To answer your questions:
I remember and pray for the citizens of Ukraine and Russia, and for every neighboring country, and for those afflicted by the many other active wars and violent conflicts. I pray for every country inclined towards colonization, including our own, and for those we have harmed and continue to harm. I pray we all find the way to freedom from confusion.
I do this because in war, ordinary people with few agendas other than to have a simple and good life suffer and die needlessly. And their suffering does not end when the battles are over.
War burdens everyone it touches—the so-called winners and the losers are stricken with poverty, sickness, and fear for generations. We collectively lose children and elders and the gifts of promising young people. The poorest often are robbed of the scant opportunity and progress they have struggled to create. Suffering seeps over the borders of warring countries and impacts us all. It makes us sick. No one thrives in war. No one. Not even those who profit from it: this is a sordid illusion.
A deeper cost of war is that cultivating the mind of violence always breeds more violence, more hatred. Hatred displaces many beautiful things, including treasure troves of cultural artifacts and traditions, and wholesome social fabric—hard won, precious, and fragile. Hatred displaces loving care for local land, water, and air, and it steals ease and joy—in some ways our most precious resource. A small war can destroy lifetimes of wise and loving effort.
We who are momentarily at peace have to help others avoid war at all costs. What else is our power, money, and influence for? Let us cultivate the view that failing at this noble work is more important than succeeding at lesser things.
We should never think, “They are fighting over there.” There is no “over there.” There is no “they,” only “we.”
It will not work to struggle to create a life of individual safety and prosperity. This side of enlightenment, there is no possibility of life without suffering. Think about this: in order to say “the house on the right,” we need to have something on the left. In order to say “it’s dim,” something needs to be brighter. We must understand that as long as the minds of beings are confused, where there is even a moment of peace, there will also be some kind of battle. The awakening person must live with the full spectrum of what is, while removing the actions that disrupt what would otherwise be a naturally arising peace.
As we learn to open to this wisdom, we must also cultivate a compassion which includes every single life, without a single exception. Our own safety is not enough. Our own wealth is not enough. Our own freedom is not enough. When we injure others, we are the first victim; when we help them, we are the first beneficiary of our deeds.
How do we make such a shift towards equanimity? Is it even possible? It is our practice to find out. From a Buddhist view, to conquer self-cherishing—to move in the direction of wisdom and compassion—we must put the well-being of others first. Not just humans—but animals, and the spirits of places and things. This is a radical act of courage. Not everyone can do it, so if you can, please engage in this way.
War is a sign that we are far from that place. We have to find our way home, and the first step cannot be denial or rejection—those are also acts of violence. To start, we have to accept the truth of this exact moment and place, imperfections intact. Our suffering and mistakes have something to teach us. Then, wide awake, we progress.
The first gesture is to make peace with our own minds, our own bodies, our own speech, and our own thinking. We must do the work. It is not someone else’s to do. Please remember: every single moment you are sowing the seeds of either war or peace with your body, speech, and mind. With a loving but watchful eye, look with mindfulness, and see, right here, right now—are you planting the seeds of war? If so, turn on a dime and begin to plant the seeds of peace. Do this over and over. Make it your life’s work. Make it today’s work, the work of this hour, and this breath.
The whole world depends on you. Children and old people and animals depend on you. Whole ecosystems depend on you. Work lovingly and without compromise. Give up the harmful habit of preferring one life over any other. Establish peace, over and over. Always and always, until not even the word for suffering is known.
But start right now. Make a simple gesture. And then another. And another. Begin at the level of thought. Do not let the perfection of a future-state be your horizon. Say something genuine. Share food. Carry the load of another. Learn something new today. Accumulate small action upon small action.
I support your wholesome intention to live in peace. You are my inspiration and your love is my guiding light.