Today is Buddha Paurnami : Relevance of Buddhism to the modern world
Today we celebrate the 2557th birthday of Gautama, the Buddha, who is also known as Sakyamuni. We take time off from our personal problems this day...
Today we celebrate the 2557th birthday of Gautama, the Buddha, who is also known as Sakyamuni. We take time off from our personal problems this day and think about the world around us. It is a day of stock-taking to see how Buddhism can save the world. The basic tenets of Buddhism are peace, compassion, love and, most important of all, non-violence and peaceful existence.
Buddhism is the most rational religion. The Buddha never encouraged blind belief in him or his teachings. Its philosophy is not speculative, but very pragmatic. It is homocentric, unlike many religions that are theocentric; that is Buddhism has not the God but man at the centre.
That makes it the most humanistic of all religions. The Buddha always emphasised self-reliance and was against dependence. He insisted that he was only the pathfinder (margadarsi) and not giver of liberation (moksha pradata). He asked people to accept his teachings only after verifying their veracity and relevance.
At one place, the Buddha says: "You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection". This does not mean that one should be self-centred; instead of being with oneself one should think about society. Our future is not separate from that of others. So, the future of humanity is our future as we are also part of it. This is what Buddhism teaches us.
How does Buddhism help us resolve issues of the contemporary world? Today the world is divided and destroyed by several conflicting forces, such as religious intolerance, crass economic interests, racism, caste discrimination, etc.
The Buddha, who is also described as a physician, diagnosed these maladies thousands of years ago, identified craving, attachment, jealousy and hatred as the causes of human misery. He discovered, through his tapas how "tanha" (desire) can fetter one to the cycle of birth and rebirth. It is man's boundless greed which is mainly responsible for the problems of society. What are the solutions that Buddhism offers to eradicate the soul-debasing emotions?
One who practices the four Brahma viharas, namely, . Metta (loving kindness) loves all living beings without any discrimination "just as a mother loves her only child"; . Karuna (compassion) is being compassionate to all living beings that are either suffering and in trouble; . Mudita (sympathetic joy) is partaking in the happiness, joy and success of others; . Upekkha (equanimity) is retaining equanimity in the face of all troubles. A sincere practice of these will help in resolving the current problems.
The practice of Pancha sila: . abstention from killing . thieving l sexual misconduct . lying and l consumption of intoxicants; and Ariya Astanga Magga: . Right understanding . Right intention . Right speech . Right action . Right livelihood . Right effort . Right mindfulness and . Right concentration will resolve problems of contemporary society.
The present education, bereft of any values, is teaching man to be affluent and acquisitive, producing experts who are seldom given any moral or ethical values. In other words, it is not making them human. One cannot discover one's divinity without first being human.
On Rajadharma: In the Buddhist canon we find sermons on the life a ruler or an administrator ought to lead. Cited below are the 10 duties or principles of a king known as Dasa-raja-dhamma. . A Generosity in giving . Self-sacrifice or selflessness . Honesty . Gentleness . Not being given to luxurious living . Self-restraint . Absence of anger . Non-violence . Patience . Agreeability
Today these dhammas are more relevant to society. Rulers of the world should learn lessons from these ideals.
Women did not enjoy equality with men during the Buddha's times. Hemchandra, a pandit, called women Naraka marga dvarasya dipika (the torch lighting the way to hell). Mara said: "No woman with two-finger wisdom (narrow) which is hers could ever hope to reach those heights which are attained only by the sages".
But the Buddha condemned this. He did not disrespect women, but considered them only feeble. Nevertheless, he did not treat women as inferior to men. The Pali word for women is Matugama, which means mother-folk. The Buddha says that mother and father are the 'pubbacharya', that is the first teachers. He also asserts that parents are like the Brahma, the Creator, as they give us life: "Brahmati matapitaro".
Even today the birth of a female child is unwelcome and considered cumbersome. One day, when the king of Kosala was with the Buddha, he received the news of his daughter's birth. The king was displeased. But the Buddha comforted him, saying that "A girl child, O Lord of men, may prove even better offspring than a male." This assertion should be an eye-opener for many who are prejudiced against female child and have no qualms about committing female infanticide.
He also made a distinction about the role of woman as a mother and a wife. According to him, while the mother is considered a ladder (who helps him grow and reach heights in life), the wife is treated as the "best friend" (prana sakha).
He gave women a status in the order that is equivalent to that of men. He considered them as qualified as men for liberation. By admitting his foster mother Maha Prajapati Gotami and several women later, the Buddha first founded the Order of the Bikkhunis.
In the female order there were queens, princesses, daughters of noble families, widows, bereaved mothers, helpless women, courtesans, and women of various castes.
Like the two chief male disciples, Sariputta and Moggalayana in the Bikkhu order, Khema (consort of king Bimbisara) and Uppalavanna were made the two chief female disciples in the Order of the Bhikkuhnis. Many women disciples were named by the Buddha as most distinguished and pious.
Buddhism teaches simple living and high thinking. It teaches us to live in harmony with nature and not to kill animals or destroy our surroundings. Emperor Asoka's deeds speak loudly about Buddhist concern for the environment.A According to Master Hsing Yun, Amitabha Buddha is the pathfinder for the preservation of both mundane and supra-mundane environment.
Buddhism also believes that life is unique not only to humans but also to mountains, rivers, flowers, Sun, Moon, stars, etc. Everything in this creation is made up of the five elements. It is their combination that helps everything exist in this creation. So, man, being part of Nature, should learn to live in harmony with it.
The Buddha's teachings have eternal value and Dhamma will last till the last human being exists on this planet. His teachings are relevant today as much as they were during his time.