No Enemies

Excerpted from Thich Nhat Hanh's Together We Are One

When I ask, "Have you found your true home?" you might respond, "Not yet, Thay." But with this teaching and practice, we can find our true home. The teaching of the Buddha is the teaching of residing in joy, taking refuge in the joy and happiness of the present moment. If we know how to return to the present moment and generate the energy of mindfulness, concentration, and insight, then we will be able to get in touch with the wonders of life. We will have happiness and joy immediately. Because we have insight, we no longer discriminate and divide, we are no longer narrow-minded.

We sometimes believe, "Until this person or that institution changes, I can't be happy." We may make a particular person or group of people into our enemy, we think they are the obstacle to our happiness. But our suffering comes from our own ignorance and lack of understanding, not from other people. When we understand this, we can open our arms to embrace all peoples, all species, and we have not enemies. To have no enemies is such a wonderful thing. When we have no enemies, no reproach, and no blaming, our mind is light as a cloud, and our happiness is vast, immense. We do not look at those who hurt us as our enemies, but as people who need understanding and compassion. When we are able to look in this way, we can call ourselves the children of the Buddha, disciples of the Buddha, and no one is our enemy.

We can all practice like this to find our true home, so that we do not judge, criticize, accuse, or blame others for creating our suffering. This is the way a bodhisattva perceives, and we can all be bodhisattvas. To practice as children of the Buddha, we have to have the eyes of the Buddha, the eyes of compassion. If we use the eyes of compassion to look at the world, we can see that even those who oppress the exploit others, those who instill terror, or those who cause us harm, can be our beloved ones. None of them are our enemies.

Before I internalized this passage, I found my energies waning as I worked into the night or woke early in the morning to carry out the many tasks I had collected on my way to solving the problems of the world I could find to reverse. Motivated by pain, by judging others as bullies and barriers to the success of our most vulnerable children and communities, I was swimming in the ocean of blame and purpose. My purpose was to swim against the tides, and to pick myself back up when I washed upon the shore, reach down and pick up the starfish washed up next to me, gently tossing them back into the water before I jumped back in myself. This is an exhausting life, to stake my happiness and my purpose on changing institutions, on changing others.

I find this practice goes against everything that I know to be true about who I have been, the conscious warrior identity I cloaked myself in for the past 25 years, but I’m ready to take off the battle armor and put down my fighting weapons. I want to walk in peace. I want to breath with ease. I want to invite joy into every moment that I have the pleasure to breath. I want to forgive the world its suffering and see myself as fully worthy of my own self-compassion. I am curious about this journey Thich Nhat Hanh speaks of, this journey toward one’s true home.

with grace


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