In 1972, Thích Nhất Hạnh, was a young Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk and outspoken critic of the conflict raging in his homeland. During the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm, Sweden he spoke candidly about the war in Vietnam and the need for peace. He called for people to re-examine their lives and take responsibility for the causes of war. This interview was recorded in half-inch, black and white video on a Sony Portapack and appears on the DVD ‘2 U.N. Earth Summits: 1972 & 1992’ by Dean Evenson.
“Pressure should be made in order to stop the flow of weapons in Vietnam either by the United States and other countries, whether capitalist or socialist. But that can be done only when there is already a commitment by the United States to withdraw in a certain period of time and the cessation of the killing. I’m not talking about North Vietnam or South Vietnam, Hanoi or Saigon. I am talking about the people in Vietnam whom I know, those people who are dying every day, who are suffering every day. I am talking for their sake.
“And if you want to ask me the question of what they want, the most is that you stop the bombing, you stop the killing and then if we are alive we will pursue our struggle for other things like human dignity, freedom, independence and so on. But if you think that you have to go on fighting and dying, then you are wrong. I don’t think it is only the American government that is responsible for the war.
“Most of you know that the political-economic system there has been causing things like war in Vietnam. That is why not doing anything about the system and only demand the government to do everything, that is not enough. And I’m afraid that even if you get another new president, he may be doing the same thing as the present one.
“That is why for the people to re-examine their lives, themselves, to know whether they are participating in the strengthening of the present system in the United States is a very crucial point. If you continue to support that system, continue to consume, continue to live that way, and then you cannot say that you are not responsible, that you are upholding the government in doing things in Vietnam.”
Thích Nhất Hạnh is the founder of Plum Village Monastery in the Dordogne region in southern France. On November 11, 2014, he experienced a severe brain hemorrhage and was brought to hospital. There are signs that a full recovery may be possible. We are praying for his perfect health.