In a time of growing intolerance, Buddha’s message of non-violence is relevant more than ever

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    By Zile Singh

     

    “Believe nothing, no matter where you read it or who has said it, not even if I have said it, unless it meets with logic and common sense.” – The Budha

     

    Buddha Purnima, (Full Moon Day) marking the birth, enlightenment and passing of Gautama the Buddha is celebrated worldwide. This year the day was celebrated on May 23.  Siddhartha Gautam (The Buddha) was born into a royal family in Lumbini, now located in Nepal, in 563 B.C. At the age of 29, he realised that wealth and luxury did not guarantee happiness. After six years of study and meditation, he finally found ‘the middle path.’

    He called it enlightenment or a stage of mindfulness. After Enlightenment, the Buddha spent the rest of his life teaching the principles of the Eightfold-Path – called the Dhamma, or Truth – until his death, in 483 BC, at the age of 80, someone asked Buddha, “What have you gained from meditation?” He replied “Nothing.  However, let me tell you what I have lost: anger, anxiety, depression, insecurity, fear of old age and death.”

     

    Buddha was an apostle of logic, reason, equality, liberty, fraternity, love, and compassion. He, to start with, preached in the northern parts of India almost 500 years before Christ, and over time, he became the “Light of Asia” and finally his Dhamma spread in the neighbouring Asian countries and the western hemisphere.

     

    Unfortunately, in India, Hinduism could not tolerate this path of reason and logic devoid of rituals, blind faith, and superstitions. In the West, his teachings are like the ‘New Testament.’ Today, there is a clear and consistent demand for the teachings of Buddha all over the world. His Dhamma is not in search of God but is in search of human happiness.

     

    After attaining Enlightenment on the Vaisakha Purnima in 588 B.C. the Buddha taught the Dhamma for 45 years on the truth of suffering, the origin of suffering, the cessation of suffering. His Dhamma differed fundamentally from what was called ‘Organised Religion’ at that time. It is based on a doctrine which is rationally possible.  In no other religion, the values of knowledge and evil of ignorance are so much insisted upon as they are in Buddhism.  Buddhism has the glory of judging rightly the capability of man to work out his salvation without any outside aid or assistance. According to Buddha, (The Blessed One), human misery is caused by the stupidity of blind faith. The Dhamma exalted human consciousness to the highest level of love and compassion.

     

    Pythagoras, the rationalist (570 BC – 490 BC) and after that for centuries, men have sought to know what Buddha called “equanimity”, what Epicurus called “tranquility” and what the poet Whittier called “the harvest song of inward peace.”  Pythagoras was the father of western rational philosophy like the Buddha in the east.   The verdict of the Buddha is that “nothing can bring you peace but yourself.  No one can give you the gift of a serene mind, a calm and tranquil way of life, but yourself.   It is something you must develop for yourself with the help of yourself.”

    Buddha’s Dhamma, for the first time, placed the man and his actions above everything. The God, the priest, the dogmas, rites, rituals, and all blind faiths were pushed in the background.  The   Buddhist philosophy, in brief is the Four Noble Truths- the suffering, the origin of suffering, the cessation of sufferings and the true path leading to the cessation of sufferings.  His Eightfold Path is – right view, right resolve, right speech, right conduct, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right Samadhi, and the Five Precepts – no killing, no stealing, no lying, no intoxication, and no undue sex.

     

    Buddhism is becoming popular in western countries for a number of reasons.  The first good reason is that Buddhism has answers to many problems in the modern materialistic societies.  It also includes a deep understanding of the human mind.  It is tolerant of all other beliefs and religions.  Buddhism goes further by providing a long- term purpose of our existence, through wisdom and true understanding.  Buddhism has never tried to convert people.  It only preaches and leaves the decision to the individual.  It depends more on understanding than on blind faith.

     

    Every living being has the potential to become a Buddha by completely purifying his mind of all faults and delusions such as hatred, greed, and ignorance.  By applying the appropriate methods these vices can be completely eliminated and one can experience supreme happiness and enlightenment. The three jewels of Buddhism are: Buddham Sharnam Gachhami. Dhammam Sharnam Gachhami and Shangham Sharnam Gacchami. (I go in refuge of the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha )

     

     

    The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, in one of his messages on Buddha Purnima (Vesak) said, “In a time of growing intolerance and inequality, the Buddha’s message of non-violence and service to others are more relevant today than ever.  Let us renew our commitment to building a world of peace and dignity for all.”

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