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Fighting For What's Important

E. Raymond Rock

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The most tenacious fighter wins. This is true in war, politics, religion, and all aspects of human relationship. The times when we don't have to fight, the times when we can live without fighting, we call peace. However, there are those who say that peace is not sustainable because peace creates pacifists, and pacifists are helpless when confronted by aggressors who are more motivated than pacifists. The aggressor always wins unless the pacifist aggressively fights back, and then the pacifist is no longer a pacifist, but an aggressor as well.

Those who desire peace are faced with a reality. If one is truly peaceful, they must come to terms with capitulating to those more aggressive. The Buddha said that we should never succumb to tyrants, but the Buddha never had to fight for his way of life. His lifestyle was very low-keyed, living in the forest and begging for food. There was no reason for an aggressor to go to the trouble of killing the Buddha, he had nothing, and he posed no threat. He was very clever, because he found something more valuable than mere possessions, and something no one could take from him.

Once we have something valuable to protect, we can no longer be pacifists. Once we have a desire, an agenda, we can no longer bask in the luxury of ease and tranquility. The Buddha understood this, and in understanding this, reached as far as he could inwardly to find what it is that we fundamentally possess; what keeps us from peace, and how to let go of it.

When we think of things to protect, we usually think of property, ideals, and family, but the Buddha went deeper than that. He discovered the root of what keeps us from being true pacifists, something that few come to terms with and the reason why few can be true pacifists. As long as we have an agenda, even an agenda to be peaceful, and as long as we have something to protect, one can never be truly peaceful. This is why regardless of thousands of years of culture; we have gotten nowhere regarding warring with ourselves. The one with the strongest desire wins; the most aggressive fighter triumphs.

This is underlined in our competitive society. We compete with each other beginning with our brothers and sisters, and then in our schools where competitive examinations and sports encourage us to win. Life is no different, as we fight to keep our heads above water and get the better of the next person, or the next country. It doesn't change; it's human nature. The question is; can human beings ever get beyond this natural instinct to eliminate each other and instead look out for one another?

The Buddha said that it was possible, and his life and the life of his monks and nuns were an example of what can be accomplished by just ordinary people; it is always an internal thing. When we get to the point that we are no longer attached to our possessions, not that we necessarily throw them away, but without the clinging, desperate grasping of them for our security, then the aggressiveness and fighting calms down.

There is no security in the world. The idea that the world can provide ultimate security is an illusion. Ask people who have lost everything and most will tell you that their tragedy was the best thing that has ever happened to them. It woke them up to something much greater, something that could never be taken away again. After their awakening, no longer do they fight for things, but usually find themselves peacefully helping others. It's an amazing transformation, all because they were forced to face reality; the reality that things will never make them happy and only imprisons them and keeps them from the true happiness, which is giving. Yet we fight each other over things such as wealth, property, and prestige, while that which will truly make us happy, which is peace in our hearts nourished by giving up ourselves for others, goes wanting.

It is all about our unawareness of what really is. It is all about not taking the time to see what's going on until some incident wakes us up. Why wait for a tragedy? Meditation is the quintessential wake up call.

E. Raymond Rock of Fort Myers, Florida is cofounder and principal teacher at the Southwest Florida Insight Center, His twenty-eight years of meditation experience has taken him across four continents, including two stopovers in Thailand where he practiced in the remote northeast forests as an ordained Theravada Buddhist monk. His book, A Year to Enlightenment (Career Press/New Page Books) is now available at major bookstores and online retailers. Visit


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