Excerpt from “For a Future to Be Possible”, Thich Nhat Hanh
It is not just by not killing with your body that you observe the First Precept. If in your thinking you allow the killing to go on, you also break this precept. We must be determined not to condone killing, even in our minds. According to the Buddha, the mind is the base of all actions. It is most dangerous to kill in the mind. When you believe, for example, that yours is the only way for humankind and everyone who follows another way is your enemy, millions of people could be killed because of that idea.
Thinking is at the base of everything. It is important for us to put an eye of awareness in each of our thoughts. Without a correct understanding of a situation or a person, our thoughts can be misleading and create confusion, despair, anger, or hatred. Our most important task is to develop correct insight. If we see deeply into the nature of interbeing, that all things “inter-are” we will stop blaming, arguing, and killing, and we will become friends with everyone. To practice non-violence, we must first of all learn ways to deal peacefully with ourselves. If we create true harmony withing ourselves, we will know how to deal with family, friends, and associates.
Anyone can practice some non-violence, even army generals. They may, for example, conduct their operations in ways that avoid killing innocent people. To help soldiers move in the nonviolent direction, we have to be in touch with them. If we divide reality into two camps — the violent and nonviolent — and stand in one camp while attacking the other, the world will never have peace. We will always blame and condemn those we feel are responsible for wars and social injustice, without recognizing the degree of violence in ourselves. We must work on ourselves and also work with those we condemn if we want to have real impact.