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Thich Nhat Hanh Speaks at Riverside Church on “Embracing Anger” (Part 2)

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We continue now with a major address at the Riverside Church by Buddhist peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh. Thich Nhat Hanh is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk. During the U.S. War in Vietnam, he worked tirelessly for reconciliation between North and South Vietnam. He championed a movement known as “engaged Buddhism,” which intertwined traditional meditative practices with active nonviolent civil disobedience against the South Vietnamese government and the U.S. Martin Luther King Jr. nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967. Hanh’s Buddhist delegation to the Paris peace talks resulted in accords between North Vietnam and the United States, but his pacifist efforts did not end with the war. He also helped organize rescue missions well into the 1970s for Vietnamese trying to escape from political oppression. He now lives in exile in a small community in France called Plum Village. Thich Nhat Hanh has written more than 75 books of prose, poetry and prayers and continues to be banned from his native country of Vietnam. He spoke Tuesday night at the historic Riverside Church in Manhattan, where Martin Luther King Jr. first spoke out publicly against the Vietnam War. The subject of his talk was “Embracing Anger.” We pick up where he left off.

Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: You’re listening to Democracy Now! in Exile's War and Peace Report, as we break the sound barrier. I'm Amy Goodman. I want to apologize for coughing before. We are in the garret of a firehouse, Engine Company 31 in Chinatown. We’re just blocks from the World Trade Center, which, as you know, is still in the midst of a tremendous search and rescue effort, and hundreds of — more than 100,000 tons of rubble have been so far cleared from the site, though no person has been pulled from the rubble in many days. But for some reason, in the last few days, the air has become terrible around here — very acrid smell of smoke, more pronounced than it was a few days ago. There’s also still police checkpoints at the end of our road at Canal and Lafayette. And now anytime someone comes up in the elevator, there is a burst of air, and it’s filled with something — it almost smells like tear gas or burning plastic — that makes it hard to speak.

But anyway, we’re going to continue now with a major address at the Riverside Church here in New York by Buddhist peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh. He’s a Vietnamese Buddhist monk. During the War in Vietnam, he worked tirelessly for reconciliation between North and South Vietnam. Thich Nhat Hanh championed a movement known as “engaged Buddhism,” which intertwined traditional meditative practices with active nonviolent civil disobedience against the South Vietnamese government and the United States. Martin Luther King Jr. nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize. Thich Nhat Hanh’s Buddhist delegation to the Paris peace talks resulted in accords between North Vietnam and the United States, but his pacifist efforts did not end with the war. He also helped organize rescue missions well into the ’70s for Vietnamese trying to escape from political oppression. He now lives in exile in a small community in France called Plum Village. Thich Nhat Hanh has written more than 75 books of prose, poetry, prayers and continues to be banned from Vietnam.

He spoke on Tuesday night at the historic Riverside Church, where Martin Luther King first spoke out publicly against the Vietnam War. We played the first half of his speech yesterday in the second hour of our special War and Peace Report, and we wanted to bring our listeners and viewers in the first hour the second half of this speech. It’s called “Embracing Anger.” We pick up where we left off yesterday. Thich Nhat Hanh.

THICH NHAT HANH: Nothing can survive without food, including our love or our hate. Love is a living thing. Hate is a living thing. If you do not nourish your love, it will die. If you cut the source of nutriment of your anger, of your violence, they will also die. That is why the path shown by the Buddha is the path of mindful consumption.

The Buddha said there was a couple who wanted to cross the desert to go to another country to seek freedom. And they brought with them their little boy and a quantity of food and water. They did not calculate well. That is why half the way through the desert they ran out of food. And they knew that they were going to die, all three of them. So, after a lot of anguish, they decided to kill the little boy in order to eat the flesh, so that they could survive and go to the other country. And that’s what they did. And every time they ate a piece of flesh from their son, they cried.

The Buddha asked his monks, “My dear friends, do you think that the couple enjoyed eating the flesh of their son?” The Buddha said, “No, it’s impossible to enjoy eating the flesh of our son.” The Buddha said, “If you do not eat mindfully, you are eating the flesh of your son and daughter, you are eating the flesh of your parent.”

If we look deeply, we see that eating can be extremely violent. UNESCO tells us that, every day, 40,000 children in the world die because of a lack of nutrition, food. Every day, 40,000 children. And the amount of grain that we grow in the West is mostly used in order to feed our cattle. Eighty percent of the corn grown in this country is to feed the cattle to make meat. Ninety-five percent of the oat produced in this country is not for us to eat, but for animals raised for food.

AMY GOODMAN: You’re listening to Thich Nhat Hanh, as we move to the second part of his address. Again, he was speaking at Riverside Church in Manhattan. It was a packed church. Thousands of people came out to see him. Many could not make it into Riverside Church. He spoke on Tuesday night, speaking about the issue of “Embracing Anger,” as we go back to that tape. And after that, we’re going to be going to hear some comments of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, with Jerry Falwell on the Pat Robertson 700 Club. And we’re going to be joined by representatives of the National Organization for Women and the Human Rights Campaign, which is a national gay and lesbian group in the United States. But right now back to Thich Nhat Hanh, “Embracing Anger.”

THICH NHAT HANH: According to the report I just got a month ago, of all the agricultural land in the U.S., 87% is used to raise animals for food. That is 45% of the total land mass in the U.S. That is about land.

Water. More than half of all the water consumed in the U.S., whole purpose is used to raise animals for food. It takes 2,500 gallons of water to produce a pound of meat, but only 25 gallons to produce a pound of wheat. A totally vegetarian diet requires 300 gallons of water per day, while a meat-eating diet requires more than 4,000 gallons of water per day.

Pollution. Raising animals for food causes more water pollution in the U.S. than any other industry, because animals raised for food produce 130 times the excrement of the entire human population. It means 87,000 pounds per second. Much of the waste from factory farms and slaughterhouses flows into streams and rivers, contaminating water sources.

Deforestation. Each vegetarian can save one acre of trees every year. More than 260 million acres of U.S. forests have been cleared to grow crops to feed animals raised for meat. And another acre of trees disappears every eight seconds. The tropical rainforests are also being destroyed to create grazing land for cattle.

Resources. In the U.S., animals raised for food are fed more than 80% of the corn we grow and more than 95% of the oats. We are eating our country. We are eating the Earth. We are eating our children. And I have learned that more than half the people in this country overeat.

Mindful eating can help maintain compassion within our heart. A person without compassion cannot be happy, cannot relate to other human beings and to other living beings. And eating the flesh of our own son is what is going on in the world, because we do not practice mindful eating.

The Buddha spoke about the second kind of food that you consume every day. That is the sense impression, the kind of food that we take in by the way of the eyes, the ears, the nose, the tongue, the body and the mind. When we read a magazine, we eat, we consume. When you watch television, you consume. When you listen to a conversation, you consume. And these items can be highly toxic. There may be a lot of poisons, like craving, like violence, like anger, like despair, in this product. We allow ourselves to be intoxicated by what we consume in terms of sense impressions. We allow our children to intoxicate themselves because of these products. That is why it is very important to look deeply into our ill-being, into the nature of our ill-being, in order to recognize the sources of nutriment we have used to bring it into us and to our society.

The Buddha had this to say: “What has come to be, if you know how to look deeply into its nature and identify its source of nutriment, you are already on the path of emancipation.” What has come to be is our illness, our ill-being, our suffering, our violence, our despair. And if you practice looking deeply, meditation, you’ll be able to identify the sources of nutriments, of food, that has brought it in to us.

And therefore, the whole nation has to practice looking deeply into the nature of what we consume every day. And consuming mindfully is the only way to protect ourselves, our family, our nation and our society. We have to learn how to consume mindfully as a family, as a city, as a nation. We have to learn how — what to produce and what not to produce in order to provide only with our people the items that are nourishing and healing. We have to refrain from producing the kind of items that can bring war and despair into our body, into our consciousness and in the collective body and consciousness of our nation, our society.

And Congress has to practice that. We have elected members of the Congress. We expect them to practice, listen deeply to the suffering of the people, to look deeply in order to understand that suffering, to see the real causes of that suffering and to make the kind of law that can protect us from self-destruction. And America is great. I have the conviction that you can do it and you help the world. You can offer the world wisdom, mindfulness and compassion.

Nowaday I enjoy places where people do not smoke. There are nonsmoking flights that you can enjoy. Ten years ago, they did not exist, nonsmoking flights. And in America, on every box of cigarettes there is the sentence: “Beware: Smoking may be hazardous to your health.” That is a bell of mindfulness. That is the practice of mindfulness of consumption. You do not say that you practice mindfulness, but you are really practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness of smoking will help you to see that smoking is not healthy.

In America, people are very aware of the nature of food they eat. They want every package of food to be labeled so that you can know what is in it. We don’t want to eat the kind of food that can bring about toxins and poisons into our body This is the practice of mindful eating.

But we can go further. We can do better, as parents, as teachers, as artists, as politicians. If you are a teacher, you can contribute a lot in awakening people, in waking up people on the need of mindful consumption, because that is the way leading to real emancipation. If you are a filmmaker, if you are journalist, and then you have means in order to educate people, waking people up to the danger of our situation. Every one of us can transform himself or herself into a bodhisattva doing the work of awakening.

AMY GOODMAN: Thich Nhat Hanh, the second part of his address at Riverside Church this week in New York. The Vietnamese Buddhist monk, well known for opposing the War in Vietnam, still can’t return to his homeland, has written more than 75 books of poetry and prose. We’ll play the last part of his speech tomorrow here on Democracy Now! in Exile, The War and Peace Report. We’ll be back to hear the words of Americans Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. Stay with us.

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