Breaking the Pattern

Zarko Andricevic, a Croatian Buddhist living in Zagreb, applies the Buddha’s teachings to a legacy of war.

In a conflict as complex as the one in the Balkans, how has your Buddhist practice helped you to avoid being swept up in a popular call to war? It is interesting to observe how calls to war follow a similar pattern: first, there is a minor conflict or incident; then, claims of a great threat to general security; this is followed by fear, polarization, and hatred; and finally, violence or war. This pattern unfolds through state institutions, media, and other forms of public opinion making, and it represents a string of conditioned events that will, if left unchecked, thoroughly shape our feelings and views.

It is a powerful and efficient pattern, often not easily noticed. This was especially so in the complex conflict that took place in former Yugoslavia, which played itself out simultaneously in the political, national, cultural, religious, and economic arenas, and was exacerbated by the tightly interwoven histories of the conflicting parties.

During the war, I found it necessary to apply one of the first things one learns in Ch’an Buddhist practice: nonreactivity to external events, as well as to the inner distractions of body, feelings, and thoughts. Training in nonattachment to such external and internal phenomena is necessary if we are to develop a clear and stable mind. With it, we can see and understand the conditioned nature of conflict. That clear seeing, with the application of moral guidelines, makes it possible to resist the call to war.

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