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Speeches

K. Sovanratana: Address to World Summit 2019

Address to World Summit 2019, Seoul, Korea, February 7–11, 2019

 

This conference could not have come at a better time than this, as the world today is being increasingly plagued by political unrest, terrorism and conflicts. There is insecurity, uncertainty and insurgency in many parts of the world. In the meantime, politics has been perceived by the general public as a game which some politicians play with dexterity to their personal gains or to the advantage of their groups, on one hand. On the other hand, religions have been misinterpreted and have been hijacked by some extremists to suit their personal ambitions and fanatic ideologies. 

As much as people would like to see politics as a respectable profession where politicians are more sensitive to the needs and suffering of the people at large, they also expect religious people to honestly follow the true teachings of respective religions, and, in turn, guide them towards meaningful and prosperous lives. Therefore, it is high time that we, gathered here, try our best to look into this matter, with the noble objective of finding ways and means out of these social ills.

There are, broadly speaking, two categories of conflicts:

  1. Physical conflict: the use of weapons, family violence, child rape
  2. Mental conflict: irritation, short temperament, infliction

For 45 years, the Buddha devoted his life to the cause of the welfare of humanity and world peace by leading by example as well as by preaching messages of peace called dharma. There are numerous events in the Buddhist scriptures where the Buddha personally took part in conflict avoidance. When the Sakya and Koliya clans were on the verge of waging war against each other over the use of water from the Rohini River, the Buddha intervened so that the imminent war was dispersed once and for all.

Following the example of the Buddha, Buddhist monks and nuns throughout centuries have contributed immensely to the preservation of world peace. Since the Buddha’s time, wherever the monks went, they would bring with them the teaching of peace and non-violence. Even today Buddhist missionary monks have taken the message of the Buddha to many parts of the world and have been able to help preserve stability and peace in those regions. Buddhist monks and nuns in predominantly Buddhist countries have played a very active role in safeguarding peace and harmony and promoting economic development and ethical living.

As a religion of peace, Buddhism teaches non-violence, tolerance, loving-kindness and forgiveness. In the whole history of its propagation, it has never resorted to or supported the use of violence or war at any time. In fact, in the Discourse on Loving-kindness (Mettasutta), Suttanipāta, the Buddha advises his followers to spread loving-kindness to all living beings without discrimination, “As a mother protects her only child to the risk of her own life, even so should you spread loving-kindness to all sentient being—long or large, middling or short, minute or massive.” Such is the Buddhist tolerance.

Moreover, the Buddha teaches us to live the four sublime virtues (brahmavihāra), namely, loving-kindness (mettā)—loving all beings without discrimination; compassion (karunā)—showing sincere pity for and giving a helping hand to those who are in difficulties and in need; sympathetic joy (muditā)—rejoicing and not being jealous with those who have obtained happiness and prosperity; equanimity (upekkhā)—having a balanced mind, untouched by the external happenings; and having no prejudice ­­.

In order to maintain security, stability, peace and order in society, Buddhism instructs people to observe the five precepts: (1) to abstain from killing living beings; (2) to abstain from stealing; (3) to abstain from committing sexual misconduct; (4) to abstain from telling lies; and (5) to abstain from taking intoxicating drinks. These also form the fundamentals of human rights and social justice.  

If we all abide by this advice, conflict, dispute or war, between religion and religion, society and society or between nation and nation, will never take place. On the contrary, we will experience only peace, happiness, development and prosperity.

In contrast, the world today is experiencing various conflicts. Their root causes, according to the Buddhist teaching, are the evil thoughts such as selfishness and hatreds. When people harbor hatreds against each other, they always think of others as the enemy. In most cases, they have never had any dispute or even seen each other. Therefore, in order to prevent such malice, it is very important that they strive to eliminate hatreds and hostile feelings from their hearts and souls, and instead cultivate love and compassion. Since the mind is the fore-runner of all things, peace and war are also created by the mind. Therefore, politicians, as persons involved in managing the affairs of the nation, should develop peace within themselves. When they do, they will be able to radiate this inner-peace to their families, societies, nations and to the whole world.      

The current social upheavals are also created by men’s insatiable thirst for material pleasure. Their desires have become so grave that they have lost humanism such as love and caring towards others. They long for wealth and pleasures for themselves to such an extent that they forget the suffering of others. Consequently, it leads to tension, disunity, disharmony, hatred and anger, not to solidarity and brotherhood. So people should try to lessen their endless desires and learn to lead contented lives and at the same time try to help those who are less fortunate than they are.

Real peace has to be built on mutual trust, caring and love. It has to be acquired by a sincere and devoted struggle of truthfulness, honesty and dedication. Therefore, we all have to strive with even stronger determination for the sake of peace, development and prosperity in our region and in the world.

I would like to conclude my speech by quoting a stanza of the Buddha:

Hatreds never cease through hatred in this world;

Through love alone they cease.

This is an eternal law.

May all beings be happy and free from hatred!

Bibliography

Ahir, D.C. The Great Buddhist Kings of Asia. New Delhi: Buddhist World Press, First Publication, 2011.  

Ghosananda, Maha. Step by Step: Meditations on Wisdom and Compassion. California, USA: Parallax Press, 2009.  

Harris, Ian. Buddhism and Politics in Twentieth-Century Asia. London and New York: Contiuum, 1999.

Mungekar, Bhalchandra & Aakash Singh Rathore. Buddhism and the Contemporary World. New Delhi: Bookwell, 2007.

Pathak, S.K.  Buddhism, World Peace and Harmony. New Delhi: Buddhist World Press,            

First Publication, 2011.  

Thapar, Romila. Asoka and the Decline of the Mauryas. London: Oxford University Press, 1997.

That Le Manh & Thich Nhat Tu. War Conflict and Healing: A Buddhist Perspective. Hanoi: Culture and Information Press, 2008.

 

 


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