16 March 2010
Dear Thich Nhat Hanh, dear Helga and Karl Riedl, dear Sanga,
The Interbeing, too, is not so illuminated that it doesn’t cast shadows which are darker and bigger than you may realise. Your Sanga is inclined to stand out from realities, which can develop a frightening dynamic if disregarded in this way. Talking and writing so much about peace and harmony, openness and insight, spiritual dimension, pure awareness, love, healing, joy, happiness and self without sorrow, is generating a parallel world in which quarrel, hurting and sorrow escalate much more. The virtues of critical, conflict, dispute discussion, confrontation and passion are even at times, considered destructive. As a result your place becomes pretty attractive for people who shy away from criticism and conflict.
Essential parts of life are excluded, due to the words of seventh mindfulness training “life is available only in the present moment and it is possible to life happily in the here and now”, but they exist in the shadows of Interbeing. With such a focus on the presence, the dimensions of space and time are depreciated. Certainly, one should not get lost in disperse, in regret for the past or in worrying about the future. However, by doing so constructive equivalents are also missing: free association, fantasy and the power of imagination are essential abilities to get out of narrow-mindedness and hardened habits. Quite often we have to be courageous to leave what is familiar to us. And is it not the beauty of the human mind to be able to reach out far into time and space and is this not just so necessary in this present time? The lack of present-mindedness is basically no more or less destructive than the lack of past or future-mindedness. Life becomes richer and more profound by moving in balance in all time and space-dimension. Let me invite you to feel and think as well in the past, the future, the wide space and life and be at home in all of them. This open mindedness has never been more urgent to life of mankind globally at present and in the future. As you are critically involved in these issues, for example in the context of climate change, it is the more surprising that you categorically insist on the focus on the present moment.
You and I, we don`t have to be so worried about the future we only have few years to live. We are also privileged in that we have enough clean water, food and living space. But those far away from the here and now in the poor and poorest places of the planet suffer and starve also because of our carelessness. And following generations far into the future are threatened by our deathly inheritance. It is a requirement of mindfulness to widen our mind and conscience to include their suffering as a result of our lack of actions in the present.
For a mindful perception is also necessary, a sense of history that is less theoretical but alive. I know many people who have suffered expulsion, imprisonment, war and genocide and it is essential that their sufferings stay alive in our memory.
Inevitable for a deep insight in the human self is finally the vital memory of our childhood. Disregard and untrue love, which we all in some kind know and inflict on others, can have an immediate effect on children which is for them existential an life-threatening. If we don’t realise this pain and fear and if we are not prepared to feel them, we do pass on the endless story of distraction, war, terror and contempt for human beings for our environment and following generations. Statements that you should not regret the past or that happiness depends on mental attitude, obscure this insight in this general mode. No matter how true they may be apart from that.
Children’s misfortune, to be insulted, abused and threatened, is certainly not based on their mental attitude. And this is not only true for children: people are robbed of their land, their base of existence and liberty, they lose essential conditions for living in happiness. The mental attitude only is often not enough to become happy in reality. In some case, you have to reflect external conditions and actually change them. Being inclined to generate life in happiness ever and only by mental attitude can be an illusion existing apart from external conditions by building a just seeming world.
I will name another important reason why in my opinion the Interbeing causes an ominous parallel world or prevents its clearing and solvating by missing insight: it is the lack of criticism, the lack of realising values of dialog, exchanging arguments and explaining as well as missing resolutions to accept and hold out conflicts and passion. All this is an inevitable part of what you like to reach by training and practice: communication, reconciliation, non-attachment from views and learning from each other. This is particularly relevant because you aim at taking a clear stand and speaking out about situations of injustice, even when doing so may threaten our safety.
I experienced quite often how quickly objections, doubts and criticism, could make your open kindness weak and, on a couple of occasions turn into fear and displeasure. Particularly in Europe with its tradition of critical engagement and discursive practices, your position may result in polarization and lack of communication and may preclude that people with different religious and ideological backgrounds arrive at a better understanding and find a common ground which is the prerequisite for a lasting peaceful coexistence.
Your awareness that a lack of communication always brings suffering and that you will do every effort to keep the channels of communication open, encourages me to write this letter and send it to you. When I was visiting the Interbeing in autumn 2008 my wish to engage in a dialog with you remained but a wish. I was rather left alone with your judgment of my weakness of perception and my lack of experience. Ever since I am troubled with the unresolved objections and doubts raised during our conversations. I beg you very heartfelt to take up and continue a dialog with me so that sorrow and restlessness can be resolved.
With kind regards