Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Buddhism for world peace

Noble Friends of Toronto.

It’s true that there are so many external things that are beyond our control. However, we have a choice – a choice to be independent when our external world doesn’t give us appealing results, choice to be independent when our external world crumbles in front of us, choice to be independent when the external world doesn’t bring justice. We as humans have the strength to overcome anger, fear, jealousy and greed by deciding to fight these impurities internally disregards what’s happening in our external world.

The Buddha has taught us such a noble teaching that if one follows it and establishes on it he will be solid as a rock and won’t be moved by any phenomena external to him. The fundamental misconception in today’s world is that they are trying to eradicate war using approaches such as law, sanctions, policies, bans, seminars, conferences and meetings. They are under the illusion that what generates within our own minds can be cured by external means. Buddhism doesn’t completely remove the word of war out of the dictionary.

Supreme Buddha has taught us about a war which is quite different from the wars that we hear about today. Our great teacher has told us to fight as well. That is, to fight against impurities such as anger, jealously, hatred, delusion and greed. Instead of modern weapons, the Supreme Buddha wanted us to use wisdom, kindness, compassion, patience and concern to fight the war against defilements. Buddhism teaches us that it is up to us to decide whether we want global peace or not.

The situation is not hopeless and out of our hands. If we don’t do anything, who will? Peace or war is our decision. The fundamental goal of Buddhism is peace – not only peace in this world, but peace in all worlds – peace in the whole universe. The Supreme Buddha taught that the first step on the path to peace is understanding the causality of peace. When we understand what causes peace, then we know where to direct our efforts. No matter how vigorously we stir a boiling pot of soup on a fire, the soup will not cool. Once we remove the pot from the fire will it then cool on its own, and our stirring will hasten the process.

Stirring causes the soup to cool, but only if we first remove the soup from the fire. In other words, we can take many actions in our quest for peace that may be helpful. But if we do not first address the fundamental issues, all other actions will come to naught. The great teacher has taught us that peaceful minds lead to peaceful speech and actions. If the minds of all living being are at peace, then the world will be at peace. Supreme Buddha didn’t merely stop there; he also taught us how to develop our thought through love and compassion, and that our minds will be strong enough to fight anger and hatred. The great teacher has taught us to think like this:

May I be free from hatred
May I be free from anger
May I be free from jealousy
May I be free from mental suffering
May I be free from physical suffering
May I be free from mental suffering
May I live in peace
May I live happily.


The Supreme Buddha didn’t want us to stop there. He wanted to extend this thought process to our parents. He wanted us to go beyond our parents as well. He wanted us to spread loving kindness throughout our city; beyond this province; beyond this country and beyond this world. He taught us that one should think in this way: “May all living being in this world protect each other as if a mother protects its only child.” After attaining Enlightenment, Supreme Buddha preached the Supreme Dhamma for 45 years. During this time he never praised war, even with a single word. The Buddha perceived war through a small story.

Four years after the attainment of Enlightenment, a war broke out between the city-state of Kapilavastu and that of Kilivastu over the use of water. Being told of this, Sakyamuni hastened back to Kapilavastu and stood between the two great armies about to start fighting. At the sight of Sakyamuni, there was a great commotion among the warriors, who said, ‘now that we see the world honoured One, we cannot shoot the arrows at our enemies’ and they threw down their weapons. Summoning the chiefs of the two armies, He asked them, ‘why are you gathered here like this?” ‘To fight,’ was their reply. ‘For what cause do you fight?’ he queried. ‘To get water for irrigation.’ Then, asked Sakyamuni again, ‘how much value do you think water has in comparison with the lives of men?’ ‘The value of water is very slight’ was the reply. ‘Why do you destroy lives which are valuable for valueless water?’ he asked.

Then, giving some allegories, Sakyamuni taught them as follows: ‘since people cause war through misunderstanding, thereby harming and killing each other, they should try to understand each other in the right manner.’ In other words, misunderstanding will lead all people to a tragic end, and Sakyamuni exhorted them to pay attention to this. Thus the armies of the two city-states were dissuaded from fighting each other.”

Teachings of the Supreme Buddha tell us that forcefulness and violence, even to the level of killing, never solves anything. Killing generates fear and anger, which generates more killing, more fear and more anger, in a never-ending vicious cycle. When the people of one nation invade and kill or subjugate the people of another nation, sooner or later the opportunity will present itself for the people of the conquered nation to take their revenge. Has there ever been a war that has, in the long run, really resolved any problem in a positive manner?

And in the present, aren’t we on the brink of a global war that threatens to permanently extinguish all life on the planet? When will that happen? Perhaps it will happen when the collective selfishness of individuals to pursue their own desires – greed for sex, wealth and power; the venting of frustrations through anger, hatred and brutal self-assertion overcomes the collective compassion of individuals for others, overcomes their respect for the lives and aspirations of others. Then the unseen collective pressure of mind on mind will tip the precarious balance, causing the finger, which is controlled by the mind to press the button that will bring about nuclear Armageddon. When the individual minds of all living beings are weighted, if peaceful minds are more predominant, the world will tend to be at peace; if violent minds are more predominant, the world will tend to be at war.

Tilting the balance

The Buddhist doctrine is capable of tilting the balance towards peace. Supreme Buddha saw the problem of war as a karmic one. The solution is seen as the practicing and teaching of correct ethical behaviour. Good deeds lead to good consequences; bad deeds to bad consequences. If you plant bean seeds, you get beans; if you plant melon seeds, you get melons. If you plant the seeds of war, you get war; if you plant the seeds of peace, you get peace.

In order to plant the seeds of peace, Supreme Buddha has taught us to develop loving kindness. These are the seeds. In order to support these seeds to grow, Supreme Buddha wanted his followers to follow certain precepts. Supreme Buddha explained that the precepts are like the water that is essential for seeds to grow. Without water, seeds cannot grow. Without precepts, seeds of loving kindness planted in an individual’s mind die off.

The most fundamental moral precept in Buddhist teaching is respect for life and the prohibition against taking life. All living beings want to live and are afraid of death. The strongest desire is for life, and when that desire is thwarted, the response is unbelievably powerful anger.

The Supreme Buddha teaches that there are no exceptions to this prohibition and no expedient arguments are admitted. This taking of life not only covers human life but all sentient beings. Reducing the karma of killing is equivalent to putting out the fire under the pot of boiling soup. If we end killing, the world will be at peace.


The prohibition against stealing says, more literally, that one must not take what is not given. Stealing, whether it is by individuals, corporations, or nations, occurs because of greed. From the time of the Trojan War, sexual misconduct has also been a cause of war, as has been lying. National leaders whose minds have been clouded by drugs are not rare in history either their conduct is rarely just and peaceful. The international drug trade in itself has become a major impediment to peace in most parts of the world. The taking of intoxicating substances is also prohibited in Buddhist teachings.

A beautiful vision, some might think. But how can such peace be realised in a world such as ours? Isn’t it a mere impractical fantasy? No, it is not. This is quite possible. As a matter of fact, millions of great individuals throughout history, not only planted seeds of compassion in their minds but also completely eradicated all the impurities from their minds to a level surpassing human nature.

This is what the Buddha told us to formally believe. Believe in ourselves. Believe that we can win the war within ourselves. Believe that we can defeat anger, hatred, jealousy and greed, for good. Supreme Buddha told us that human life is capable of attaining such a feat. In the teachings of the Supreme Buddha, we learn that humans with higher virtue and wisdom are capable of attaining such a purified mental state such that deities from the heavenly plains will salute them. So, planting the seeds of peace and preserving them with precepts is quite possible. I hope all of you will have the courage to plant the seeds of compassion in your hearts and preserve them with precepts.

May the blessings of Noble Triple Gem
always be upon you!

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