Man is Not the Enemy

With lots of unrest in the world and in the United States about the inauguration we have to remember that man is not the enemy. So who or what is the enemy? I would say that greed, aggression and delusion are the enemy – the three poisons taught by the Buddha.

For example, in Tanzania, every day 100 elephants are killed by poachers for their ivory. At this rate, elephants will be extinct by 2020 and our children and children’s children will no longer be able to see elephants in the wild. The enemy here is not the poachers because of their aggressive killing of elephants. The enemy is not the traders who are deluded to think that there is an infinite supply of elephant tusks for their customers. The enemy is not the consumers, whose greedy nature causes an increasing demand for ivory. It is their greed, aggression and delusion that is at fault. Operation Diana is trying to do something about this from the point of view that man is not the enemy.

Elephants Walking Through Grass, Amboseli 2008. Leading Matriarch Killed By Poachers, 2009

Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh recognized this long ago and expressed it elegantly 17 years ago, using the insight of interbeing:

Thich Nhat Hanh

Photo: © Jerome Freedman, in Plum Village, 2000

Having learned and practiced the teachings of Interbeing I no longer see anyone as my enemy and in my heart is a feeling of lightness and immense space. I do not even feel hatred towards people who have made me or my people suffer because I know how to look at them with the eyes of understanding and love. You may ask: “Then are you going to give that band of mad, cruel, fanatical thieves and murderers freedom to continue to destroy and make misery without doing anything to stop them?” No! We have to do everything we can to stop them, we cannot allow them to continue to kill, plunder, oppress and destroy, but our actions will never be motivated by hatred. We have to stop them, not allowing them to cause misery. If necessary we can bind them, put them in prison, but this action has to be directed by our bodhisattva’s heart and while we act like this we continue to maintain our loving kindness, wanting them to be able to have a chance to wake up, and change.
Thich Nhat Hanh: Man is Not the Enemy, 2000

We need to assume this attitude towards the inauguration, climate change, GMO foods, the military-industrial complex, human rights for women and people of color and a myriad other problems facing humanity today. We need to work in cooperation for the greater good of life on earth, in all its forms and colors. We need to practice kindness, compassion, generosity, gratitude and forgiveness and contemplate the ultimate nature of interbeing and the interconnectedness of all things to find solutions together.

There are so many opportunities for taking action today and tomorrow. For example, there are marches for women’s rights in all major cities across the US and in 36 other countries. Another example is to make a donation to Operation Diana to preserve and protect the elephants in Tanzania.


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