Updated: Jul 19
A STATE OF WAR EXISTS
War is an intense armed conflict between states, governments, societies, or paramilitary groups such as mercenaries, insurgents, and militias. It is generally characterized by extreme violence, aggression, destruction, and mortality, using regular or irregular military forces. Warfare refers to the common activities and characteristics of types of war, or of wars in general. Wikipedia
According to the definition from Wikipedia above, this is the case in Ukraine.
The factual and sterile definitions probably bring out little feelings from you as a reader.
To see deeply into this “state” (‘WAR’ is the state of Ukraine), people in their minds-eye must see men, women, and children blown-apart, and the killers and families of those killed being consumed with pain at a level beyond understanding. And this only an inkling of WAR, not the experience.
This paper may be small in relation to what is taking place today, but I give it freely. You see, in my teens I wanted to be a soldier. In 1962 I received a second alternate position to the United States Military Academy at West Point. This meant however, that the primary candidate and first alternate had to not meet the criteria for admission for me to go— I still have the letter from The Honorable Carl Vinson.
The above two conditions did not happen and I went to North Georgia College (NGC) in Dahlonega Georgia. Then as now, (The University of North Georgia https://ung.edu/) serves the nation as an Essentially Military College (EMC) along with The Citadel, Virginia Military Institute, Texas A&M and others. Each having a full-time cadet corp of students to be trained for military service. I enjoyed and continue to benefit from my fours years at NGC.
North Georgia College also saved my life. It had people who recognised my pain and sent me to doctors who diagnosed a genetic spinal condition (that still gives me problems to this day) that prevented me from being commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the US Army Reserves in 1967. Then, several weeks later I was drafted. Here again, medical records from Fort McPherson Hospital, in Atlanta Georgia showed me physically unable to serve.
The next year, my roommate at NGC was killed in Vietnam. I have struggled with Survivor’s Syndrome/guilt at different levels of intensity for over fifty years. Soldiers, and all military personnel protect us and this service is best expressed by their capacity, strength, and bravery, being so recognizable that it deters others from WAR. I support the role and work of the military if not always the purpose of their being in harm's way
Escalation of ill-will perhaps, or of disrespect perhaps, fear of physical attack or the loss of power, or wealth, or cultural and social (acculturation and socialization) and the demonization of a group as always out to get you. War is complicated in its excuse for action.
I was exposed to hating skin color growing up in segregated Georgia in the 1950 and 1960, and It didn't make much sense. I found this out when participating in the Civil Rights movement and working with Historically Black Colleges and Universities from the 1970 to 2010.
Then later, as a Soto Zen Buddhist disciple, I seemed to get beyond a fix answer to any why! I remember my teacher Elliston-roshi quoting his teacher Matsuoka-roshi. When asked why something was the way it was, he would often answer…”it depends.” Our individual level of control may be limited but is always important to the moment
I recently saw on television, a Ukrainian civilian standing in front of a Russian tank he did not stop the war nor did he stop the tank. Yet, it shows others possibility building clusters of people to intervene to change some part of what is happening.
Earlier in my lfe, I became involved with the civil rights movement in 1968 and was in Memphis Tennessee when Dr, King was killed that April. Armed conflict erupted in several urban areas around the nation. The conditions unresoved from the American Civil War and Reconstruction played out then and are still with us today.
THE MIDDLE WAY
WAR was clearly known to Shakyamuni Buddha as he was a member of the Kshatriya or warriors caste in India. https://www.asiahighlights.com/india/caste-system. He was fully trained to fight others. Yet he took up the unfathomable quest of saving all beings from suffering. How, by becoming “The Teacher” of The Middle Way. The path anyone may take to reduce suffering. Similarly Dr. King would say he was “A Drum Major for Justice…”
Compassion must flow into greed, hate, and delusion to reduce suffering. Sometimes there is a calculation of profit and loss. Sometimes it may be a realization that loved ones will suffer more if the casual action continues. On occasion the cries of people become so loud it is inescapable and must be stopped. Compassion is the bridge to constructing community, which was by the way the mission of Rev. Dr. Soyu Zengaku Matsuoka, Roshi https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S%C5%8Dy%C5%AB_Matsuoka
This current WAR has new conditions and variables worth noting. These are the weaponizing of communication, and transactions of agreement such as banking, fly zones, and visas. While different than the firing bombing of Dresden or London in WWII, or the scorched earth strategy of Sherman in the American Civil War. So much now can be wiped-out digitally and immediately causing major suffering without armed conflict, that it changes the calculus of WAR. At the very least, a new weapon of destruction has been added to the arsenal.
Zen is seeing the “true” face in each moment. Then we act. We are open to each moment experiencing positive, neutral or negative impact. In WAR cause and effect generates major fluctuations in our time space continuum. This may result in total disruption of ways of life creating magnitudes of suffering expanding further and farther.
Practicing the Middle Way. We do what we can everyday to reduce suffering.. We may feel it is not enough yet we do it now as a way of life. We have met the suffering and it is us.
We breathe to reduce the suffering of all beings, may there be more of us..