Even In Our Thinking

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Dear Still Water Friends,

Following our meditation on Thursday, we will recite the Five Mindfulness Trainings and focus our Dharma sharing on the First Mindfulness Training: Reverence for Life.

Robert Aitken, Roshi, one of the co-founders of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, said that in the Five Mindfulness Trainings Thich Nhat Hanh frames the Buddha’s Five Precepts positively without sacrificing their meaning.  “His wording is true to the Buddha’s profound intention, and at the same time, it is relevant for modern students who are ready to take full responsibility for their practice.”

Thus, the vow not to kill is expanded to become a commitment to cultivating compassion, to learning ways to protect the lives of people, animals, plants, and minerals, and to not supporting any act of killing in the world, in our thinking, or in our way of life.  For me, all is well and good until I start to consider a commitment to not support any act of killing even in my thinking, even when I am thinking about what I see as evil people.

But, that is exactly what Thay calls us do.  In For a Future to be Possible: Commentaries on the Five Mindfulness Trainings, he explains:

It is not just by not killing with your body that you observe the First Mindfulness Training.  If in your thinking you allow the killing to go on, you also break this training.  We must be determined not to condone killing, even in our minds.  According to the Buddha, the mind is the base of all actions.  It is most dangerous to kill in the mind.  When you believe, for example, that yours is the only way for humankind and that everyone who follows another way is your enemy, millions of people could be killed because of that idea.

Thinking is at the base of everything.  It is important for us to put an eye of awareness into each of our thoughts.  Without correct understanding of the situation or a person, our thoughts can be misleading and create confusion, despair, anger or hatred.  Our most important task is to develop correct insight.  If we see deeply into the nature of interbeing, that all things “inter-are,” we will stop blaming, arguing, and killing, and we will become friends with everyone.

How do we ever look deeply enough to understand and develop insight for the shooter in Paris or San Bernadino or the fighter in Iraq or Syria driving people from their homes?  We can’t even understand how our neighbor votes for a different political party.  Thay gives us the answer in a calligraphy that Still Water often reproduces: “Peace in Oneself, Peace in the World.”  Thich Nhat Hanh tells us that:

To practice nonviolence, we must first learn ways to deal peacefully with ourselves.  If we create true harmony within ourselves, we will know how to deal with family, friends, and associates.

On Thursday, we will explore ways to deal peacefully with ourselves to create true harmony within ourselves and foster a deeper insight of interbeing with everyone.  We hope you can join us.

Below is the text of the First Mindfulness Training and an excerpt from Calming the Fearful Mind: A Zen Response to Terrorism in which Thay describes his practice during the War in Vietnam.

Many Blessings,


Reverence for Life

Aware of the suffering caused by the destruction of life, I am committed to cultivating compassion and learning ways to protect the lives of people, animals, plants, and minerals.

I am determined not to kill, not to let others kill, and not to support any act of killing in the world, in my thinking, or in my way of life.  Seeing that harmful actions arise from anger, fear, greed, and intolerance, which in turn come from dualistic and discriminative thinking, I will cultivate openness, non-discrimination, and non-attachment to views in order to transform violence, fanaticism, and dogmatism in myself and in the world.

Understanding the Roots of Terrorism

From Calming the Fearful Mind: A Zen Response to Terrorism

I lived in Vietnam during the war there and saw a lot of injustice.  Many thousands of people were killed, including many of my friends and students.  It made me very angry.…

Because I practiced looking deeply, I was able to understand the nature of the suffering in Vietnam.  I saw that both the Vietnamese and Americans suffered during the war.  The young American men sent to Vietnam to kill and be killed suffered deeply and their suffering continues today.  Their families and both nations continue to suffer.  I could see the cause of our suffering in Vietnam was not the American soldiers.  The cause was an unwise American policy based on misunderstanding and fear.

Hatred and anger left my heart.  I was able to see that our real enemy is not man, is not another human being.  Our real enemy is our ignorance, discrimination, fear, craving, and violence.