anticipate them and to manage them constructively. Conflict resolution depends on awareness, and there are clues that can give us ideas for how to deal with it.

The first step in the art of conflict resolution is to regard conflict as an opportunity and to look for skillful means to apply appropriately. Generally, when people think about conflict, they believe that there are only three possible outcomes: victory, defeat, or compromise. From the Buddhist point of view, the end result is less important than the way we work with it. There are many stories from the life of the Buddha that illustrate how he dealt with conflict situations. I would like to present two of them.

The first incident arose from a difference of opinion between two monks on a minor point of the monastic rules. Because these monks happened to be experts in different fields of study and each had a large following, their conflict escalated, and more people became involved. After a time, the two groups' minds became polluted, and each felt that the other was wrong. The Buddha went to their monastery and told them both to let go of their position and ask forgiveness from the other, so that they could live harmoniously together. He told them several stories to illustrate how conflicts can grow from small misunderstandings to serious crises. One story was about a king and queen who were attacked by another ruler. As they lay dying, they asked their small son to be patient and forgive the enemy. The son eventually joined the enemy's service and became his royal page. Once, alone in the jungle with his parents' killer, the page drew his dagger, but his parents' words of caution came to his mind, and he could not commit the act. Seeing the drawn dagger in the hand of his page, the enemy king learned the whole story. All was forgiven and the page ended up marrying the king's daughter and succeeding to the throne.

Stories like this are often told in Buddhist countries to encourage us to solve conflicts in nonviolent ways. But when the Buddha told it to the quarreling monks, it had no impact. The Buddha saw no alternative but to leave them and stay by himself in the forest. Soon after, the lay community found out about the conflict, and they refused to give alms to the monks. After being hungry for many days, the monks came to their senses. They went to pay respect to the Buddha and ask for forgiveness. They let go of their views and opinions and were willing to accept each other.

Another incident from the time of the Buddha deals directly with armed conflict. The King of Kosala wanted to become a relative of the Buddha, so he asked for a Sakya princess to be his Queen. The Sakya clan was very caste-conscious and always refused marriages with outsiders. So instead of the princess, they sent the King of Kosala the daughter of a slave girl to be his queen.

The King and his new Queen has a son, Vidhudhabha. Neither he nor his father knew that the Queen was an outcaste. When the young prince went to visit his relatives among the Sakya, he found that they all looked down upon him because his maternal grandmother had been a slave. So the young prince vowed to kill all members of the Sakya clan in revenge.

When Vidhudhabha succeeded his father to the throne of Kosala, he marched his army northward. The Buddha heard of the situation and went to sit at the border of the two kingdoms to stop the warlike King. But three times he was unable to convince the King to get rid of his hatred and vengefulness, and finally the King did kill almost all of the Sakyans. On his return home, Vidhudhabha and his troops were drowned in the river.

We can draw many conclusions from this story. Although the Sakyan clan produced a wonderful person who eventually became a Buddha, who preached that people should get rid of caste and class barriers, they continued to hold their views of caste in contradiction to his teaching. They deceived the king of Kosala, who was much mightier than they, and they paid for it. As for Vidhudhabha, his negative thoughts drove him to a terrible act, and his life ended tragically.

Those who claim to be Buddhists but want to solve armed conflicts by violent means are no different from Vidhudhabha and the Sakyans who honored the Buddha and listened to his sermons, but thought, spoke, and acted violently. On the other hand, there are many non-Buddhists who are compassionate and filled with forgiveness towards others. They are more Buddhist than the Buddhists. To solve the complex problems of today's world, we need Buddhists, Hindus, Christians, Jews, Muslims, and Marxists all to face the situation mindfully in order to understand the structural violence and to avoid blaming anyone. With skillful means and patience, we can solve the world's conflicts nonviolently.

There is a Buddhist saying that describes this approach:

     In times of war

     Give rise in yourself to the mind of compassion,

     Helping living beings

     Abandon the will to fight.

     Wherever there is furious battle,

     Use all your might

     To keep both sides' strength equal

     And then step in to reconcile this conflict.

                             (Vimalakirti Sutra)

Tibetans provide an excellent example of a Buddhist approach to conflict. However violent and ruthless the Chinese aggressors have been to this country, His Holiness the Dalai Lama has never said a harmful word against them. He always asks the Tibetans to refrain from armed struggle and to meditate on what they did in the past that might have caused them so much suffering.

The Tiananmen massacre in Peking followed shortly after a similarly bloody incident in Lhasa in 1989. This time the Chinese government treated their own people as badly as they had the Tibetans. But none of the Tibetan spiritual leaders in exile ever said that it served the Chinese right. On the contrary, the Tibetan Buddhists are always full of compassion towards the Chinese and hope tat one of these days a resolution will be found to the issue of Tibet. One cannot help but admire their attitude. Although they have been in exile for over thirty years, they are still very positive and hopeful, yet realistic. Their teachings of self-awareness, meaningful community development, and environmental sensitivity have contributed positively to the world at large.

The Tibetans have used Buddhism to understand their situation. I think more of us who find ourselves in conflict situations can use meditation as a means to defuse them. If you are in a conflict, it is good to contemplate the person who is causing you the most suffering. Visualize the features you find most repulsive. Think about what makes the person suffer in daily life. Try to understand how he came to do what you find so unjust. Examine his or her motivations and aspirations. See what prejudices, narrow-mindedness, hatred, or anger he or she may be harboring. Contemplate in this way until understanding and compassion well up in your heart, and watch your anger and resentment disappear. You may need to practice this exercise many times on the same person before you can feel calm enough to understand the other person. This is only one of many meditation practices that can be used in situations of conflict or anger. Another is to meditate on yourself in the same way, on your own suffering caused by attachment and the lack of wisdom.

In conflict situations, nonviolence is the desired end as well as the means to achieve it. The Buddhist approach to conflict resolution requires concentration and the practice of mindfulness. When we make nonviolence a part of our daily lives, we water the seeds of a nonviolent society.


2. Buddhism and War - Combating terrorism is no crime! ...by Sarath Weerasekera

Midweek Review- * http://origin.island.lk/2002/08/28/midwee07.html

If a notorious criminal enters the house of Priya and Prem by force and tries to harm them, then what would Prem do? Will he start practising ‘Metta’ in keeping with the Buddha’s teachings of non violence and Ahimsa, or would he try to study the root causes why men behave in such a manner and try to address those root causes, or would he simply try to overpower the criminal with whatever means available and save themselves from the criminal? If the latter course of action is the answer, how should the people act if their land is under siege and their lives endangered by a group of terrorists?

I thought of writing this after reading the article, ‘Buddhism and War.’ by Priya and Prem Jayasekera in The Island Midweek Review on 14th Aug. 2002. It said that they were both horrified, stupefied, and shocked to hear an ardent ‘Sinhala Buddhist’ say that the Buddha did not say anything against wars, and therefore war was justified and as such it was a horrendous statement founded entirely on ignorance. It then elaborated on loving kindness and Ahimsa of the Buddha and argued that Buddha was always against war.

I have little knowledge of Buddhism as against Priya and Prem, who appear to be well versed in Damma. However, I find it difficult to agree totally with their argument, as they have not touched upon national security or action in self-defence, when dealing with "Ahimsa".

Even a kid knows that Buddhism is against war. The Buddha has advocated and preached "non violence and peace" as his universal messages and said, "Never hatred is appeased by hatred but it is appeased by kindness." The Buddha not only condemned killing of all types of living beings but also condemned the destruction of plant life.

As Priya and Prem also agree Buddhism is not a religion but a way of life", a teaching, which should be practised in daily life. Now the question is: Has Buddhism, as a way of life, given permission for a State to raise and maintain an Army to protect its citizens from aggression? Can a good Buddhist be a good soldier? And can such a soldier kill to protect his land his people?

If a notorious criminal enters the house of Priya and Prem by force and tries to harm them, then what would Prem do? Will he start practising ‘Metta’ in keeping with the Buddha’s teachings of non violence and Ahimsa, or would he try to study the root causes why men behave in such a manner and try to address those root causes, or would he simply try to overpower the criminal with whatever means available and save themselves from the criminal? If the latter course of action is the answer, how should the people act if their land is under siege and their lives endangered by a group of terrorists?

While civilians are being killed, children forcibly conscripted, people extorted and arms amassed for destroying the country by the terrorists, should they practise Metta towards the enemy or try to find the root causes or try to save the innocents from being butchered? If Buddhism is a way of life and if that way of life prohibits any action against aggression and if the forefathers of Sri Lanka have acted accordingly, Buddhism in Sri Lanka would have vanished long time ago.

Now let us briefly see how the Buddha has responded when it came to national security.

The Buddhist texts show that the Buddha, though he preached non-violence, has acknowledged that a state must have an Army to defend herself. In Cakkavatti-Sihananda Sutta in Digha Nikaya, the Buddha has justified the king in raising and maintaining an army to protect his people from external and internal aggression. Hence the Buddha was mindful of an army to protect the citizens and consequent use of force in defence, as a worldly necessity.

Once the Buddha asked King Pasenadi whether he would like to keep a noble youth in his Army if he was untrained, unskilled, timid, trembling and wanting to run away. The fact that the Buddha used similes from Pasenadi’s military implies that he accepted and acknowledged the existence of an Army as a tool of the state.

King Suddhodana one day came to the Buddha and complained that his soldiers were joining the order and it had resulted in depletion of the army. The Buddha immediately ruled that if someone in the army wanted to enter the order, he must get the consent of the king. (This rule is still valid in our country.) This incident too implies that the Buddha has accepted that a state must have a fully-fledged Army for defence whilst being fully aware of the role of the army during an invasion. Hence Buddhism recognises the validity of certain worldly needs which may not be fully compatible with the highest ideals of harmlessness and non-violence.

In the Seeha Senapathi Sutta (Anguttara Nikaya) Seeha, the head of an army brigade, comes to the Buddha to clarify certain matters connected to Dhamma. The Buddha clarifies it and he attains "Sothapaththi" but continues to serve in the Army!! The Buddha never asked Seeha to quit the Army or demobilise his army.

Prem and Priya have also mentioned that terrorism is the answer of the desperate and hence the root causes have to be addressed as a solution. It may be so in the long term. "Terrorism" is, unleashing of violence towards civilians and civil targets to achieve a political objective. Does anyone expect a government to do nothing and allow the terrorists to kill civilians until the so called "root causes" are properly addressed? If someone argues that the government must wage war against the terrorists in order to save the lives of innocents and public property, can he be branded an extremist? Terrorism must be rooted out in terms of cause and effect. Treating the root causes if any, is operationally a long-term project whilst reacting immediately is necessary to deter the killers. It is best to preserve the complimentary character of the two. I am sure Prem and Priya would agree with me on this.

Not only against terrorism but, as we are all aware, countries fight for independence as well. Ven. Walpole Rahula Thera points out that fighting for national independence has become an established Buddhist tradition since freedom was essential to the spiritual as well as material progress of the community. The state cannot grant people Nibbana and all it can do is to ensure their freedom to attain it for themselves. In order to ensure that, the state may have to wage war in its defence.

Throughout the history of Sri Lanka, Buddhist monks have played an active role in protecting the country and Buddhism, against foreign invasions. In 5th century BC during the invasions of from south India Ven. Mahanama raised the Royal prince Dhatusena amidst attempts to assassinate him. He admitted the prince into Order and brought him up secretly training him in every sphere. Dhatusena subsequently liberated Sinhalese and Buddhism from aggression. Can anybody argue that Ven. Mahanama acted against the Buddha’s teachings?

As per Mahawansa when king Dutugemunu became remorseful at the thought of killing a large number of human beings in battle, some Arahats living in the island of Piyangu met the king and said that his path to heaven was not obstructed as his "intention" had been benign.

Ven. Rahula in his book "The heritage of the Bhikku" concludes that although the above record is diametrically opposed to the teachings of the Buddha, working for the freedom and upliftment of religion were considered so noble by both laity and Sangha that they seemed to believe that Arahats themselves had accepted that even the destruction of human beings in order to save the country was not a grave crime.

The precept to refrain from killing is one that is voluntarily undertaken. A Buddhist knows if he violates that tenet he does so at his own peril. But the question is whether there is any mitigation, if killing is carried out as a duty that one owes to the state. In a situation like this hatred is not so dominant in "Chetana" or the mental volition that accompanies such an act.

We all have heard of the monk Therapuththabaya, who disrobed, joined King Dutugemunu’s Army, fought the enemy, and after winning the war joined the Order again and attained Arahathood !! We have read in texts how the Buddha has prevented many wars. But being a soldier is not one of the five forbidden livelihoods mentioned in Buddhism.

The Buddha has accepted that even a righteous king must have a well-trained Army to defend his people. I am sure the person, whom Priya and Prem took on so vehemently calling him an "ardent Sinhala Buddhist" was only trying to say that.

(The writer is Rear Admiral, Navy Camp, KKS)


3. Buddhism and War ...by Ru Wickremasinghe

Lanka Daily News, September 3, 2002


Colombo -- Buddhism, is absolute 'AHIMSA' or non violence. The noble Buddha preached loving kindness towards all beings "long, short, tall, thin, stout or medium. Seen, unseen, born yet to be born, those living far or near, to all beings without exception", in the Mettha Sutra (Discourse on 'loving kindness'). In the same Sutra He stated "just as a mother would love and protect her only child even at the risk of her own life so may you cultivate boundless love towards all beings".

Ours is not a religion. It is a philosophy. The Dhamma is a teaching which can be and should be practised in daily life.

That is what is meant by 'the practice of Buddhism', not going to the temple and repeating stanzas, some even ask for forgiveness from the Buddha! Some have transformed the Buddha into an eternal God and even pray to him! The Buddha released Himself from Sansara or the cycle of births and deaths.

This is a concept that is fundamental to Buddhism. But some of our Sinhala Buddhist sadly do not comprehend Buddhism.

In all His teachings the Buddha stresses how sacred and precious life, especially human life is. He has said "A single day of life is worth more than all the treasures of the universe" (the Saddharma Pundharika Sutra or the 'Lotus Sutra'). War, which cruelly robs people can never be excused by any reason or cause. It is an absolute evil. Those who advocate war or terrorism, are in fact cowards. In Lanka those who advocate war are the well heeled people in Colombo who have not sent a son or daughter to defend this country. They do not mind at all if the sons of the poor are sacrificed so that they may live in comfort.

It is the injustice that has bred our problem. As Martin Luther King Jnr. said 'Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere". As another great Japanese Buddhist leader, Daisaku Ikeda has stated "We must unite across differences of nationality and faith in order to create a world free of injustice, violence and terror."

We have been in recent years trapped in a vicious cycle of hatred and reprisals. We must, if we claim to be a really Buddhist country, break this cycle of violence and transform distrust into trust. This is the antidote to terrorism and the worship of violence. In this country we have seen over the years, including the period of JVP insurgency, the vilest depths to which human nature can sink. This is a damning indictment on a country which claims to practise - I repeat practice, (not worship) the word of the Buddha.

The evil over which we must triumph is hatred. Did not the Enlightened and Compassionate One say "Hatred is not conquered by hatred but by love alone"? Let us practise that. Unless we achieve that fundamental transformation within ourselves we will not be able to perceive our ultimate connection with all our fellow human beings - feeling their suffering as our own - we will never be free of conflict and war.

We must be able to feel other's suffering as our own. We cannot emphasize this point more strongly. Our war will truly end when we cultivate Mettha or love for all beings whether they be Tamils, Muslims, Malays, Burghers, Christians or Hindus. We all belong to one human family, let us not divide ourselves by labels. We must break down the icy walls of distrust and restore faith in humanity. We were not born into this world to hate Tamils or anyone else and to destroy each other in the process. We must restore our faith in humanity and in each other.

As for the Tamil problem let us address the causes of the insurgency. Let us remove the cause for the war.

There have been antagonisms generated because of alienation and 'marginalization'. Terrorism is the answer of the desperate. It is also the response of the weak and the coward. We cannot condone it. It will not go away so long as the social, economic and political conditions that created the problem in the first place, remain.

We may not teach hatred but neither do we teach our children to love one another irrespective of our ethnic, religious and cultural differences. Our education system is not structured for a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural society. We do not emphasize the fact that we all belong to one human family. We must introduce 'peace studies' or peace education in our schools and even have a faculty for peace studies and conflict resolution in at least one of our universities.

We must also introduce the teaching of the histories and languages of the other people who inhabit our land. We lose nothing. We only add value to ourselves. Let us build peace and transform our violent society. We would also suggest that all schools start their day with a period of meditation. Fifteen minutes of Ana-pana-sathi (the concentration on the breath) and fifteen minutes of Mettha Bhavana or meditation on love and compassion. Our minds create our reality, did not the Buddha say that the mind is the forerunner of all things? We create God, hell and heaven in and through our minds. So let us strive to control our minds and our thoughts.

We must lift up our thoughts and vibrations to those of peace, harmony and sharing. Let our minds be filled with thoughts of love, compassion, understanding, tolerance and with the following words of the Buddha from verse 183 of the Dhammapada

"Sabba Papassa akaranam

Kusalassa upasampada

Satchitha pariyo dapanam

Etham Buddhanu sasanam."

"Not to indulge in that which is evil

To cultivate love and goodness

To purify one's mind of hate

That is the word of the Buddha."


4. Seeds of Peace: A Buddhist Vision for Renewing Society ...by Sulak Sivaraksa


Amazon.com Reviewer: Sean Parlaman from Ashland, Oregon:

"Never before have I read one book with so many answers to so many problems, save for the Gospels perhaps. Ajarn Sulak Sivaraksa for years was a much-criticized, crystal clear voice for positive social change and human rights during the dark days of military dictatorship in Thailand. Unfortunately, with the realization of democratic freedom in that country starting in 1992, most influential Thais used their freedom not to rediscover the fundamental values of human decency as taught by Buddha and Christ, (and which made Thais world famous as a loving, generous people), but to embrace the new gods of consumerism and development in pursuit of their own financial gain.

The result of that idolatry is an economy in shambles today, thanks to a "Rich then Green" economic approach which placed wealth for a few above quality of life for all. In this setting, it is appropriate for Thais, (and foreigners who love Thailand), to discover or re-discover "Seeds of Peace," and it's message of human spiritual transformation -- starting with each of us -- expanding outwards (much like Bobby Kennedy's metaphor of rings of water in a pond) to transform families, communities, villages, cities, states, nations and the world.

Although the political message is somewhat outdated -- Ajarn Sulak wrote "Seeds of Peace" in 1991 while a political exile hated by the military/police Thai government which was run out of power in the May 1992 pro-democracy demonstrations -- the spiritual, social and activist message is one that is more vital than ever today. Thais are now faced with the proof that profit and material wealth -- as both Buddha and Christ taught -- destroy us as spiritual beings, and they cannont guarantee happiness. The Thai government's answer to the economic downturn has been to put more faith in an export economy in which child and under-paid labor is still rampant, and to accept IMF bailout schemes which cripple local decision-making ability and hobble the rights of the workers even more. By reconsidering and returning to the traditional values of Thai Buddhism, and by embracing "engaged buddhism" as a social and activist model, Ajarn Sulak believes that Thais can regain some of the qualities of Thai life which now exist mostly as sentimental recollections.

Sulak Sivaraksa precieves with crystal clarity the cancers that are inside all of us -- greed, anger, mistrust, hate, ignorance, indifference -- and demonstrates how they infect our entire world on a global scale. But he also offers the answers with equal clarity, of the good, peacefulness, unconditional love and optimism which we hold inside of us as well. That part of us, our "higher selves," are "seeds" which can transform not only our life and the lives of those we love, but change our entire world as well."


5. The Buddhist Peace Fellowship


For over two decades, the Buddhist Peace Fellowship has been in the forefront of socially engaged Buddhism.

Through our projects and publications, we strive to apply Buddhist principles to issues such as

• human rights

• systemic violence

• economic justice

• environmental sustainability

BPF members can be found serving food to the homeless, teaching meditation in jails, working in community gardens with at-risk youth, and sitting meditation at vigils for peace and justice.

Buddhists of all traditions are invited to come together in this worldwide network of Dharma practitioners who care deeply about helping beings to liberate themselves from all forms of suffering.

The Journal of Socially Engaged Buddhism

Turning Wheel brings a sharp focus to urgent matters of peace, social justice, environmental activism, and dharma practice. Turning Wheel's fresh style and plain-speaking quality reflect the grassroots activism of BPF.

In every issue, you'll find writing that challenges the mind and speaks to the heart from some of the leading thinkers of socially engaged Buddhism. Some of our authors have included:

Robert Aitken Roshi, Joanna Macy, Sulak Sivaraksa, and Gary Snyder

And, because the awakened mind exists everywhere, we also regularly publish the writing of “everyday Buddhists” from many traditions and points of view.

Each issue of Turning Wheel is filled with regular features that bring together insight and action:

Indra's Net (news and action alerts), Family Practice, Prison Page, and History column

Announcements and events in the world of socially engaged Buddhist

Art and poetry

Book and film reviews

Far from being a mouthpiece for any Buddhist “party line,” Turning Wheel embraces diversity and encompasses many (sometimes opposing!) points of view. It's always lively, often controversial. Our editorial policy: stretch the mind in as many directions as possible. Edited by writer/activist Susan Moon (author of The Life and Letters of Tofu Roshi and co-editor of Being Bodies: Buddhist Women on the Paradox of Embodiment

Prison Project

The BPF Prison Project is deeply committed to working with prisoners, their families, and all other persons associated with the prison system to address the systemic violence within the prison-industrial complex.

We are committed to engage in compassionate action through: 1) ministry; 2) correspondence; 3) training; and 4) advocacy, education and networking activities.

1. Ministry

Ministry helps individual prisoners develop skills necessary to meet the everyday violence in prison, and to lead productive and satisfying lives while in prison and post-release. We co-sponsor the Prison Meditation Network, which teaches meditation, yoga, and journal writing in seven local prisons and jails. We also co-sponsor Sangha X, a group for ex-prisoners and ex-drug addicts which meets twice weekly.

2. Correspondence

The Prison-Community Correspondence Program communicates with hundreds of prisoners across the United States. We distribute free dharma books and subscriptions to our quarterly journal Turning Wheel to almost 1,000 inmates. We also coordinate correspondence between prisoners and interested Buddhist correspondents (along with offering guidelines and mentoring for volunteer correspondents).

3. Training

Training is provided for the people who teach inmate meditation programs. Teachers are carefully screened and mentored for work inside. We hope to eventually include meditation classes for correctional officers and prison administrators as well. We want to work with all the people associated with these institutions, out of recognition that they are also suffering in an unjust and inhospitable system.

4. Advocacy, Education and Networking

Advocacy, education, and networking activities to mobilize people in the faith-based, Buddhist, and activist communities, and the general public. The growing interest in prisons means this is a ripe time to promote understanding of the root causes of the current prison crisis, and to work together for change. We have been focusing on resistance to the death penalty and addressing youth and lifers' issues..

International Projects of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship

BPF co-sponsors several international projects and is affiliated with socially engaged Buddhist projects worldwide.

Projects co-sponsored by BPF

Burmese People’s Relief Group (BPRG)- provides funding for general relief and training such as medical, food and education for Burmese refugees along the Thai/Burma border. For more information, contact hnathan@senecacapital.com

Tibetan Revolving Fund- provides small loans for labor intensive livelihood projects such as bakeries and rug factories in refugee settlements in India and Nepal.

Dharma Gaia Trust- nurtures awareness of the complementarity of Buddhism and ecology through generating funds for Buddhist-inspired ecological projects in Asia and the developing world.

International affiliates include:

Sakyadhita International Association of Buddhist Women

Support organization for Buddhist women worldwide, dedicated to empowering and educating Buddhist women, and the development of the Bhikkhuni sangha. Resources for women.

International Network of Engaged Buddhists

INEB's areas of concern have centered on alternative education, non-violence, human rights, the environment, women's issues, alternative development, and the integration of spirituality and activism.

Universal Education/Alice Project

Buddhist-based school in Sarnath, India, dedicated to a holistic, transpersonal approach to education for rural village children.

Other international affiliates

BPF Bangladesh

BPF Bangalore

BPF Australia — Melbourne and Sydney

INEB Japan

BPF Ladakh


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