It Never Helps to Draw a Line and Dismiss Some People

It Never Helps to Draw a Line and Dismiss Some People

Discussion date: Thu, Oct 19, 2023 at our weekly Thursday evening practice

Dear Still Water Friends,

I have been shocked and saddened by the recent violence in the Middle East that has taken so many Israeli and Palestinian lives and threatens many more. My heart goes out to those who have lost loved ones and those who are living in fear for themselves and their families. As I notice my own reactions and those of politicians, governments, and those around me, I turn to the Buddhist principle of “non-attachment to views” to  support me as I navigate this painful and uncertain time.

Particularly, I think about how Thay (Thich Nhat Hanh), Sister Chan Khong, and others developed the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings of the Order of Interbeing in response to the polarized sentiments of their compatriots during the war in their homeland, Vietnam. Avoiding rigid attachment to views was so central to their vision of Engaged Buddhism that the first three of the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings are devoted to Openness, Non-Attachment to Views, and Freedom of Thought. In Interbeing: Fourteen Guidelines for Engaged Buddhism, Thay describes the context in which they arose:

The Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings were born in a sea of fire in 1966 in Vietnam. The situation of the war was extremely hot. And we know how hot the fire of fanaticism can be. That is why the very first precept is about nonattachment to views, openness, and tolerance, because we see that attachment to views, narrowness, and fanaticism is the ground of a lot of suffering.

Following the recent violence in the Middle East, I have become angry and discouraged by reactions to the violence that minimize the humanity of  brutalized civilians. I am bewildered by the difficulty that some have in viewing every life as equally sacred. But even as I engage in this thinking, I realize that I am beginning to unhelpfully “other” individuals who do not see the situation the same way I do. Thay writes in For a Future to Be Possible:

If we divide reality into two camps— the violent and the nonviolent— and stand in one camp while attacking the other, the world will never have peace. We will always blame and condemn those we feel are responsible for wars and social injustice, without recognizing the degree of violence in ourselves…It never helps to draw a line and dismiss some people as enemies, even those who act violently. We have to approach them with love in our hearts and do our best to help them move in a direction of nonviolence.

This Thursday night, we’ll sit and be together. Afterward, we’ll begin our Dharma sharing with these questions:

  • In the context of war or violence, do you sometimes find yourself standing “in one camp while attacking the other?
  • What, if anything, helps you remain in touch with interbeing?
  • How do you cultivate the qualities of love and peace in your heart?

You are warmly invited to be with us!

An additional excerpt from For a Future to Be Possible appears below.

Warm wishes,


Friends of long-time Thursday evening practitioner Mark “Wonder” Thomas are invited to an in-person memorial service in Takoma, DC, on Sunday, October 22, 2023.


From For a Future to Be Possible by Thich Nhat Hanh

When we protest against a war, for example, we may assume that we are a peaceful person, a representative of peace, but this isn’t necessarily true. If we look deeply, we will observe that the roots of war are in the unmindful ways we have been living. We have not shown enough seeds of peace and understanding in ourselves and others, therefore we are co-responsible. A more holistic approach is the way of interbeing. The essential nature of interbeing is understanding that “this is like this, because that is like that.” We only exist in this interconnected way. This is the way of understanding and love. With this insight, we can see clearly and be more effective. Then we can go to a demonstration and say, “This war is unjust, destructive, and not worthy of our great nation.” This is far more effective than simply angrily condemning others. Acting and speaking out of anger almost always accelerates the damage.


in: Dharma Topics
Discussion Date: Thu, Oct 19, 2023


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