A Western Buddhist's Travels

Sightseeing & detours on the path of enlightenment

Archive for the tag “Peace”

Boston Marathon Bombings

Boston Marathon Explosion

Image source: The Boston Globe

I had a post planned for today, using yesterday’s humorous post as a starting point. However after yesterdays tragic events in Boston, I have decided to respond to the atrocity. As I write this post, the headline of The Boston Globe online edition, reads ‘We will go to the ends of the earth’. Yes the perpetrators of this horrific act must be found and punished according to the law. However, at the same time we must realize that placing all of a certain religious group, or nationality into the same category will only continue the senseless violence. Every nationality, every culture or religious group has people who feel the world should be exactly like them. To borrow a concept from Star Trek, “Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations, is not something that they can accept. Today many people will be screaming for more violence, and feel justified in demanding every action possible, regardless of the cost or consequences. They will listen to anyone who says what they wish to hear, ignoring the calls to not only right this wrong, but to find lasting ways to ensure this never happens again. In the next while companies around the world will offer us new solutions, a billion dollars here, another several hundred million there. Others will demand that our rights, be further curtailed in the name of safety. Fingers will be pointed, this country or that is responsible for what happened, as has happened since terrorism emerged was a political tool.

The second sentence of the American Constitution has some of the most profound words ever crafted: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Today just after other terrorist attacks, the world needs to remember those words. These truths to be self evident, tells us that the wisdom to follow needs no explanation, or apologetic statements to defend them. All men are created equal, does not mention race, creed, color, heritage, or any of the other ways we have started to hyphenated people. You hear the terms African-American, Irish-American, Native-Canadian, and many other terms around the world these days. America was founded as a melting pot, where people could come and peacefully develop a more peaceful and enlightened way of life. Many nations under despots, have seen the demands from their citizens to achieve some if not all that the west has achieved. Living in a country where women don’t have the same right’s and freedom as men, where your class determines your value and quality of justice, has spawned demands for change. Today with the internet, people have a voice, from the citizen with the cell phone posting the illegal actions of the police to sites such as Youtube. To the ability of news services to stream live coverage to everywhere in the world of breaking events. Governments are now using actions such as yesterdays atrocity in Boston, to curtail our rights, the rights that America proclaimed at it’s founding, then proceeded to promote to, and educate the world about. The founding of the U.S.A. as a moral statement, as well as a political one.

The second sentence of the American Constitution are probably, one of the most universally known words around the world. Having inspired countless impoverished and marginalize people to strive to bring about meaningful change to their countries. These words were so powerful, that they helped from the basis for, the French “Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen” in 1771. The list of countries which had their principles written to incorporate these ideals include, Venezuelan Declaration of Independence, the Proclamation of Independence of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Columbia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Grenada, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Mexico, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, and many others.

The words about equality of all men, formed the basis of the civil war in America over slavery, and have helped inspire oppressed people around the world. Those words helped the citizens of South Africa bring down the barriers of apartheid. They also formed the basis of the women’s suffrage movement, the forerunner of women’s liberation movements. The concept that all men and women are equal in the eyes of the law, sprung from these words, and the liberty to see a just and equal world for all.

Let us balance justice, with the changes needed to promote peace through the promotion of those values that made the U.S.A. a leading nation of the world, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” These words will lead to peace among people, and peace should be everyone’s goal. Here are some words about peace to consider, from people much wiser and eloquent than I am.

“An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind.”

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”

“You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is like an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.”

“There is no ‘way to peace,’ there is only ‘peace.”


Mohandas Ghandi

“If everyone demanded peace instead of another television set, then there’d be peace.”

“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us. And the world will live as one.”

“I used to think that the world was doing something to me, that the world owed me something. And that either the conservatives or the socialists or the fascists or the communists or the Christians or the Jews or the fascists were doing something to me. And when you’re a teeny-bopper, that’s what you think. I’m 40 now, I don’t think that anymore—because I found out it doesn’t fucking work. I am part of them. There’s no separation. Were all one. “Give peace a chance,” not “Shoot people for peace.” “All you need is love.” I believe it. It’s damn hard, but I absolutely believe it.”

John Lennon

“We often think of peace as the absence of war, that if powerful countries would reduce their weapon arsenals, we could have peace. But if we look deeply into the weapons, we see our own minds- our own prejudices, fears and ignorance. Even if we transport all the bombs to the moon, the roots of war and the roots of bombs are still there, in our hearts and minds, and sooner or later we will make new bombs. To work for peace is to uproot war from ourselves and from the hearts of men and women. To prepare for war, to give millions of men and women the opportunity to practice killing day and night in their hearts, is to plant millions of seeds of violence, anger, frustration, and fear that will be passed on for generations to come. ”  From, Living Buddha, Living Christ

Martin Luther King Jr. and Thich Nhat Hanh

Thich Nhat Hanh 

“Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.”

Martin Luther King Jr.

“It is impossible to build one’s own happiness on the unhappiness of others. This perspective is at the heart of Buddhist teachings.”


Daisaku Ikeda

“Without inner peace, outer peace is impossible. We all wish for world peace, but world peace will never be achieved unless we first establish peace within our own minds. We can send so-called ‘peacekeeping forces’ into areas of conflict, but peace cannot be opposed from the outside with guns. Only by creating peace within our own mind and helping others to do the same can we hope to achieve peace in this world.”


Geshe Kelsang Gyato

May we find the right balance between liberty and security. May the legacy of this senseless act be the start of a new peace among all beings in the world.

The time is now..

Todays post is a result of seeing a friend for the first time the other day, since before Christmas. He has lost about 25 lbs in that time, and been in the hospital, where he has been told to prepare to die within the next few months. Mel is still walking around smiling, seeing those friends he can, while he waits a transfer to a hospice. I have spent some time talking to him, and while he talks about the past including things he wishes had gone differently, he isn’t stuck on the past. Rather he has the attitude, of what can I get done today? He has gone out and tried some ethnic foods, that he never tasted before. He saw the Hobbit in 3D, just so he could experience the new 3D, as the last time was many years ago when you got the disposable anaglyph glasses, with the two different colored lenses. He is getting his will finalized, and contacting those he wishes to see once more. He has accepted death, and now wants to make the most of what life he has left. I asked him what he would tell anyone who wasn’t living under a known shorter lifespan. He answered with four words; “Live in the present!” So in honor of his advice, I will write something about living in the present.

If you are depressed you are living in the past.

If you are anxious you are living in the future.

If you are at peace you are living in the present.

Laozi (Lao Tzu) wrote these words almost 2400 years ago, and they still have just a much meaning today as when he said them. How often do we spend time reminiscing about what ifs? If we had done, this or not done that, all the while it is those choices that have made us who we are today. If you spend all your time working towards a raise, getting that bigger house, what will you miss? My parents were both working while I grew up, yet they made sure at least one of them was always at my special events, games, school functions. They did their best to see they both had the opportunity to be at these functions.

If your a student who waits till the last minute to write the paper, or study for the exam, you probably suffer from anxiety. Perhaps learning to schedule some study time on a daily basis, would allow you to study in the present, and avoid the anxiety of the future. If your working, and find your mornings rushed, choose your wardrobe the night before, make your lunch in advance(it’s healthier than most restaurant meals), and leave a few minutes earlier, the traffic won’t drive you crazy as easily. Also worrying constantly about things beyond our control, robs us of the wonderous gifts we have right now. Worrying about the day when you daughter first starts to date, when she hasn’t finished being potty trained, will probably lead to a bigger mess, than if you put all your attention to changing her diaper. The present is when we can carry out things, so why not make the most of each moment.

The Buddha taught us, we are to be mindful of our thoughts, speech, and actions and to live in the present. The more we are in the present, the more we are aware of what we say and do that affects other beings. By being mindful, we eliminate more incidents that cause suffering to others, and ourselves. So when your reading the blog, do so with all your attention, not thinking of what’s for lunch, or wondering what’s on sale at the midnight sale. When spending time with your family or friends, give them you full attention, and if you find your mind wandering, draw it back to the present. If you have children, or are planning on it, memories such as their first word, first step, first time they ride a bike with out training wheels, or someone holding the back of the bike seat, are memories that only happen once. Talking to your spouse, actually listen, and as a lady once told me, they don’t expect us guys to fix everything, sometimes all they want is for us to listen, to know we are there with them, right then and there.

In the military or in business, it’s not about having all the information to make a decision. It’s about having enough facts to make an informed decision, then actually making the decision that makes you a leader. The same applies to our daily lives, whether it’s buying a new cell phone, or what color to paint the kitchen walls, these don’t require as much thought as who we will marry. So don’t spend all your time today thinking, you get a lot more done just doing. If you get into getting things done, you might even find some time to take a few hings off your bucket list, while you still have time. If you make a mistake on occasion, don’t waste more time beating yourself up over it, just fix it and move on. Wasting time berating yourself, means you are compounding the original mistake.There is a saying that time and money are two things that should not be wasted.

So live in the moment, and you will be less stressed, and have more happy memories, and those around you will enjoy your companionship more too.

Peace is Possible through Faith without Fanaticism

public domain symbol copied from: http://peacesymbol.org/

If you read the news, watch it on television or check your smartphone, the world seems to always be in a state of turmoil. Many of these are mislabeled as  religious conflicts. Religion can be seen to have two parts, faith and culture. Faith is internal and private, while culture is external and public. Faith is the knowledge that defines our moral code, establishes our place with in society, and within the cosmos. The public culture component, is the sharing of wisdom, folk stories, and traditions. Fanaticism is found within the cultural aspect, as within each of us is an innate desire for peace and harmony.

Ernst Troeltsch divided religious behavior into three parts. churchly, sectarian, and mystical. Howard P. Becker further divided these and introduced the concept of a cult. “Becker’s cults were small religious groups lacking in organization and emphasizing the private nature of personal beliefs. This was later further defined as a group that derived their inspiration from outside the predominate religious culture.

If we look at the middle east, it’s Muslim vs Jewish in one place. In Eastern Europe it’s Christians and Muslim. In America there are groups of Christians who blame the Jewish for all their problems. In any other parts of the world, its two groups who share a common faith, that are fighting each other. They aren’t fighting each other over a different outlook on life. They are fighting each other, not over their faith, rather over culture.

When fanaticism becomes rooted into any religion, where a single person can control matters of life or death, and challenge those who don’t agree about the depth of their faith, we have witnessed atrocities. Nations and kings have wrapped a cloak of religion around their desires for more land, gold, or even over a desire to have a certain person as a spouse. The Crusades,followed by  the forced colonization of major parts of the world, with the kings financing the church to convert the heathens were common up until the last century.   In other cases an individual has become deluded and lead their followers into becoming a cult. The Peoples Temple in Jonestown in 1978, The Solar Temple suicides  during the late 1990s, and Heavens Gate followers in 1997 who considered the comet Hale-Bopp to be a heavenly chariot to carry their souls into the next life. There have been many others throughout history, in all parts of the world.

So with this history of conflict, is there hope for peace. Yes for today with the availability of information, instant communications, we have the ability to diffuse situations. We have groups such as the Council for a Parliament of Religions promoting interfaith co-operation. The Dalai Lama wrote a book, Toward a True Kinship of Faith: How the World’s Religions Can Come Together. If you look at people around the world regardless of the faith they claim, and those who claim not to follow a faith, you will observe the happiest people are those who are helping to relieve the suffering of others. All the major religions of the world share compassion for others as a basic tenant, and evn those who aren’t religion acknowledge compassion as a motivating force.

So lets live our Faith without Fanaticism, and instead concentrate on promoting happiness for all beings. Then perhaps we will live in  a place where the sound of guns, no longer ring in our ears.

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