Last night I was part of an event called "Community Voices for Peace" at the First Unitarian Church in Worcester, co-sponsored by the Islamic Society of Worcester and The Center for Nonviolent Solutions. Here's a version of what I said:
I recently received a card from a friend with a poem by the Utah poet Jody Richards:
In a torn world,
may we know new hope
and be transformed –
winter into spring,
hurt into whole,
strife into peace.
As a Zen Buddhist teacher and priest, my vow is to save all beings from suffering. We say in Zen that the world is full of suffering, and that suffering comes in all shapes and sizes, and it’s unavoidable. And we also say that human beings are naturally prone to what we call the three poisons: anger and ill-will, greed and delusive certainty. That’s the bad news.
The good news is that human beings are capable of great love, wisdom and balance. And we can realize these wonderful qualities through the practice of opening and embracing what is difficult – as Jody Richards says, we can transform hurt into whole, strife into peace – and that this is as natural as winter turning into spring.
The key to this process of transformation is acceptance and connection. We can embrace our fear, anger and sadness, and then watch how the simple act of being willing to allow ourselves to have these feelings allows them to change on their own – and shows us a path of action that comes from love, wisdom and balance rather than anger, greed and delusion.
I continue to be encouraged, even in these difficult times, by an experience I had while driving into Boston many years ago, when there were tolls on the Mass Turnpike. This is real news, not fake – I actually experienced it myself! I drove through the toll that would take me to route 128, and encountered a complete standstill. Hundreds of cars stuck, unable to move – classic gridlock, with honking and swearing and frustration. I was headed in to teach a meditation class, and I figured that I could try living what I taught. I turned off the car, and began to meditate. At one point I looked up, and saw someone watching me. We smiled at each other, and then started laughing. Someone in another car saw us and started laughing too. And so it went, from one car to another, until everyone around was laughing – so hard that tears were pouring from our eyes. And then, the miracle of transformation happened – one person waved to another to let a car go by, and then another and another. In just a few moments, we were all headed where we wanted to go.
Don’t turn away from people you don’t agree with – people who seem greedy, angry and deluded. Stay present with what is true for you, and then look around. Make connections. Find a way, even in this time of great darkness, to stay connected with yourself and with others, and then, with all of your being, work actively and positively for peace and justice.