February 15, 2004: A Day of Reckoning on Retreat

As rallies and demonstrations blossom around the world, I am leading a meditation retreat in rural Washington state. I accepted this invitation many months ago, but do not regret that it keeps me from attending peace rallies this weekend. I hope that it too is a kind of peace rally. I am pondering how to involve it in the larger, more specific movement to stop the escalating war against Iraq, while it fulfills its long-term nurturing of inner peace seeds.

Of course, we will spend some time each day in Metta meditation, adapting this ancient practice to the circumstances of our modern animosities, conflicts, and violence. Loving kindness motivates non-war and non-violence.

More deeply, however, we will strive to see the connections between what we find in our own hearts and what we know to be going on in the world around us. For example, the media is filled with partial truths, distorted facts, outright lies, and occasional sincerity — quite a mixed bag. If we are honest, we will admit to finding pretty much the same confusion in our own minds. Connecting the dots, we may realize that our failure to sort out the inner confusion helps to perpetuate the outer, social confusion and violence. Similar connections are to be found concerning consumerism, seduction by convenience, and petro-greed, as well as irritations, angers, and hatreds. Mindfulness with the breathing can fosters such dot connecting, for the breathing connects our lives with the larger breathing planet we depend upon.

Buddhist practice takes note of these patterns in order to stop their perpetual rebirthing. Recognizing the suffering inherent in them, empowers our motivation to do something about the harmful habits. Just as our experiences connect the inner realities with those surrounding us, our responses to suffering require connection between the personal and the collective. Thus, a retreat like this ought to strengthen our commitment to live and work, to practice, as a way that does no harm and compassionately serves the true benefit of others.

War is destructive, serving greed, hatred, and delusion much more than virtue. We practice for the sake of Nibbana, the end of greed, hatred, and delusion. Dhamma practice means not practicing war. Thus, we dedicate ourselves to the cessation of war, of violence, of greed, hatred, and delusion. To this end I dedicate this retreat.

Santikaro Bhikkhu

February 2003