Editorial: Not Going Along

Featured in Mountain Record 26.2, Winter 2007


How did we get here? A nation at war, again. In conflict with each other and with the earth. What are we doing? Are we trying to get what we need? What we want? What is “ours”? Are we afraid? Angry? Complacent?

Peace—its establishment and maintenance—is not a passive endeavor. Peace requires courage. In this issue of Mountain Record, its contributors teach through the lives they have led, the choices they have made, and the sacrifices accepted.

Peace is deliberate. It is a choice made in the face of reality as it is, not as we imagine it to be. The laws of physics, the laws of karma, make clear to us that every action has a reaction. Violence begets violence. Does it ever actually resolve conflict or encourage true cooperation and affiliation? If not, then how can we choose nonviolence when faced with conflict?

Claude Anshin Thomas states it plainly: “In its simplest form, nonviolence is rooted in the knowledge that we have the capacity to act violently and aggressively and that we make a conscious choice not to.” This choice starts with each one of us, individually—seeing what’s before us, within us, even when this makes us uncomfortable.

Seeing is not just from our own perspective, but includes seeing through the eyes of another. As Daido Roshi points out, “To be skillful in working with other people, we need to be able to perceive things the way others perceive them.” Resolving conflicts from such an open position often, if not always, requires compromise and a willingness to respect what is important to others.

In a similar vein, Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us that peace is an act of generosity. It draws upon our inherent compassion and capacity to both help relieve the suffering of and bring joy to others, but not just the people we know and love. Compassion extends to the whole world, as distinctions between my happiness and yours dissolve.

“Nothing exists independently of anything else,” Shugen Sensei says. “When we try to grasp things, they shift because nothing is fixed... Our opinions about this truth won’t alter it. We cannot control it. We cannot stop it. So how do we find peace?”

The practice of Zen Buddhism is a practice of seeing whatever arises. In seeing, we can acknowledge the existence of a feeling, an attitude, a habit, and know from where it comes and to where it leads. Not bound to just reactively go along, here, in stillness, we can experience the pain, or fear, or need, and take it on as our own responsibility. Then we can let each thing pass away. In this, we invite the space needed to choose, consciously—in every small interaction, while driving or shopping or having a meal with our family. And in every world event, no matter how grave. What do we choose?

Karin Jinfu Connelly, MRO
Mountain Record, Editor