Sunday, October 1, 2006
There is no way to peace. Peace is the way.

By: THICH NHAT HANH - Commentary
Having just passed the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy in America, it is a good time to stop and reflect on the serious situation we are in. America has looked for strength and security in military might. We have attempted to defend ourselves with weapons of war. We have brought great suffering and destruction upon ourselves and others. Our way of dealing with terrorism is taking us down a dangerous path of distrust and fear.

It is time to stop and look deeply into our situation and suffering. The war is very much on the minds of many people and I have been asked frequently about the best way to bring an end to the war.
I have a lot of experience with war and suffering. I have survived persecution, three wars and 40 years of exile from my native Vietnam. During the war in Vietnam, I saw many thousands of people killed, including many of my friends and students. It made me very angry. Instead of despairing, I looked deeply at the war and the nature of my suffering and compassion arose in me. I was able to understand the nature of 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. I could see that the cause of our suffering in Vietnam was not the American soldiers. The cause was an unwise American policy based on misunderstanding and fear. I was able to see that our real enemy is not another human being, the real war we have to wage is against our fear, our wrong perceptions and our anger.

I believe that every one of us aspires to peace ---- in our family, community, nation and the world. If we come together and sit down calmly, we realize that to attain peace we must be peace. The way we walk, talk, eat, present ourselves, resolve difficulties, should be peace. I don't think that angry shouting or protesting can end this war. I think that if we are capable of looking deeply and recognizing the true nature of war, and then use loving speech and deep listening to help others to see symptoms and the true nature of war, that kind of true understanding and change in our way of thinking will bring about the end of war.

There are other ways to solve our problems without using violence. There are other kinds of force that may be even more powerful, like spiritual, social and educational force. But because we don't know how to make use of these methods, we always resort to military force.

The Iraqis who have been fighting, who have been trying to kill American solders in Iraq, also love their country. They believe that they have good cause to defend their country. They have an idea of America that is not the same with the idea we have. They have different ideas about who we are, what our nation is and what our intentions are.

It is clear that the war is doing harm to America and to Iraq. The war is creating more anger and more terrorists. Our fear, our anger play a very important role in the war. Fear and anger is the energy that Iraqi people are using in order to fight. Fear and anger is also the energy that America is using in order to fight the war. And we know very well that if our action is motivated by fear and anger, we are not going in the right direction.

We have to find a way that can bring safety and security to both America and Iraq. This is a very important issue for humanity. The task is too big for a government. As parents, as teachers, as artists, as educators we have to sit down together and practice looking deeply to see whether there is a better way than fighting a war that is destructive, not only to this side but the other side. This is a process of acting that should involve many of us, whether we are Muslim or Christian, American or Vietnamese, French or British, because all of us have a duty to help end this circle of violence that is now making us suffer everywhere. The real war we have to wage is against our ignorance, our fear, our anger.

Now is the time for America to take a time out and to recognize her suffering, anger, fear, despair, poverty and the separation among her people. As part of the local spiritual community, we wish to offer a different path to bring peace to the nation and the world. It is a time out so we can collect and calm ourselves, gather our collective wisdom and clarity, and learn to take good care of ourselves and our country. Just as war is the product of our collective thinking, peace also is the product of our collective thinking. Now is the time for America to bring together her best resources to bring an end to the war. Once we have peace in ourselves, we can offer peace to the world.

As our soldiers come home, we must commit ourselves to supporting them and helping them heal their physical and emotional wounds. They have suffered deeply. We must unite our hearts, nurture our togetherness and dissipate fear and separation.

Let us begin anew in our country by listening deeply to each other. Let us also begin anew in the world community by listening deeply and taking care of each other as one family. We must bring together the best resources of America to end the war. What I learned in Vietnam is also true today. There is no way to peace. Peace is the way.

Thich Nhat Hanh has been a Buddhist monk, peace activist and advocate of love and forgiveness since the age of 16. This year the Vietnamese government allowed Thich Nhat Hanh to return to Vietnam after 40 years in exile. He is often in residence at the Deer Park Monastery in Escondido and lives in Plum Village, France.

Support a global no-car day

Only collective awakening can help us to solve the difficult problems in our world like war and global warming.

In an upcoming talk which I have been invited to give at the United Nations Education Science and Cultural Organization headquarters in Paris on Oct. 7, I will propose that UNESCO organize a Global No-Car Day ---- a day when people refrain from using their cars, except in emergencies.

It may take six months or more to prepare for such a day. UNESCO can promote this day around the world and use it as a means to educate and inspire collective awakening concerning the present environmental dangers facing all of us on planet Earth.

I will suggest that UNESCO itself, from the director to ambassadors and other members, try to live in such a way that the message becomes a true message; not just a call for action ---- but action itself!

In our daily lives, we should each try to drive a car that doesn't pollute the environment, ride a bicycle more often, or use public transportation. Every one of us can do something to protect and care for our planet. We should live in such a way that makes a future possible.

---- Thich Nhat Hanh