"Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal."
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think.”
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a man of peace. Like Mahatma Gandhi, he understood that peace can never be attained through violence or force but only through peace. This is difficult for many people to understand because we have a very violent history of fighting as a way to “keep the peace.” But as King and Gandhi both proved, violence is not the proper way to go about this, peace can better be attained through peaceful means.
The Buddha said, “We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think.” And this is true. But it is also true that we are shaped by our words, because our words are simply our thoughts as expressed to others. When we say what we think, we are in effect expressing who we are. If our words are peaceful, then they are the words of a peaceful person, if they are not peaceful, they are not the words of a peaceful person. This may seem overly simplistic, but the truth remains that are what we think and our speech is only an expression of what we think.
It would be easy for one to say that to be peaceful, all we need to do is think only peaceful thoughts, but how difficult is this when we try to put it into practice? To only think peaceful thoughts is not something that comes easily, especially when one lives in a violent world and has spent a lifetime thinking about the violence in the world. Just thinking about peace can remind us of all the violence we have witnessed and/or been exposed to, so how can we have peaceful thoughts when even thinking of peace can remind us of violence?
To Buddhists, the answer comes from what the Buddha called the eightfold path, which basically lists eight ways of practice that help us become enlightened. The first four of these we can easily apply to this issue developing peace, beginning with peace of mind. Right View, Right Thought, Right Speech and Right Action are where we begin, but not necessarily in that exact order. While it is true that we should usually come from a position of right view, we may find out that our view is not exactly peaceful. So, maybe we should go backwards. Beginning with Right Action, we can see that acting peaceful is a good start. Next, by practicing Right Speech we will be doing Right Action by not saying things that are harmful, and saying nothing is possibly the easiest way to keep from saying what we might be thinking. So with practice, this “holding our tongue” could become the most effective way to develop both Right Thought and Right View, which is where we will ultimately find peace of mind.
There are plenty of expressions that support this philosophy beginning with “Silence is Golden” and including grandmother’s advice “That if we cannot say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”
The Book of Proverbs sums this up as follows: “Who so keepeth his mouth and his tongue, keepeth his soul from trouble.” (21:23)
At noon Sunday the South Puget Sound Chapter of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship will sponsor its fourth annual Silent Peace Walk in honor of King. The walk around Capitol Lake will be conducted in the walking meditation tradition of Vietnamese Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, who King had himself nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
As always, this event will be an hour of silence. There will be no banners or signs, no chanting or cheering, simply people walking in silence solely for the experience and promotion of peace. We will start at Marathon Park on the south side of the lake and begin walking precisely at noon. Anyone wishing to walk in silent meditation in support of peace in the name of King is invited to attend.
For further information, call 360-866-9316.
Koro Kaisan Miles is a member of the South Puget Sound Buddhist Peace Fellowship. Miles is Zen priest and resident teacher at Open Gate Zendo and immediate past president of Interfaith Works.
Perspective is coordinated by Interfaith Works in cooperation with The Olympian. The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily endorsed by Interfaith Works or The Olympian.