What I Would Say to Osama bin Laden
Zen monk Thich Nhat Hanh talks about how listening is the first step towards peace.
Interview by Anne A. Simpkinson
Is it realistic to think people can feel true compassion now?
Without understanding, compassion is impossible. When you understand the suffering of others, you do not have to force yourself to feel compassion, the door of your heart will just naturally open. All of the hijackers were so young and yet they sacrificed their lives for what?
Why did they do that? What kind of deep suffering is there? It will require deep listening and deep looking to understand that. To have compassion in this situation is to perform a great act of forgiveness. We can first embrace the suffering, both outside of America and within America. We need to look after the victims here within our country and also to have compassion for the hijackers and their families because they are also victims of ignorance and hatred. In this way we can truly practice non-discrimination. We do not need to wait many years or decades to
realize reconciliation and forgiveness. We need a wake up call now in order not to allow hatred to overwhelm our hearts.
Do you believe things happen for a reason?
If so, what was the reason for the attacks on the U.S.A.?
The deep reason for our current situation is our patterns of consumption. U.S.A. citizens consume 60% of the world’s energy resources yet they account for only 6% of the total world’s population. Children in America have witnessed 100,000 acts of violence on television by the time
they finish elementary school. Another reason for our current situation is our foreign policy and the lack of deep listening within our relationships. We do not use deep listening to understand the suffering and the real needs of people in other nations.
What do you think would be the most effective spiritual response to this tragedy?
We can begin right now to practice calming our anger, looking deeply at the roots of the hatred and violence in our society and in our world, and listening with compassion in order to hear and understand what we have not yet had the capacity to hear and to understand. When the drop of compassion begins to form in our hearts and minds, we begin to develop concrete responses to our situation. When we have listened and looked deeply, we may begin to develop the energy of brotherhood and sisterhood between all nations, which is the deepest spiritual heritage of all religious and cultural traditions. In this way the peace and understanding within the whole world is increased day by day. To develop the drop of compassion in our own heart is the only effective spiritual response to hatred and violence. That drop of compassion will be the result of calming our anger, looking deeply at the roots of our violence, deep listening, and understanding the suffering of everyone involved in the acts of hatred and violence.