One-Straw Reveloution – M. Fukuoka – Zen


A Village Without War and Peace

A snake seizes a frog in its mouth and slips away into the grass. A girl screams. A brave lad bares his feelings of loathing and flings a rock at the snake. The others laugh. I turn to the boy who threw the stone: “What do you think that’s going to accomplish?”

The hawk hunts the snake. The wolf attacks the hawk. A human kills the wolf, and later succumbs to a tuberculosis virus. Bacteria breed in the remains of the human, and other animals, grasses, and trees thrive on the nutrients made available by the bacteria’s activity. Insects attack the trees, the frog eats the insects. Animals, plants, microorganisms all are part of the cycle of life. Maintaining a suitable balance, they live a naturally regulated existence. People may choose to view this world either as a model of strong consuming weak, or of co-existence and mutual benefit. Either way, it is an arbitrary interpretation which causes wind and waves, brings about disorder and confusion.

Adults think the frog is deserving of pity, and feeling compassion for its death, despise the snake. This feeling may seem to be natural, just a matter of course, but is this what it really is?

One youth said, “If life is seen as a contest in which the strong consume the weak, the face of the earth becomes a hell of carnage and destruction. But it is unavoidable that the weak should be sacrificed so that the strong may live. That the strong win and survive and the weak die out is a rule of nature. After the passage of millions of years, the creatures now living on the earth have been victorious in the struggle for life. You could say that the survival of the fittest is a providence of nature.”

Said a second youth, “That’s how it appears to the winners, anyway. The way I see it, this world is one of co-existence and mutual benefit. At the foot of the grain in this field, clover, and so many varieties of grasses and weeds are living mutually beneficial lives. Ivy winds around the trees; moss and lichen live attached to the tree’s trunk and branches. Ferns spread beneath the forest canopy. Birds and frogs, plants, insects, small animals, bacteria, fungi -all creatures perform essential roles and benefit from one another’s existence.”

A third spoke, “The earth is a world of the strong consuming the weak, and also one of co-existence. The stronger creatures take no more food than necessary; though they attack other creatures, the overall balance of nature is maintained. The providence of nature is an ironclad rule, preserving peace and order upon the earth.”

Three people and three points of view. I met all three opinions with a flat denial.

The world itself never asks whether it is based upon a principle of competition or of cooperation. When seen from the relative perspective of the human intellect, there are those who are strong and there are those who are weak, there is large and there is small.

Now there is no one who doubts that this relative outlook exists, but if we were to suppose that the relativity of human perception is mistaken-for

“In nature, the world of relativity does not exist.”

example, that there is no big and no small, no up or down -if we say there is no such standpoint at all, human values and judgment would collapse.

“Isn’t that way of seeing the world an empty flight of the imagination? In reality, there are large countries and small countries. If there is poverty and plenty, strong and weak, inevitably there will be disputes, and consequently, winners and losers. Couldn’t you say, rather, that these relative perceptions and the resulting emotions are human and therefore natural, that they are a unique privilege of being human?”

Other animals fight but do not make war. If you say that making war, which depends upon ideas of strong and weak, is humanity’s special “privilege,” then life is a farce. Not knowing this farce to be a farce there lies the human tragedy. The ones who live peacefully in a world of no contradictions and no distinctions are infants. They perceive light and dark, strong and weak, but make no judgments. Even though the snake and the frog exist, the child has no understanding of strong and weak. The original joy of life is there, but the fear of death is yet to appear.

The love and hate which arise in the adult’s eyes originally were not two separate things. They are the same thing as seen from the front and from the back. Love gives substance to hate. If you turn the coin of love over, it becomes hate. Only by penetrating to an absolute world of no aspects, is it possible to avoid becoming lost in the duality of the phenomenal world.

People distinguish between Self and Other. To the extent that the ego exists, to the extent that there is an “other,” people will not be relieved from love and hatred. The heart that loves the wicked ego creates the hated enemy. For humans, the first and greatest enemy is the Self that they hold so dear.

People choose to attack or to defend. In the ensuing struggle they accuse one another of instigating conflict. It is like clapping your hands and then arguing about which is making the sound, the right hand or the left. In all contentions there is neither right nor wrong, neither good nor bad. All conscious distinctions arise at the same time and all are mistaken.

To build a fortress is wrong from the start. Even though he gives the excuse that it is for the city’s defense, the castle is the outcome of the ruling lord’s personality, and exerts a coercive force on the surrounding area. Saying he is afraid of attack and that fortification is for the town’s protection, the bully stocks up weapons and puts the key in the door.

The act of defense is already an attack. Weapons for self-defense always give a pretext to those who instigate wars. The calamity of war comes from the strengthening and magnifying of empty distinctions of self/other, strong/weak, attack/defense. There is no other road to peace than for all people to depart from the castle gate of relative perception, go down into the meadow, and return to the heart of non-active nature. That is, sharpening the sickle instead of the sword.

The farmers of long ago were a peaceful people, but now they are arguing with Australia about meat, quarreling with Russia over fish, and dependent on America for wheat and soybeans.

I feel as if we in Japan are living in the shadow of a big tree, and there is no place more dangerous to be during a thunderstorm than under a big tree. And there could be nothing more foolish than taking shelter under a “nuclear umbrella” which will be the first target in the next war. Now we are tilling the earth

beneath that dark umbrella. I feel as though a crisis is approaching from both inside and out.

Get rid of the aspects of inside and outside. Farmers everywhere in the world are at root the same farmers. Let us say that the key to peace lies close to the earth.

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