Buddha Jayanti: A Quest for Peace
Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on May 20, 2011
By Shanker Man Singh
We remember the heritage of Lord Buddha’s insight and faith. For more than 25 centuries, this has been the guiding spirit for millions of human beings. A holy land is nobody’s possession. Anybody can worship and the more people worship it, the more humanitarian it becomes. The story of the birth of Lord Buddha in the Lumbini Garden is an exceptionally beautiful one. Equally remarkable and memorable are his teachings. His teachings and never ending search for truth and the meaning of life and death has made him a source of immense spiritual inspiration and strength. According to “The Teaching of Buddha”, he taught himself to avoid the sin of killing any living creature, because he wished all people to know the blessedness of a long life. What a revolutionary message in a world where money rather than magnamity rules the day and where it is considered better to have something than to be something.
Buddha’s philosophy is an open philosophy or religion drawing the attention of people towards human sufferings, causes of sufferings and ways of getting through this impasse ultimately leading to salvation, the goal of all religions and philosophies. The ultimate aim of life should be the quest for freeing ourselves from the state of decay and inhalation for the good of mankind. Buddha has given us a message which is of permanent value, which is an eternal message, which is of timeless character but we are unworthy descendents of that Great Master.
According to “Teaching of Buddha”, he trained himself to remain free from all deception and double talk, because he wished all people to know the tranquillity of mind that would follow from speaking the truth.
The message of Lord Buddha has lost nothing of its strength and appeal through the ages. His deep respect for life and his concern for love and compassion have much in common with the values on which the whole world philosophy on peace is based.
Mankind owes a great deal to teachings of Lord Buddha, which have exerted a great influence throughout the ages. One of his famous statements is, ” Go forth for the benefit of the many, for the happiness of many, through compassion for the world. With this message spread around , the world will be a better place to live.” That was Lord Buddha’s first advice to his followers-advice that we consider as pertinent now as it was then. Indeed, in a very real sense, it symbolises the ideals upon which the United Nations and its global work are based.
To understand the essence of any religion we need to foster in ourselves a reverence for all the sources of spiritual belief. As a place of reflection, spiritual renewal and cultural exchange, and as a symbol of peace, Lumbini can attract not only Buddhist but also people of other persuasions, who owe allegiance to the great and universal values of kindness, compassion and human fellowship which are symbolised by Lumbini and the ideals of Lord Buddha, to which it is dedicated.
The birth of Lord Buddha was foreshadowed in a prophesy which the British author and poet Sir Edwin Arnold has described in his book, ” Light of Asia” as:” The Queen shall bear a boy, a holy child of wonderous wisdom, profiting all flesh, who shall deliver men from ignorance, Or rule of the world, if he deign to rule.” Through the cooperation and concerted efforts of all, we will be able to achieve a better world of peace and well being.
What did the Buddha teach about magic and fortune telling?
The Buddha considered such practices as fortune telling, wearing magic charms for protection, finding lucky sites for buildings, prophesying and fixing lucky days to be useless superstitions and he expressly forbade his disciples to practise such things. He called all these things ‘low arts.’
“whereas some religious men, while living off food provided by the faithful make their living by such low arts, such wrong means of livelihood as palmistry, divining by signs, interpreting dreams, bringing about good or bad luck, picking the lucky site for a building, the monk Gotama refrains from such low arts, such wrong means of livelihood”
Then is there such a thing as luck?
The dictionary defines luck as ‘believing that whatever happens, either good or bad, to a person in the course of events is due to chance, fate or fortune’. The Buddha denied this belief completely. Everything that happens has a specific cause or causes and there must be some relationships between the cause and the effect. Becoming sick, for example, has specific causes. One must come into contact with germs and one’s body must be weak enough for the germs to establish themselves. There is a definite relationship between the cause (germs and a weakened body) and the effect (sickness) because we know that germs attack the organisms and give rise to sickness. But no relationship can be found between wearing a piece of paper with words written on it and being rich or passing examinations. Buddhism teaches that whatever happens does so because of a cause or causes and not due to luck, chance or fate. People who are interested in luck are always trying to get something, usually more money and wealth. The Buddha teaches us that it is far more important to develop our hearts and minds. He says:
Being deeply learned and skilled; being well-trained and using well-spoken words – this is the best good luck. To support mother and father, to cherish wife and child and to have a simple livelihood – this is the best good luck.
Then why do people sometimes practise such things and believe in them?
It is because of greed, fear and ignorance. As soon as people understand the Buddha’s teachings, they realise that a pure heart can protect them much better than bits of paper, bits of metal and a few chanted words and they no longer rely on such things. In the teachings of the Buddha, it is honesty, kindness, understanding, patience, forgiveness, generosity, loyalty and other good qualities that truly protect you and give you true prosperity.
But some lucky charms do work, don’t they?
I know a person who makes a living selling lucky charms. He claims that his charms can give good luck, prosperity and he guarantees that you will be able to pick three numbers. But if what he says is true then why isn’t he himself a multi-millionaire? If his lucky charms really work, then why doesn’t he win the lottery week after week? The only luck he has is that there are people silly enough to buy his magic charms.
Nepal, as one of the least developed countries, faces some of the most difficult obstacles to its development. While trying to overcome the formidable obstacles in the path of its steady progress towards the improvement of the life of its people, the recent government has also been very much aware of the world and its aspirations of the people’s of the world. It is also pursuing the policy of outward looking.
The international community has recognised the fundamental role of restoring peace and tranquillity in the socio-economic development of all countries and in particular of the Least Developed Countries like Nepal in particular. The creation of an adequate peaceful environment is consequently a necessary condition for the medium and long term transformation of the least developed countries.
Taking into consideration the special difficulties of least developed countries, due in part to the lack of domestic research and development capabilities, in acquiring modern technology and in strengthening their technological capacities, every effort should be made by international transformation of least developed countries, and particularly to: assist least developed countries to acquire an adequate infrastructure, in order to, inter alia: facilitate the co-ordinated formulation and implementation of technology plans, policies, laws and regulations; evaluate and negotiate transfer of technology transactions; provide technical assistance, information and training to technology users.
The dramatic changes of the last few years have prompted one historian to claim that the 20th century began in 1914 and ended in 1989. This “short” century of 75 years trembled with the shock waves of two world wars. It brought with it the colonial empires, the birth of the atomic bomb, the emergence of the two super powers, and the division of the world into armed camps along ideological lines. Regional conflicts, often rooted in deep historical rivalries, were frequent after shocks that threatened to reignite what had become a state of cold war.
With the end of the cold war, a system of collective security could be envisaged to preserve world peace and stability and to provide a new vision of development very much along the lines of the United Nations Charter. Economic and social development was not possible without peace and stability, which were essential prerequisites and not the substitutes for development.
It is against this background that the concerned people should restore the birth place of Buddha-Lumbini and learn much from his teaching in order to have peace in our personal life and in professional values. Frugality and austerity are neither defects nor misfortunes. They are even at times the signs of divine choice. The vow of poverty testifies to the desired holiness. According to the Stoics, true richness consists in limiting desires. Most school of wisdom, and in particular Buddhism that still prospers, define the acquisition of staff awareness as the goal of existence, and regard moderation in pleasure and attention to an equilibrium between different values, and never the unlimited accumulation of a single value, as the secrets for a happy life. Poverty is not a matter of lacking clothes, but the one who is truly poor is he who has no one.
Buddhism, which like western science had its own theory of causation, was born on Nepali soil from where it was exported to entire civilisations. In societies like Japan, it exercised influence for centuries. It unsettled most South and South East Asian societies with its radically new notions of what a society should be like and of the relation ship between the sanghas and state. We should remember that Buddhism, was not propagated and imposed by violence.
On this holy full moon day of the month of May, we remember the heritage of Lord Buddha’s insight and faith which for more than 25 centuries has been the guiding spirit for millions of human beings.
(Singh is General Manager, Nepal Stock Exchange. He can be reached at: email@example.com)