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M. Wijithadhamma: Address to Interreligious Leadership Conference 2017

Address to Interreligious Leadership Conference 2017
Seoul, Korea, November 10 to 14, 2017


Today, the nations of the world face many problems, especially in the areas of human security and peace. Since the Second World War, the different nations of the world have striven to establish peace and solidarity with one another to avoid war, terror, aggression and invasion. Unfortunately, such a noble objective still has not been realized; wars; territorial disputes; and religious, ethnic and political conflicts still continue in many parts of the world.

As religious leaders we have to look urgently for effective solutions to establish peace on the planet.

As Buddhists we find some positive guidelines for the world from Buddha's teachings. The Samyutta Nikaya notes that the secular ideals of realizing peace and politics should be advanced without killing, without hurting, without conquering, without becoming sad and without making sadness, only complying with the law of Dhamma.

According to Buddhism, conflict, intolerance and disharmony arise out of desires, hatred and ignorance. To develop confidence, tolerance and harmony, it is extremely important to cultivate common values, universal ethics. Therefore, the promotion of education, dialogue and social and economic development would encourage the sustainable development of peace in the world.

The Buddha welcomed teachers of other religions, but he never attempted to convert any nor urged anyone to change their beliefs, traditions or teachers. In this regard, we find evidence throughout the Pali canon where wandering ascetics, sophists and philosophers came to meet the Buddha and discussed or exchanged different views concerning the way of spiritual peace and liberation.

In the Brahmajala Sutta, the Buddha summarizes the main ideas of his contemporary teachers by saying the following words: “You may remember this exposition as the ‘net of aims,’ the ‘net of doctrines,’ the ‘supreme net,’ the ‘net of religious-philosophic theories’ and ‘the glorious victory in the war (of ideologies).’”

Today, it has become an urgent necessity to provide avenues to build world peace through understanding different cultures and religions, because the religious and ethnic conflicts in the world today have their roots in the misunderstanding of religious beliefs and misinterpretations of sacred texts. Therefore, it is important to apply the wisdom of the Buddha to extend understanding by learning the religious beliefs of others through direct contact and dialogue. This approach in the modern world requires tolerance and an understanding that all religions may have common ground on which bridges can be built to establish trust and acceptance and therefore peace and harmony.

The Buddha, with his great compassion for the world, required his followers to practice the four boundless states of loving kindness: Metta (“universal love”), Karuna (“compassion”), Mudita (“sympathetic joy”), and Upekkha (“equality”). These four boundless states build a society. The practice of Metta begins by suffusing one’s own mind with universal love and then spreading it to one's family, then to one’s neighbors, then the village, the country and the universe.

The concept of a just society is unthinkable today, until and unless people reduce their unlimited desire, hatred and ignorance. A just society may be established in the world when nations and rulers stop the manufacture of weapons of mass destruction and use that wealth for mass construction through social development and the elimination of social injustice.

It is important to note that the Buddha's struggle was to establish a society where all human beings could live with dignity, irrespective of their birth, caste, class, sex and religion. Therefore, the Buddha repeatedly stood against unequal treatment of any human being. He wanted a society free from violence and ethnic discrimination, with religious and professional opportunity. This vision for society which existed 2,600 years ago is still applicable to our society in the modern world.


To go to the Interreligious Leadership Conference Schedule 2017, click here.