Being in the Buddhist world for 40 years and relating to the social work
world for more than 20 years has taught me how to deal with both outside
and inside suffering. I have been thinking about and observing people
who get involved in so-called peacebuilding. Many of these people are
living contradictions between their life and work. They do not link
inner and outer peace together. People focus more on the outer peace but
ignore the inner peace. That is why I wonder about the meaning and value
of peace for the peacebuilder. From my perspective, it is important for
people to pay attention to inner peace. I also believe that if we do not
practice inner peace we can easily harm the other, also a human being
full of emotions—love, hatred, anger and illusion. We all have the
ability, however, to tap into the self.
I remember when I worked with the organization Burma Issues in Bangkok.
We analyzed the conflict in Burma and concluded that it was the result
of chauvinism. The Burmese military thinks they are better than the
ethnic groups, like the Karen, Shan, Mon, etc. From my observations, I
saw that some of the peacebuilders though had actions sometimes similar
to those of the Burmese military. They thought that the work they were
doing was special and better than what the other was doing. The sense of
“better than the other” can devalue the other and will lead to
The teaching of Lord Buddha can help us develop inner peace so we can
work more effectively for outer peace. The Noble Eightfold Path of
Buddhism describes the way to end suffering. It is a practical guide to
ethical and mental development with the goal of freeing the individual
from attachments and delusions. It finally leads to understanding the
truth about all things; and through this process, we can find inner
peace. Loving kindness, tolerance and forgiveness are needed for the
peacebuilder to grow inside themselves and develop a balanced mind.
The Noble Eightfold Path teaches us to develop our wisdom by learning
right views and right intentions. It helps us develop our ethical
conduct by learning right speech, right action and right livelihood.
Finally, it helps us in our mental development through learning right
effort, right mindfulness and right concentration.
Justpeace work needs this Noble Eightfold Path so that through right
understanding and thinking we can develop inner peace. It seems simple
in words, but it is difficult to follow. It requires serious
self-reflection and also mindfulness.
I understand the target of justpeace to be the negative structures in
society and not individual persons. It means we have to fight to
transform the structure. The question that comes to my mind is: How can
one overcome a violent person who is a victim of structural oppression
when all of us are included in the same structural oppression? Thus, we
should not see an individual as the enemy but rather view systems and
structures as the enemy. We might argue that people create the systems
and structures. This is true. In my view, a human being exists equally
as good and bad. That is why we always have to be mindful of the self.
If we ignore mindfulness, we will easily lose control of our emotions
and can do harm to others. To be mindful also can help us to understand
and think deeply towards others.
From my experience, I used to hate the Thai authorities and Burmese
soldiers. They are violent to civilians. But the way that I thought
toward them was even more violent. How can a person who believes in
peace not respect other people as the humans they are? After I
discovered this about myself, I tried to understand why the authorities,
both Thai and Burmese, use violence. To understand people when we see
them as an enemy, we need to be mindful and have right understanding. We
cannot work only with people that we love but must work also with the
enemy. Both of these groups of people are human and exist in our world.