The meditation that can end a war by Joanna Macy 2002
When I recently heard about the plan to bring a half million people together for a peace meditation, I dropped everything and traveled to
to participate. I didn't go only to show solidarity with my beloved Sarvodaya movement but also for my own benefit. Because of the ongoing violence in the world, including my country's 'war on terrorism,' I longed to see a saner dimension of the human spirit. Sri Lanka
I needed a hit of peace just like I need oxygen……
The spiralling violence of military offenses and suicide bombings cost 65,000 lives, traumatized a whole generation, and wrecked the Sri Lankan economy. Sarvodaya, which had worked with both sides in the civil war, ran refugee camps and restoration and rehabilitation projects. A couple of years ago, when hopes for peace were at a nadir, Ani decided to emphasize what he called 'changing the psycho-sphere': he started organizing peace meditations. When my husband and I visited
Sri Lanka in the winter of 2001, the first of these had just been held in , drawing 170000 people to meditate for peace. Others were held around the country as well. Colombo
By last December, the psycho-sphere had changed enough to allow Ranil Wickremesingle to be elected prime minister, with a mandate to negotiate peace. By February, a cease-fire between the government and the Tamil Tigers was brokered by
. Immediately thereafter, in order to give the cease-fire a solid chance, Sarvodaya announced a mega peace meditation, Maha Shanti Samadhi Day. It called for a gathering of half a million people at Norway , the sacred royal city in the north central part of the island, near the areas of the worst fighting. Anuradhapura
I arrived at Anuradhapuna on the day of the meditation. The sacred site, probably half a mile in diameter, contains several great stupas and the world's most ancient bodhi tree, which is said to have grown from a cutting taken from the tree that sheltered the Buddha during his enlightenment and brought to Sri Lanka by the great Indian king Asoka's daughter, Sakyaditta. When I got there, people were streaming in from all directions. In the tradition of these events, everyone was dressed in white and moving in silence. They had arrived from all over the country on foot and via trains, bicycles and, according to one person's count, four thousand buses…….
The meditation ceremony took place at 3:00 P.M. Members of the clergy of all the religions of
were gathered on a platform,and each said a few words. In front of them on a slightly lower stage, surrounded by flowers, was Ani. After the spoken prayers, he began to lead us all in anapanasati, mindfulness of breathing in and breathing out. Sri Lanka
The silence was the most exquisite sound I've ever heard. It was the sound of half a million people (actually the number turned out to be 650,000) being quiet together in the biggest meditation ever held on planet Earth.
After a period of anapanasati, Ani led a metta meditation guiding us into lovingkindness. It was followed by a practice that l always associate with Ani, not having learned from anyone else. This was adhistana or settling into firm resolve. Ani does the practice every morning making the firm resolve to establish peace.
What moved me most of all was a ceremony held just before the massive meditation itself. In the sacred compound around the bodhi tree, a smaller group of fifty to one hundred gathered to inaugurate the village-to-village 'link-up program' Sarvodaya is organizing. A thousand villages selected from the Tamil area are paired, one to one, with a thousand villages in the Sinhalese area; people from the latter, less devastated villages will go to the villages in the more devastated areas and help them rebuild. I heard about one village that had received advance notice of the program and overnight had loaded two lorries with roofing materials and were ready to go………
I want you to know that the peace meditations and the link-up program are both part of a larger Sarvodaya vision called the Five Hundred Year Peace Plan. When I heard about the plan and how serious the Sarvodayans are about it, I could actually feel a sense of release in my chest. I suddenly realized, 'Oh, of course. We don't have to do it all in one year, or even one lifetime.' This five hundred year peace plan acknowledges the long, hard path to true peace and sets forth concrete steps along that path……..
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