Buddhist nun, antiwar speakers celebrate peace

By Yuko Murase, The Daily Targum, April 18, 2005

Rutger, New Jersey (USA) -- Brower Commons may not be a Buddhist temple or a church, where discussions of peace are commonplace. But that didn't stop religious leaders in the University community from organizing a Day of Peace on its steps on Saturday.

Four peace activists and leaders in their spiritual communities shared with students their unique perspectives on peace in the world, as the Rutgers Religion Students Association organized the day in preparation for the Dalai Lama's fall visit to the University.

Shih Yifa, a Buddhist nun, saw peace from her religion's perspective.

"When we start to negotiate [in Buddhism], the mentality is you start from self-criticism," Yifa said. "You start to think maybe I am wrong. Maybe something wrong I have done in the past. So I invite people to criticize me."

When people start to examine the American foreign policy and what the army has done in foreign countries, maybe you find the reason for the Sept. 11 attacks, Yifa said.

Negotiation is the best way to solve conflicts in Buddhism, despite living in a high-tech age, Yifa said.

"Our thoughts are still uncivilized because we only think the way to solve conflict is to fight and to start a war," Yifa said.

In Buddhism, the root of human conflict is greed and hatred, all driven by delusion of ego, she said.

"Our desire is more than what we need," Yifa said. "If you look at economy in this world, especially the West, we don't take what we need, but we take what we want. That's why we need to start from the inside world of an individual, then we can talk about the peace outside world."

Sue Neiderer - a mother representing Military Families Speak Out - said her son, Seth Dvorin, a 2002 Rutgers alumnus, died in the Iraq War.

"My son died in vain," Neiderer said. "Freedom is right, but your freedom shouldn't be based on lies and deception."

Neiderer was arrested during First Lady Laura Bush's speech in Hamilton. She wore a shirt that bore a photo of Dvorin and the words "President Bush, You Killed My Son."

As the first lady was lauding war on terror, Niederer interrupted by shouting, "Why aren't your daughters serving?"

Niederer was handcuffed, taken to the Hamilton police station and charged with trespassing.

"I got arrested for freedom of speech," Neiderer said. "What we are trying to give to other nations, we don't even have here in the United States."

Niederer spoke of peace, as well.

"The way to get peace is to come together as people," Niederer said. "Get our troops out of Iraq and not to Iran. Not to North Korea. Get us together as one nation together."

Rev. Robert Moore, of the United Church of Christ, is the executive director of the Coalition for Peace Action, a New Jersey citizen's group dedicated to abolition of nuclear weapons.

"There are lots of evils out there in the world, but there is also evil inside of each one of us," Moore said.

Moore also said in the two years the United States has been in Iraq since invading and occupying, 100,000 Iraqis have died, 10 times as many as died under the 20 years that Saddam Hussein was in power.

Moore said there is no evil in this world that we cannot overcome by using power of nonviolence, although it takes patience, struggle and commitment.

"Don't let anybody ever tell you that you can't make the difference," he said. The great social change in the past few centuries, such as the movement to abolish slavery and the anti-Vietnam War movement, started with small group of people, he said.

Moore stressed the importance of working as a group to make peace.

"I can't do this alone," he said. "I don't have all the answers. You all have some additional insights and wisdom that you can share."

Beth Brockman Miller is a co-founder of the PeaceWeavers, a spiritual community dedicated to peace and healing.

"Peace is here now. It's not somewhere else someday," Miller said. "We feel it in our lives. We feel it in moments. And it's something we can generate and we can grow."

The new paradigm of peace that Miller shared was a peace that depends on an individual and not anyone else.

"It's a peace that requires our full participation from moments to moments," she said.

It's also a peace that springs from love and compassion, not from anger, resentment and blame.

"It's only by living for love that we can see everyone else in a world as a part of our human family," Miller said.

"Even our own home's become less social. We eat together less, and there are more people living alone now than ever before," she said.

She said perhaps the most extreme example of this culture of individualism is the president's decision to do foreign affairs his own way.

It's time to let go this era of individualism and to embrace our existence as a global community, which includes not just the humans but every existence in the world, Miller said.

Her community does organic farming and natural building colloquium that discusses how to build structures without toxin.

"We need to take care of ourselves to get serve others," Miller said.

Besides good food and drink, you need to think good thoughts, she said, like

"Day by day, every way, I'm better and better," Miller said.

"It started off like the anti-war rally and ended very peaceful," RSA President Laura Chinchilla said. "I wanted it to be like various expressions. It's a success."