*first published on Tricycle on the 3d April 2022
The Dalai Lama, along with Buddhist teachers and organizations, shares pleas for peace and resilience
As the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues to unfold, Buddhist leaders around the world are offering pleas for peace and messages of support to the Ukrainian people and those watching from afar who feel helpless but eager to take action. The growing number of civilian and military deaths are unknown, but early reports estimate over 230 civilian deaths so far and over 525 civilians injured.* Though Russian and Ukrainian reports on military deaths and injuries differ, the numbers are in the hundreds to thousands. On March 2, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees reported that one million refugees have fled Ukraine. Responses from Buddhist teachers and organizations range from formal public statements to heartfelt pleas on social media.
*numbers when the article was published
The Dalai Lama released a statement on February 28 in which he called war “outdated” and said nonviolence was the way forward.
"Our world has become so interdependent that violent conflict between two countries inevitably impacts the rest of the world. War is outdated—non-violence is the only way. We need to develop a sense of the oneness of humanity by considering other human beings as brothers and sisters. This is how we will build a more peaceful world."
On March 2, the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation, a global humanitarian organization based in Taiwan, began fundraising for Ukrainian refugees fleeing their country for Poland. A few days prior, Tzu Chi founder Master Cheng Yen voiced her concern for those forced to leave their homes:
“Looking at them fleeing—some carrying young children on their backs, holding them in their hands, older ones holding smaller ones—large families are escaping in crowds. We do not know what their destination is.”
The dharma masters at the foundation’s headquarters are also currently chanting a portion of the Lotus Sutra called the “Universal Gate,” which is supposed to bring peace and protection. Find more information, including how you can support the foundation’s efforts, here.
Roshi Joan Halifax wrote on Lion’s Roar that by recognizing our interdependence, we’ll be moved to act in a compassionate way.
“We can nurture peace by transforming our own lives. And, at the same time, we must work actively for nonviolence toward all and deep and true dialogue with respect for and appreciation of differences and plurality. And we must take responsibility. We have to ask what is our part and our country’s part in feeding the demon of hatred and violence?“
In an email, meditation teacher Oren Jay Sofer also reminds us of our interconnectedness and that engaging in suffering is an expression of compassion. But he asks, “How can we use our energy wisely so that we have inner resources to offer when needed?"
Also on Lion’s Roar, Trudy Goodman reminds us of the power of Buddhist wisdom and mediation at times like these.
“Practices to cultivate mindfulness and compassion open the inevitably narrow frame of an individual perspective to a vastness of peace and well-being, a space where all opposites can rest in the infinitely tender embrace of a wide open heart. Learning to be present with it all — from the horror of hate to the wonder of beauty — is a huge relief.”
Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo, founder of the Dongyu Gatsal Ling Nunnery in Himachal Pradesh, expressed sympathy and support for the people of Ukraine and invoked the responsibility of the world at large to help Ukrainians find strength.
“The suffering of people is really beyond imagination! However, with suffering comes strength. I hope that people rely on their innate goodness, I hope that people can help each other and be in solidarity with each other in this very difficult situation. . . this is the time to show inner strength, not just as a member of a religion or an ethnic group, but [to] show your unity as a human being.“
Religions for Peace, a global network of religious readers, has released a statement offering prayers for both Ukrainian and Russian citizens and squarely rejecting violence on any grounds.
“We pray for the citizens of Ukraine and Russia, who through no fault of their own will now suffer both spiritually and materially for decades to come. Violence breeds violence, and they will need much support to recover from the fear, insecurity, bitterness, and trauma that inevitably follows violent conflict.“
In a February 28 statement, Minoru Harada, president of Soka Gakkai, called for an immediate halt to all violence, saying:
“I hope that utmost efforts will be made by all countries concerned to prevent the situation from worsening. As a Buddhist, together with Soka Gakkai members around the world, I am offering fervent prayers for the quickest possible end to the conflict and a return to peace and safety for all.”
On March 3, Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche sent out a message asking us to remember our interdependence and reminding us not to turn away from suffering.
“We pray for both Ukrainian and Russian people and for all of Europe and the world. As we open our hearts to this suffering, we must do so with great compassion and wisdom, recalling our fundamental basic goodness, interdependence and inter-connection. Each part of the world, like parts of the human body, must work in harmony in order to create lasting peace. Wisdom tells us to set aside all thoughts of separateness, all forms of polarization and come together in love and compassion to support one another in prayer, meditation and in whatever individual or collective actions are possible, to bring an end to this conflict. I ask that you do so with hearts wide open, not turning away from this suffering.”
Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike are also seeking and sharing the wisdom of peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh, who passed away on January 22. Plum Village, the Vietnamese Zen master’s sangha, recently shared the following on Twitter:
“By the way, we live our daily life we contribute to peace or to war. It is mindfulness that can tell me that I am going in the direction of war and it is the energy of mindfulness that can help me to make a turn and to go in the direction of peace.“ Thich Nhat Hanh