Reflections on War and Transformation

Yesterday we had a peace walk ceremony at the pagoda.
It was a chance for people to come together and share stories from the walk. A few walkers came from around the area, one couple drove up from Delaware, and many supporters from the community came to share in the experience.

After prayers Sister Clare read an excerpt from a story about Nichiren that I have been thinking about.

In the mornings Saint Nichiren would pray and chant the Lotus Sutra. Small monkeys who were curious would come visit and play.

One night a group of men planned to set Nichiren’s house on fire and beat him to death when he came out.
In the night a small monkey awoke Nichiren and pulled on his hand. Nichiren followed the monkey outside and high into a tree. When the men came they burned down the house but could not find Nichiren. Now in this place there is a temple.

I do not remember too much of the exact wording from the excerpt but the practice and thought that stayed with me were the idea of transformation.

I think about this “Walk for a New Spring” which walks from the dead of Winter into the beginning of Spring. It is a harsh time to spend outside, the coldest time of the year. The reason the walk happens during this time is because this is a season of transition and transformation. When giving an introduction to the walk, it is usually said, “this is a time when the earth is thawing. We are moving from the ice and cold into the blooming of spring, this is also a time when people’s hearts are more open.”

I recently began reading “The Journey of Crazy Horse” and am reading stories of strength, courage, and honesty through times of terrorism and war.

One story is the story of Conquering Bear and Gratton.

One day the old cow of a Mormon ran away from a settlers outpost and into a Lakota camp. A young man saw this fresh meat and killed the cow, sharing the food among his family and community.

The owner of the cow was furious and Lieutenant Gratton demanded that those responsible for the killing of the cow be relinquished into the soldiers custody. Conquering Bear (who the settlers had appointed as speaker for the Lakota) approached Gratton and the owner of the cow with apologies and a healthy horse as a gift.
This gift was refused. The men were angry and wanted revenge.

In a crazy act of vengeance one year later Gratton and a group of soldiers rode into camp and shot Conquering Bear in the chest.
The Lakota men then killed Gratton and his soldiers.

I have been reflecting on painful memories in my life, and on the mindset of people who cause other people pain intentionally. Soldiers, aggressors, and people in my own life.

For a long time I held a lot of rage in my heart when I thought about these people.
I wanted revenge. I wanted to cause them physical pain, to break their most prized belongings, to find some way to make them feel the loss and pain I was feeling. No matter what I do to these people I know I will not get any kind of satisfaction from these actions. I will not get satisfaction from their pain.

If I become the kind of person who does get satisfaction from the pain of others, I have become the same as them.

I have to learn to transform my own emotions into something that is useful.
Rage and revenge are not useful and only end in more people getting hurt.

On the walk we are struggling to learn how to transform fear and war and violence and greed – external and internal – into something else. It is not nearly as simple as calling for an end to nuclear power because nuclear power did not just appear in the universe. Nuclear power came about from a mindset of greed and a desire for power and from a place where causing pain to others was not only acceptable, but satisfying.

How do you transform the pain of war into peace?

Just as a wound cannot begin to heal if it is constantly being reopened, people cannot begin to work towards peace while they are still experiencing war.

For healing to begin the wound must first be allowed to heal.
There must first be some resolution.

It is unrealistic to expect people to change when aggressors and conditions do not change.
It is unrealistic to hold people to higher standards than we hold ourselves.
We must find a way to transform ourselves and find a way to change these conditions.
Then we must work towards peace.

I want to just remember that on this day 32 years ago, organizer, leader, and political prisoner Bobby Sands died after 66 days on hunger strike in Long Kesh prison protesting the colonization of Ireland and the British Governments’ treatment of Irish citizens in their own country. Peace and gratitude to our leaders who were willing to sacrifice everything for justice and change.
May 5, 2013


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