Buddhism and World Peace
Ven. Walpola Piyananda Nayakathera-Dharma Vijaya Buddhist Vihara, Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.
At a time when great world conferences on religion and peace are being held and declarations made for universal peace, universal brotherhood, and religious harmony, it is relevant to ask: Can there be peace through religion?
When religion has literally been taken into the battlefield, can religion bring peace to mankind? When hypocrisy and fanaticism masquerade as religion, can there be peace?
If people cling to culturally inherited dogmas and close their mind to other ways of thinking, if people become dogmatically defensive and offensive towards others holding different views, can there be peace and harmony?
If we believe that we have the monopoly on truth and go out to convert the world to our way of thinking, even against the will of others, can there be peace? If we do not overcome our urge to conquer and enslave others through the use of force or violence, can there be peace?
Does peace result from the conquest of others on the battlefield or does it result from the conquest of greed, hatred, and selfishness within oneself?
Nearly two thousand six hundred years ago, Siddhattha Gothma, the buddha, constantly repeated to his followers:
Though one conquers a thousand people in each of a thousand battles, The greatest victor, indeed, is he who conquers himself.(Dh.103) He further said, Victory begets enmity; the defeated dwell in pain. Happily the peaceful live, discarding both victory and defeat.(Dh.201)
When the United Nations Organization was formed in the wake of the horrors of the Second World War, the heads of nations who gathered to sign the charter agreed that it should begin with the following preamble:
Since it is in the minds of men that wars begin, it is in the minds of men that the ramparts of peace should be erected.
This same sentiment is echoed in the first verse of the Dhammapada
All mental states have mind as their forerunner, mind is their chief and they are mind made. If one speaks or acts with a defiled mind, then suffering follows one even as the wheel follows the hoof of the draught-ox.
In the Kalama Sutra the Lord Buddha clearly states that a person steals, kills, lies, adulterates and leads another into such a state, causing loss and sorrow, when his mind is overwhelmed by greed, hatred and delusion.
Lord Buddha expressed this more vividly in his statement that where greed leads to sense desire, that in turn causes parents to dispute with their children, family members to dispute with family members, friends with friends, relatives with relatives, rulers with rulers and nations with nations.
The teaching of the Buddha is the teaching of peace and harmony. According to the Madhupindika Sutra in the Majjhima Nikaya, Lord Buddha clearly stated to Dandhapani that he had no intention of creating conflicts or initiating arguments between any being that has the capability of expression. On another occasion the Lord Buddha said ; I quarrel not with the world; no preacher of the norm quarrels with anyone with the world.; (K S Ⅲ, 117)
Furthermore, Bhddha explained that quarrels, conflicts and disagreements are the final result of prejudices. He illustrated this using the parable of the elephant and the blind man as follows:
Once a king ordered all men born blind to be gathered in the city center. They were presented with an elephant, each being exposed to different body parts. Upon being asked to identify the elephant, each man described the one respective body part to which he had been exposed. An argument broke out, one man insisting that the trunk was indeed the elephant, while another argued for the head, and so on. Thus the nature of prejudice arises." (Ud. 68)
Buddhism is a non-dogmatic, non-prejudicial religion that ensures world peace. It liberates one from evil, crime, war and suffering. Only when religion is understood to be serious practice of self purification, can peace be brought about through religion.
According to the Lord Buddha, religion should advocate the avoidance of evil, cultivation of good and purification of one's mind. These three wholesome activities bring peace and harmony to the world by eradicating crime, avoiding conflicts and chasing away human suffering.
It is important to distinguish between culture and religion. Culture has influenced religious practice, but one should distinguish between culture and religion. Culture is not religion and religion is not culture. Religion is the water that takes the shape of the cup, the culture, that contains the water. As a rule we tend to confound this cultural shaping with the true essence of religion. Culture causes conflicts and war due to cultural prejudices, but religion promotes universal love, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity for the welfare of all. It is by understanding religion instead of only believing in it one can liberate religion from cultural influence.
This is why in the Kalama Sutra Lord Buddha advised us not to be led by hearsay, tradition, dogmatism, authority of scripture, reason, logic, influence from observation, trust in mystical vision, probability, or faith in a religious teacher. He further advised us to reject what is unwholesome, wrong and had, and accept and follow what is wholesome and good. In other words, the Lord Buddha's advise is to time and train the mind to exercise right effort.
Buddhism offers splendid methods of mind training. Buddhists should make every effort to remove evil from their mind. They must try to avoid the arising of evil unwholesome things that have not yet arisen; to overcome those that have already arisen, abandon them dispel them, destroy them and force them to disappear.
At the same time Buddhists are advise to cultivate virtues in their minds and develop wholesome things that have not yet arisen, maintain those that have already arisen and not allow them to disappear but rather help them grow, mature and reach perfection.(Sacca Vibhanga Stura)
A perfect mind disperses anger and jealousy, and practices tolerance, which results in peace and harmony. In the Dhammapada ; no enemy can harm one so much as one's own thoughts of craving, hate and jealousy ; (Dh. 42)
The human mind with so much self-deceit does not admit its own weakness, but will try to find excuse to justify actions to create an illusion of being blameless. If one wants to be free one must have the courage to admit one's own weakness. Furthermore, the Dhammapada says ; the fault of others is easily seem; one's own is hard to see. ; There are four cardinal states of thoughts and feeling called the Brahma Vihara or four subline states which contribute to peace in society. First is the extending of unlimited universal love and good will to all living beings without any kind of discrimination, just as a mother loves her only child. Second is compassion for all living beings who are suffering, in trouble or with any affliction. Next is sympathetic joy at others success, welfare and happiness. And finally comes equanimity in the face of all vicissitudes of life. All social relationships, according to the Buddha, should be based on these four states or attitudes and thus they are regarded as representing the highest condition for social well being.
The Diamond Sutra, a Mahayana text, explains the concept of self which is the cause of selfishness, craving, conflicts, etc. that does not lead to peace. Therefore, if we want peace in this world we should devoid of the idea of ; a self ;. If there is not self we can bring about equality which leads to peace.
The modern Theravada Scholar, Ven. Dr. W. Rahula says that the balance of power through the threat of nuclear deterrents is foolish. Arms can only produce fear, and not peace. Fear does not lead to peace. Through fear can come only hatred, ill-will, hostility, suppressed perhaps for the time being only, but ready to erupt and become violent at any moment. True and genuine peace can prevail only in an atmosphere of universal love and amity, free from fear, suspicion and anger. World peace is immanent... if we give up the idea of egoism, cultivate universal love, and respect others and their rights. Abstaining from such behavior which is harmful to others, ourselves, or both, we need to cultivate positive values to others. If we follow a religion that promotes these values, we will be on the road to world peace.
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