The Gospel from Viet Nam

The kingdom of God is available to you in the here and the now. But the question is whether you are available to the kingdom. Our practice is to make ourselves ready for the kingdom so that it can manifest in the here and the now. You don’t need to die in order to enter the kingdom of heaven. In fact, you have to be truly alive in order to do so.

Anyone can practice some nonviolence, even soldiers. Some army generals, for example, conduct their operations in ways that avoid killing innocent people; this is a kind of nonviolence. To help soldiers move in the nonviolent direction, we have to be in touch with them. If we divide reality into two camps – the violent and the nonviolent – and stand in one camp while attacking the other, the world will never have peace. We will always blame and condemn those we feel are responsible for wars and social injustice, without recognizing the degree of violence in ourselves. We must work on ourselves and also with those we condemn if we want to have a real impact.

It never helps to draw a line and dismiss some people as enemies, even those who act violently. We have to approach them with love in our hearts and do our best to help them move in a direction of nonviolence. If we work for peace out of anger, we will never succeed. Peace is not an end. It can never come about through non-peaceful means.

When you plant lettuce, if it does not grow well, you
don’t blame the lettuce. You look for reasons it is not
doing well. It may need fertilizer, or more water, or
less sun. You never blame the lettuce. Yet if we have
problems with our friends or family, we blame the other
person. But if we know how to take care of them, they will
grow well, like the lettuce. Blaming has no positive
effect at all, nor does trying to persuade using reason
and argument. That is my experience. No blame, no
reasoning, no argument, just understanding. If you
understand, and you show that you understand, you can
love, and the situation will change

The problem is whether we are determined to go in the direction of compassion or not. If we are, then can we reduce the suffering to a minimum? If I lose my direction, I have to look for the North Star, and I go to the north. That does not mean I expect to arrive at the North Star. I just want to go in that direction.

Thich Nhat Hanh


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  1. #1 by logioetc. on October 27, 2009 - 7:11 pm

    Ah, so you do see things my way.

    Was I against the war? Mixed feelings–I guess I really don’t see the necessity, except to try and fix botched U. S. policies–although I think we could have just stayed out. However, we were under the Truman Doctrine, so we intentionally fought these stalemate wars to hold off communism.

    Do I understand the article? Maybe if I read it more closely.

    Sounds like circular reasoning–Redemptive violence is used to promote non-violence.

    I’m a numskull? Which of us still works for NCIA?

    Seriously, folks, I remember Vietnam, or as LBJ said, Vie-et-nam. I remember the casualty reports on like the Huntley-Brinkley Report, and I remember the end of the war (one of our neighbors worked for RAND, and his son and I would discuss this on our way to school).

    Anyway, it was all sort of abstract until Vietnamese started showing up in Orange County, CA–the community college I went to has a large Vietnamese population,
    and parts of Orange County are called “Little Saigon.” I believe we owed these people opportunity because we destroyed their country.

    Double anyway, I admire Vietnamese people because they came here and took the opportunities to do well–and they don’t whine about how America has hurt them, the rejoice in what this country has given them–even at the price they paid.

    • #2 by Christian Beyer on October 27, 2009 - 8:32 pm

      Cool. But it’s still not about the subject at hand, which is really not about non=violence per se, but about how understanding is the root of love and the root of peace. We can talk all we want about ‘loving our enemies’ or ‘loving the sinner’ but it’s all nonsense unless we try to understand them.

  2. #3 by ambrosia on October 27, 2009 - 10:47 pm

    Ah! Empathy helps–but let’s be real. Jesus was probably talking about loving Roman soldiers–but why can’t we folks just get along?

    I mean, look at we Europeans. Our history has been war, after war, after war–and I believe a major war is coming over energy supplies–which could be avoided if these synthetic concerns over global warming, etc., would stop, and resources such as Alaskan oil were developed.

    Look for Russia to try and acquire Alaskan oil rights. Just watch.

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