May 08, 2003

Walking for Peace (Part II)

Yesterday I talked about how I got involved with the peace walk. I thought I'd add to that post with some reflections about my experiences on the walk.

The folks from the peace pagoda chant and drum while they walk. They say their walk is a prayer for peace. As a buddhist, prayer isn't something I normally relate to, but I do understand chanting and walking meditation. Zen teaches that any activity can be meditation, it really depends on the quality of mind while performing the activity. So I had no problem with joining in with the chanting, once I figured out the rythm and the words of the chant. And when I did so, the walk shifted for me. I understood that my walking and chanting was a prayer for peace. Not that I was praying to anybody. But that this prayer was a way for me to keep my heart open while on the walk. Every evening we would gather together along with anyone who was interested in joining us from the community. There was a lot of suffering that became apparent to me that week. My concern for the innocent Iraqis that would become collatoral damage during a war. Family and friends of US military concerned about their loved ones during a war. People who's hearts were so full of anger that they would honk, yell or swear at people walking and praying for peace. For me, the chanting, drumming and walking, ie. the praying, allowed me to keep my heart more open that it would have otherwise been, so that I was able to keep my equinimity even in the face of this suffering. I was able to see the suffering around me, and respond without attacking others, but by trying to connect to them, no matter what their views were.

In Zen, part of the practice is to let go of our opinions. When asked why our Zen Center wasn't protesting the war, one of the teachers said that the correct view about the war is to have no view. Whenever we are for or against the war, that means we're taking sides. And once we take sides, we've created us and them. That is the cause of war. So the true way to peace is to let go of our opinions. It's a difficult teaching to absorb intellectually, but it was one I had a taste of during the walk. Only Na Mu Myo Ho Ren Ge Kyo. Keeping the chant in my mind didn't allow me to take sides, and helped me keep open to the views and feelings of those around me. For me, this was one of the wonderful gifts of joining the walk.

Posted by BuddhaBoy at May 8, 2003 05:14 PM