The war and peace within

Going home, we are afraid of touching our pain, touching the war within. Sometimes we find ourselves at war with another person. Maybe with our family, with our society, with our tradition. But we may learn that, when we are at war with someone else, it may be a war within us. And that is why we don’t want to go home.

Of course there is a war within, and around us – but there is something else. There is also peace and joy. And we should learn to go home, to touch joy and peace within and around us. This is very important because all of us need to be nourished, to be stable in order to go further to do something for the people around us.

I know many of you are very dedicated to the cause of peace, of social justice. But, at times, many of us feel lost, angry, and in despair. We are overwhelmed by the tremendous amount of suffering around us, and even inside of us. We need a source of energy, a source of peace, of joy, in order to counterbalance this. Because we know that if we do not have some amount of peace, joy, and happiness, we cannot continue.

The practice of arriving helps us to touch the peace and inner joy within, in order to be nourished.

And that practice helps us to generate the energy of mindfulness that will help us to touch the war within and around us – because touching the war without strength, without the energy of mindfulness, may be dangerous. We’ll be overwhelmed by it, we’ll be shut out by it.

Therefore, before we learn to touch the war within and around us, we should cultivate the energy of mindfulness. And that kind of cultivation could be realized when we learn to go home and touch the peace and the joy within us.

In the Buddhist tradition, we talk about our consciousness in terms of seeds, in terms of bījās. Bījā means seed.

We have seeds of peace, of joy, of happiness; we have seeds of war, of anger, of despair, of hatred in us. There are seeds of peace and joy and loving kindness in us that need to be touched. We should learn to touch them by ourselves, and we should lead our friends to come and help touching them. This is the practice.

I always encourage my friends to begin the practice by touching peace, touching the positive seeds within us, and touching the positive seeds within the other person. It’s pleasant. It helps nourish each other. And we know that the deepest kind of touching is with the energy of mindfulness.

In Buddhist meditation, generating the energy of mindfulness to touch peace is crucial. We are encouraged not to touch the war first. We are encouraged not to touch the pain, the despair, the suffering first. And touching peace we can do as individuals, we can do as a community, we can do as a nation. And it is pleasant.

I may like to touch my eyes with the energy of mindfulness. I have the energy of mindfulness which is generated by the practice of mindful breathing.

Breathing in, I know I’m breathing in. Breathing out, I know I’m breathing out.

That is the practice of touching your breath. And that practice is called mindfulness of breathing. Now I use that energy of mindfulness to touch my eyes.

Breathing in, I’m aware of my eyes. Breathing out, I smile to my eyes.

When I touch my eyes with the energy of mindfulness like that, I find out that my eyes are still in good condition. If I touch my eyes deeply, I realize that having eyes in good condition is a wonderful thing. Without my eyes, without the ability to look and see things, I will suffer very much.

You only need to open your eyes and look, and you see many wonders of life around us. The blue sky, the beautiful sunset; the face, the eyes, the smile of your beloved ones. You touch these things, these people with mindfulness, and you realize that to be alive, to be able to look at them deeply, is happiness.

Happiness is something simple. When you have mindfulness, you are nourished by that kind of touch. When you touch your eyes with mindfulness, you know that your eyes are a condition of peace and happiness and joy for you. You know peace is there to some extent.

When you notice that there are trees dying, you know that it is a negative thing. Touching these things, you suffer. But when you touch beautiful trees that are still alive and healthy, you realize how wonderful it is to still have them around us. When you touch these beautiful trees, you are nourished. And you vow to do whatever you can to protect them, to keep them alive. So touching peace is to give peace a chance.

Let us practice this exercise of touching our hearts together. 

Breathing in, I’m aware of my heart. Breathing out, I smile to my heart.

When I touch my heart deeply like that, I know that my heart is there. And it is good news. My heart is a condition of peace and well-being and joy for me. But if I don’t touch it, I may cause harm to my heart and I won’t get happy.

My heart has been working hard day and night to keep me alive, to give me well-being, to pump blood to irrigate every cell in my body. And when I touch it deeply like that, I feel thankful to my heart.

My heart is a living thing, and when I touch it with my mindfulness, my loving kindness, my heart will feel it. It feels very comforted by my touch. And if we touched our hearts deeply like that, we would know what to do and what not to do to support them. We know what to eat, what not to eat, what to drink and what not to drink in our daily life, in order to support our heart.

We find out that smoking is not a very friendly act directed to our heart. We know that drinking alcohol is not a friendly act directed to our heart. And if we continue touching like that, we stop smoking, drinking alcohol, and we protect the peace, the well-being, and the joy within us. 

We may spend a lot of time thinking of other things, but we do not have enough opportunity to go back and touch the conditions of peace and well-being inside.

We live in forgetfulness. Forgetfulness is the opposite of mindfulness. We live our daily life in such a way that we destroy the peace, the stability, the joy in our body. We bring elements of war into our body. 

Mindfulness is the capacity to be aware of what is happening in the present moment. If we eat mindfully, if we drink mindfully, if we do things mindfully, we are under the light of mindfulness.

We know what to do in order to bring the elements of peace and joy to our body and to our feelings. We know what not to ingest in order to prevent toxins and poisons from entering our body and our consciousness.

And it is possible to practice that together: ‘If you love me, please help me to be mindful. And please help to touch the positive, healing, and refreshing elements within me. Touch my seed of peace, my seed of joy. Touch the seed of loving kindness in me. Touch the seed of happiness in me. Please do not touch the seed of anger in me. Please do not touch the seed of despair and violence in me. I will suffer, and you will suffer too. So we may like to practice together.’

Sometimes we suffer a little bit too much, and we blame the other person as the cause of our suffering. Our partner, our son, our daughter, our parents, we blame them. We consider them the cause of our suffering.

In fact, they suffer like us too. And our enemy is not the other person. Our enemy is the seed of despair, anger, frustration, fear in every one of us.

‘You are not my enemy. I want you to practice with me in order to help transform the seeds of suffering in me and in you, because we all suffer the same thing.’

So if partners suffer, we should try not to look at the other person as the cause of our suffering: ‘We should bring together our intelligence, our talent, our mindfulness in order to work for the transformation of the negative things in both of us. The tension that exists between us prevents us from helping each other. Since we know that we are victims of the same kind of suffering, why don’t we come together?’

And my idea of practice is that when we come together, we practice touching positive things first. We practice looking deeply in order to see the seed of peace, joy, talent, and happiness in ourselves and in the other person. We recognize each other’s values, because everyone has his or her own talents and strengths and positive values. Everyone has jewels within himself or herself. Looking deeply into the other person in order to recognize these jewels, telling him or her, and appreciating these values is a very wonderful practice.


[This transcript was edited for readability.] 

Watch the short teaching here:

➛ You may also like to read this blog post on transforming despair into compassion and peace.


☁️ As has been the case with Buddhist teachings for millennia, there is no charge for the Plum Village App and its digital content. However, if your means allow, please consider offering a donation to support our small team’s continued work on the App. As has been the case with Buddhist teachings for millennia, there is no charge for the Plum Village App and its digital content. However, if your means allow, please consider offering a donation to support our small team’s continued work on the App.

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