A Buddhist view of world peace by Ven. Ashin Indaka
A Buddhist view of world peace
Ven. Ashin Indaka
Theravada Buddhist Myanmar Society
In the world as a whole there is enough money and material and there is no lack of intellect, yet something is missing. What is it? The answer is the spirit of fellowship (companionship, friendship). And it is this lack of active fellowship which is the major cause of war. Apart from military conflicts, there are of course many other kinds of conflict such as racial, political, economic, even religious conflicts, and the cause of nearly all of them is the lack of the spirit of fellowship.
In a conflict each side has its own conceit, but to hide it both parties have their own nicely written labels such as , “New World Order”, “ Civilizing the Backward People. “CO-prosperity in East Asia” etc., and in almost every conflict each side blames the other, both parties claiming that they are right. They even use the name of religion to justify their actions, and will try to persuade God to take their side, although without seeming to make any attempt to be on God’s side. They claim that there is only one God. Apparently forgetting that if there is only one God, there must be only one family of men, and they treat one another not just as strangers but as enemies.
Since the end of the First World War there have been many organizations called “international” Many authors have written on the subject of internationalism, and idealistic workers hoping for a better future have stared many international movements, but all without exception have failed to maintain peace. Why? In the first place they have not, for one reason or another, been able to carry out their plans; secondly, they received insufficient support from the public; and thirdly, most of them have dealt only with the purely external, material adjustments, paying too much attention to the material side of the life and too little to the spiritual side. The two sides are interdependent and interrelated, and the importance of both should be recognized.
Then came the second world war, unparallel in history for destruction. The world is still in a state of chaos, devoid of peace and real happiness, and once again idealistic workers, lecturers and writers are producing books and introducing new international organizations. Will they be successful in maintaining peace? It is possible to predict whether they will be successful or not: they will be successful if the leaders and workers can carry through their plans in a spirit of world fellowship, otherwise they will never be successful, there will be further wars, even more dreadful than the last.
The peace which we all desire, peace in our hearts and in our minds, peace between neighbors and among nations, is not miracle which it is God’s task to perform, it can only come about as a result of a reconstruction of thought, feeling and action by means of the spirit of fellowship, and such is the duty of all mankind.
Taking all nations as one whole there is in the world sufficient wealth and ability to abolish poverty, unemployment, hardship and cruelty of any kind from all countries. It is possible for all men to be able to do what work is necessary, if only they would learn to understand each other better by drawing closer. The discovery of power and energy could be of great service to humanity, and men could be inspired to noble conduct if only all the scientists, poets and artists of all countries would come together. A powerful spiritual influence, helping all men to make the world a happier place, could be given by every religion if all of them were to act together as members of one family.
Buddhism teaches that misery and suffering are not the result of the wrath (anger, fury) of a god, or gods, but are the direct consequences of man’s ignorance of his own nature and of his surroundings. In attempting to discover a way of appeal on which to base morality, Buddhism teaches that there is no such appeal to any external authority in the form of a deity, but only to the natural desire of the human heart. Therefore, knowing that certain actions such as selfishness, violence and laziness tend to disorganize society, and to cause unhappiness to its members, a man will try to avoid injuring others if he sees clearly that his interests are bound up with those of others.
The real spirit of fellowship which is lacking in the world today can be promoted only through religion. Religion is an education of the heart with a view to refining our nature and elevating us in the scale of human beings; it is not merely theory but practice, and the heart, like the body, becomes healthy and strong by practical exercise. No doctrine merely held in the mind as an intellectual belief has any driving force; not doctrine is of any value unless and until it is applied. The Buddha said, “A beautiful thought or word which is not followed by a corresponding action, is like a bright flower that has no scent”. Such will bear no fruit.
Practice of the moral life is the very core and essence of religion, for it is action and not speculation, practice and not theory that count in life. The will to do, followed by the doing, is the actual virtue; the will of itself does not count much unless it is fulfilled. Thus to put one’s high ideas and concepts into practice is religion in the best sense. Religion is obviously not confined to any one country or to any particular nation or race, it is universal; and it is certainly not nationalism which, in other words, is merely another form of caste system but founded on a wider basis.
The world has found itself as one body, yet the fact of physical unity and economic interdependence, though of very great value, is not by itself sufficient to create a united family; for this we require a human consciousness of community, a sense of personal interrelationship among men, and the spirit of fellowship. To have this spirit of fellowship we must realize the oneness of all life, and understand that we are one family.
According to Buddhism life is a mighty wheel of perpetual motion, and this wheel contains within it numberless smaller wheels corresponding to the lives of individual men, each of which has a pattern of its own. The great wheel and the smaller wheels, the whole world and individual men, are intimately and indissolubly linked; the whole human family is so closely knit together that every unit is dependent on the others for its growth and development. In all our thoughts, words and deeds we act and react upon each other, so in a very real sense each one of us is responsible for the whole community. Men, being in need of each other, should learn to love each other and bear one another’s burdens. This mutual dependence is a perpetual call on humanity, for we are bound alike by the bonds of humanity.
Science proves that the fundamental structure of the human mind is uniform in all races; what differences there are, are due to historical circumstances and stages of development. Without recognition of the oneness of the world in all its aspects, spiritual as well as social, economic as well as political, there will never be peace. A genuine spirit of world fellowship is the only logical basis of all true and high civilization, and of world peace.
We are living today in a world torn between despair (misery) and hope. Our despair is due to many causes, the most serious of which is the constant fear of war. It is aim of this conference to promote world fellowship through religion. And it is now my task to show how Buddhism can help in achieving this aim.
- 1. Destruction of any living creatures is bad.
- 2. Stealing is bad
- 3. Sexual misconduct is bad
- 4. Lying is bad
- 5. Tale bearing is bad
- 6. Harsh language is bad
- 7. Frivolous talk is bad
- 8. Covetousness is bad
- 9. Ill-will is bad
- 10. False views are bad
What are bad roots?
Greed (lobha) is a bad root: hatred (dosa) is a bad root: ignorance (moha) is a bad root: therefore the above ten kinds of bad actions are due to greed, hatred or ignorance. These three roots are like three great currents of force, for they are sweeping each on to us down along the road to misery, just as the swift current of a river will carry with it all the logs which have fallen into it.
The first mentioned root that of greed, is desire: desire for sensual pleasures, wealth, rank, etc. This greed is in all of us like a raging thirst. The greedy man always says, “I want”, I must have”, I cannot do without”. He may well be heard to say that if he were as rich as some neighbor whom he envies, he would be perfectly satisfied; but give him the particular amount of wealth he has set his mind upon, and he will find some still richer man to envy, and be as discontented as ever. The selfish man aims at obtaining as much happiness as he can for himself and does not care whether other people are happy or miserable. All over the world we find the selfish taking an unfair share of everything, and trying their best to use others as a means of attaining their pleasure.
Greed is like a thick fog such as there is in America sometimes, when we cannot see our way clearly before us: or sometimes at sea on a foggy day when people cannot see what is ahead and two ships may collide, perhaps both sinking. Men when blinded by desire, are carried away by a powerful current, not realizing with it they are going, and where there are many who are blinded by desire for the same things, there is jealousy and rivalry. As they act to satisfy their desires, so they hurt and harm on another with resultant suffering.
The second current which equally leads us to misery is hatred, Ill-will or anger. It is that tendency within us which resents and action of another which challenges our right to what we desire. Our general tendency is to try and dominate others, and we want others to obey our will while suppressing their own: so when someone opposes his will against ours, our action is like that of a dog with a bone when another dog approaches. We are irritated in many ways, and although our irritation may at first be slight, if it is allowed to go on day by day it grows into a deep hatred. Such people as are blinded by anger cannot see that “hatred ceased not by hatred, but by love”. They regard war as the only ultimate way of settling national disputes, and the armies of great nations are larger than they were ever before in the history of the world. And also the progress of science is every year leading to the discovery of more and more powerful instruments for the destruction of human life and property. All this is the result of hatred. Ignorance
The third current which carries us to misery is ignorance, delusion. The state of greed as well as that of hatred is always accompanied by ignorance, because ignorance is the primary root of all evil. It is far more subtle than greed and hatred, and when a man is hypnotized (put under) by it he cannot distinguish between right and wrong, he can see no good in any noble action; nothing is safe from his scoffing (ridicule) and sneers, neither a sense of duty, nor filial love, nor sacrifice in any form can win a word of praise from his lips. On the contrary, he wants to be praised, and he is hurt if he is not properly appreciated, for he thinks much of himself and continually plans to feed his ambitions for personal happiness. The spirit of loving-kindness and charity is absent from him, he is deaf to all prayers and appeals for mercy; he has no sense of duty towards his fellow men.
An old story may serve as an illustration in connection with ignorance which arouses hatred. Once a big bear with her three little cubs, was looking for something to eat in the jungle when they saw a beehive in a trough under a tree, from one branch of which a big log was hanging just over the trough. The bears wanted to get at the honey but as the log was in the way the mother bear pushed it away so that they could all get at it, and they began to eat. Suddenly the log swung out and came back, hitting the mother bear on the head. Growing very angry she knocked it away violently so that it went out much further than before, and causing it to come back with such force that it struck at the log with all her might, and swinging out it came back with a great rush striking her again on the head and kill her. Who killed the bear? Strictly speaking it was her ignorance, her delusion which made her think that the log was her enemy.
It is due to these raging torrents of greed, hatred and ignorance that nations fight with nations, kings fight with kings, priests with priests; the mother quarrels with the son, the son with the mother, the father with the son, the son with the father; brother quarrels with brother, brother with sister, friend with friends. We talk about peace, yet we create confusion; we long for happiness, yet we obtain unhappiness. Why? Because we are like logs carried helplessly along by the currents of greed, hatred and ignorance. If we are to revive the sense of a common humanity and find happiness, we must step outside these torrents. How many this be achieved? The Buddhist technique is to still the raging torrents of greed, hatred and ignorance by a careful self-culture; “Save thyself by thyself” are the words of the Buddha, and He laid down a specific course of practice in mental and physical actions for the successful outcome of this self-culture.