Friday 17 November 2023



Letters to Enemies

Thích Nht Hnh (1926-2022) was a Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk, writer, poet and peace activist. He founded the school of Buddhism recognized as the Plum Village Tradition, which is historically recognized as the main reference for committed Buddhism.

During the Vietnam War, there was a lot of suffering and people found themselves in a situation where they had become enemies of each other. In such a situation, you have to find a way to survive and to help others survive. We had to show people the way to act properly, because if you don’t have peace within yourself, it is very difficult to work for peace. Our thinking was: the other person is not our enemy; our enemies are misunderstanding, discrimination, violence, hatred, and anger.

If you are filled with anger, you create more suffering for yourself than for the other person. When you are inhabited by the energy of anger, you want to punish, you want to destroy. That is why those who are wise do not want to say anything or do anything while the anger is still in them. So you try to bring peace into yourself first. When you are calm, when you are lucid, you will see that the other person is a victim of confusion, of hate, of violence transmitted by society, by parents, by friends, by the environment. When you are able to see that, your anger is no longer there.

Forgiveness will not be possible until compassion is born in our heart. Even if you want to forgive, you cannot forgive. In order to be compassionate, you have to understand why the other person has done that to you and your people. You have to see that they are victims of their own confusion, their own worldview, their own grieving, their own discrimination, their own lack of understanding and compassion.

Suppose you are angry at your father. Many people are angry at their father, and yet if they don’t do anything to change it when they grow up, they will repeat exactly what their father did to them. … When you are capable of visualizing your father as a five-year-old boy – fragile, tender, full of wounds – you begin to understand and feel compassion.

An act of compassion always brings about transformation. If not right now, it will happen in the future. The important thing is you don’t react with anger. You react with compassion, and sooner or later you see the transformation in the other person.


Reference: https://www.plough.com/en/topics/faith/witness/enemy-lovers