There is a Zen story about a man riding a horse that is galloping very quickly. Another man, standing alongside the road, yells at him, "Where are you going?" and the man on the horse yells back, "I don't know. Ask the horse."
I think that is our situation. We are riding many horses that we cannot control. The proliferation of armaments, for instance, is a horse. We have tried our best, but we cannot control these horses. Our lives are so busy.
In Buddhism, the most important precept of all is to live in awareness, to know what is going on. To know what is going on, not only here, but there. For instance, when you eat a piece of bread, you may choose to be aware that our farmers, in growing the wheat, use chemical poisons a little too much. Eating the bread, we are somehow co-responsible for the destruction of our ecology. When we eat a piece of meat or drink alcohol, we can produce awareness that 40,000 children die each day in the Third World from hunger and that in order to produce a piece of meat or a bottle of liquor, we have to use a lot of grain. Eating a bowl of cereal may be more reconciling with the suffering of the world than eating a piece of meat. An authority on economics who lives in France told me that if only he people in Western countries would reduce the eating of meat and the drinking of alcohol by 50 percent, that would be enough to change the situation of the world. Only 50 percent less.
Every day we do things, we are things, that have to do with peace. If we are aware of our lifestyle, our way of consuming, of looking at things, we will know how to make peace right in the moment we are alive, the present moment.
|If we are aware of our lifestyle, our way of consuming, of looking at things, we will know how to make peace right in the moment.|
Seven Reconciliation Practices
During the last 2,500 years in Buddhist monasteries, a system of seven practices of reconciliation has evolved. Although these techniques were formulated to settle disputes within the circle of monks, I think they might also be of use in our households and in our society.
The first practice is Face-to-Face Sitting. In a convocation of the whole sangha [community], everyone sits together mindfully, breathing and smiling, with the willingness to help, and not with the willingness to fight. This is basic. The two conflicting monks are present, and they know that everyone in the community expects them to make peace. Even before anything is said, the atmosphere of peace is already present. People refrain from listening to stories outside of the assembly, spreading news about this monk or other monks, commenting on the behavior of this monk or the other monks. That would not help. Everything must be said in public, in the community. So the two monks are sitting facing each other, breathing and, how hard, smiling.
Suppose a woman and a man get married and then live a neglectful life, not knowing what is really going on subconsciously. Their feelings and their perceptions are creating a dangerous situation. Sometimes things occur beneath the surface that will eventually explode, and by then it is too late to deal with them, so the only recourse is to divorce or fight or even kill each other. To meditate is to be aware of what is going on in yourself, your feelings, your body, your perceptions, your family. The second technique is to recall, and the more details which the community has, the easier it is to help.
|The peace movement can write very good protest letters, but they are not yet able to write|
a love letter.
The third principle is Non-stubbornness. Everyone in the community expects the two monks not to be stubborn, to try their best for reconciliation. The outcome is not important. The fact that each monk is doing his best to show his willingness for reconciliation and understanding is most important. When you do your best, trying to be your best in understanding and accepting, you don't have to worry about the outcome. You do your best, and that is enough. The other person will do his or her best. The atmosphere of the assembly is crucial. Because everyone has high expectations for the two monks, they know they must act well or they will not be recognized as brothers.
The fourth practice is Covering Mud with Straw. You know when you walk in the countryside after a rain, it is very muddy. If you have straw to spread over the mud, you can walk safely.