August 09, 2010

Buddhism and Conflict Resolution

As many of you know, Tricycle sends out a daily email called Daily Dharma, containing short teachings and links to longer articles from the Tricycle Archives.  A few months ago we received a very thoughtful response to a Daily Dharma from an author and security specialist named Michael Jaquish, which we published here on the blog, leading to a very interesting and dynamic discussion on Buddhism and Faith. We recently heard from Michael again, this time in the topic of conflict resolution, and I am once again very thankful to be able to share his thoughts with our readers.  We thank him for this contribution, and welcome all of our readers’ responses to Daily Dharma as well.

Here is the Daily Dharma,

The causes of any conflict lie in strong attachment to certain views, and the core of Buddha’s teaching is of great help here. All phenomena, in addition to being transient, arise and disappear according to a complex set of conditions. When we apply this truth to conflict, we give up the simplistic, black-and-white picture through which conflict is usually described and perpetuated. Views about the “good guys” and the “bad guys” simply do not correspond to the reality.

-Zarko Andricevic, from "Peace: How Realistic Is It?" (Summer 2003)

Read the complete article here.

Michael Jaquish’s response:


Conflict resolution is a huge issue in today’s unstable environment so I read this daily dharma with some interest, wondering how effective such a philosophy can be on the global stage.

Seeing issues from a  ”Black and White” perspective is Buddhist talk for attachment to the ‘dual’ perspective. Which is to say, the ‘them and us‘ perspective as opposed to the non-dual ‘all are one‘ perspective.

I agree with the writer that choosing the non-dual over the dual perspective can be the first step resolving a crisis IF (and this is a BIG if) both parties are open to such a choice. Tibet is an interesting case to consider because there you have a situation where one side of the conflict is open to this choice while the other side refuses to consider it at all. Tibet has done its best through its leader, The Dalai Lama to reach out, even offering to drop the demand for a separate nation, but because China is totally focused on the ‘them and us‘ dual perspective, they refuse to recognize such efforts as being meaningful.

Tibetans trapped in Tibet continue to try to practice the non-dual approach in regards to their occupiers because to do otherwise would be to walk away from the fundamental tenants of their spiritual philosophy. Many are very frustrated though because after decades of this approach, they see clearly that this it is simply not working.

Tibet is unusual because what is at stake is really not just the boundaries of a country, but the philosophy and sense of identity of an entire nation. The Chinese know that the Tibetan spiritual philosophy revolves around silence and peace so they broadcast loud offensive music throughout Lhasa 24 hours a day to keep the monks and the people from meditating. It is incredibly self-centered and it represents an attack on the very spirit of the people.

Despite this, The Dalai Lama continues to pray for an end to suffering for ALL beings, including the Chinese leaders every day. In doing so, he is attempting to set an example for his people all over the world, some who are growing tired of utilizing a perspective that seems to be pointless and ineffective against the Chinese.

Tibet may be an extreme example of duality but even if it resides at the far end of the spectrum it is a situation that must be considered when one is evaluating effective conflict resolution strategies. Fortunately, most situations seem less extreme but still… whenever both parties insist upon clinging to their view of us and them, it is unlikely that any real, effective, lasting peace can be negotiated by outside parties. For this reason, I believe that whenever possible, a part of any conflict resolution approach should include an attempt to convince both parties to adopt some kind of non-dual perspective. Due to human ego domination it will not always be successful but when it is, it can set a powerful example for the world.


-Michael Jaquish

Michael Jaquish is the author of numerous books including:
A Monk Without a Monastery & NAMASTE- Greeting the Light Within
available on

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chansothi thach's picture

how are you there. i hope over there is better than here, but i need to get some buddhist books in buddhism because i a'm study buddhism in thailand, i a'm from cambodia monk, i has no way to fine the books that conflict and peace in buddhism, so if you help me in this time, i think that very good because i need so much with my study, thanks, good luck for your work,
this book in thailand very expensive no way for me,

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