Monday, September 9, 2013

Who Is Right?

--> War does not determine who is right - only who is left. - Bertrand Russell

There’s a true story about soldiers fighting in the rice fields in Vietnam that illustrates how our perception can be changed by emotional responses to other people and their actions.

American soldiers were on one side of the rice fields and the Viet Cong were on the other, both shooting at each other continuously. Suddenly, out of the blue, a small group of Buddhist monks came walking quietly along a low wall in the midst of the rice-fields, right in the firing line. Slowly and purposefully they walked, one after the other, not looking left or right, as if it was a perfectly normal thing to do. And guess what? Abruptly, all shooting stopped. Soldiers on both sides were so taken aback (and, I would think humbled) by the unexpected sight, that something in their brains shifted and they stopped firing at each other. Once the monks were gone, the shift in their brains stayed that way and one by one they all went back to their respective camps. There was no more shooting that day.

With the focus on war and hostility ever present in most living rooms, coming at us on whatever screen we have switched on - never mind the violence that is perpetrated as a result - I wonder if we will ever have a society without war and violence? I wonder what it would take to permanently shift our brains to a state of peace without force, of purpose without aggression, of care without imposition, of justice without vengeance?

Big, heavy questions – probably not going to be answered any time soon! But if we apply them to ourselves, our homes, workplaces, children and relationships, they suddenly become a little more manageable, don’t you find?
(And Bertrand Russel's quote can be applied to any conflict too!)