-The Core Essence of Human Beings, Stripped of Labels-

I try make a concerted effort to avoid the tide of popular opinion. It’s not so much “going against the flow” as it is just finding another flow. That beings said, I cannot help but be sucked into this political rip tide the USA has going right now.

In light of that, I have been reading and meditating on a book by Thich Nhat Hanh recently and as synchronicity would have it, came across his thoughts on labels. I would like to quote him here and stop my own train of thought. It’s such a simple concept that would bring about so much peace. However, it’s sad to think that there are countless people who would simply toss this aside as nonsense. Please read carefully and consider the application. His thoughts are as follows:

“We are separated by labels, by words like “Israeli,” “Palestinian,” “Buddhist,” “Jew,” and “Muslim”. When we hear one of these words, it evokes an image and we immediately feel alienated from the other group or person. We’ve set up many habitual ways of thinking that separate us from each other, and we make each other suffer. So it’s important to discover the human being in the other person, and to help the other person discover the human being in us. As human beings we’re exactly the same but the many layers of labels prevent other people from seeing you as a human being. Thinking of yourself as or calling yourself a “Buddhist” can be a disadvantage, because if you wear the title “Buddhist,” that may be an obstacle which prevents others from discovering the human being in you. The same is true whether you are Christian, Jewish, or Muslim. This can be an important part of your identity, but it is not the whole of who you are. People are caught in these notions and images, and they cannot recognize each other as human beings. The practice of peeling away all the labels so that the human being can be revealed is truly a practice for peace. Because people are very attached to these names and labels, it is important that we use gentle language and loving speech as we talk with people about maters of identity and injustice.

Injustice is suffered by both sides in any personal dispute. It’s crucial we understand that. Once understanding and compassion are born in our heart, the poisons of anger, violence, hatred, and despair will be transformed. The path is quite clear. The only solution is to get the poisons out and to get the insight and the compassion in! Then we will discover each other as human beings, not allowing ourselves to be deceived by the outer layers, by names like “Buddhism,” “Islam,” “Judaism,” “pro-American,” “pro-Arab”, and so on. This is a process of liberation – liberation from our ideas, our ignorance, our tendency to discriminate. The Earth is so beautiful and there is room for all of us, yet we kill each other. But when we can see each other as human beings with their own suffering, we won’t have the courage to shoot each other. We’ll work together for the chance to live peacefully together.” – Thich Nhat Han


Thich Nhat Hanh