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As I looked for something to begin my newest blog post on peace a small green book caught my eye hidden between two larger books on the shelf behind my desk. It called out to me to open it up to discover what Frances W. Foulkes, Unity Minister and author, might have written in her book Effectual Prayer about peace. Here is what I found as I opened the book:

“My heart is at peace with God, and man and beats in unison with the great heart of the universe. As Thy [the] spirit of peace and love pervades my whole being, all that was weary in me is refreshed, all that was sick is made whole, all that was limited is made free and full (page 116).”[1]

Her writing is clear that peace begins within; peace is not something that you can buy in the store, or get from a doctor, priest, imam or website.

Peace lives in me every day if I would just take the time to notice it, to look for it, and appreciate it. Even in the most god awful traffic jam, when you are late for work, school, or an appointment you can find peace within you. Somewhere deep down inside of you is a secret sacred space that knows only peace. Some call it the heart chakra, some call it the unconscious mind, some call it God, some emptiness or oneness. Deepak Chopra calls it “pure potentiality.” My friend Erick at our study group in the Zendo last night said it this way. Mozart is to have said: “The music is not in the notes, but in the silence between.” That is where peace lives.

So the next time you feel stress, anxiety, anger, hate, or fear go within quietly and find that secret sacred place within you where the “peace that passes all understanding” abides. It is there quietly, silently waiting for you to recognize it, remember it, to be with it in mind, body, and spirit.

To find it begin with your breath. The breath is the life force energy you were given at birth, the energy that pervades every cell of your body, powers your mind, muscles, and cells. Simply take three long breaths, slow breaths, counting one on the in breath and two on the out breath and watch your heart beat slow down, your mind begin to clear, and your body begin to relax. You can do it anywhere, anytime, regardless of the outside situation or circumstances.

The breath will find the peace center in you and help you reside there as long as you like or as long as you can, or until the traffic begins to move or the light turns green or the person leaves your presence. You may even want to memorize Rev. Foulkes affirmation even if just a portion, such as “my heart beats in unison with the great heart of the universe” or “the spirit of peace and love pervades my whole being.” These things I wish for you every moment of every day! Why not start today?

[1] Foulks, F.W. (1966) Effectual Prayer, Unity School of Christianity, Lee Summit, MO.

If you have not already read this wonderful Sutra I hope that it will enlighten your day and keep you in peace.  Please share it with others to use in their services and with their groups to help bring our planet back to peace, love, and compassion.  In Gassho, Shokai

Metta (Loving-Kindness) Sutra

By Shakyamuni Buddha

May all beings be happy.

May they be joyous and live in safety.

All living beings, whether weak or

strong, in high or middle, or low

realms of existence, small or great,

visible or invisible,

near or far, born or to be born,

May all beings be happy.

Let none deceive another nor despise

any being in any state; let none

by anger or hatred wish harm to another.

Even as a mother at the risk of her life

watches over and protects her only child,

so with a boundless mind should

one cherish all living things,

suffusing love over the entire

world, above, below, and all around

without limit;

so let each cultivate an

infinite good will toward the whole world.

I woke this morning hoping that yesterday’s news of the commercial airline being shot down in the Ukraine and watching the bombs and lights flashing through the evening sky between the Gaza Strip and Israel was just a dream. But it wasn’t. It did however make this just another reason and another opportunity to continue my series of blog posts on war and peace.

Peace Pilgrim said:

My pilgrimage is an opportunity to talk with my fellow human beings about the way of peace. It is also a penance for whatever I may have contributed by commission or omission to the tragic situation in the world today. It is a prayer that this war-weary world of ours will somehow find the way to peace before a holocaust descends (page 27).[1]

If I did not know better I would think this was written today. We have more wars then ever being fought around the globe. We have not only countries fighting countries, but political parties fighting political parties, and religions fighting religions.

Robert Muller1Robert Muller, who was the former Assistant-secretary General of the United Nations for forty years wrote a little book titled Dialogues of Hope wrote:

It is very important that religions work together, listen to each other, while keeping their own creeds and rituals, in order to determine what is fundamental to all of them and what is the deeper structure of the global spirituality inborn in the human person and race. When people get together and work together as we do in the UN, they discover that they do not really disagree on the fundamentals (page 92).[2]

Our life on this planet is so short why must we spend it fighting and fussing over things that do not really matter, things that do not make a positive effect in our life, things that are not filled with peace, love and compassion for ALL beings? If they do not make this world a better, kinder, gentler world they should be discarded by me immediately and replaced with some thoughts, words, actions, and feelings that do make this a better, kinder, gentler world for all those who come across my path. Just like the Peace Pilgrim did. Just like Mahatma Gandhi did. Just like Jesus and Shakyamuni Buddha did.

I hope that I am not, as the Peace Pilgrim said, contributing “by commission or omission to the tragic situation in the world today.” I do make every effort to be mindful of my thoughts and actions, to catch myself and change my behavior and thinking if it is not filled with peace, love, and compassion.

In the Diamond Sutra it reads:

Thus shall ye think of all this fleeting world; a star at dawn, a bubble in a stream; a flash of lightning in a summer cloud, a flickering lamp, a phantom and a dream.

So everything is impermanence: you, me, war, peace, love, hate, so what is all the fighting for?! Too bad these violent actors are not just a phantom and a dream and I could wake up tomorrow and all of this world would be a place filled with peace, love and compassion. And our newspapers and TVs would be filled with only good stories of peace, love and kindness. Then I would never want to awaken from my dream…

In gassho, Shokai

ingassho

 

[1] Peace Pilgrim Her life and Work In her Own Words, Friends of Peace Pilgrim and Ocean Tree Books, 2004.

[2] Muller, R. (1990). Dialogues of Hope, World Happiness and Cooperation, Ardsley-on-Hudson, NY

War is breaking out in the Middle East again and in Central America the conditions are so treacherous for the regular citizens they are sending their children on pilgrimages to America by walking a thousand miles to our borders and turning themselves in to the Border Patrol. Being in an American detention center is safer for them than being in their own beds in their own homes in their own countries. How sad a state of affairs is that?

So we are hearing “war cries” once again from some in our country to fight in the Middle East and to “fight” back the influx of women and children trying to escape a life of fear and hell in their home countries. Today in Guatemala 1 out of every 14 people have a chance to be murdered. If you are a parent what lengths would you go to in order to save your children?

In the book, Peace Pilgrim her Life and Work in Her Own Words, in Chapter 9 “Extensions of Pacifism,” she quotes Herman Goering, at the Nuremberg Trials:

Why of course people don’t want war. Why should some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally the common people don’t want war: neither in Russia, nor in England, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But after all, it is the leaders of a country who determine the policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country (page 114-15).[1] [Emphasis mine.]

Sound Familiar?

Pastor Martin Niemoller

Pastor Martin Niemoller

Yet in all countries and in all times there were those who spoke out, who stood up to the powers that be for peace even if it meant their own death or imprisonment. Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892-1984) is perhaps best remembered for his oral admission of personal guilt and condemnation of the bystander during WWII. Many years after his release by the Allied Forces from a prison camp in which he was interned he was elected president of the World Council of Churches.

The exact words that he is credited with are in dispute; their sentiment is not:

First they came for the communists and I did not speak out because I was not a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.

Finally, they came for me and there was no one left to speak out.[2]

 

What will you do for the children, for peace, for the planet? Turn a blind eye and go shopping at Saks or Bloomies, or K-Mart? Write your elected officials, carry a sign, vote them out? Pass the buck, see with a blind eye, and turn off the news? Save the children, save the planet? Get elected to office yourself?

The Gateless Gate

The great path has no gates,

Thousands of roads enter it.

When one passes through this gateless gate

He walks freely between heaven and earth (page 79)[3].

 

If it is to be—it is up to me! Hope lives eternal…Which gate will you take?

 

[1] Peace Pilgrim Her life and Work In her Own Words, Friends of Peace Pilgrim and Ocean Tree Books, 2004.

[2] http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/414633/Martin-Niemoller

[3] The Little Book of Zen Haiku, Koans, Sayings, (2001) edited by Manuela Dunn Mascetti. The Book Laboratory, Inc. Fall River Press: NY, NY

The Three Treasures in Buddhism will help us determine what we fear and what we can do to focus on something other than our fears: Renounce all evil; practice all good; save the many beings. If we focus our attention on these Three Treasures how can there be room in our heads for fear? We can live a life of peace, compassion, and love and when we do the unsuspecting result will be a decrease in our level of fear. This in turn will decrease our reaction to strike out with angry hurt-filled words and/or actions. And someday, hopefully, contribute to ending war as we know it.

Peace Pilgrim described this result when she wrote:

There is no greater block to world peace or inner peace than fear. It has led us to manufacture implements of mass destruction. What we fear we tend to develop an unreasonable hatred for—so we come to hate and fear. This not only injures us psychologically and aggravates world tensions, but through such negative concentration we tend to attract the things which we fear. If we fear nothing and radiate love, we can expect good things to come. How much this world needs the message and the example of love and faith (page 101).[1]

Why do you think that your parents from the time you were a small child suggested that you count to three before saying or doing something that you may regret. Why do you think I use the wonderful Three Breath Exercise from Jan Chozen Bays’ book How to Train a Wild Elephant with all of my classes—to give them various techniques for calming their minds and eliminating their fears.

Many in this country live under the assumption that this is a “Christian” country and thus we should live by the Christian rules and regulations. Yet they fear everyone and everything and spend time spreading a doctrine of war, greed, fear, and hatred of other people with other religions in our country and around the world. They clamor to get us into wars to fight for the oil riches in the Middle East, the minerals in Africa, to carry guns everywhere even in Church, to “stand your ground” and kill anyone who looks like they “may” hurt them. They want to have power over people of other faiths and belief systems by denying them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness and healthcare right here in America.

All this is being done in the name of Jesus while forgetting that Jesus was a pacifist. He told his disciple Peter in Gethsemane to put down his sword after he had cut off the ear of the soldier. He taught his followers to turn the other cheek, to love thy neighbor as thyself, he rescued the adulteress from the men trying to stone her, and more. He even rode into town on a donkey to show his followers that he had no fear of the Romans or of death. How many of us would have done the same in each of these situations?  He showed compassion and love to all including his so called enemies. How we have gotten so off track from what he taught is a puzzle to me.

But for us as Buddhists and Christians now is the time to practice the principles of love and compassion, of turning the other cheek, of counting to three, of seeing the beauty of everyone and everything. Susan Jeffers in her book Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway, writes:

“At the bottom of every one of your fears is simply the fear that you can’t handle whatever life may bring you. The truth is: If you knew you could handle anything that came your way, what would you possibly have to fear? The answer is: Nothing! (Pages 7-8).”[2]

So let’s take the great advice of Peace Pilgrim: If we fear nothing and radiate love, we can expect good things to come. Try it the next time you feel fear or anger building up inside of you, you’ll be glad you did and so will the other person! Remember to: Renounce all evil; practice all good; and work to save the many beings. Oh, don’t forget to count to 3 or take 3 breaths while you’re at it!

 

[1] Peace Pilgrim Her life and Work In her Own Words, Friends of Peace Pilgrim and Ocean Tree Books, 2004.

[2] Jeffers, S. (2007) Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway. Ballantine Books: NY, NY.

I am going to continue on with the Peace Pilgrim again and share some of her thoughts from Chapter 8: The Way of Peace.

This is the way of peace: Overcome evil with good, falsehood with truth, and hatred with love. . . . Only good can overcome evil. . . . One in harmony with God’s law of love has more strength than an army, for one need not subdue an adversary; an adversary can be transformed (page 97).[1]

The first Grave Precept in Buddhism is “Not Killing.” I think she just may have been a Buddhist in a past life and maybe even this life but did not know it! Her life and her words are almost identical to our teachings and if you look at what Roshi Robert Aitken wrote about it in his book The Mind of Clover Essays in Zen Buddhist Ethics she was teaching these exact ideas as she walked around the United States through every hamlet and city. He wrote:

Acting upon the First Precept is also the spirit of not harming applied in the natural world. The same poisons that set us apart in families, communities, and across national boundaries—greed, hatred, and ignorance—blight the grasslands, deplete the soil, clear-cut the forests, and add lethal chemicals to water and air. In the name of progress, some say. In the name of greed, it might more accurately be said. We are killing our world… (page 20).[2]

And so in Buddhism and in life if we focus on the positive aspects of peace, love, and compassion for all beings, for the earth, and for all things on the earth we will end up with a world that is without war, and with clean air and water. But if I think that it’s someone else’s job to do it—I’m dead wrong—it all starts with me loving me! It starts with me living a life filled with inner peace, love, and compassion. It starts with me refusing to hate people because of the color of their skin, or who they love, or where they live, or what god they believe in, or even if they believe in no god at all, or what political party they are affiliated with.

Peace Pilgrim said: My inner peace remains in spite of any outward thing. Only insofar as I remain in harmony can I draw others into harmony, and so much more harmony is needed before the world can find peace. All right work and all right prayer has effect, all good effort bears good fruit, whether we see the results or not. In spite of the darkness in the present world situation I am not discouraged. I know that just as human life proceeds toward harmony through a series of hills and valleys, so a society has its ups and downs in the search for peace (page 99).[3]

What is so profound about these words is that you would think she is living right here, right now in 2014. But she is not—she died in 1981. But let us not get discouraged! She never did and so we can all live as she did with hope and goodwill and with the knowing that there will be a turning point when more people believe in PEACE then in WAR!! Some call it the tipping point, some refer to it as the 100th Monkey Theory, but whatever you call it peace is possible!   Peace in your life, in your job, in your neighborhood if only we step out on faith, if only we begin with our selves, and invite our family, friends, associates, neighbors, and everyone we meet to join us in peace, love and compassion. Then let’s watch what happens to our lives our families our jobs and ultimately the world in which we live.

As the Unity peace song goes…let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me!

Let’s start today by living the words in this poem by Emmett Fox that is simply titled “Love.”

Try it for a week and let me know what happens! I am excited to hear from you.

Namaste, Shokai

LOVE

There is no difficulty that enough love will not conquer;

No disease that enough love will not heal;

No door that enough love will not open;

No gulf that enough love will not bridge;

No wall that enough love will not throw down;

No sin that enough love will not redeem.

 

It makes no difference how deeply seated may be the trouble,

How hopeless the outlook, how muddled the tangle,

How great the mistake, a sufficient realization of love will dissolve it all.

If only you could love enough you would be the happiest and most powerful being in the world.

~Emmett Fox

 

[1] Peace Pilgrim Her life and Work In her Own Words, Friends of Peace Pilgrim and Ocean Tree Books, 2004.

[2] Aitken, R. (1984). The Mind of Clover Essays in Zen Buddhist Ethics. North Point Press: NY, NY

[3] Peace Pilgrim Her life and Work In her Own Words, Friends of Peace Pilgrim and Ocean Tree Books, 2004.

Thanks to those who have read and shared my blog on  Peace Pilgrim.  I feel compelled to give you an opportunity to read another of her powerful poems this one is simply titled “War.”

WAR

On the scarred battlefield, where they forced me to go

I met a man that they said was my foe–

And I ran him through with my blade!

When I pulled it out and his blood gushed forth,

I was suddenly filled with racking remorse–

“I have killed a man!” I said.

He was slim and youthful and frightened like me,

And not a fiend as they said he would be–

“They sent me to kill you,” he sighed.

“By God! I wish you had done so!” I swore.

“Why, I don’t even know what I’m fighting for!”

“Nor I,” he breathed, and he died.

 

When we kill with drones, and bombs, and land mines, and airplanes we never have to look them in the eye and see their humanity. Nor do they! What’s all this fighting for? Oil? Religion? Land? Power? Politics? You be the judge.

In love and light, Shokai

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