Written by Ava (Phuong-Thao) Nguyen
Dharma Name: Quang Thanh
* Written in reference to materials presented in lecture by Dr. James Manseau Sauceda, professor at California State University, Long Beach
With the Jade Buddha now touring the world, many communities are now taking the time to reflect upon peace. However, such reflection requires us to systematically think about what peace means to each of us individually. How can we attain peace? Where can we find it? What are the steps to peace? The largest obstacle to peace is suffering - in particular the acknowledgement of suffering.
The Buddha called for disciples to be of service to revealing the amount of suffering that not only they are subject to, but that all people are subject to. At times, we are not given the true level of suffering in the world. For example, many people are not aware of the alarming amount of violence in cities like Los Angeles, where gang activity has taken the lives of 10,000 youth in the last few years. There are 90 active gangs in the city of Long Beach alone. Long Beach is also the 4th highest in poverty in the state. Did we, as a community, know this? When we ourselves are unaware and in denial of the suffering around us, there is no possible way to attain peace. Below is an excerpt from the Buddha's teachings about the progression to peace, called his "Chain of Conditions."
Buddha’s Chain of Conditions: Heading Us Towards Peace
In nurturing our own ability to see suffering as it really is, we nurture the abandoning of denial -
In nurturing the abandoning of denial, we nurture the opening of positive intervention -
In nurturing the opening of positive interventions, we nurture our own empowerment-
In nurturing our own empowerment, we nurture effective action plans for change -
In nurturing effective action plans for change, we become freed from our sorrow, lamentation, pain, and despair.
The first element deals with nurturing our own ability to see suffering in others. This is the first and most crucial step to peace. We have to be able to see that our opponents are suffering as well. Once we are able to see that, we can look inwards and see that we share the same suffering. We become less dogmatic and are free to open our hearts to others, even those we once called our enemies. Many times, we see only our own suffering, which leads us to become angry and our hearts become cemented. We must nurture our ability to see the suffering of every human being.
In the second element, the key to intervention is that it must be positive. Simply trying to stop a problem at its roots is not positive - followingits roots and understanding its growth is positive. In this way, you come to understand the sourceof another person's suffering.
The third and fourth elements are about the process of nurturing positive action. We have to take right action that pinpoints the source of the suffering of all parties. In this way, we are led to the final element, where our actions free us from our sufferings.
Just as The Buddha spoke of a Chain of Conditions leading to Peace, he also spoke of conditions that can lead to violence. Below is an excerpt.
Buddha’s Chain of Conditions: Leading To Violence
In nurturing denial, we nurture resentment -
In nurturing resentment, we nurture anger -
In nurturing anger, we nurture violence -
In nurturing violence, we nurture suffering -
In nurturing suffering, we are not freed from our sorrow, lamentation, pain, and despair.
Like the elements of the chain of conditions leading towards peace, these chains of conditions issue a domino effect, one leading inevitably to the other. The first step, nurturing denial, stems from our own unwillingness to see that others are suffering in addition to ourselves. That step is the hardest to take, yet the most crucial.