The Good News Has Not Been Realised

On April 4, 2000, the police of Hue and Quang Tri in Vietnam confiscated copies of Manifesto 2000 from Tu Hieu temple, blocking distribution of the Manifesto to the general public. Prime Minister Phan Van Khai and Minister of Foreign Affair Nguyen Dy Nien had signed Manifesto 2000 themselves, and had said that they would do everything possible to inform the Vietnamese about the Manifesto and to ask them to sign. Is there a contradiction between the foreign policy and internal policy in Vietnam. Manifesto 2000 is not a political instrument.

Manifesto 2000 is neither a petition nor a demand. It is a deep vow, a promise to oneself to act and live in such a way that peace, joy, and happiness can exist in our daily lives and be possible for future generations. The Manifesto invites our families and all levels of society to live in peace and non-violence. To promote the distribution and the practice of the principles of Manifesto 2000 can help us recognize and transform our violent ways toward ourselves and others. The Manifesto is not a political instrument. To sign it is to commit ourselves to build a culture of peace and non-violence for the world.

Many figures from around the world, including heads of state, have signed Manifesto 2000. The Prime Minister of Vietnam, Phan Van Khai, is among the first to have signed. Mr. Nguyen Dy Nien, the current Minister of Foreign Affairs of Vietnam has also signed. This is wonderful news for all Vietnamese people. If the heads of state including the Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs are committed to practicing these principles of peace and non-violence with their families and society, then Vietnam indeed has a bright future. We should laud and support this commitment by signing the Manifesto ourselves, and we should search for ways to apply the Manifesto’s six points to our daily lives. If our government, the National Assembly, and the Vietnamese people begin to study and put the Manifesto into action, we are certain that within months, the entire nation can begin to reap the benefits of happiness and peace.

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Where does the Manifesto come from?

The United Nations declared the year 2000 the International Year of the Culture of Peace and has entrusted UNESCO with the task of coordinating and implementing this declaration. The Manifesto 2000 was presented to the press at a conference on March 4, 1999 in Paris. UNESCO hopes to gather 100 million signatures from around the world to be presented to the UN General Assembly in September 2000; 170 countries have translated and begun distributing the Manifesto 2000 in support of this important UNESCO initiative. To date, five million people have already signed the Manifesto and the number grows day by day. People can even sign the
Manifesto via the Internet by visiting the website www.unesco.org/Manifesto2000, where they can obtain a certificate which presents the six points of the Manifesto, which serves as a guide and a reminder for their practice.

“We are currently using all possible means to distribute the Manifesto.”

When he was Director of the UNESCO Commit tee for Vietnam, Minister of Foreign Affairs Nguyen Dy Nien wrote to Federico Mayor, Director General of UNESCO in Paris, that the Vietnamese government enthusiastically supported the United Nations resolution. His September 10, 1999 letter said that the Government had translated the Manifesto into Vietnamese and was “taking advantage of the ideas of a culture of peace to reach the mass audience of Vietnamese people.” He also expressed his certainty that UNESCO would obtain more than 100 million signatures by September 2000.

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Manifesto 2000 has not been made public in Vietnam.

I had the opportunity to read the Vietnamese version of Manifesto 2000 in an agenda published by the Vietnamese Women’s Association and the National UNESCO Committee for Vietnam. This translation is slightly different from the one on the UNESCO website. It is less precise. Only 3000 copies were printed, just enough to distribute to diplomats from different embassies and western organizations in Hanoi. None of our friends living in Hanoi, Hue, or Saigon were aware that this agenda existed. I received a copy from a diplomat. Contrary to what happened in other countries, no news releases or announcement about Manifesto 2000 was released to individuals or the media. This is rather regrettable, since the six points of the Manifesto have a high ethical and moral value and are very close to the Five Mindfulness Trainings offered by the Buddha. I sincerely wish that teachers, artists, and the media and spiritual leaders of the country would initiate profound discussion on the practices of the six points as soon as possible. Studying and putting these points of the Manifesto into practice could bring significant benefits to the country.

Local Police Confiscate Manifesto 2000 and Threaten Those Who Support It.

Agents from the National Security Agency for Religious Affairs came to our main temple, Tu Hieu, to confiscate 5000 copies of Manifesto 2000, which the monks had just printed. These government agents said that the distribution of the Manifesto was against government policy and that they had been ordered to confiscate all copies. Twelve police agents searched the print shop of Mr. Nguyen Thanh Binh at 38 Nguyen Hue Street in Hue city on April 4, 2000. He had just purchased printing materials, printing plates, and paper to produce 50,000 copies of the Manifesto. All these were seized and his license was revoked. The workshops of Mr. Thanh at 5/9 Nguyen Gia Thieu Street and Mr. Vinh at 160 Chi Lang street were also searched, their printing materials were seized, and their licenses were revoked. Some Buddhists in Hue who had signed and helped distribute Manifesto 2000 were summoned to the police station, where they were interrogated for between four to eight hours over three consecutive days. The officers asked who had provided them a copy of Manifesto 2000, to whom they had distributed it, and who had signed it. Mr. Tran Ngoc Viet was summoned by national security agents to the headquarters of the People’s Committee of Gio Chau in Quang Tri province to be questioned about Manifesto 2000.

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Our friends in Europe were dismayed by this news. As an advisor to the Foundation Appeal of the Nobel Peace Laureates for the Children of the World, I asked my colleagues to be patient and wait so that I could contact the National UNESCO Committee for Vietnam so they could better inform us of the government’s interpretation of these events. I had the opportunity to speak with Madame Nguyen Thi Hoi, Secretary General of UNESCO-Vietnam. We discussed that perhaps there had been a misunderstanding among the local police agents. Madame Hoi indicated that it was probable that the text of the Manifesto used by our main temple was not the same text that had been approved and distributed by the Government. I said to her that our friends in Hanoi had not been aware of this different version of the text, but simply used the version published on the UNESCO-International website. We had even contributed to the website translation. I said to Madame Hoi that our temple was prepared to use the official version of the text from UNESCO Vietnam. I asked her to do everything she could to ensure that  the distribution of the Manifesto 2000 not be delayed further.

Putting the Manifesto 2000 into practice in different areas of daily life

I explained to Madame Hoi that with the Manifesto in hand, people have an opportunity to discuss these simple guidelines for living with their families and to put them into practice. Everyone has an obligation to encourage others to sign the Manifesto and to put these guidelines into practice. For example, a young person could ask their father to sign the Manifesto. The father will ask, “Why should I sign this thing?” The young person would reply, “You sign to promise to act more moderately the next time you get angry with my brother. Instead of shouting, scolding, and judging him severely, you will remember that you signed the Manifesto on nonviolence. You will be able to speak more calmly and lovingly, and you will learn to listen deeply to better understand him and love him. In this way, communication between you and my brother will improve and everyone in the family will be very happy.” To sign the Manifesto 2000 is to put into practice these wonderful guidelines.

A contradiction between Foreign Policy and Internal Policy

It is not clear why there is such a contradiction between the policies of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the actions of the Ministry of the Interior. We are certain the Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs were sincere when they signed the Manifesto and when they communicated their support to the President of UNESCO-International. Everyone has seen that the Manifesto 2000 has a very high moral and ethical value, so to ban its distribution and confiscate copies of the Manifesto are actions which oppose the foreign policies of the government—they are anti-government actions. Are those in charge of the National Security agency aware that they are responsible for this policy against the State? I think that the Minister of the Interior is co-responsible for this act. We hope that this cloud of confusion will be wiped away quickly, so the Vietnamese people in and outside the country can have restored confidence in the Government’s policies and look forward to the Manifesto 2000 benefiting all of Vietnam.

The state can start already by using the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information to encourage people at all levels of society to sign the Manifesto and begin to put its principles into practice.

One Goal: Encourage the Government’s Commitment to Manifesto 2000

Our goal is not to condemn the Government, nor to oppose it or destroy its reputation. We are aware of the good will of the Secretary General of UNESCO-Vietnam and we hope that she will devote more time and energy toward the distribution of Manifesto 2000.I write these words in the spirit of loving kindness and compassion which has been transmitted to me by my teacher, the Elder of the Tu Hieu branch, the 42nd generation of the Lin Chi School and the eighth generation of the Lieu Quan lineage. Our main temple Tu Hieu and its branch temples serve as the base of support for many other temples and communities of Buddhist practitioners in Vietnam and around the world. They are the very effective arms of the Boddhisattva of Compassion Quan The Am, are ready to help promote the practice of the six points of Manifesto 2000, which radiates goodwill and understanding. Together with the entire nation we can contribute to the building of a culture of peace and non-violence for our future generations.

The Vietnamese translation of Manifesto 2000 is available on the UNESCO website: www.unesco.org. This is the version that was distributed by the Tu Hieu. temple and confiscated. For a biographical note on Sister Chan Khong, please see page 33.

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Walking for Peace Globally

Lyn Fine

Walking Meditation

Take my hand.
We will walk.
We will only walk.
We will walk for ourselves.
We will walk for everyone.
Always hand in hand.
We will enjoy our walk.
Without thinking of arriving anywhere.
Walk peacefully.
Walk happily.
Our walk is a peace walk.
Our walk is a happiness walk.

Then we learn
that there is no peace walk;
that peace is the walk;
that there is no happiness walk;
that happiness is the walk.
We walk for ourselves.
We walk for everyone
always hand in hand.

Walk and touch peace every moment.
Walk and touch happiness every moment.
Each step brings a fresh breeze.
Each step makes a flower bloom under our feet.
Kiss the earth with your feet.
Print on earth your love and happiness.

Earth will be safe.
When we feel in us enough safety.

– Thich Nhat Hanh

Global Peacewalks began in Jerusalem, in New York City, and in Berkeley, California, on Mothers Day in May, 2002. Now there are twenty-five to thirty communities who have participated in these walks.

We gather in a public place on the third Sunday of each month. Instead of carrying banners and chanting slogans, we walk slowly and silently. This helps us step into the source of understanding and compassion within us, and hold everyone with care. We are walking to offer compassion, and to learn that love is possible as a genuine way of life, even in the presence of rage and fear. Violence in any form is a tragedy that stops all of us from sharing a life of harmony and abundance. Coming together to embody peace can restore our hope and vision. True and sustainable peace is a process and can be created by peaceful means.

A Long Tradition

Walking for peace has a long tradition, and includes Maha Ghosananda’s walking in Cambodia, Peace Pilgrim’s walking in the USA, and Gandhi’s walking in India. In Israel the Vipassana mindfulness community has sponsored week-long silent walks which have drawn hundreds of people.

The idea for these Third Sunday Global Peacewalks arose during a conversation with Miki Kashtan, a trainer in Nonviolent Communication, an Israeli living in the United States, and a friend. We were both feeling sad about the polarization that was occurring in so many of the demonstrations that claimed to be working for peace. We wanted to offer a way to connect globally and to generate peaceful energy. Walking meditation seemed a wonderful skillful means.

Beginning on Mother’s Day was quite auspicious, as it helped us reconnect with the peacemaking origin of Mother’s Day. In the 1870s in the USA, Julia Ward Howe called on the women of the world to “leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel.” “Let them meet first, as women,” she wrote, “to bewail and commemorate the dead. Let them then solemnly take counsel with each other as the means whereby the great human family can live in peace…”

Start a Peacewalk

The website, www.walkingforpeace.org, offers stories about past Peacewalks, organizing tips, and contact information for the walks in different cities. Any Sangha or individual is welcome to organize a walk.

Lyn Fine, True Goodness, was ordained by Thich Nhat Hanh as a Dharmacarya in 1994. She lives in Berkeley, California, and offers guidance to many Sanghas around the world.

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Book Reviews

mb55-BookReviews1The Mama Bamba Way
The Power and Pleasure of Natural Childbirth

By Robyn Sheldon
Findhorn Press, 2010
Soft cover, 272 pages

Reviewed by Karen Hilsberg

I met Robyn Sheldon when we shared a taxi during Thay’s 2008 tour in Vietnam. I learned that she is a midwife in South Africa who teaches mindfulness to expectant parents. This led me to reflect on my own experience being born in the 1960s. During the birth, both mother and baby experienced trauma. Not surprisingly, the labor and delivery of my first child were similarly traumatic for mother and baby.

Contrast this to the births described in Sheldon’s new book, aptly subtitled The Power and Pleasure of Natural Childbirth. Sheldon’s main thesis is: “Birth is a baby’s first experience of life. It impacts strongly on how deeply she trusts the world. Her primary need is to feel your attention and welcome at this moment.” This is the basis of the Mama Bamba method of childbirth, developed by Sheldon. The core tools of this approach include meditative awareness, relaxation and surrender, deep exploration of our unconscious processes, connecting with our babies in the womb, and labor support.

Sheldon works with women before labor so that no matter how the birth unfolds, it is a satisfying experience. Being in the moment with openness and receptivity is the fruit of her own daily meditation practice, and she brings this to bear when supporting women during childbirth. In addition to techniques for birthing with integrity and awareness, the book includes beautiful photographs by Nikki Rixon, quotations, and stories of all different sorts of births in the words of the mothers. Intermingled with the text are instructions for guided meditations, relaxations, and visualizations on the topics of simplicity, releasing tension, peaceful birth, the unborn child, and breast-feeding. There is guidance for labor, practical advice for the early months of parenting, and what to do when we suffer from the loss of a baby, preor post-birth. Finally, Mama Bamba is a remarkable example of one woman’s journey to integrate her personal mindfulness practice with her livelihood as a midwife, where she can make a meaningful difference in the way new beings are birthed: with acceptance, peace, and awareness. In the words of our teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, “The stories, meditations, and lived experience in this book are powerful wisdom for expecting parents. It shows us concretely how to relax into, accept, and transform the fear and pain of birth by coming back to the present moment to be aware of our body and mind.”

mb55-BookReviews2Voluntary Simplicity
Toward a Way of Life That Is Outwardly Simple, Inwardly Rich

By Duane Elgin
Harper, 2nd edition, January 2010
Paperback, 210 pages

Reviewed by Brandy Sacks

Duane Elgin is considered to be the father of the voluntary simplicity movement. In 1981, when his book Voluntary Simplicity was originally published, Elgin’s ideas were widely regarded as counter-cultural and irrelevant. The book was ahead of its time. Now, three decades have passed, and the world is a very different place—a place that is unfortunately similar to the one the author warned us about.

With Elgin’s revised and updated edition we have more ways to learn “a way of life that is outwardly simple, inwardly rich.” Voluntary Simplicity is not about living in poverty but living with balance. By embracing voluntary simplicity—frugal consumption, ecological awareness, and personal growth— people can change their lives. In the process, they have the power to change the world.

The book reaches beyond the how-tos of voluntary simplicity to examine the many psychological, spiritual, and cultural benefits of living more simply and consciously. Elgin makes clear that voluntary simplicity is not self-sacrifi but rather enlightened self-interest, and that this emerging lifestyle choice can foster individual and collective well-being in multiple areas. The depth and significance of Elgin’s ideas are matched by the clarity of his writing, so that Voluntary Simplicity is an education, an inspiration, and a pleasure to read.

In the introduction, Elgin writes: “Overall, the world has changed dramatically since I wrote the first edition of Voluntary Simplicity in the late 1970s. To respond, I’ve completely revised this book and more than half of it is new material. It is my hope this new edition will extend the promising wisdom and healing force of simplicity to our imperiled world, for on the other side of the fast emerging planetary systems crisis is a future bright with promise.”

For more information, see Duane Elgin’s website, www.awakeningearth.org.

mb55-BookReviews3The Wisdom of Sustainability
Buddhist Economics for the 21st Century
By Sulak Sivaraksa
Koa Books, 2009
192 pages

Red Alert
Saving the Planet with Indigenous Knowledge
By Daniel R. Wildcat
Fulcrum Publishing, 2009
128 pages

Reviewed by David Percival

If there was ever a time for the so-called “developed world” to listen to the “less developed world” and the indigenous teachers living among us, that time is now. We—the people who don’t know how to stop—need to pay attention. These two books call us to practice deep listening and let go of much of what we have previously learned.

In The Wisdom of Sustainability, Ajahn Sulak, a lay Thai Buddhist activist and writer, is like an old friend gently but forcefully telling us that we can’t live by consuming alone. Instead, we can make a difference through understanding Buddhist teachings, holding to a moral code, embracing sustainable living, and taking care of ourselves. He takes us through basic Buddhist principles, international development, structural violence, globalization, and governance, and gives us a vision of where we need to go. “Capitalism’s promise to bring about emancipation through perpetual economic growth is, to use Jerry Mander’s word, insane. Nothing can grow forever. There are limits. Before we irretrievably erode the matter of our mother earth, we need to change direction and build a future based on wisdom and compassion.”

Ajahn Sulak tells us to stop exploiting our beautiful earth and her people. Instead, we need to rebuild our economies based on wisdom, understanding, and loving-kindness. E.F. Schumacher coined the term “Buddhist economics”—societies based on sustainability, “where people help each other in difficult times, where power is shared, rather than fought over, where nature is respected, and wisdom cherished.” The author discusses moral governance and the idea of “gross national happiness,” which, in a Buddhist democracy, would be based on compassion and nonviolence, our shared humanity, and the interdependent nature of all beings. He examines the true meaning of “real security” in our changing world.

This short but life-changing book concludes with the metta (loving-kindness) meditation exercise: “May all beings be happy. May all beings be free from suffering. May all beings dwell in peace.”

Red Alert, Daniel Wildcat’s provocative book, is a call to pay attention to indigenous realism and develop “respect for the relationships and relatives that constitute the complex web of life.” He writes: “This alert is also a wake-up call to those always forward-looking societies that have failed to inquire into the modes of living of indigenous peoples that their histories interrupted and ultimately destroyed… a challenge to replace a search for humankind’s general development along a Western-inspired universal timeline with a rethinking of our diverse human cultural development as shaped by places.”

By not paying attention, we marginalize or destroy indigenous peoples and their knowledge. If we would only listen to our indigenous elders and teachers, we could see that their wisdom and knowledge systems are all around us, and that they offer hope. Wildcat explores our fascination with technology and our vast ignorance of indigenous ways of life. This book has the power to awaken us with its wisdom and compassion. It is a strongly worded appeal to pay attention, listen, and throw away our cultural imperialism and “culture of conquest.” It is a brilliant look not only at the mess we have made, but also the hope offered by merely slowing down and paying attention, realizing our interdependent nature, and taking indigenous wisdom seriously. Although Buddhism is not mentioned, this is a very Buddhist book; it reminds us that deep listening brings great rewards.

These two books offer hope and engaged solutions to save our earth from climate change, globalization, consumerism, and materialism, and ultimately from ourselves.

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