Love Is the Answer

by PHRA PHAISAN VISALO, Bangkok Post, Aug 27, 2005

The violence in Southern Thailand hurts both the perpetrators and victims. Can this cycle of anger, hatred and vengefulness be brought to an end via mutual compassion and empathy?

Bangkok, Thailand -- Violence not only damages lives, bodies and property, it also brings out the worst in all concerned - whether receiver or doer. The dark side of humanity involves anger, hatred, piercing resentment, vengefulness and the dehumanisation of the other side, as if they were mere objects or animals.

Even those who are not directly involved or those who observe violence externally through the media cannot escape its dark power. People who agree with the use of violence feel satisfied or even delighted to see the other side hurt. People who disagree feel resentful and hateful, even wishing destruction for the other side.

The opponents are on different sides, but both are in the same trap. They are drifting toward inhumanity because they are intent on hurting each other. This dark side will gush out violently until friends and friends, fathers and sons, and teachers and students are killing each other - not to mention Thais killing Thais.

But we human beings also possess inner light and beauty. This quality helps lift us to the spiritual plane and fills us with happiness. We then must do our best to nurture this inner beauty while containing and limiting our dark side so that it is under control and not breaking loose. If not, it will dominate our life and our mind, pushing us deeper into inhumanity. Eventually, it will make it difficult for us to find peace and happiness; it will also lead to mutual destruction.

The present situations are extremely worrying because there are so many forms of on-going violence that are increasingly drawing our dark sides. This puts urgent demand on us to be ever mindful. We should not let our dark side come out and take delight in violence. For the more we do so, it will feed our inner violence until it grows into our master, controlling our life and mind.

Mindfulness is very important because what draws violence within us often comes under the name of nation and religion - powerful tools that can be manipulated to bring out the darker nature of man.

But as long as we remain mindful, we will not let ourselves be manipulated. We will be able to keep our mind from falling under dark powers. But if we lack mindfulness, we can be a part of the factor that engulfs the country in fire, as has happened in other countries.

Instead of letting our dark side be our master, we should strengthen our faith in the positive aspects of our mind - love, compassion, empathy and patience. Instead of letting the dark side run loose, we should counter it with love and compassion.

When there is a fire, what we need to extinguish it is water, not fuel. When our deep South is on fire, throwing in matches or fuel will only aggravate the situation. Our country now wants water to put out the fire. We need loving kindness and empathy to end violence.

For a country to exist, a common land mass is not the only necessary factor. More important are the bonds that weave peoples' minds across the country into one. It is important to preserve land in the three southernmost provinces. But it is still not as important as to preserve the mental bonds and relationships that make people in the region feel that they are fellow countrymen.

What is the point of keeping the land if we cannot keep the bonds and relationships among peoples there? The best that the employment of military force can do is to keep the land. But it cannot preserve the bonds of relationships between peoples in these three provinces. To be able to preserve these human bonds, we need compassion, love and empathy from the Thai citizens in the other 73 provinces.

If you love the country, don't love only the land mass. You must also love the peoples who live on that land. If you want to keep land in the three southernmost provinces as part of the rest of the country, you must connect the people-to-people relationships of the deep South with the rest of the people in the other 73 provinces.

Only love and compassion from the Thais in the 73 provinces will win the hearts and minds of the Thais in the three southernmost provinces. Don't generalise that all Muslims there are sympathisers of the separatist movements. Don't take delight in the destruction and death that befall them. Violence, anger and hatred will only push them further into the arms of separatists.

That is why we should not fan the flames of hatred towards these people. On the contrary, we should find a way out through non-violence. If there are mistakes in the government's use of force, we should dare to caution it - as good friends should for one another. We should not support or ignore their mistakes.

The more the state uses non-violence, the less mistakes will occur across the board and the less chances terrorists will have to win sympathisers and the more they will be isolated.

Fish out of water are easy to catch. The solution to the problem in the South should therefore begin with efforts that don't endlessly push innocent people into the arms of terrorists.

Being Thai came about and is sustained by mutual bonds of love, not by hatred. A nation without love will only be on fire.

In the same manner, being Buddhist is proven by one's compassion and forgiveness, not by anger and revenge.

If we are loyal to Buddhism and do not want Buddhism to decline, we must start bringing Buddhism into our hearts and securely sustain it by nurturing the growth of wisdom and compassion.

What else is the meaning of being true to the Three Gems if not our efforts to seek guidance from the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha when we face problems?

At a time when violence and hatred is so widespread, let's take the following words of the Buddha to heart:

"... Even when decadent outlaws use the saws to cut our organs, those of you who bear vicious thoughts against these criminals are considered not true to our teachings.

"When you feel you cannot resist the urges, you should remember this: We should never let our minds fluctuate nor we should verbalise evil words. We should help others as ones with compassion and non-hatred. We should emanate compassion to those people [who hurt us] and amplify our compassion so it becomes borderless and non-exploitative in benefit of all forms of beings, and every group of people.

"This is the state of a compassionate mind."

Reformist monk Phra Phaisan Visalo is a prolific writer and longstanding advocate of non-violence and inter-religious dialogue.