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Peace begin with the self

---Opening Remarks by the Most Venerable Master Sheng Yen at Young Leaders Peacebuilding Retreat, Pine Bush, NY, October 26, 2006.


I'm very pleased to see so many old friends and new friends here. On behalf of DDRC I welcome you all. I hope that in the next two days you will all have an enjoyable and peaceful life.

Now I have a question for our young people here, "How can world peace be achieved and what can be done to promote it?" Has anyone got any ideas? In the past I have read many famous people's writings and attended some presentations. Some people emphasize that it is not difficult to achieve world peace, we only need to change the way the other party thinks; and if a country, an ethnic group or a religion is prepared to change their stance, peace is imminent.

Would you concur with such a view? For people with such a view, are they promoters or destroyers of world peace? There are also many people who advocate peace by employing extremist measures towards other people and situations. They want to have instant peace by using violence, but instead they are causing peace to be further beyond reach.

Our world has moved on from the 20th century to the 21st century, the idea that we must employ violence to achieve everlasting peace should be changed. Violence will only bring more violence, such concepts as 'an eye for an eye' and 'a tooth for a tooth' only leads to unresolvable conflicts. Our minds work in a similar way. If we treat others with anger and hatred, others will treat us with anger and hatred.

However if we treat others with friendliness, compassion and kindness, even though the other person is still very angry or is prone to violence, he will be affected by our gentleness and compassion and change himself. At least he will not treat us with anger and hatred.

Peace must start from within us. When we are at peace then the world we see is also at peace. Even if the outside environment is not at harmony, at least we won't be affected; we won't create conflict, turmoil and antagonism. When our mind is settled and at peace those around us will follow suit.

This is a preliminary meeting of our young people here prior to the UN Summit. As far as I know, the theme of this UN Global Youth Leaders Peace Summit is 'Elimination of Poverty in the World'. Frankly speaking, I don't think the problem of human poverty can be solved by you people. Giving young people the task of solving poverty which has been in existence in human history for such a long time is easier said than done!

Yet I still have to say that it is not impossible to solve the issue of poverty in the world. There are still areas that young people can work on. Firstly you must not be impoverished; it is only then that you can help others. The meaning of not being impoverished is to be unselfish, not greedy, not indulging in endless pursuits but be ready at all times to contribute what you have. This way one is not in spiritual impoverishment. On the contrary, even a wealthy person is poor if he is a miser and is only concerned about himself.

When you attend the UN Global Youth Leaders Peace Summit you may like to raise this point: the cause of human poverty is not due to natural disasters but man made wars. Hence to solve this problem is to end all wars.

To end all wars we must have a spiritually rich and generous heart. Material supplies and food provisions may ease the phenomena of poverty for a while, but the ultimate way of solving world poverty is through our own hearts, through our own mind which is not in spiritual poverty but is calm and peaceful. Blessings to all of you and blessings for world peace.


(Translated by Agnes Chow)




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