Dear Still Water Friends,
This Thursday, after our sitting meditation, we will focus our Dharma discussion on a calligraphy by Thich Nhat Hanh: Peace in oneself, peace in the world. Does the calligraphy touch our hearts, soothe us, or encourage us? Do these words give a direction to our lives?
As I reflect on the calligraphy, I am struck by its richness. The energy in the words leads me to think about the lives of people I admire. Quotations and ideas arise from books I have read and talks and conversations I have heard. I consider my own, on-going, spiritual journey .
On way the words speak to me is to remind me that I am not separate from the world. When I bring more peace to my mind and body, then there is more peace in the world. Thich Nhat Hanh, in The Heart of Understanding writes:
When you produce peace and happiness in yourself, you begin to realize peace for the whole world. With the smile that you produce in yourself, with the conscious breathing you establish within yourself, you begin to work for peace in the world.
This is an understanding that extends across religious traditions. Martin Buber, in The Way of Man, quotes the Hassidic Rabbi Bunam of Pzhysha (who died in 1827):
‘Our sages say: “Seek peace in your own place.” You cannot find peace anywhere save in your own self. In the psalm we read: “There is no peace in my bones because of my sin.” When a man has made peace within himself, he will be able to make peace in the whole world.’
And, in in his 1967 Christmas Eve Sermon on Peace Martin Luther King said:
But we will never have peace in the world until men everywhere recognize that ends are not cut off from means, because the means represent the ideal in the making, and the end in process, and ultimately you can’t reach good ends through evil means, because the means represent the seed and the end represents the tree.
The calligraphy also lead me to reflect on what “peace” means to me. Often, peace is defined in terms of what is not present. Inner peace is thought of as the absence of conflict, tension, and disturbance. Peace in the world is defined as the absence of war and violence. Positive definitions, however, speak more powerfully to me: of inner peace as the presence of stillness and certainty, and also, an opening of the heart; of peace in the world as encompassing reconciliation, good-will, and justice for all.
Finally, Thay’s calligraphy leads to questions: How do I do it? How do I continue to create peace in myself and peace in the world? How do I become more like the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, who hears the cries of the world, maintains a calm composure, and responds with loving actions?
You are invited to join us this Thursday evening to share your reflections and questions.
You are also invited to join us this week for a brief orientation to mindfulness practice and the Still Water community. The orientation will begin at 6:30 pm and participants are encouraged to stay for the evening program. If you would like to attend the orientation, it is helpful if you let us know by emailing us at info@StillWaterMPC.org.
In the reading below, Thich Nhat Hanh considers how the Buddha can maintain a smile amidst the suffering of the world.
The Buddha’s Smile
by Thich Nhat Hanh, from Teachings on Love
When I was a novice, I could not understand why, if the world is filled with suffering, the Buddha has such a beautiful smile. Why isn’t he disturbed by all the suffering? Later I discovered that the Buddha has enough understanding, calm, and strength; that is why the suffering does not overwhelm him. He is able to smile to suffering because he knows how to take care of it and to help transform it. We need to be aware of the suffering, but retain our clarity, calmness, and strength so we can help transform the situation. The ocean of tears cannot drown us if karuna is there. That is why the Buddha’s smile is possible.