What do we do with our fear and anger and frustration? We do absolutely nothing with it. To do something with it would run the risk of adding to the fear and rage that are already in the world. Terror, fear, anxiety, worry, desire for retaliation—the “full catastrophe” of internal turmoil has to be treated as a completely false, distorted, and absolutely unhelpful mind state, an unhealthy and useless way of relating to life. We’ve got to reflect on that again and again so that the simple truth of it enters the place inside where all the reactivity is coming from. From a dharma viewpoint, there is absolutely no justification for sustaining fear and hate.
Essentially, the Buddha points to the utter emptiness of fear and hate as ways of perceiving true reality. When we begin to grasp the futility of maintaining those troublesome mind states, there is the possibility of another way of seeing. This requires great vigilance with regard not only to our thoughts and our mind states but also to what comes out of our mouths and what goes into our emails and letters, so that we can unmask anything that condones or reifies fear and hate.
In both the dharma scene and the peace activist scene, I get concerned when we end up swimming around in cyberspace, deceiving ourselves that all those emails make a difference to what’s happening on the ground. If we devote our time to practical steps on the ground, we’ll be more effective.
I’m not in the tradition of sitting on one’s butt and sending out lovingkindness. I have more confidence in life on the street as a useful vehicle, so I’m very keen on yatras—silent walks—as a nonviolent way to encourage peace and reconciliation. Yatra, in Pali, literally means “journey.” In that sense, life is a yatra. In its classical Buddhist form, a yatra is a pilgrimage—the sangha engaged in walking. For centuries, monks and nuns have followed this practice: silent walking in the day, dharma teachings and discussion in the evening. The Dharma Network in Europe adopted that basic model.
We started with a two-hundred-mile walk in France in the summer of 2001. Then the sangha in Israel, led by dharma teacher Dr. Stephen Fulder, organized a walk from Jaffa—an Arab town—to Jerusalem during Passover/Easter Week in 2002. That led to yatras through the Arab villages of western Galilee and the West Bank. We’ve had rural yatras, and city yatras in Washington, DC; Nuremberg, Germany; Tel Aviv, Jerusalem. There’s one in London on the first Sunday of every month.
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