Tag Archives: peace

Twentieth Anniversary–9/11/2001 Remembered

It’s been twenty years since the worst terrorist attacks on the US in its history. The World Trade Center twin towers fell. The Pentagon suffered deadly harm. A similar attack on the Capitol failed only through the heroism of passengers that rushed the cabin of the plane flown by minions of Osama Bin Laden.

In the immediate aftermath of the these horrible events, political division was put on pause for eighteen months. Since then, the antipathy between Democrats and Republicans has grown. Given my own personal determinations to work on ending the cultural and political divide, I will make no further mention of it on this day.

Instead, I salute those first responders who did what they could to save lives. Many of whom, themselves, fell ill or died as a result of exposure to ash, fumes and toxic chemicals. Second and third responders, if you will, worked to rehabilitate injured survivors. Others supported the remembrance of the dead through memorials.

There are countless observances of this anniversary in person or on various media today. For myself and my family, there is only one that I can contribute. You who have been to this blog before, may have seen comments in 2008, 2011, 2014 and 2018.  All have mentioned the good fortune that protected my beloved wife from getting a well-deserved job at the Pentagon–in a section at or near the impact of the plane.

Not luck or coincidence, but her Buddhist practice, and mine, saved her life.  She really should have got the promotion. Coworkers were certain of that. It was several years later that the plane struck. The person who got the job died in the attack–as did the man who hired her. Others died as well. One, who went out on a smoke break outside the building, didn’t. Such is karma.

I watched all of the news coverage from a TV in my agency director’s office with others. He was away. Everyone at my wife’s office, a few miles away, were allowed to leave within a short time after the Pentagon event. I, 25 miles away elsewhere in Northern Virginia, could also have gone home. Most people did. After talking with her, I stayed and worked on a budget due in a couple weeks, knowing that she would be home for our teenage children let out from school.

It seems unlikely, improbable–difficult to conceive of restoring a faith in American democracy in this decade. Yet it is essential if the nation is to survive not another attack from without but one from within. On this day, I will rededicate my Buddhist practice to that end.

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Moving Forward in Trying Political Times

Even as President-Elect, Donald Trump has no hesitation in making policy pronouncements (via tweet, which his team must interpret and translate) as if he were already in the White House. Today came his tweet that the US must expand its nuclear arsenal.  In response to a question by a radio host, he added that if it’s an arms race, we’ll win.  For 40 years each American President has worked to reduce the US stockpile of weapons in conjunction with other countries. In a tweet, Trump cavalierly appears to abandon that perspective.

Eagle Peak Quarterly cover for December 2016In the December 2016 Eagle Peak Quarterly, we featured an excellent piece by retired diplomat Bob Tansey. In it, he expounded on the words of Nichiren Daishonin, 13th century Buddhist. To read the entire piece, please go here.

Nichiren states, “If you care anything about your personal security, you should first of all pray for order and tranquility throughout the four quarters of the land, should you not?”

That certainly seems like an appropriate response to Trump’s most recent unthinking outburst. Here’s a little more from Tansey’s article:

In his 1260 treatise, written in the form of a dialogue between a host and a guest, Nichiren recounts the many disasters confronting medieval Japan, such as famine, internal strife and foreign invasion. . . . He also brings up the challenge of “reforming the tenets in our hearts.” That means to examine our basic beliefs (which are mixed with emotion as well) and seek to perceive our own enlightened potential and perspective—strengths arguably much in need at this moment in our own United States of America.

Reflecting on these two key phrases from Nichiren’s rather lengthy treatise led me back to an earlier writing of his, “On Attaining Buddhahood in this Lifetime.”  From all of Shakyamuni’s teachings and all that flowed from over those two thousand years, Nichiren adopted the tradition of the Lotus Sutra. I’ve been practicing Buddhism for going on five decades but am not a Buddhist scholar. Nonetheless, I like to say that to me “On Attaining Buddhahood…” (which is notably brief) summarizes the key principles of the Lotus Sutra:

  •  The idea that everyone has the potential to reveal their inherent “Buddha Nature,” which seems to me to be a statement of ultimate equality. Nichiren Buddhism sees the Buddha nature as the inherent potential within each human being to attain Buddhahood, the state of enlightenment and the goal of Buddhist practice. It’s also the tenth or highest of the “Ten Worlds” (states or conditions of existence).

  • Interconnectedness, aka “dependent origination,” i.e. though we may believe we’re separate from others our lives and fortunes are intertwined. “On Attaining Buddhahood…” states in part, “It is called the Mystic Law because it reveals the principle of the mutually inclusive relationship of a single moment of life and all phenomena.”

  • Causality, i.e. ultimately what we think, say and do is determinative rather than external factors. Nichiren states, “Whether you chant the Buddha’s name, recite the sutra, or merely offer flowers and incense, all your virtuous acts will implant benefit and good fortune in your life.” He urged his followers to strive with this conviction, while fully cognizant that the society of his time was besieged by seemingly overwhelming negative forces. Nonetheless, he constantly emphasized the power of a single individual and of individuals working together to make a difference.

Bob spent decades around the world–China, Israel, Central America, Africa and more countries in Asia. He speaks five languages. Since retiring from the Foreign Service he has been working at high level position within the Nature Conservancy. So what is he doing to move forward? He’s working to create a community association in the multiracial neighborhood where he lives in Washington, DC.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2016 John Maberry

Daisaku Ikeda’s 2014 Peace Proposal

“A great human revolution in just a single individual will enable a change in destiny of all humankind.” Daisaku Ikeda

On January 26, 2014, Soka Gakkai International (SGI) President Daisaku Ikeda  set forth his annual peace proposalRather than attempting to go into even a synopsis of the 2014 proposal, I prefer to note that the need for an effective means to bring peace and understanding to the world continues unabated. Witness the UN report on unspeakable horrors committed by the current and former leaders of North Korea. Syria. Sudan. Countless countries in Africa, Asia, Latin and South America. Armed intervention seems justified in protecting innocent civilians, yet, how often is it successful? Should we then ignore it–feeling it does not concern us directly. No. Diplomatic solutions are often no more successful than wars. Yet they must be pursued. Unfortunately, the world’s ills did not materialize overnight and alleviating them will not happen quickly either. The hope in Buddhism is that a recognition of shared humanity, accompanied by a determination to exert oneself for good rather than evil through elevating one’s life condition will cause the change in the world which we all wish could happen.  Continue reading Daisaku Ikeda’s 2014 Peace Proposal

Iraq, Afghanistan and the American Psyche

For those whose loved ones are there now or who suffer after effects from time they spent in combat, Iraq and Afghanistan remain an immediate concern. For others, like myself, the conflicts are an abstraction. The sufferings of the soldiers and the civilians do not pain my psyche. I have to remind myself again and  again, despite regular news coverage, of the real pain that war causes. Am I alone in that respect? Continue reading Iraq, Afghanistan and the American Psyche