9/11 Walk to Feed the Hungry Speech

The Monastery  |  The Scene   |   Ajahn Guna  |   September 16, 2011, 6:30 am

Starting the walk in the morning at San Jose

[Admin’s note: Buddhist Global Relief just hosted a 18-mile peace walk from San Jose to Palo Alto, CA on Sept 11, 2011, ten years after 9/11.  Ajahn Guna, a Theravada monk living in Berkeley Buddhist Monastery led the walk and many members of the Berkeley community joined the walk. The event was quite successful with over 200 participants.  This was the speech Ajahn Guna gave after lunch.]

Today’s walk, is a walk of compassion, and I am glad to see so many people here who are bringing their practice to the important issues we must face in the world today.

Can we try to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes? Who wants to really understand the suffering of others….

Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi has explained that compassion, or karuna in Pali–the canonical language of Theravadin Buddhism, is a quality of mind which is a divine abiding– which sympathizes, empathizes, and cares about the suffering that oneself and others experience. Can we try to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes? Who wants to really understand the suffering of others, or the obvious suffering in our own lives–rather than distracting ourselves with sense pleasures?

There are two Pali words that are translated as compassion: karuna and anukampakaruna being the feeling of compassion that we experience in meditation, and anukampa refers to a trembling of the heart that moves us to act on behalf of others. I would say that this Walk to Feed the Hungry is more like anukampa. As we can see there is increasing suffering in the world, the causes and conditions for terrorism, corruption of governments, perpetual wars, destruction of the environment, and the breakdown of families. These are issues of morality which spiritual people need to stand up to.

Today is not only the 10th year after the 9/11 disaster which has generated a lot of fear, anger, prejudice and hostility,—it is also the 100th year since Gandhi started satyagraha, the non-violence movement—which Gandhi described as “the Force which is born of Truth and Love”.

About 2600 years ago the great teacher of non-violence called Shakyamuni Buddha said–Hatred is never conquered by hatred, but by love alone. This is eternal law. Also in the Dhammapada he said, If we thoroughly release ourselves from such thoughts as, “They abused me, mistreated me, overpowered me, robbed me,” hatred is overcome.

These are unprecedented times.

These are unprecedented times. Scientific experts around the world are reporting an increase of natural disasters related to climate change caused by human activity. These disasters include: droughts, hurricanes, tsunamis, floods, fires, dust storms, and tornadoes. Greed drives our modern economic system which is shrinking the earth’s forests, eroding its soils, depleting its aquifers, collapsing its fisheries, elevating its temperature, melting its ice sheets, and widening the gap between the rich and the poor.

The world population is booming–while poverty is ever increasing. These conditions are leading to more food and water shortages around the globe which could very well lead to the point of mass chaos and lawlessness–to the point of losing civilization as we know it—IF—things are not turned around.

Walking through South Bay

There are people out there worth listening to. Environmental expert Lester Brown suggests 4 components of a plan that will lead to a brighter future: a massive cut in global carbon emissions, the stabilization of world population, the abatement of poverty, and the restoration of our planet’s diverse natural landscape. BGR’s programs are directly aimed at helping in this brighter future through its food and education programs.

This BGR walk also helps us “meet the neighbors” so to speak, and build bridges of harmony instead of competition or enmity. BGR also brings-in the ancient words of the Buddha, who speaks of the remedies to these problems which are born of greed, hatred, and delusion. We can use these remedies of virtue, mental cultivation, and wisdom as peaceful weapons against the current worldly aggression, cruelty, and propensity for a materialistic culture to see other human beings as mere opportunities to make profit–instead of respecting their basic human rights and needs. Moral responsibility is needed at this time as wealthy entities gobble-up finite resources with infinite greed. What kind of movement or leadership would be needed to counter such an evil use of force and competition, one may ask? Is there a Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr. available nowadays? If anyone knows, please forward me their email address! I think in America, a multi-faith group of spiritual leaders is needed–to inspire the faith of the masses in the direction of morality, integrity, compassion, and non-violence–to begin to turn things around. Can you imagine that? How obvious do the signs have to be? Perhaps you can encourage your religious leaders to speak-up and get more involved.

Group photo after lunch at Chung Tai Zen Center of Sunnyvale

As with any real spiritual change, the Buddha said that it has to come from within. If we don’t do the practice, then we cannot truly help anyone. Daily patient meditation practice is the best for building spiritual muscle. There are no shortcuts. It is a gradual training. If you want results, then you must practice correctly step by step. Today, we can walk mindfully, we practice generosity, harmony, compassion, and kindness—one step at a time. We set our mind towards wholesome goals that are spiritually important in our lives and vigorously and successfully move forward by understanding karma—that what we do with intention has results—we plant the seeds of our future and our afterlife. Today, we benefit and so do many others. Next year will be even bigger—right? We are on a roll now. The flow of good action can be contagious and ever increasing. True compassion is possible when we let our ego get out of the way, and truly see things as they really are.

Are we ready to see? It is a training of the heart—step by step. Every step we take changes the world.

Are we ready to see? It is a training of the heart—step by step. Every step we take changes the world. Every step we take with dignity makes the world a better place! With every step, we steadily become more peaceful, bright, calm and clear as our awareness is born of respect and integrity. The future of all living beings on earth truly depends on the way that we take each step.

I am glad you have all come to participate today and wish everyone all the best in passionately pursuing ways to use your special talents and interests in helping others and helping yourselves on this spiritual journey.  Thank you.

Concluding the walk in Palo Alto

Photos kindly provided by Kevin Cheung

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