This article was from the May 2004 Buddhism Now.
The Spanish people are angry, the British people are also angry, and so are the Americans. Some are angry because terrorists are killing innocent people, and some are angry because their governments are killing innocent people. Either way, the innocent ones get it. In the twin towers an estimated 2,749 people lost their lives and many were injured. People boarded planes that day and others made their way to the twin towers quite oblivious to what was awaiting them.
In consequence, many lives were lost in Afghanistan, and many more in Iraq (an estimated 27,000 killed in all and 71,000 seriously injured*) making the Afghans and Iraqis very angry indeed because the vast majority of them were quite innocent of the 11th September atrocities. More people have since lost their lives in Bali and Madrid, and the arguments rage on. It is, of course, a vicious circle—attacks will almost certainly lead to further attacks—action and reaction.
If we contemplate these latest events alone, we can see that this is a world of suffering, samsara, and we really cannot take refuge in it. The world has never been secure. Why? Because conditions are impermanent, subject to change.
In many respects, practising Buddhism is the practice of reminding ourselves that to take refuge in impermanence is like building one’s house on shifting sands; it is a very unstable situation. Taking refuge in Awakening (Buddha), the reality of each moment (Dharma) and good friends who are likewise seeking truth (Sangha), is an option we have.
The world at the moment is engaged in an angry fight. Instead of getting caught up in trying to decide who is right or wrong, and becoming angry ourselves, maybe we would be better occupied noticing that ‘self’ and ‘other’ are concepts which delude the mind, that ‘the world out there’ and ‘we in here’ are ideas rather than absolute realities. Can we let go of ‘self’ and ‘other’? Can we let go of the world — not in terms of hiding our heads in the sand, but in the sense of changing our perspective on it? It’s worth a try!
*Current estimates give the dead at over a million.