Can There Be Peace Without War?

“No” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

57 steps swept
57 steps swept ~d nelson

During Thich Nhat Hanh’s recent California talks, this question stuck out. The Zen Master’s reply offers us another way of deeply understanding “inter-being”. Most dharma teachings refer to the word emptiness, as a door to our liberation. Meaning, all phenomena are empty of a separate self or existence, while simultaneously,  all things are full of non-self ingredients. The word, Inter-being is Thay’s contribution to help us clarify the true nature of everything. If we look at a flower with the eyes of interbeing, we see the soil, rain, seed, sunshine, time and so on, of which the flower manifest. Take away any ingredient and the flower is not there. So we can say that the flower inter-be’s with us and the rest of the universe. Thus, this nature of interbeing exists with me, you and everything else;  including pairs of opposites we perceive with our dualistic ways of thinking: left and right, ill-being and well-being, and war and peace. If we take away one side of any of these pairs of opposites, the other side is also no longer there. There can be no left without the right.

IMG_7090War, or conflict, is always there, and not just when bombs are falling and guns are firing. Inside of us there is constant states of dissatisfaction. We desire this, we want that, while we don’t want the other. This mud of dissatisfaction is always there in some form. It comes up at expected and unexpected moments. But if we use our mindfulness or non-judgmental, present moment awareness to recognize that energies of conflict have arisen, we can help put those energies at ease. Using the elements of inner conflict to help change the situation rather than ignoring them or letting them linger and becoming a bigger war. By recognizing our moments of well-being, of thinking, speaking, feeling and being at peace, we are better able to appreciate the pleasant effects of peace, thus do what we can to keep peace within. Turning unpleasant thoughts and feelings into gratitude and happiness. Intentionally implementing the phrase, “no mud, no lotus.” Perhaps you have noticed both war and peace co-existing inside, at the same time.

Just today I experienced going from inner states of peace to war. It was a quiet, blue fall morning with only sounds of an occasional acorn dropping onto the roof while I sat meditating. Instantly the relative quiet was transformed into loud bursts from a gas leaf blower being used across the street. I could feel agitation and wanting that sound to go away. Then wanting that person to go away. How could he make so much noise on this beautiful day? What gives him the right to make so much noise and disturb me and perhaps other neighbors? A memory of being a drummer in a rock and roll band while in high school appeared out from nowhere. We would play current Creedence Clearwater songs loudly and proudly in the garage, until the inevitable visit from the police who responded to neighbor’s complaint’s. I believe they complained about the sound level and not how badly we played. Breathing in, I’m aware of agitation, breathing out I calm my body and mind. After some breaths and calming, then I knew what to do this morning. I grabbed my earplugs and instantly this conflict inside was eased. Even though the blower sound remained, it did so about 35 db less. A smile returned to my face. This peace treaty took about two minutes to sign within my heart.

Brother CQ & Phap Lac enjoy the cleaning

During the rest of the time I sat, an image came back to me of a woman who slowly swept leaves and debris from the 57 steps near the dining hall at Deer Park Meditation Center. For over an hour she focused her attention to the task, slowly, quietly and peacefully. She conveyed peacefulness with her movements and broom. I felt peaceful experiencing her quiet efforts. I recognize that somehow loud, motorized sounds can bring me to a state of inner conflict. Perhaps that’s why I’ve always enjoyed Nordic skiing and snowshoes to snowmobiles, a canoe and kayak to a motorboat or jet ski, and even walking or biking and not driving. They seem to be more peaceful ways of co-existing, within myself and the world around me. Recognizing that war can break out at any time, I am doing my best to breathe and walk with peace.

Wishing fellow veterans of war and peace a joyful holiday and successful peace treaty negotiations.

Should there ever be a desire for a pleasant holiday where the practice of mindfulness, peace and love is nurtured, consider Deer Park, near San Diego. Here are the monastics brothers joyfully singing their parody tribute to a popular tune.

30 Replies to “Can There Be Peace Without War?”

  1. It bother’s me that without war there can be no peace. I will have to contemplate that. As for our own inner peace, that I can understand, especially your example of the quiet interrupted by a leaf blower. Something I deal with almost daily in my neighborhood. I am getting better at making peace in my mind, if we all could wouldn’t we eliminate conflict, and by extension, war?

    1. Thanks for your kind introspection. If reality was up to me there would only be happiness and peace, and no anger, war or death. But I can aspire to help myself and the world be more peaceful, as you are. States of peace and war are dynamic and we must be ever vigilant so to keep the peace. When we see the conditions that nurture other’s anger, despair and violence our compassion can grow towards them. With this understanding we can eliminate the causes of war elsewhere, even if it means eliminating the profit motive of those who are masters of war.

      1. In today’s world eliminating the profit is key, not compassion. Unfortunately. Meanwhile I just try to live my life peacefully and have learned that to do so is not to get rid of annoyances, but to live with them and not letting them affect you.

        So great that you were able to be part of Thay’s recent visit to California.

  2. Yes, I also am mindful of my own inner conflicts. I started blogging about the eating disorder war that was inside me..and now there is peace..and still there is more of course. I find this so interesting. And then it seems silly not to focus inside. My husband is a teacher and I am trying to convince them to start a mindfulness program instead of the kindness one that seems to fit into their curriculum. Maybe I will share this with him.
    Great post,

    1. Thanks for kindly sharing your introspection. Peace in oneself, peace in the world; sounds simple when dwelling in the present moment. Kindness could include mindfulness, eh? As compassion arises from understanding, which arises from awareness of our interconnection. Perhaps he would like the hundreds of smiles clip; the benefits of mindfulness. Be well.

      1. Thanks. Yes..I think kindness is s start..and could lead to more looking inside. I did convince him not to choose an anti-bully program over the years. Thank you for the note.

  3. Just watched the video – fabulous!!! I think that’s what I love about Thay’s work, and perhaps my experience of Buddhism in general – much as there is a willingness and an invitation to be with and face pain and suffering, there’s such a lot of humour too…and I find humour and joy and play very useful tools, no lets make that essential tools, when I’m trying to integrate deep and challenging truths, like there being no peace without war. Have a wonderful week my wise, smiling friend:-) Blessings, Harula xxxxxx

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed the lightness, Harula. Can also be seen in the sister’s dharma runway fashion show. Despite knowing that, in the end, everything passes, it’s still possible to find joy and smile, right?

  4. First of all, I appreciate the CCR recollection—what happy timing to remember your own joyful noise making. Plus, CCR created some awesome noise.

    When I was younger, war and peace, the dichotomy disturbed me so. I wondered why peace without war wasn’t possible. And though it still disturbs me that this is so, that war and peace exist together, simultaneously, I understand it a little better now. But perhaps I simply understand how to better see war and peace. Being human and searching to better understand humanity, my own really, has helped to alleviate this disturbance.

    And the Hotel Deer Park California song is delightful.

    I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned to you that I understand very little of your spiritual practices, Smile. I do know though, that quietness of mind and presence of mind, as well as practices like yoga and meditation have been positives in my life, even though I do not practice spiritual or religious beliefs that are typically associated with them. The teachings you have shared are appreciated—their messages and meanings resonate with my being regardless of my skeptical leanings. Mindful practices work wonders for me.

    My thanks to you, Smile.

    1. I appreciate your kind and compassionate support to me and others in the blogosphere, eM! Mine is a simple, and hopefully humble, aspiration to benefit others with what has benefited me; habits of being well stemming from a public health career, and living mindfully, largely with the guidance of Thich Nhat Hanh. It is my hope that we can collectively learn to find peace in ourselves and end the wars with each other and nature, so that a future is possible. Maybe I’ll go put on CCR’s “long as I can see the light.” Be well my friend.

  5. This is a beautiful post, and the inner war is something I’ve been working with as well. Thanks for giving me a broader perspective on war. Peace be with you always! Karen

  6. Love the explanation of interbeing. It reminds me of quantum physics theories that state that material reality cannot collapse into existence without an observer. Everything is interdependent/interbeing. I’m doing some research on non-duality, and interbeing fits right in.
    I love the video. Makes me want to shave my head and become a Deer Park monk.
    {{{Hugs}}} Kozo

  7. Goenka has said: “There are two realities, the Ultimate Reality and Conventional Reality, if one confuses the two, they can become insane.”

    I find this very enlightening because no one had ever explained to me how in Ultimate Reality we are all one and there is only peace, however, in Conventional Reality, there is conflict and the illusion of separation.

    1. liberating teachings indeed, Genie!
      Thay uses the terms, Ultimate dimension and historical dimension. it is impossible to live this human life without mind perceiving separation. but oh, to live like the “brainless ones”; every atom, every cell, perhaps all other beings, selfishly living in harmony, as we have since beginning-less time 🙂

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