Thich Nhat Hanh, Love in Action: Writings on Nonviolent Social Change
Immediately before I read this book by Nhat Hanh, I read David Grossman on the advances in psychology to get us to kill, to overcome our disposition NOT to kill; then I read Bao Ninh’s novel about the sorrow of war, and how many people were done in by the bombing, the rape, the destruction. Herein, Nhat Hanh looks at the same worlds as these authors and offers his Buddhist, non-dualistic, interbeing approach to solving social problems.
The best chapter of the book is the play, “The Path of Return Continues the Journey.” How I’d like Magan Wiles to direct this play, with all an Vietnamese cast, a fund-raiser for Plum Village’s Love and Understanding project. Reread this play, which will take an hour. Think about it, and recognize how deeply it makes me feel.
There are also several chapters from the 60s and 70s which deal directly with the war in Vietnam, some of his poetry, and the Buddhist path to peace: “Love in Action,” “A Proposal for Peace,” “Our Green Garden,” “The Ancient Tree” (written for Nhat Chi Mai), “Call Me by My True Names,” “If You Want Peace, Peace is with You Immediately,” while “The Way Ahead for Buddhism in Vietnam” deals with the need for guaranteeing the right to religious freedom and “To Veterans” examines how veterans can be a constructive force for peace.
A few passages and notes from my rereading this book after fifteen years …
Tho: I see, Sister Mai! You are saying that I am present in her now, too, and in all who love me in the world of the living. That is why I am still there, and still able to provoke this chain reaction.
Mai: That’s right. But you are not only present within them, you are present outside them as well. All you have said and done has already begun its journey. You are present everywhere. 27
Mai: Using hatred to fight hatred is the surest way to create even more hatred. 34
Criticism: During the superpower confrontation in Vietnam, while thousand and thousands of peasants and children lost their lives, our land was unmercifully ravaged. [China and Russia did not ravage the land; the U.S. did]
No one ever wins a war. The Vietnamese did not win the war. Millions of people in Vietnam are still suffering, and the country has been destroyed. Vietnam did not win anything. We cannot call it a victory. 94
Send to Clara: A student asked me, “Thay, there are so many urgent problems, what should I do?” I said, “Take one thing and do it very deeply and carefully, and you will be doing everything at the same time.” < Diamond Sutra: “Innumerable spheres enter one sphere. One sphere enters innumerable spheres.”]