Thich Nhat Hanh
[Parallax Press, 123 pages]
Vietnamese Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Martin Luther King Jr. for his peacemaking efforts during the Vietnam War. In Calming the Fearful Mind, he translates the engaged Buddhist style of peacemaking that he pioneered into the current context of the War on Terror.
Nhat Hanh’s book resonates with his fervent belief that “all violence is injustice,” clearly arguing that reacting to violence with violence only breeds more of it. He believes that to achieve peace, compassion must be cultivated through understanding–in this case, understanding terrorists’ suffering. The most captivating part of the book is when Nhat Hanh turns these seemingly idealistic suggestions into clearly realizable alternatives. Framed in engaged Buddhist philosophy, he guides the reader through a carefully constructed global peacemaking methodology. He then demonstrates the viability of his ideas through examples from his peace retreats. At his meditation community, Plum Village, he successfully helps groups of Palestinians and Israelis to overcome their hatred for each other. To fully articulate the factors that lead to collective peace, Nhat Hanh suggests that a mistaken perception of self is the root cause of violence. He stresses the importance of deepening our awareness of the present moment in order to create true peace.
Those frustrated with continually hearing about unsuccessful peace efforts in the news will draw inspiration from these refreshing alternatives. By adapting mindfulness practice techniques to peacemaking, Calming the Fearful Mind is not just an intriguing read, but a benefit to anyone interested in bringing peace to their own lives and by extension to the larger community.