Soul Survivors, by Bhavia C. Wagner
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Message from Maha Ghosananda

The United Nations held a conference to discuss the future of Cambodia in 1981. During that time, we held a Buddhist ceremony for peace. At the end of the ceremony, a Khmer Rouge leader came up to me, very cautiously, and asked if I would come to Thailand to build a temple at the border. I said that I would.

"Oh!" thought many people, "He is talking to the enemy. He is helping the enemy! How can he do that?" I reminded them that love embraces all beings, whether they are noble-minded or low-minded, good or evil.

Both the noble and the good are embraced because loving kindness flows to them spontaneously. The unwholesome-minded must be included because they are the ones who need loving kindness the most. In many of them, the seed of goodness may have died because warmth was lacking for its growth. It perished from coldness in a world without compassion.

I do not question that loving one's oppressors -- Cambodians loving the Khmer Rouge -- may be the most difficult attitude to achieve. But it is a law of the universe that retaliation, hatred, and revenge only continue the cycle and never stop it. Reconciliation does not mean that we surrender rights and conditions, but means rather that we use love in all our negotiations. It means that we see ourselves in the opponent -- for what is the opponent but a being in ignorance, and we ourselves are also ignorant of many things. Therefore, only loving kindness and right-mindfulness can free us.

Maha Ghosananda is a highly esteemed Buddhist monk and founder of the Cambodian movement for peace and non-violence. From Step by Step: Meditations on Wisdom and Compassion (1992) by Maha Ghosananda with permission of Parallax Press, Berkeley, California.

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