Uprooting Killing

Uprooting Killing

Discussion date: Thu, Jan 09, 2020 at our weekly Thursday evening practice

Dear Still Water friends,

When I first began practicing in the Plum Village tradition nearly a decade ago, the First Mindfulness Training, Reverence for Life seemed deceptively simple. The training reads in part, “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.” Who wouldn’t want to cultivate a path to protect life and to decrease violence in oneself, in one’s family, and in society? I thought. Certainly, killing another being was the furthest thing from my mind – except perhaps on those occasions when an ant invasion in my kitchen might challenge my equanimity.

I have since come to appreciate this training as the ground of deep practice, challenging my individual and our collective complacency surrounding the deep roots of cultural conditioning that drive violence in ourselves, in our families, and in society.  My understanding of “killing” has expanded to include awareness of thoughts and actions that diminish or dehumanize people.  This includes even ways that we internalize messages that diminish ourselves and plant seeds of shame and unworthiness. We have only to look at current events to see that such wrong views increase suffering and render us all vulnerable to abuse, oppression, and violence.

Through the teachings and example of Thich Nhat Hahn (Thay), I am learning that while the desire for peace and harmony is necessary for practicing non-killing, it is not always sufficient on its own.  We also must look deeply within to transform dualistic thinking and mental formations that are among the roots of killing which reside in our hearts.

With our country seemingly on the brink of another war, the manifestation of our collective roots of killing, I invite you to reflect on Thay’s invitation to awareness and practice in Living Buddha, Living Christ:

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.

On Thursday evening, after reciting the Five Mindfulness Trainings, we will reflect upon our experiences with the First Mindfulness Training.

  • Where do we find ease with practicing reverence for our own lives, as well as the lives of others?
  • How does “killing” manifest in our relationship with ourselves, our families, and our society?
  • How do we support one another and our society to find ways out of difficult situations, without killing?

I hope you will join us.

Below are the full text of the First Mindfulness Training and another excerpt from Living Buddha, Living Christ.

Warm wishes,

Lori Perine


The First Mindfulness Training, Reverence For Life

Aware of the suffering caused by the destruction of life, I am committed to cultivating the insight of interbeing and 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.

An excerpt from Living Buddha, Living Christ by Thich Nhat Hanh 

During the war in Vietnam, I saw communists and anti-communists killing and destroying each other because each side believed they had a monopoly on the truth. …

I was able to see that everyone in the war was a victim, that the American soldiers who had been sent to Vietnam to bomb, kill, and destroy were also being killed and maimed. … [T]he GI was also a war victim, the victim of a wrong view and a wrong policy, …

To preserve peace, our hearts must be at peace with the world, with our brothers and sisters. When we try to overcome evil with evil, we are not working for peace. If you say, “Saddam Hussein is evil. We have to prevent him from continuing to be evil,” and if you then use the same means he has been using, you are exactly like him. Trying to overcome evil with evil is not the way to make peace. …

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. …

There must be ways to solve our conflicts without killing. We must look at this. We have to find ways to help people get out of difficult situations, situations of conflict, without having to kill. Our collective wisdom and experience can be the torch lighting the path, showing us what to do.

in: Dharma Topics
Discussion Date: Thu, Jan 09, 2020


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