Engaged Buddhism / Music on Peace

Rachel Butt (wondrousound), a member of the Plum Village website team, shares experiences of using music and Plum Village practices as ways of responding to suffering and violence in the world.

Music has always been a refuge for me, a deep and timeless space where the non-stop thinking radio station can be soothed into silence and the wonder of sound. When my inner world is turbulent as it has been in recent months, witnessing crimes against humanity that ignite my heart on fire, I’ve turned to music as a pathway to embrace suffering, look beyond the discriminative mind, and water seeds of a new world, where every note in our collective song has the conditions to bloom in safety, peace and harmony.

Peace is a Practice

When I was 23 I left a life in music to study law and human rights, thinking I needed to be more engaged in the world, that my sounds were not having an impact on the collective. After ten years advocating on behalf of the most vulnerable groups in society I found myself burned out in anger, vicarious trauma, and despair at a world I felt didn’t care about my clients who needed protection from harm and opportunities to flourish rather than restrictions from oppressive systems that I perceived set them up to fail.

As I witnessed the suffering in Palestine and Israel unfold in October 2023 and felt the fire rising within, I knew I needed to meet this energy and create space for clear seeing and emergent action from the heart. I turned to my guitar to ”cool the flames” and created an anthem for peace.


Initially it was called a mantra, which in Sanskrit means ”tool for the mind” or ”mind protection” but it contained so much fire, like the howling of a motherless child, that – anthem – offered up by a dear friend, felt more fitting. 

Through – not so gentle – repetition, I found this fire could be embraced, processed, and channeled as the mind had a chance to find stillness and cultivate the strength needed to guide the energy rather than allow it to burn everything down in reactivity, including myself. 

Please Call Me By My True Names

When I look deeply into this fire, I see it as a gift from my grandfather, a man who was imprisoned for calling for a united independent India after colonial rule and later spent his life working to liberate our ancestral home, Kashmir, from occupation. Though I never had the opportunity to meet this man outside of myself I feel his energy alive in me guiding my values and vision towards a liberated, peaceful, and harmonious world.

What seemed to ignite his fire is the same sense of injustice that ignites mine. I see how it relates directly to power, or specifically – power over – which is the opposite of a state of true peace and harmony. It is the opposite of how the human system works, each cell – individually – empowered, cooperating to form a healthy whole. It is the opposite of how music manifests, a melody of sounds great and small, perfectly in resonance with one another, each note vibrating across a spectrum of frequencies to form a symphony of wondrousound. 

But why and when do we seek power over others? Are there good people and bad people in this world as is presented on the news? As the bombardment of Gaza continued into the new year and lawyers from South Africa presented a case for Genocide at the International Court of Justice I turned again to my guitar. This time accompanied by one of the most powerful poems offered to the world by our beloved teacher that roots me to the core of the Bodhisattva path.


As I found the notes to accompany these words and bathe store consciousness in their deep wisdom, tears began to fall. I’ve often struggled to cry, to release, but sound allows me to open and let cleansing tears flow as I breathe in and out. I allowed myself to feel the pain and look deeper to see that even though I wholeheartedly disagree with the actions of domination, without consciously practicing to de-condition my own bodymind I will continue this energy in the world. I see clearly how I seek power over others, to dominate and control, when I don’t feel safe. I see clearly that the harmony of the human system can be disrupted by the dis-cordance of trauma and there is a path to healing that we are each invited to walk. 

We Are Capable

Spring came and collective action bloomed. Awakening beings from multiple faiths came together online to explore the essence of reverence for life, led by a coalition of the global majority BIPOC Sanghas who practice with Buddhists Across Traditions to ”blossom a radically different society”.

Turning towards the wisdom of the Plum Village tradition I sat again with my guitar and the invitation of the The Fourth Mindfulness Training, a commitment to ‘’cultivate loving speech and deep listening in order to bring joy and happiness to others and relieve others of their suffering.’’

Having spent time studying the science of sound alongside the Dharma I see clearer now that everything I think, speak and act has an impact on the collective. Alongside the path of healing I can consciously use this power to serve the world I seek to co-create. ‘’I am determined to speak truthfully, with words that inspire self-confidence, joy, and hope.’’ This sentence led me to write this piece, We Are Capable, and a whole album of music meditation that waters the seeds of deep listening and loving speech.


What is special about this sound is that the guitar is tuned in resonance with the frequency of 528Hz, a scientifically studied tone known as the ”frequency of love” that allows the heart to unclench and open to receive the wonders of life. I wanted to consciously create music that reminded us of our innate goodness, our interconnected nature, and limitless potential to bloom as a collective. I hope you enjoy these sounds and allow them to touch your own beautiful heart and the power we each have to practice and contribute to co-creating the conditions for peace, harmony, and collective flourishing all over the earth, here and now.

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What is Mindfulness

Thich Nhat Hanh January 15, 2020

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