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K. Rahula: Address to World Summit 2014

Address to World Summit 2014, Seoul, Korea, August 9-13, 2014

First and foremost, I think that the topic, which I am going to deal with in my speech, is relevant to find out the Buddhist approach in resolving the problem we experience in the modern world. The Buddha, who was born as a human being 2500 years ago, was a great teacher. He taught us ‘a way of life.’ This way of life teaches us the way to have a life free from suffering. The Buddha invited us to examine it. His invitation, as I believe, helps us in our effort to find a long lasting solution to the problem we experience today.

When we discuss about Buddhist attitude towards peace and development, we should pay our attention to the Four Noble Truths taught by the Buddha, as these four truths are directly related to peace and development. The Four Noble Truths consist of the realization of the nature of suffering (dukkha), cause of suffering (samudaya), freedom of suffering (nirodha), and the method to bring an end to the suffering and achieve liberation at the end (magga). Without understanding these four facts, we cannot realize the nature of the problem we face with. Therefore, we suffer again and again without an end.

Problem (suffering)

Today, we suffer every moment from a multitude of problems. We suffer both physically and mentally due to violence that prevails in each and every corner of the world. The world is saddened with these sufferings. This brings unsatisfactoriness. We secure a little happiness amidst many disappointments, failures and defeats. Can we find a single person in this world, who is free from physical and mental pain? There are many conflicts in the world. Not does a single day pass without a news of war or conflict being hit on newspapers. Many people suffer from hunger and malnutrition, domestic violence and family disputes, wars and other conflicts, terrorism, communal violence and different kinds of discrimination. All man-made and natural disasters are directly associated with untold human suffering and they have a long lasting effect on us. This is the suffering referred to in the Four Noble Truths taught by the Buddha.

Cause of the problem (cause of suffering)

Now we need to identify the cause of suffering. According to Buddhism, we suffer when we give in to ignorance and try to satisfy our insatiable sense desires which can only lead to worries, fear and disappointments. Besides man-made disasters, some natural disasters occur due to the pollutions in our mind. As it is taught in Buddhism, they occur due to the immoral way of life rooted in mental pollutions such as hatred, cruelty, jealousy and impatience. We can purify our mind from these mental pollutions. The purification of mind is the mental development taught in Buddhism. The developed mind radiates compassion, love and sympathy. It helps to the natural law of cosmic energy to function smoothly. So we can change the world by purifying our mind. Greed, hatred, and ignorance do not allow us to radiate compassion, love and sympathy. Therefore, Buddhism identifies them collectively as the cause of suffering.

Solution to the problem (freedom from suffering)

Now we come to discuss about freedom from suffering (nirodha), in other words, the solution to the problem we are dealing with. The Buddha showed the path to happiness. In this path, he highlighted the difference between good and bad. Therefore, it shows us the way to lead a happy, peaceful and righteous life. How beautiful this world would be if there were no conflicts. This is the solution to the problem.

Human beings can live together. Peace prevails in the mind every day when we free from sufferings completely. According to Buddhism, man’s unhappiness comes from his greed for things such as pleasure that money can buy, power over the others, and most important of all, an inherent desire to go on ‘living forever’ even after death. Desire for these things makes people selfish, so much so, they think only of themselves. Love is the remedy for all afflictions that hurt the mankind. It is the antidote for hatred. Goodwill is the antidote for anger. Anger or hatred is recognized as the attitude, which generates violence. The man, driven by hatred, had used his hunting weapons against the others long before the dawn of history. The same is true even to the modern man. There has not been and never will be real happiness in the world without peace. Peace does not come by a mere wish. It has to be obtained by a great effort, by weaving the principles of righteousness into the whole fabric of human relationships. According to Buddhism, worries and sufferings are nothing but a clash between our selfish desire and our desire to change the world as we want.

Development is of two kinds, namely, spiritual development and material development. These two kinds of developments are connected to each other. The spiritual development refers to the development of positive mentalities such as non-greed, non-hatred and non-delusion whereas the material development to the development of infrastructure of the society. But we should not lose our sight in the material development. It is because the material development is mainly aimed at satisfying our desire. We can see this situation in the world. People, driven by desire, resort to acts of violence. They do not understand how others suffer due to their acts of violence. Thus, those who are motivated by greed, hatred and delusion cannot see their own benefit and the benefit of others. Buddhism teaches us to develop non-greed, non-hatred and non-delusion. When we develop these positive mentalities, we can see our own benefit and the benefit of others. Therefore, this development can be identified as the spiritual development. The material development also contributes to the spiritual development. That is why Buddhism recognizes poverty as suffering. As I believe, the spiritual development and the material development should go together. These two kinds of developments make the foundation of the sustainable development. This is the long lasting solution to the problem of suffering.

Method to resolve the problem (path to end suffering)

The aim of Buddhism is to guide everyone to lead a noble life, to cultivate humane qualities to maintain human dignity. The path that should be developed to achieve this goal is introduced, in Buddhism, as the Noble Eightfold Path, namely, right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration. Thus, it is clear that the path begins with the right view and it is rooted in non-greed, non-hatred and non-delusion. Once our vision is rooted in these positive mentalities, we can develop loving kindness, compassion and equanimity towards the others. This is the way to individual well being and the well being of the society. Where there is peace, there is no any act of violence. Hence, people can live happily respecting each other, without committing acts of violence. They can look at each other as their own relatives, rejecting social conventions such as caste, class, race, sex, nationality and religion. I earnestly hope, by realizing these facts, mankind will unite as brothers and sisters to work for the well being of all and to make this world a better place to live in.

Finally, I should say that all the teachers of world religions preached peace and harmony. They aimed their sermons to create a better world for everyone to live in amity and harmony. We must understand that all religions exist for the good of the mankind. Therefore, we should not praise our own religion while condemning the religions of others.

For more information about the World Summit, click here.