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l Have Lost My Brother


Thich Nhat Hanh


Several autums ago, I walked up to the pine tree in my backyard and asked it one question. What is institutional violence? The tree did not answer right away. So I sat at its roots and waited. The backyard was covered with brilliantly colored leaves. The air was fresh, and suddenly I forgot that I was waiting for an answer. The tree and I were just there, enjoying ourselves and each other. After sitting a long time, I turned to the tree, smiled, and said, I no longer need an answer. Then I thanked it and awarded it the Grand Transnational Peace Price.

When l told my friends this, one asked, "Do you give the Peace Prize often?" l did not know how to answer. l wanted to, but it was difficult. Then another asked, "What was the tree's answer to your question?" Again, l did not know what to say, so l encouraged her to go out and ask the tree.

As a novice monk, l was taught to look deeply at a cypress tree, and l learned that looking at a cypress can be very helpful. ln fact, it is often easier to contemplate a cypress than to talk to a person. Before talking to a human being, watching a cypress can help. Soon l will organize an International Conference on Tree- Watching. all of the .conferees will sit in the forest and just look at beautiful cypresses and pines. Then, in workshops, we can discuss strategies for tree-watching and also principles for appreciating human beings, even those who do not look or think exactly as we do. \m1en l told this to the pine tree, it began to laugh. The tree was thinking about a particular conference held at a Hilton Hotel dealing with the problems of the Third World. Not a single Third World representative had the opportunity to speak because eloquent spokespersons from the First World spoke for them. It was too difficult for them to listen to real Third World representatives, especially those whose ideas did not fit in with their own.

l have lost my brother and l don't know where and how to find him. My brother was accused of destroying the community because he wanted to do things differently. Now the community continues, but my brother is missing. l have been on a pilgrimage for years looking for him, but without your help, l will never succeed.

Yesterday, l stood in a park and watched a three-year-old child with aIl my attention, and l was heartbroken. \m1en people say, "Things aren't too bad," l am not sure they Ullderstand. If we continue to live the way we do, what kind of world are we leaving for our children? Are we leaving any world at aIl?

l know my brother is still alive, and l will travel aIl over the world to find him. But l really need your help. Will you help me? He may be hard to recognize, but l believe the time is near. When the rest of us were asleep, my brother saw what was happening. He tried to tell us, but we never listened. We were busy doing other thingspracticing meditation, praying, reciting scriptures. We were not at aIl awake.

People thought my brother was dangerous, but it is not true. He is outspoken, but not dangerous. ln fact, not listening to him is what is dangerous. One pers on like my brother counts for a lot. \Vhen I think of him, I know that peace is possible. Please help me find him. If we succeed, there will be hope.

If we try to remove the bombs from a distance, we can never succeed. The bombs are us, and my brother und erstands that. He asked why we export conventional weapons to the poorest countries of the Third World while people there are starving. I am not trying to make you sad. I just want to share sorne of the things my brother said.

\Vhen I look at the three-year-old child, when I look at the pine tree, I feel co-responsible for their futures. I have no money and no weapons, but I know that by not being attentive enough, I have allowed the situation to develop this far. We are all mu ch too busy. If my brother returns home soon, we will have a chance. That is what I feel. But I am not sure all of us will be able to listen to him or understand mm. We only have a chance if we are able to hear and truly understand him. If we are, we may be willing to change our ways. We still do not know how to take care of him. So, we have to prepare. We have to look deeply into our daily lives, at the ways we think and act, and begin to live in a way that allows the return of my brother to be possible, that allows a future to be possible.

My brother said, "Each person is important. Each being is important. Each moment is important." I am sure the pine tree and the three-year-old child understand this. Our opportunity for peace is not later. It is now. My brother was considered too dangerous for the material well-being

of the community. He was a little too radical, too outspoken. That is why we did not want him. But 1 can assure you that one person like my brother counts for a lot. 1 have confidence in my brather now, because as 1 think of him, 1 feel that anything is possible. Please help. Please be attentive. If you are attentive enough, you will find my brather. Please do not leave me in distress. Tell me, write me, telephone me the moment you see him. 1 know it may be hard ta recognize him, but he is around. He may be living in a monastery or he may be somewhere on the street or in the marketplace. Or he may be within your own heart.



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