by Fr. John Dear, S.J.
Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace
Seventy-five of us gathered over the weekend at the beautiful Upaya Zen Center for a powerful retreat on the themes of nonviolence and peace from Christian and Buddhist perspectives. It was inspiring to lead the retreat with my friend Roshi Joan Halifax, one of the greatest Buddhist leaders in the world. We sat in perfect Buddhist stillness for several one-hour periods of silence each day. Roshi and I presented our teachings, then we had small and large group discussions. I think everyone came away energized, if not changed.
During my session, I invited retreat attendees to reflect on the violence in their lives and the world and how they can become more nonviolent. We spent some time defining nonviolence, then I spoke about its three dimensions: being nonviolent toward ourselves; being nonviolent toward everyone we meet and know; and being part of the global grassroots movement of nonviolence.
We need to do all three at the same time, I suggested. Usually, we practice one, perhaps two of these aspects of nonviolence. We might take attentive time for prayer and our relationships, but do not involve ourselves in the movements to disarm and transform the world. Or we are overworked activists who do not take quality time for prayer and inner nonviolence or model nonviolence in our relationships. As Gandhi taught, we need to balance all three aspects of nonviolence to practice a holistic, active nonviolence, consistent with the nonviolent Jesus and the world’s religious traditions…