Thich Nhat Hanh
Cultivating Compassion to Respond to Violence: The Way of PeaceBy Thich Nhat Hanh
an evening of peace and healing with
THICH NHAT HANH
A Public Talk
with musician Paul Winter,
and the monks and nun
of Plum Village
Tuesday, September 25 at 7 p. m.
Riverside Church, 91 Claremont Ave., New York City
(Manhattan's Upper West Side)
I hold my face in my two hands.
No, I am not crying.
I hold my face in my two hands,
to keep my loneliness warm
two hands protecting,
two hands nourishing,
two hands preventing
my soul from leaving me in anger.
I wrote this poem during the Vietnam War after I heard about the bombing of Ben Tre city. The city of 300,000 was destroyed because seven guerrillas shot several rounds of unsuccessful anti-aircraft gunfire and then left. My pain was profound.
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.
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.
In this moment, we invite our spiritual teachers, Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed, Moses, Gandhi, Mother Theresa, and so many others, to be with us, to support us, so that we can hold in our arms the suffering of America as a nation, the suffering of humanity as a family, the suffering of the earth as a home for all of us.
We need their energy so that we can become lucid and calm, so that we will know exactly what to do and what not to do, in order not to make the situation worse.
We know deep in our heart that responding to hatred and violence with hatred and violence, will only make hatred grow one thousand-fold. Only with compassion can we disintegrate hatred. This insight, this understanding should be with us in this very important moment.
If we look and listen deeply we can see that when we pray for the victims, we must also pray for the attackers. They are also victims of confusion and violence. If as a nation, America wants to be safe and secure, it has to help other nations, other peoples, feel safe and secure.
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.
Such an act could be a statement of the willingness to embrace all suffering inside and outside the nation, to look deeply in order to understand better the cause of the suffering and to act according to that insight. The act could be a project to bring relief to those who actually suffer within and outside the country.
I offer my heartfelt condolences, care and love for all who are suffering tremendously at this moment. I am aware that most of us have not been able to overcome the shock. Day and night I am deeply concerned with how to heal and transform this national and global tragedy.
We know that there are those of us who are trying to help, to heal and to support. We are grateful to them. We know that there are many of us who are trying to see to it that violence will not happen again.
I and many others will fast from September 21st to the 30th in order to support all who have died and all who are suffering terribly in this moment and embrace them tenderly with compassion, understanding, and awareness. This is my prayer in action.
Thich Nhat Hanh
September 20, 2001
Fasting is a practice in all spiritual traditions to bring about calm, clarity and insight. The Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh invites all of his friends and disciples to join him in this prayer and meditation 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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or call our monastery in Vermont, Green Mountain Dharma Center, at (802) 436-1103. You are also encouraged to write a letter to the President and to your Congresspeople to inform them of your intentions.
For those who have never fasted before, we suggest a one-day fast. For families, we suggest a one meal fast. For updated information, please visit our website, www.plumvillage.org.
Thich Nhat Hanh
18 September, 2001
The Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh is just completing his two month teaching tour in the United States. He 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 email@example.com, and to write a letter to the President and to their Congresspeople 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, www.plumvillage.org, call our monastery in Vermont, Green Mountain Dharma Center, at (802) 436-1103.
The Washington (DC) Mindfulness Community is composed of men and women inspired by the teachings of Buddhism and of Thich Nhat Hanh, a contemporary Vietnamese Zen Master, peace activist and writer. You can find us on the web at: http://www.mindfulnessdc.org/wmc/