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Everyone has thoughts about life and death. Ethical, religious, and spiritual people all have rules, precepts, principles and laws covering their beliefs about the individuals and the society’s role in life and death, peace and war. The first of the 10 Grave Precepts in Buddhism is “Not Killing,” the last of the Eightfold Path is Respect Life. Robert Aitken writes about this in his wonderful book, The Mind of Clover.

The Hinayana view of “Not Killing” is just that. The extreme limit of such literal interpretation is not Buddhist at all, but the Jain faith, whose monks filter all water before drinking it, in order to protect the microscopic animals that might otherwise be swallowed (page 16).[1]

I would not suggest that to be an ethical, religious, or spiritual person you would need to go to this extreme. Aitken explains why such extreme beliefs can be troubling.

They must assume that a sharp distinction exists between the animal and vegetable worlds; otherwise they could not feed themselves. Strict vegetarians, too, tend to fall into this trap, it seems to me. It is not possible to evade the natural order of things: everything in the universe is in symbiosis with every other thing.
Doctrines, including Buddhism, are meant to be used. Beware of them taking life of their own, for then they use us (page 17).[2]

So what do we do about this problem—to be in this life but not of it. To use the Buddhist principles to create a life of peace, love, and compassion in us and through us each day is a challenge. Aitken suggests that first we must start with being compassionate with ourselves. Whether it is while we are sitting on the cushion, washing the dishes, dealing with others, or giving ourselves time to “chill out” first respect your own life and be kind to yourself then it will be much easier to do it with others.

Finally, spread that good will to all life, plants, animals, and ultimately planet Earth. Recycle your garbage, support legislation that protects the water, air, and ground that we need to survive. Work for fairness and equality for all people in all places around the world. Your actions in these areas will show that you are following the Eightfold Path and especially that of respecting life.

I got a bumper sticker for my car and one for my refrigerator a few months ago that says “DO NO HARM.” I just love it! Every time I go into my refrigerator I see the bumper sticker and it reminds me to respect life—mine and others! Here is the link for you to use to get one of your own. They are free so no excuses can be made! On their website they even say: Please do not send money! We do not accept monetary donations! Please support the movement by doing no harm and if you can, please spread the “Do No Harm” message. (http://www.donoharm.us/id3.html)

I hope you will take the time to go there and get yourself a bumper sticker. Then each time you get into your car or open your refrigerator door you will be reminded of the Eightfold Path of Buddhism and its teachings on “Respect Life.” Let me know how that works out for you! The results can be life changing and can potentially help save the planet and maybe even the human race.

In gassho,

ingassho

Shokai

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

[1] Ibid.

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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.

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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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