How to Stop A War
This Holiday Season is particularly important to all of us. How can we in the wake of our present worsening conflicts find inner spiritual light, not just the external decorative kind?

It is only natural at these times to see the world in negative terms. In fact many people become addicted to the negative as a kind of ‘organizer’ of their experiences. The Four Noble Truths, however, move us away from the negative and into another experience. There are many wonderful events going on in daily life that are never reported in the news. I saw a lady the other day fall out of her wheelchair on Henderson Highway. The traffic stopped and waited until her relatives got her back in the chair and to the other side of the street. Every car waited patiently through two light changes. No one even honked! A Miracle on Henderson!

When we become addicted to the negatives we miss the miracles. Shinran stated that even though the clouds of evil may overcast the landscape, the light of shinjin illuminates our lives. His teachings break the hold of the negative on our thinking. It reorganizes our life experiences around positive forces. Other modern people are addicted to boredom as a kind of organizer of experience. Boredom is a self-defence mechanism that allows us a way to feel superior to events without taking any responsibility.

In the Tannisho, Yuienbo comes to Shinran and expresses his disinterest in spiritual salvation. (The word boredom wasn’t in use then.) Shinran comforted Yuienbo by saying that he, too, faced the same problem! This was a shocking statement coming from such one as Shinran. We must remember that he later said that his teaching of the nembutsu was the practice of no practice, the religion of no religion, the mind of no mind. Spiritual boredom is a trick we are playing on ourselves reaching for a refuge ‘above’ the problems we find too difficult to solve on our own. And that’s precisely the point. We can’t resolve the problem of life on our own. Shinran revealed that the door to enlightenment, or spiritual salvation, opens inwards. Our boredom is all the proof we need that we should indeed take refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha! The nembutsu breaks the gridlock of taking refuge in boredom.

Finally, many modern people are drawn to violence as an organizing principle in their lives. Much of our media is now devoted to the glorification of battle. Is the old adage that the first casualty of war is Truth really true? How many secretly believe Mao right when he says that Truth comes out of the end of a machine gun barrel?

In the Tannisho, Shinran describes the world as one in which the boundaries of good and evil are hopelessly fluid. “Only the nembutsu is true and real,” he says. He means that when we give up attachment to our false egos and open our hearts to the force of infinite life and light, we enter the gateway to the world of liberation and awakening. Truth is NOT the first casualty of war. The first casualty is our delusion that we owned it in the first place. Truth does not come out of the end of a machine gun barrel. Weapons created by minds full of the Three Poisons of ignorance, hatred and greed will never be able to prove what is right. Thus we also need to break the gridlock of violence as a life orientation. Violence only forces us to accept and mouth what others want to see on the surface of things.

Truth provides us with a real inner about face. Any truth emerging from violence must be written small. Breaking free from the gridlock of violence is hinted at in the statement: “Reciting the nembutsu I stopped the war.” I hope you will take time to reflect on this riddle. Perhaps we can indeed break away from negativity, boredom and violence to see the Light during these troubled Holy Days.

Sensei Ulrich

December 6, 2001