The Divine Feminine

Mother Nature

Following on from my previous post on making a difference the way forward for me when starting out on this new adventure is to embrace the feminine that is within all of us. For the last few thousand years the masculine side has dominated the world leading to the problems that we now face. Thank fully the movement that is growing for change has realised this and is now adopting a more feminine aspect so that the world we live in can be a more balanced place!

The following “The goddess” by Gard Jameson explains this far better that I can:

“To speak of God as She in today’s society is regarded as either brazen feminism or the deliberate reformation efforts of religious liberals. However, the tradition of the feminine aspect of divinity has a long history. From Ameratsu and Cannon in Japan, to Quanyin in China, to Tara in Tibet, to Shakti in India, to Akua’ba in Africa, to Isis in Egypt, to Ishtar and Astarte in the Middle East, to Demeter, Aphrodite and Venus in Greece and Rome, to the Great Goddess of Willendorf and Laussel, to Freya in Scandinavia, to Spider Woman and Ixchel the Weaver in North America, the Divine Mother has a long tradition in the history of the planet’s consciousness. It appears that from approximately 40,000 BCE to approximately 5,000 BCE the Goddess was the primary deity figure. Over 90% of the figurines found from this period appear to be of a female goddess.

Our planet has a need to reinstate a sense of the “Goddess” within its understanding of the divine;
the nurturing principle of the female is needed to help guide our way through the maze of
accelerated change which surrounds us. I would submit to you that many of our problems arise as a result of looking at God only as He , the He who appears to initiate holy wars and conquest. As the Taoist, Buddhist or Hindu would tell you, without the Divine Feminine Principle incorporated
into one’s concept of the Godhead, you have only told, at best, half the story regarding the divine
nature; you have fallen short of a full appreciation of the divinity within and without.
The”feminine principle”is viewed by the traditions of the East as the principle of birth,
transformation and rebirth, the nurturing and sustaining influence in the universe. In the Taoist
world view, the feminine principle is the responsive nature of the universe in juxtaposition to
the”male principle”which is the proactive and initiating nature of the universe. The male principle
initiates action and movement; the female principle nurtures and is responsive to those actions and movements.

Our current world view is out of balance, and the world scene reflects that lack of balance. The
patriarchal world view has dominated Western Culture for the last seven thousand years. The
aggressive concepts of a Patriarchal God have been responsible for tremendous initiative in the
history of the West, but they have lost the respect of many for not inspiring a greater sense of
responsibility and nurture for our planet earth.

The traditions of the West have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are not
ecologically responsive and responsible. They have at best tolerated, and at worst espoused, political and social behaviors which have violated the planet. The results are all around us: the polluted skies, earth, and ocean attest to this gross lack of responsibility, along with the absence of an attitude of care necessary to heal our sick planet. The Goddess, in contrast, is the caretaker, and by neglecting her within ourselves and the cosmos, we have moved into a state of disequilibrium where our relationships to ourselves and to the planet are in disarray. People who have been guided by the defensive and exclusive characteristics of a jealous Patriarchal God have promoted the distinctions and differences amongst the people of the world. Such distinctions and differences can lead to disastrous results if not balanced with the promotion of sensitivity and understanding that leads to a celebration of differences, an appreciation of distinctions. Two North American traditions — Ixchel and Weaver from the Mayan culture, and Spider Woman from numerous American Indian cultures, — attempt by their efforts as weavers to bring integration to the great diversity of life.

Within the analytical tradition of Carl Jung and the work of mythologists such as Joseph
Campbell, there is much evidence to support the existence of the feminine principle (anima) within the human psyche alongside that of the male principle (animus). Jung’s definition of spiritual growth within the individual in large part relates to the development and integration of those male and female components of the human psyche.

The Eastern religious traditions have for millennia observed that if you fail to show respect to the
female principle within and without, the results can be awesomely destructive. The figures of Kali
and Camunda personify that sense of danger. With vast arsenals of nuclear weaponry at our
fingertips, it is past time for the female principle to re-emerge and take her position as coequal
along side Yahweh, Allah, and the Lord God.

The Goddess image surrounded the planet for well over 35,000 years to about 5,000 BCE, when her position descended like the goddess Peresephone into the deep earth, the home of Hades. Around that time we observe the ascendancy of the male gods — Zeus, Indra, Yahweh, and Thor. There are numerous theories as to why this shift in religious tradition occurred. I choose not to speculate about these theories. Rather, I choose to ask whether in that shift something of value was lost to humanity? In Greek mythology, not until the goddess Peresephone was returned from the kingdom of Hades did the earth restore her health. It was the winter of the earth’s history according to the myth. We are still caught as a planet deep in the winter of our history. We should seek after the lost Peresephone and restore her to her Divine Mother so that our planet may find its wholeness, following not only the guidance of the Great Father, but also the Great Divine Mother Spirit.

I invite you to welcome the feminine image of God, the Goddess, back into your life. Feel her
presence within you, allow her to turn the winter of your existence into a creative and
life-sustaining spring. As we allow the Goddess to re-emerge in consciousness, her compassion
and wisdom will begin to enfold us. She will gradually reveal herself in all of her simplicity and
complexity. As we spend time recognizing and worshiping the Divine Parent who embodies and
integrates both the feminine and masculine aspects of reality, we will come more and more to
embody this unified wholeness in our consciousness and action. The Sacred Feminine is capable
of greatly assisting in the fulfillment of our existence as a people and as a planet.

May the holistic reality of this Divine Parent within you bless you, sustain you, and create new life
within you. ”

The Goddess                                                                                                                                     Gard Jameson

I know I shall be embracing this femininity will you? 

Making A Difference

For some time now I have held the view that we can all make a difference to this world if we only put our minds to it! Each one of us has it within us to make that difference a difference that the world is crying out for. We just need to alter our perceptions of what is happening around us and to realise that we not the politicians are the real answer to this worlds problems. We are the ones that can make change happen just by making the effort to make it happen.

We need only take small steps at first but these will slowly start to become a stride as we see the changes start to happen as we grow with inner confidence.

The following story shows just how one person can make a difference, I do hope that it spurs you into action! 

The Man Who Planted Trees

By Jean Giono

 For a human character to reveal truly exceptional qualities, one must have the good fortune to be able to observe its performance over many years. If this performance is devoid of all egoism, if its guiding motive is unparalleled generosity, if it is absolutely certain that there is no thought of recompense and that, in addition, it has left its visible mark upon the earth, then there can be no mistake.

About forty years ago I was taking a long trip on foot over moun­tain heights quite unknown to tourists, in that ancient region where the Alps thrust down into Provence. All this, at the time I embarked upon my long walk through these deserted regions, was barren and colorless land. Nothing grew there but wild lavender.I was crossing the area at its widest point, and after three days’ walking, found myself in the midst of unparalleled desolation. I camped near the vestiges of an abandoned village. I had run out of water the day before, and had to find some.

These clustered houses, although in ruins, like an old wasps’ nest, suggested that there must once have been a spring or well here. There was in­deed a spring, but it was dry. The five or six houses, roofless, gnawed by wind and rain, the tiny chapel with its crumbling steeple, stood about like the houses and chapels in living villages, but all life had vanished.It was a fine June day, brilliant with sunlight, but over this unsheltered land, high in the sky, the wind blew with unendurable ferocity. It growled over carcasses of the houses like a lion dis­turbed at its meal. I had to move my camp.

After five hours’ walking I had still not found water and there was nothing to give me any hope of finding any. All about me was the same dryness, the same coarse grasses. I thought I glimpsed in the distance a small black silhouette, upright, and took it for the trunk of a solitary tree. In any case I started toward it. It was a shepherd. Thirty sheep were lying about him on the baking earth. 

He gave me a drink from his water-gourd and, a little later, took me to his cottage in a fold of the plain. He drew his water – excellent water – from a very deep natural well above which he had constructed a primitive winch.The man spoke little. This is the way of those who live alone, but one felt that he has sure of him­self, and confident in his assurance. That was unexpected in this barren country. He lived, not in a cabin, but in a real house built of stone that bore plain evidence of how his own efforts had reclaimed the ruin he had found there on his arrival. His roof was strong and sound. The wind on its tiles made the sound of the sea upon its shore.The place was in order, the dishes washed, the floor swept, his rifle oiled; his soup was boiling over the fire.

I noticed then that he was cleanly shaved, that all his buttons were firmly sewed on, that his clothing had been mended with the meticulous care that makes the mending invisible. He shared his soup with me and afterwards, when I offered my tobacco pouch, he told me that he did not smoke. His dog, as silent as himself, was friendly without being servile.It was understood from the first that I should spend the night there; the nearest village was still more than a day and a half away. And besides I was perfectly familiar with the nature of the rare villages in that region. There were four or five of them scattered well apart from each other on these moun­tain slopes, among white oak thickets, at the extreme end of the wagon roads. They were inhabited by charcoal burners, and the living was bad. Families, crowded together in a climate that is excessively harsh both in winter and in summer, found no escape from the unceasing conflict of personalities.

Irrational ambition reached inordinate proportions in the continual desire for escape. The men took their wagonloads of charcoal to the town, then returned. The soundest characters broke under the perpetual grind. The women nursed their grievances. There was rivalry in everything, over the price of charcoal as over a pew in the church, over warring vitues as over warring vices as well as over the ceaseless combat between virtue and vice. And over all there was the wind, also cease­less, to rasp upon the nerves. There were epidemics of suicide and frequent cases of insanity, usually homicidal.

The shepherd went to fetch a small sack and poured out a heap of acorns on the table. He be­gan to inspect them, one by one, with great concentration, separating the good from the bad. I  smoked my pipe. I did offer to help him. He told me that it was his job. And in fact, seeing the care he devoted to the task, I did not insist. That was the whole of our conversation. When he had set aside a large enough pile of good acorns he counted them out by tens, meanwhile elimi­nating the small ones or those which were slightly cracked, for now he examined them more closely. When he had thus selected one hundred perfect acorns he stopped and we went to bed.There was peace in being with this man.

The next day I asked if I might rest here for a day. He found it quite natural – or, to be more exact, he gave me the impression that nothing could star­tle him. The rest was not absolutely necessary, but I was interested and wished to know more about him. He opened the pen and led his flock to pasture. Before leaving, he plunged his sack of carefully selected and counted acorns into a pail of water.I noticed that he carried for a stick an iron rod as thick as my thumb and about a yard and a half long. Resting myself by walking, I followed a path parallel to his.

His pasture was in a valley. He left the dog in charge of the little flock and climbed toward where I stood. I was afraid that he was about the rebuke me for my indiscretion, but it was not that at all: this was the way he was going, and he invited me to go along if I had nothing better to do. He climbed to the top of the ridge, about a hundred yards away.There he began thrusting his iron rod into the earth, making a hole in which he planted an acorn; then he refilled the hole. He was planting oak trees. I asked him if the land belonged to him. He answered no. Did he know whose it was? He did not. He supposed it was community property, or perhaps belonged to people who cared nothing about it. He was not interested in finding out whose it was. He planted his hundred acorns with the greatest care.

After the midday meal the resumed his planting. I suppose I must have been fairly insistent in my questioning, for he answered me. For three years he had been planting trees in this wilder­ness. He had planted one hundred thousand. Of the hundred thousand, twenty thousand had expected to lose half, to rodents or to the unpredictable designs of Providence. There remained ten thousand oak trees to grow where nothing had grown before.AcornsThat was when I began to wonder about the age of this man. He was obviously over fifty. Fifty-five, he told me. His name was Elezeard Bouffier. He had once had a farm in the lowlands. There he had his life. He had lost his only son, then this wife. He had withdrawn into this soli­ tude where his pleasure was to live leisurely with his lambs and his dog. It was his opinion that this land was dying for want of trees. He added that, having no very pressing business of his own, he had resolved to remedy this state of affairs.

Since I was at that time, in spite of my youth, leading a solitary life, I understood how to deal gently with solitary spirits. But my very youth forced me to consider the future in relation to myself and to a certain quest for happiness. I told him that in thirty years his ten thousand oaks would be magnificent. He answered quite simply that if God granted him life, in thirty years he would have planted so many more that these ten thousand would be like a drop of water in the ocean.Besides, he was now studying the reproduction of beech trees and had a nursery of seedlings grown from beechnuts near his cot­tage. The seedlings, which he had protected from his sheep with a wire fence, were very beautiful. He was also considering birches for the valleys where, he told me, there was a certain amount of moisture a few yards below the surface of the soil.

The next day, we parted.The following year came the War of 1914, in which I was involved for the next five years. An in­fantry man hardly had time for reflecting upon trees. To tell the truth, the thing itself had made no impression upon me; I had considered as a hobby, a stamp collection, and forgotten it.The war was over, I found myself possessed of a tiny demobilization bonus and a huge desire to breathe fresh air for a while. It was with no other objective that I again took the road to the bar­ren lands.The countryside had not changed. However, beyond the deserted village I glimpsed in the dis­tance a sort of grayish mist that covered the mountaintops like a carpet. Since the day before, I had begun to think again of the shepherd tree-planter. “Ten thousand oaks,” I reflected, “really take up quite a bit of space.”I had seen too many men die during those five years not to imagine easily that Elzeard Bouffier was dead, especially since, at twenty, one regards men of fifty as old men with nothing left to do but die. 

He was not dead. As a matter of fact, he was extremely spry. He had changed jobs. Now he had only four sheep but, instead, a hundred beehives. He had got rid of the sheep because they threatened his young trees. For, he told me (and I saw for myself), the war had disturbed him not at all. He had imperturbably continued to plant.Oak TreeThe oaks of 1910 were then ten years old and taller than either of us. It was an impres­sive spectacle. I was literally speechless and, as he did not talk, we spent, the whole day walking in silence through his forest. In three sections, it measured eleven kilometers in length and three kilometers at its greatest width. When you remembered that all this had sprung from the hands and the soul of this one man, without technical resources, you understand that men could be as effectual as God in other realms than that of destruction.

He had pursued his plan, and beech trees as high as my shoulder, spreading out as far as the eye could reach, confirmed it. He showed me handsome clumps of birch planted five years before – that is, in 1915, when I had been fighting at Verdun. He had set them out in all the valleys where he had guessed – and rightly – that there was moisture almost at the surface of the ground. They were as delicate as young girls, and very well established.Creation seemed to come about in a sort of chain reaction. He did not worry about it; he was determinedly pursuing his task in all its simplicity; but as we went back toward the village I saw water flowing in brooks that had been dry since the memory of man. This was the most impressive result of chain reaction that I had seen. These dry streams had once, long ago, run with water. Some of the dreary villag­es I mentioned before had been built on the sites of ancient Roman settlements, traces of which still remained; and archaeologists, exploring there, had found fishhooks where, in the twentieth century, cisterns were needed to assure a small supply of water.

The wind, too, scattered seeds. As the water reappeared, so there reappeared willows, rushes meadows, gardens, flowers, and a certain purpose in being alive. But the transformation took place so gradually that it became part of the pattern without causing any astonishment. Hunters, climbing into the wilderness in pursuit of hares or wild boar, had of course noticed the sudden growth of little trees, but had attributed it to some natural caprice of the earth. That is why no one meddled with Elzeard Bouffier’s work. If he had been detected he would have had opposi­tion. He was indetectable. Who in the villages or in the administration could have dreamed of such perseverance in a magnificient generosity? To have anything like a precise idea of this exceptional character one must not forget that he worked in total solitude: so total that, toward the end of his life, he lost the habit of speech. Or perhaps it was that he saw no need for it.

In 1933 he received a visit from a forest ranger who notified him of an order against lighting fires out of doors for fear of endangering the growth of this natural forest. It was the first time, that man told him naively, that he had ever heard of a forest growing out of its own accord. At that time Bouffier was about to plant beeches at a spot some twelve kilometers from his cottage. In order to avoid travelling back and forth – for he was then seventy-five – he planned to build a stone cabin right at the plantation. The next year he did so.

In 1935 a whole delegation came from the Government to examine the “natural forest”. There was a high official from the Forest Service, a deputy, technicians. There was a great deal of ineffectual talk. It was decided that some thing must be done and, fortunately, nothing was done except the only helpful thing: the whole forest was placed under the protection of the State, and charcoal burning prohibited. For it was impossible not to be captivated by the beauty of those young trees in full­ness of health, and they cast their spell over the deputy himself.A friend of mine was among the forestry officers of the delegation. To him I explained the mystery.

 One day the following week we went together to see Elezeard Bouffier. We found him hard at work, some ten kilometers from the spot where the inspection had taken place.This forester was not my friend for nothing. He was aware of values. He knew how to keep silent. I delivered the eggs I had brought as a present. We shared our lunch among the three of us and spent several hours in wordless contemplation of the countryside.In the direction from which we had come the slopes were covered with trees twenty to twenty-five feet tall. I remembered how the land had looked in 1913: a desert … Peaceful, regular toil, the vigorous mountain air, frugality and, above all, serenity of spirit had endowed this old man with awe-inspiring health.

He was one of God’s athletes. I wondered how many more acres he was going to cover with trees.Before leaving, my friend simply made a brief suggestion about certain species of trees that the soil here seemed particularly suited for. He did not force the point. “For the very good reason,”  he told me later,” that Bouffier knows more about it than I do.” At the end of an hour’s walking – having turned it over his mind – he added, “He knows a lot more about it than anybody. He’s discovered a wonderful way to be happy!”It was thanks to this officer that not only the forest but also the happiness of the man was pro­tected. He delegated three rangers to the task, and so terrorized them that they remained proof against all the bottles of wine the charcoal burners could offer.The only serious danger to the work occurred during the war of 1939. As cars were being run on gazogenes (wood-burning generators), there was never enough wood.

Cutting was started among the oaks of 1910, but the area was so far from any rail roads that the enterprise turned out to be financially unsound. It was abandoned. The shepherd had seen nothing of it. He was thirty kilometers away, peacefully continuing his work, ignoring the war of ‘39 as he had ignored that of ‘14.I saw Elzeard Bouffier for the last time in June of 1945. He was then eighty-seven. I had started back along the route through the wastelands; by now, in spite of the disorder in which the war had left the country, there was a bus running between the Durance Valley and the mountain. I attributed the fact that I no longer recognized the scenes of my earlier journeys to this relatively speedy transportation. It seemed to me, too, that the route took me through new territory.

It took the name of a village to convince me that I was actually in that region that had been all ruins and desolation.The bus put me down at Vergons. In 1913 this hamlet of ten or twelve houses had three inhabitants. They had been savage crea­tures, hating one another, living by trapping game, little removed, both physically and morally, from the conditions of prehistoric man. All about them nettles were feeding upon the remains of abandoned houses. Their con­dition had been beyond hope. For them, nothing but to await death – a situation which rarely predisposes to virtue.

Everything was changed. Even the air. Instead of the harsh dry winds that used to attack me, a gentle breeze was blowing, laden with scents. A sound like water came from the mountains: it was the wind in the forest. Most amazing of all, I heard the actual sound of water falling into a pool. I saw that a fountain had been built, that it flowed freely and – what touched me most – that  some one had planted a linden beside it, a linden that must have been four years old, already in full leaf, the incontestable symbol of resurrection.Oak TreeBesides, Vergons bore evidence of labor at the sort of undertaking for which hope is required. Hope, then, had returned. Ruins had been cleared away, dilapidated walls torn down and five houses restored.

Now there were twenty-eight inhabitants, four of them young married couples. The new houses, freshly plastered, were surrounded by gardens where vegetables and flowers grew in orderly confusion, cabbages and roses, leeks and snapdragons, celery and anem­ones. It was now a village where one would like to live.From that point on I went on foot. The war just finished had not yet allowed the full blooming of life, but Lazarus was out of the tomb. On the lower slopes of the mountain I saw little fields of barely and of rye; deep in the narrow valleys the meadows were turning green.It has taken only the eight years since then for the whole countryside to glow with health and prosper­ity.

On the site of ruins I had seen in 1913 now stand neat farms, cleanly plastered, testifying to a happy and comfortable life. The old streams, fed by the rains and snows that the forest conserves, are flowing again. Their waters have been channeled. On each farm, in groves of maples, fountain, pools overflow on to carpets of fresh mint. Little by little the villages have been rebuilt. People from the plains, where land is costly, have settled here, bringing youth, motion, the spirit of adventure. Along the roads you meet hearty men and women, boys and girls who understand laughter and have recovered a taste for picnics. Counting the former population, unrecognizable now that they live in comfort, more than ten thousand people owe their happiness to Elezeard Bouffier.

When I reflect that one man, armed only with his own physical and moral resources, was able to cause this land of Canaan to spring from the wasteland, I am convinced that in spite of every­thing, humanity is admirable. But when I compute the unfailing greatness of spirit and the te­nacity of benevolence that it must have taken to achieve this result, I am taken with an immense respect for that old and unlearned peasant who was able to complete a work worthy of God.

Elezeard Bouffier died peacefully in 1947 at the hospice in Banon.

You can print a pdf version here:  

http://www.ftpf.org/The_Man_Who_Planted_Trees.pdf

 

You can watch a video version here:

 

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=2926032018049266053

 

  

World Peace

BUDDHIST IDEAS FOR ATTAINING WORLD PEACE
Ron Epstein(Lectures for the Global Peace Studies Program, San Francisco State University, November 7 & 9, 1988)


INTRODUCTION

Buddhism teaches that whether we have global peace or global war is up to us at every moment. The situation is not hopeless and out of our hands. If we don’t do anything, who will? Peace or war is our decision. The fundamental goal of Buddhism is peace, not only peace in this world but peace in all worlds. The Buddha taught that the first step on the path to peace is understanding the causality of peace. When we understand what causes peace, we know where to direct our efforts. No matter how vigorously we stir a boiling pot of soup on a fire, the soup will not cool. When we remove the pot from the fire, it will cool on its own, and our stirring will hasten the process. Stirring causes the soup to cool, but only if we first remove the soup from the fire. In other words, we can take many actions in our quest for peace that may be helpful. But if we do not first address the fundamental issues, all other actions will come to naught.The Buddha taught that peaceful minds lead to peaceful speech and peaceful actions. If the minds of living beings are at peace, the world will be at peace. Who has a mind at peace, you say? The overwhelming majority of us live in the midst of mental maelstroms that subside only for brief and treasured moments. We could probably count on the fingers of both hands the number of those rare, holy persons whose minds are truly, permanently at peace. If we wait for all beings in the world to become sages, what chance is there of a peaceful world for us? Even if our minds are not completely peaceful, is there any possibility of reducing the levels of violence in the world and of successfully abating the winds of war?

To answer these questions, let us look first at the Buddha’s vision of the world, including the causality of its operations. Then, in that context, we can trace the causes of war. When the causes are identified, the Buddha’s suggestions for dealing with them and eliminating them can be discussed. Finally, having developed a Buddhist theoretical framework for understanding the nature of the problem and its solution, we can try to apply the basic principles in searching for concrete applications that we can actually put into practice in our own daily lives.

SOME ASPECTS OF THE BUDDHIST WORLD-VIEW

The Buddha taught that all forms of life partake of the same fundamental spiritual source, which he called the enlightened nature or the Buddha-nature. He did not admit to any essential division in the spiritual condition of human beings and other forms of life. In fact, according to Buddhist teachings, after death a human being is reborn, perhaps again as a human being or possibly in the animal realms or in other realms. Likewise, animals can, in certain circumstances, be reborn as human beings. All sentient beings are seen as passing through the unending cycle of the wheel of rebirth. They are born, they grow old, become sick, and die. They are reborn, grow old, get sick and die, over and over and over again.

KARMA: THE NETWORK OF CAUSE AND EFFECT

What determines how you are reborn is karma. Whether you obtain a human body, whether male or female, or that of an animal or some other life-form is karma. Whether you have a body that is healthy or sickly, whether you are intelligent or stupid, whether your family is rich or poor, whether your parents are compassionate or hard-hearted–all that is karma. Karma is a Sanskrit word that is derived from the semantic root meaning ‘to do’. It refers to activity–mental, verbal, and physical–as governed by complex patterns of cause and effect. There are two basic kinds of karma–individual and shared.
Individual karma is not limited to a single lifetime. What you did in your past lives determines your situation in your present life. If you did good deeds in past lives, the result will be an auspicious rebirth. If your actions in past lives were predominantly bad, your situation in the present will be inauspicious. If in this life you act more like an animal than a human being, your next rebirth will be as an animal.

Shared karma refers to our net of inter-relationship with other people, non-human beings, and our environment. A certain category of beings live in a certain location and tend to perceive their environment in much the same way, because that particular shared situation is the fruition of their former actions.

The doctrine of karma is not deterministic. Rather it is a doctrine of radical personal responsibility. Although your present situation in every moment is determined by your past actions, your action in the present moment, in the present circumstances, can be totally unconditioned and, therefore, totally free. It is true that you may mindlessly react according to the strengths of your various habit-patterns, but that need not be the case. The potential for you to act mindfully and freely is always there. It is up to you to realize that you have the choice and to make it. This realization is the beginning of true spiritual growth.

The Buddha taught that the fundamental cause of all suffering is ignorance. The basic ignorance is our failure to understand that the self, which is at the center of all of our lives, which determines the way in which we see the world, which directs our actions for our own ease and benefit, is an illusion. The illusion of the self is the cause of all our suffering. We want to protect our self from the dangers of the constant flux of life. We want to exempt our self from change, when nothing in the world is exempt from change.

Life centered on self naturally tends toward the selfish. Selfishness poisons us with desire and greed. When they are not fulfilled, we tend to become angry and hateful. These basic emotional conditions cover the luminous depths of our minds and cut us off from our own intuitive wisdom and compassion; our thoughts and actions then emanate from deluded and superficial views.

THE CAUSES OF WAR

The causes of war are too numerous even to list, let alone discuss intelligently. What we discuss here are what the Buddha considered the most fundamental, the fire under the boiling pot of soup.

War is not something abstract. War is waged between one group of individuals and another. The reasons for war are also not abstract. [We have not yet had a war started and directed according to logical paradigms programmed into a computer.] It is individuals who decide to wage war. Even if the war is global, its beginning can be traced back to the decisions of individuals. And so before we talk about global war, let us first talk about war on the level of the individual.

Wars begin because the people of one country, or at least their rulers, have unfulfilled desires–they are greedy for benefits or wealth (i.e., economic greed) or power, or they are angry or hateful. Either their desires have been thwarted or their pride, their sense of self, has been offended. This can also manifest as racial or national arrogance. They wrongly feel that the answer to problems, which are essentially within their own minds, a matter of attitudes, can be sought externally, through the use of force.

THE STORY OF THE WATER WAR

Four years after his [the Buddha’s] attainment of enlightenment, a war took place between the city-state of Kapilavastu and that of Kilivastu over the use of water. Being told of this, [the Buddha] Sakyamuni hastened back to Kapilavastu and stood between the two great armies about to start fighting. At the sight of Sakyamuni, there was a great commotion among the warriors, who said, “Now that we see the World-Honored One, we cannot shoot the arrows at our enemies,” and they threw down their weapons. Summoning the chiefs of the two armies, he asked them, “Why are you gathered here like this?” “To fight,” was their reply. “For what cause do you fight?” he queried. “To get water for irrigation.” Then, asked Sakyamuni again, “How much value do you think water has in comparison with the lives of men?” “The value of water is very slight” was the reply. “Why do you destroy lives which are valuable for valueless water?” he asked. Then, giving some allegories, Sakyamuni taught them as follows: “Since people cause war through misunderstanding, thereby harming and killing each other, they should try to understand each other in the right manner.” In other words, misunderstanding will lead all people to a tragic end, and Sakyamuni exhorted them to pay attention to this. Thus the armies of the two city-states were dissuaded from fighting each other.

The doctrine of karma teaches that force and violence, even to the level of killing, never solves anything. Killing generates fear and anger, which generates more killing, more fear, and more anger, in a vicious cycle without end. If you kill your enemy in this life, he is reborn, seeks revenge, and kills you in the next life. When the people of one nation invade and kill or subjugate the people of another nation, sooner or later the opportunity will present itself for the people of the conquered nation to wreak their revenge upon the conquerors. Has there ever been a war that has, in the long run, really resolved any problem in a positive manner? In modern times the so-called ‘war to end all wars’ has only led to progressively larger and more destructive wars.The emotions of killing translate into more and more deaths as the weapons of killing become more and more sophisticated. In prehistoric times, a caveman could explode with anger, take up his club, and bludgeon a few people to death. Nowadays, if, for example, the President of the United States loses his temper, who can tell how many will lose their lives as the result of the employment of our modern weaponry. And in the present we are on the brink of a global war that threatens to extinguish permanently all life on the planet. When will that happen? Perhaps when the collective selfishness of individuals to pursue their own desires–greed for sex, wealth and power; the venting of frustrations through anger, hatred and brutal self-assertion–overcomes the collective compassion of individuals for others, overcomes their respect for the lives and aspirations of others. Then the unseen collective pressure of mind on mind will tip the precarious balance, causing the finger, controlled ostensibly by an individual mind, to press the button that will bring about nuclear Armageddon. When the individual minds of all living beings are weighted, if peaceful minds are more predominant, the world will tend to be at peace; if violent minds are more predominant, the world will tend to be at war.

BUDDHIST PRESCRIPTIONS

Providing people with physical well-being and wealth does not necessarily lead to peace. Lewis Lapham recently wrote:

Apparently it is not poverty that causes crime, but rather the resentment of poverty. This latter condition is as likely to embitter the ‘subjectively deprived’ in a rich society as the ‘objectively deprived’ in a poor society.

Mental attitudes and the actions to which they lead are the key.Buddhists believe that the minds of all living beings are totally interconnected and interrelated, whether they are consciously aware of it or not. To use a simple analogy for the interconnection, each being has his or her own transmitting and receiving station and is constantly broadcasting to all others his or her state of mind and is constantly receiving broadcasts from all others. Even the most insignificant thoughts in our minds have some effect on all other beings. How much the more so do our strong negative emotions and our acting out of them in direct or indirect forms of physical violence! In other words, each thought in the mind of each and every one of us brings the world either a little closer to the brink of global disaster or helps to move the world a little farther away from the brink. If each time we feel irritated, annoyed, thwarted, outraged, or just plain frustrated, we reflect on the consequences of our thoughts, words and actions, perhaps that reflection in itself will help to lead us to behave in a way that will contribute to global peace. If every time we get angry at our wife or husband, girl friend or boy friend, parents or children, we are aware that we are driving the entire world toward the brink of war, maybe we will think twice and wonder whether our anger is worth the consequences. Even if we feel our cause is just, if we in thought, word, and deed make war against injustice, we are still part of the problem and not contributing to the solution. On the other hand, if we concentrate on putting our own minds at peace, then we can broadcast peace mentally and generate peace through our actions. We should use a peaceful mind to act for peace in the world.

As to the interrelations between the minds of beings, the being we may be about to harm or even kill, from a Buddhist point of view, may well be our own parents, children, wives or husbands, or dearest friends from former lives.
Because Buddhists see the problem of war as a karmic one, the solution is seen as the practicing and teaching of correct ethical behavior.  Good deeds lead to good consequences, bad deeds to bad. If you plant bean seeds, you get beans; if you plant melon seeds, you get melons. If you plant the seeds of war, you get war; if you plant the seeds of peace, you get peace.
The most fundamental moral precept in Buddhist teaching is respect for life and the prohibition against taking life. Generally speaking, all living beings want to live and are afraid of death. The strongest desire is for life, and when that desire is thwarted, the response is unbelievably powerful anger. Unlike almost all other religions, Buddhism teaches that there are no exceptions to this prohibition and no expedient arguments are admitted. The taking of life not only covers human life but all sentient beings. Reducing the karma of killing is equivalent to putting out the fire under the pot of boiling soup. If we end killing, the world will be at peace.

The prohibition against stealing says, more literally, that one must not take what is not given. Stealing, whether it is by individuals, corporations, or nations, occurs because of selfish greed. From the time of the Trojan War, sexual misconduct has also been a cause of war, as has been lying. National leaders whose minds have been clouded by drugs are not rare in history either–their conduct is rarely just and peaceful. The international drug trade in itself has become a major impediment to peace in most parts of the world. The taking of intoxicating substances is also prohibited by fundamental Buddhist teachings.

The Buddhist vision is a world in which all life is sacred, in which selfishness, in the guise of greed, anger and foolishness, does not interfere with the basic interconnectedness of all living beings. That interconnectedness, when freed from the distortion of selfishness, is based upon the potential for enlightenment that every being shares.

PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS

A beautiful vision, some might say. But how can such a peace be realized in a world such as ours? Isn’t it mere impractical fantasy? No, it is not. Now the time has come to outline some concrete and practical steps that can be taken towards making it a reality. As a beginning, here are three steps.

Step One

If the karma of killing is the flame beneath the soup pot, by reducing it, we directly affect the boiling turmoil of violence and war. We need to reduce the atmosphere of killing and violence, both in our society and in our own lives. Each one of us can reduce the level of killing in our own lives by the very simple act of becoming vegetarian. An ancient sage once said:

For hundreds of thousands of years
The stew in the pot
Has brewed hatred and resentment
That is difficult to stop.
If you wish to know why there are disasters
Of armies and weapons in the world,
Listen to the piteous cries
From the slaughterhouse at midnight.

In a more contemporary vein George Bernard Shaw wrote a “Song of Peace:”

We are the living graves of murdered beasts,
Slaughtered to satisfy our appetites.
We never pause to wonder at our feasts
If animals, like men, can possibly have rights.
We pray on Sundays that we may have light,
To guide our footsteps on the paths we tread.
We’re sick of war, we do not want to fight,
The thought of it now fills our hearts with dread
And yet we gorge ourselves upon the dead.
Like carrion crows, we live and feed on meat,
Regardless of the suffering and pain
We cause by doing so. If thus we treat
Defenseless animals for sport or gain,
How can we hope in this world to attain
The Peace we say we are so anxious for?
We pray for it, o’r hecatombs of slain,
To God, while outraging the moral law,
Thus cruelty begets its offspring–War.

For those who still do not see the logical relationships, I shall try to spell them out more clearly. Non-human life is not qualitatively different than human life, according to Buddhist teachings. Just as when a human is killed, an animal too most often responds to its death with thoughts of resentment, hatred and revenge. While it is dying, these thoughts or emotions poison its flesh. After it is dead, its disembodied consciousness continues to broadcast thoughts of resentment, hatred and revenge to the minds of its killers and those for whom it was killed. Think of the billions of cows, pigs, chickens and sheep that are killed for consumption each year in the United States alone. Those of you who have passed the slaughter yards on the interstate highway near Coalinga, California, have probably noticed not only the stench but also the dark cloud of fear and violence that hangs over the place. The general mental atmosphere of that entire county is thick with thoughts of violence with which such thoughts within our own minds can all too easily resonate.One of the problems of modern society is that the karma we generate is often indirect and not immediately obvious to us, even though it can be quite powerful. We are no less responsible for the death of the animals when we buy meat wrapped in plastic in the supermarket than if we had killed them ourselves. We are no less responsible for the environmental poisoning of people by chemicals that we pour down our drains or by industries we work for or whose products we buy, than if we had personally added the poison to their food. So too we may not be directly aware of the ways in which we may be providing support for many conflicts and wars around the world. Of course, it is much worse to do something wrong, clearly knowing that it is wrong than to do it in ignorance. Yet ignorance does not absolve us of blame.

Step Two

Since war can come about when the general level of violence in the population reaches the boiling point and can either manifest in civil war or be channeled into foreign wars, anything we can do to reduce the general level of violence in the population will certainly be most helpful. One of the major teachers of violence in our society is television. Turn off your TV–permanently. Michael Nagler has written:

* 96 percent of American homes have at least one television set.
The average home has a set going six hours a day.
* In ‘ordinary’ viewing, there are 8 violent episodes an hour.
* Between the ages of five and fifteen the average American child has watched the killing of 13,000 people. By age eighteen he or she will have logged more than 15,000 hours of this kind of exposure and taken in more than 20,000 acts of violence. . . .
* 97 percent of cartoons intended for children include acts of violence. By the criteria of the Media Action Research Center, an act of aggression occurs every three and a half minutes during children’s Saturday morning programs. Dr. George Gerbner counts one every two minutes by similar criteria.
* In a typical recent year “children . . . witness, on prime time television, 5,000 murders, rapes, beatings and stabbings, 1,300 acts of adultery, and 2,700 sexually aggressive comments,” according to a group of concerned mothers.

How can all this be helping the cause of world peace? From an early age our citizens are learning that violence the best solution to their problems, that violence is a socially acceptable and socially approved way of dealing with problems both personal and interpersonal. Turn off the TV!Step Three

By constantly being mindful of your own thoughts, words and actions and by constantly trying to purify them, we can become part of the force for peace rather than part of the force for war. Teachings about karma indicate to us that no matter how just our cause, no matter how right our ideas, if they are accompanied by anger and hate, they will merely generate more anger and hate. If our minds are inundated with the emotions of war, we aid the cause of war, no matter how noble our cause. Buddhist teachings about karma indicate unequivocally that a fundamentally moral life is a necessary prerequisite for ridding our minds of negative emotions, for transforming them into selfless compassion for all. There are many selfless endeavors that we can take upon ourselves to stir the soup and help cool the pot. But we should remember to be constantly mindful of our own mental attitudes. If we are not, no matter how hard we stir, we may also be unconsciously helping to turn up the flames.

How do we change our own mental attitudes; how do we rid our minds of those strong negative emotions that cause turbidity in our minds? Part of the Bodhisattva Path consists of the practice of giving as an antidote to desire, greed, stinginess, and craving; the practice of patience as an antidote for anger; and the practice of wisdom as an antidote for foolishness.

Step Four

We should work on the systematic extension of compassion towards others. From the level of our own minds, to our speech and then our actions, we can work on generating compassion to those who are closest to us, the members of our own familes, and then progressively extend our compassion to our communities, countries, and the entire world.
Many of you may be disappointed in these suggestions. Perhaps you are looking for something more exciting or stimulating. However, I hope that you will realize that there is some indication that these Buddhist ideas do really work. King Asoka, the Mauryan emperor of India who was coronated in 268 BCE, was converted to Buddhism after experiencing personal revulsion in the aftermath of his bloody conquest of Kalinga. Thereafter he prohibited any form of killing and encouraged humane treatment of all peoples and also animals. The Tibetans were bloodthirsty and warlike before conversion to Buddhism. Likewise, their neighbors the Mongols, particularly the armies of Ghengis Khan, terrorized many peoples, from China to the gates of Vienna. It would be hard to find people more fierce and bloodthirsty. Buddhist missionaries subsequently transformed the Mongols into one of the most peaceful peoples of Asia. Buddhists have never advocated war and have never sanctioned the idea of religious war. The ideal of the Bodhisattva (an enlightened being who devotes himself or herself to the enlightenment of all beings) is to voluntarily return, life after life, to our world of suffering to teach the Way to permanent inner peace, which is the only way to true peace in the world. Whether for us or for the great sages of the world, peace can only be brought to the world one thought at a time in the minds of each one of us. Only on that basis, can our actions for peace, also performed one at a time, be truly effective.

Inner Peace, World Peace

Peace Pagoda-Milton Keynes 

We can never obtain peace in the world if we neglect the inner world and don’t make peace with ourselves. World peace must develop out of inner peace. Without inner peace it is impossible to achieve world peace, external peace. Weapons themselves do not act. They have not come out of the blue. Man has made them. But even given those weapons, those terrible weapons, they cannot act by themselves. As long as they are left alone in storage they cannot do any harm. A human being must use them. Someone must push the button. Satan, the evil powers, cannot push that button. Human beings must do it. – The Dalai Lama, in The Dalai Lama: A Policy of Kindness, edited by Sidney Piburn from Everyday Mind, edited by Jean Smith, a Tricycle book

The greatest achievement is selflessness.
The greatest worth is self-mastery.
The greatest quality is seeking to serve others.
The greatest precept is continual awareness.
The greatest medicine is the emptiness of everything.
The greatest action is not conforming with the worlds ways.
The greatest magic is transmuting the passions.
The greatest generosity is non-attachment.
The greatest goodness is a peaceful mind.
The greatest patience is humility.
The greatest effort is not concerned with results.
The greatest meditation is a mind that lets go.
The greatest wisdom is seeing through appearances.
Atisha