VIETNAM: Lotus in a Sea of Fire by Thich Nhat Hanh

VIETNAM: Lotus in a Sea of Fire

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Thomas Merton forewords this outspoken little book from a Buddhist monk that presents a startling other-view of the war in Vietnam. ""We are dealing with a society and a culture which, because we have no way on earth of understanding, we have decided to ignore,"" Merton says, and indicates this is ""the first clear articulation of views and claims that have hitherto been ignored."" Hanh, a leading intellectual and Director of the School of Social Studies at Van Hanh University, Saigon, reviews Vietnamese history in relation to the participation of religious groups; today the Buddhists of Vietnam ""desire to mobilize the force of their religion in order to rebuild their society, and consequently they have carried Buddhism into every domain of life: culture, economics, politics, and social welfare."" Today after twenty years of disastrous war, ""there literally can be no religious conscience (Catholic as well as Buddhist) that does not speak out against it."" Hanh sees America as following the French route, unable to detach nationalism from Communism but instead by its ubiquitous intervention throwing the two together. The war is actually a demonstration of the fear the United States and the People's Republic of China have of each other; a new orientation must be achieved. Hanh sees a ""third way"" to peace: the formation of a temporary interim government composed of representatives of major Vietnamese religious groups. This is an important book as much for its representation of an active philosophy-policy in Vietnam as for its insights. It should be essential reading for the informed, say League of Women Voters, citizen.

Publisher: Hill & Wang