UN DAY OF PEACE 22 SEPTEMBER 2010
A Buddhist ‘s Perspective
Venerable Dr Thich Minh Tam
International Buddhist Organization For Culture Education & Social Development
Ladies and Gentlemen,
My today topic is Peace and Buddha.
There has been a Worldwide misperception about the Buddha and his teachings. Despite his physical entering Nirvana more than 2550 years ago, his Dharma teachings and Peace embodiment has survived time even until now.
I. What Buddhism Has to Say About Peace and the Peaceful Resolution of Conflict ?
Buddhism is peace. Peace is Buddhism. There has been no bloody war in the history of Buddhism. A Buddhist collection of verses on daily practice, the Pali (Theravadin) Dhammapada, makes this abundantly clear. Verse five of the text (of 423 verses) states:
“Hatred is never appeased by hatred.
Hatred is only appeased by Love (or, non-enmity).
This is an eternal law.”
The Pali term for “eternal law” is dhamma, or the Buddha’s teachings. So, this verse on non-enmity has to do with a tenet of the Buddhist faith that is fundamental, namely, peace and non-violence. (Moreover, though not often cited, the very last verses of the Dhammapada condemn the class (varna) and other prejudicial distinctions that would divide people.)
Similarly, the famous 8th century Mahayana poet, Santideva, said the same thing. For example, in Santideva’s great work, the Bodhicaryavatara, these verses categorically point out the dangers of hatred:
“There is no evil equal to hatred, and no spiritual practice equal to forbearance. Therefore, one ought to develop forbearance, by various means, with great effort.” –(Ch. 6, verse 2).
Buddha categorically tells us that hatred and aversion, like their opposites desire and greed, all spring from a fundamental ignorance. That exits due to our false belief of our own permanent, independent existence. We furthermore habor under an incorrect view as if we are separate beings, unconnected with others.
In addition, we also harbor various kinds of prejudices. Not one of us is completely free from prejudicial attitudes. Human beings can form pre-judgements and make their choices. Free will and choice are taken as fundamental rights. So, the question arises that what’s the problem?
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The problem occurs when our own individual likes and dislikes become reified and solidified. Not only do we form inflexible opinions, but treat them as truths. At this point, we have entered into the arena of prejudice which causes harm and suffering both for ourselves and for others.
The World is as a result filled with endless conflict. Ethnic and racial prejudices run rampant in today’s global, multicultural society. And, all over the world, wars are waged in the name of religion.
Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “We have only two choices: to peacefully coexist, or to destroy ourselves.” If we are ultimately to survive on this planet, we must appreciate each other as human beings and thus to live together in peace. Disarming of all nation states will not be possible until we have first disarmed our own, individual hatred hearts.
In reality, at our innermost cores we are all exactly the same. We are human beings who struggle for happiness and avoid suffering. Yet, out of ignorance, we forcefully attempt to achieve these goals blindly violently and without insight examination. As a result, we suffer because we nurture the false belief of our self-separateness or individualistic existence from one another.
The illusion of self-separateness actually stops us from recognizing this erroneous spiral. Buddha tells us that from the very moment the notions of ‘I’ and ‘mine’ arise, there simultaneously arises the notions of ‘not me’ and ‘not mine.’ That is, from the moment we conceive of ‘us,’ there is ‘them.’ Once the notions of self-separateness, difference, and otherness enter our mind, they then go on literally and figuratively–to colorize all of our subsequent experience, judgments and perceptions. The world is viewed by us in terms of us vs. them, me vs. else, mine vs. yours. We are immediately trapped up in a world of illusionary, logically unfounded, and seemingly uncontrollable hatred and prejudice.
To the question, then, “Can racial, ethnic and religious hatreds and prejudices among human beings be terminated?,” the answer is, ‘Yes, it can.’ Of course, ending something so deep-rooted and unconsciously operative for years is not an easy task.
The dismantling of hateful prejudices begins with the right recognition that we do, in fact, attach and harbor them. Next, we must be willing to examine at our own particular prejudices with honesty and resolve. We must examine how and why we harbor such views. And through this understanding, we are willing to replace them with more positive views and proper behaviors. Lastly, it is us who make a difference. We can work together for positive change in our own society and in the world.
We must appreciate that hatred is learned. To establish Peace, we must un-learn it. Racism and racial profiling is learned behavior. We must determined to un-learn it. Ethnic and class distinctions are learned. We must appreciate the common humanity that unites us.
II. How Buddhist Practice Can Help to Replace a War-like Mentality in a War-torn Country, with a Peaceful Way of Thinking
If we wish to achieve a culture of peace, we must maintain continuous effort, resolve, patience, cooperation, and practice. Fortunately, the varied forms of meditative practices that Buddhist traditions have developed over their twenty-five hundred year history is available. Since meditation is the very heart of Buddhism, Buddhists should avail themselves of its meditative methods to look deeply into the origins of our various prejudices with regard to ourselves as well as towards others–and to transform them. Transformation is the work of meditation.
Buddhist traditions have offered methods for helping others do those things. We could all cooperate to form methods that are less ladened with doctrinal or dogmatic theory and terminology. Buddhism is a practical methodology for recognizing and then transforming our ignorance.
It is not good enough that we simply use the methods of Buddhism to establish the inner peace for ourselves. Rather, having obtained such inner peace, we must share and spread it. This involves further extra effort and action.
In conclusion, I would like to leave you with these two thoughts:
1) Being a pacifist does not mean being passive.
2) In Buddhism, one is taught to use the end as the means, that is, in order to become a Buddha or Enlightened One, we must begin now, to act and think as Buddha. There is no path to peace; peace is the path. Buddha said: “Better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that brings peace” and he continued “I never see what has been done; I only see what remains to be done”. He emphatically points out: “Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without”.
I wish you an inner peace (or peace in your mind) forever.
Good wishes and Loving kindness to all Peace Lovers.
Venerable Thich Minh Tam
International Buddhist Organization for Culture Education and Social Development