|Wednesday, 19 September 2001|
Here he suffers, hereafter he suffers. In both states the evil-doer
suffers. Evil have I done (thinking thus), he suffers. Furthermore, he suffers,
having gone to a woeful state.Dhammapada (Yamakavagga)
Buddhism and economic justice
by Venerable Dr. Rewata Dhamma
Buddhism was founded by Siddhattha Gotama, the Buddha, in India in the sixth century B.C. The Buddha did not intend to found a new religion but he did point out the many injustices which prevailed and afflicted the society of this day, many of them which were done in the name of religion. One such injustice was the caste system which placed every human being in a fixed social order and was determined by birth.
This caused Indian human society to be divided, unfairly into high and low stations. One consequence of this was that often those born into a low caste were from the moment they were born denied basic human rights, human justice and human dignity. Women and members of the lower castes were also deprived of an education and denied the chance to develop themselves spiritually.
And many people indulged in ritual sacrifice which involved the killing of animals in the name of a god. In those days too, people of all castes used to spend a great deal of money and time in the name of religion in the hope that their efforts and expense would earn them salvation after death.
People also used to dress in a special way, use ornaments and decorate their bodies in a prescribed way to demonstrate their affiliation and loyalty to a particular religion. These practises very often led them to think that they were pious and very highly developed spiritual people.
The Buddhas teaching, however went against many of the current beliefs of the day and sought to expose these injustices and the superficiality underlying many religious customs. What the Buddha taught was the Dhamma. Dhamma means among other things just, it is righteousness.
To strive for righteousness in ones life depends on ones being moral. Morality itself, depends on mind and volition. Whether one is moral or immoral depends on the purity or impurity of his or her mind. Buddhism, therefore is not a religion in the sense the world religion is most commonly understood. But it is the path of purification of the mind.
According to the Buddha morality is not only the foundation of our spiritual path but the axis upon which the whole of our spiritual development revolves and depends. Buddhism encourages people to develop their minds. External shows of piety and the use of religious objects are not what is important. What is important is that we develop our minds and purify them through the practice of morality, concentration and wisdom.
No water from any great river can purify, or wash away the impurities of the mind.But only the water of morality can wash away the strains in living beings (Visuddhimagga).
The Buddha emphasised morality or Sila as being the first step we need to take on the path to purification. The goal of our spiritual development aims at the attainment of liberation. Liberation in Buddhism means freedom from bondages, such as greed, hatred and delusion. So it is that without moral development there can be no liberation.
Right Livelihood figures prominently in the Buddhas moral teaching. Right Livelihood, traditionally, entrails not dealing in arms and lethal weapons, animals for slaughter, human beings, intoxicating drinks, and poison. Though the Buddha mentioned only these five things, there are many other wrong ways of earning a living. We understand that the Buddha was addressing Indian society in the sixth century B.C. which consisted for the most part of farmers, herdsmen and traders.
Poverty, in fact, is the main cause of crime. If people are deprived of the bare necessities, such as cloth, food, lodging and medicine, they cannot and do not think of moral behaviour, or give a thought to righteous living. Owing to lack of economic security, and of money, people are led to commit theft and other crimes. The precept about right livelihood was designed to bring true happiness to the individual and society and to promote unity and proper relations among people.
The Buddha states in the Kutadanta Sutta, how in order to raise the social and economic conditions of a country, the farmers and traders should be given the necessary facilities to carry on their farming and business, and that the people should be paid adequate wages. Thus when they have enough for their subsistence and are economically secure, crime is lessened and peace and harmony prevail. Dighanikaya) In another discourse the Buddha explains to Anathapindika, the banker, the four kinds of happiness a laymen ought to enjoy.
The first is ownership or economic security, so that he has sufficient means acquired lawfully by his own effort; the second is the joy of wealth or happiness gained by the judicious expenditure of lawful wealth; the third is the bliss of not being in debt, the joy and satisfaction that comes with the thought: I owe nothing to anyone: the fourth is the bliss of being without blame, which is the satisfaction derived from the thought; I am blessed with blameless acts of body, speech and mind. Anguttara Nikaya - ii 69).
Here the word livelihood implies not only a pure means of earning ones living but it also means we have to be morally responsible towards all of society. If we do not take any responsibility for society then our minds are easily overwhelmed by self-interest and we become selfish and uncaring. If the mind is not pure then we cannot behave in a moral or just and righteous way in our day to day dealings with other people. Moreover when our mind is dominated by greed then morality is lacking and our spiritual development is arrested.
The Buddha never expected us to worship him blindly but he wanted us to be pure in mind and just in deed. For these reasons we regard the Buddha as a great teacher but not as a saviour of mankind. He was a guide and his Dhamma is a light to guide us on our spiritual path. The Buddha himself said again and again that the Dhamma, his teaching was to be used as a raft to ferry one across the river of samsara and suffering to the further shore of Nibbana.
He meant for his teaching in all its parts to show people to help themselves and so successfully cross over from the mundane to the supramundane state.If we study the Buddhas teachings of Morality, concentration and wisdom we will come to realise how we, ourselves, are responsible for our own liberation or purification of the mind.
If we also investigate the Buddhas teachings on the sublime states: i.e. loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity towards living beings, then we will come to realise that we, ourselves are responsible for our own well-being and that of society as well. Just as we want to enjoy prosperity and happiness in their life and the next, so we want the same for all living beings.
This planet is our home and each of us has the right to live here as do all other beings, animals, trees, plants and every other kind of living organism. This is to say that the development of animate and inanimate things in this world are interconnected and interdependent, so that worldly and spiritual growth is dependent upon everyone and everything else in this world. Nothing exists or can develop independently.
According to Buddhism whatever injustices, abuses and crimes occur in society are not only the product of poverty or economic decline but they are also conditioned by our own mind. The Buddha said all sufferings in this world had three causes: human greed, human anger, and human delusion. These three things are the real root causes of all injustices. This being the case the whole of the Buddhas teaching is directed towards the uprooting and eradication of these three harmful mental defilements.
If our minds are free from all these three mental defilements, then we are liberated and we can experience the bliss of Nibbana here and now, in this very life.In conclusion I would like to say further that the teachings of the Buddha did not encourage us to engage only in religious rites and rituals but encouraged us to develop ethical and moral principles and to act on them in our daily lives. For without such ethical and moral principles there can be no Liberation, no happiness, no peace or harmony among men.
May all beings be happy!Source: Nibbanacom.http://web.ukonline.co.uk/buddhism
Buddhism - a
A reply to Rev. Fr. Leopold Ratnasekera
by Upali S. Jayasekera
Rev. Fr. Leopold Ratnasekera, OMI, in his article titled Teachings of Jesus contravenes all core-Buddhist truths (DN Sep 15) has attempted to compare the Buddha and his teachings as against Jesus Christ and his teachings. This is therefore an attempt to present the Buddhistic view on his presentation.
Buddha - No God
The Buddha is neither a God nor an incarnation of a God. He was no Prophet either. He did not claim divinity.Born to Queen Maha Maya and King Suddhodana, He was named Siddhartha. At the age of 19, Prince Siddhartha married Princess Yashodara. To them was born a son - Rahula. However, Prince Siddharthas yearning to find a way out of the world of suffering and understanding the true meaning of life, was great. Finally, at the age of 29, he renounced his princely life and became an ascetic to find answers to the problems of life and ways to overcome them.
Through his own efforts, The Buddha came to understand things as they really were and gained Enlightenment, Final Deliverance and Perfect Wisdom. After attaining Buddhahood, for forty five years he preached his dhamma to the people. He showed man how to save himself from the problems of life by following the path recommended by him. The Buddha passed away at the age of 80. He was a human being and lived among human beings, from birth to death, and his movements in life are well-known.In all other religions of the world, the Head is an unseen God with supernatural powers. The God is Almighty.
Those who believe in Him and pray to Him only can attain eternal happiness. Gods ways are unexplainable and unquestionable. In Buddhism it is not so. The Buddha long before Jesus Christ, ruled out the existence of a Creator God. Buddhism teaches that there is no supreme being above man controlling mankind. A person, according to the Buddha, controls his own destiny and is not controlled by a supernatural power. Sakyamuni, in fact, raised man above God.
Other religions of the world theorise that each one of them is the only true faith and reject the rest. They believe that theirs is the definitive and complete truth. The intolerance of other faiths or opposing views has been marked historically. Outrageous cruelties have been resorted to in the name of religion. Places of worship have been plundered and destroyed. People were forced to embrace other faiths at the point of the sword. Unethical conversions have been their forte to swell their numbers.
Buddhism on the other hand, teaches respect for other religions. The Buddha preached against hurting other religions or persecution of followers of other faiths. If you hurt other faiths, you hurt Buddhism was the advice of The Buddha. The spread of Buddhism never resulted in bloodshed or conflict with other religions in the past. Buddhism is a peaceful and tolerant philosophy.
Buddhism permits criticism and investigation of the Buddha Dhamma. The Buddha did not force his disciples to accept his teachings. He told no one to obey Him. The Buddha wanted any doubts about his teachings cleared before they are believed and followed. Buddhisthistory records hundreds of instances where Buddha Himself had to answer critics and provide clarification, which He did convincingly. Criticism of Buddhas teachings is tolerated and is not considered as sacrilege.
There are no club rules in Buddhism and there is no central control of Buddhists. Buddhists are free to practice Buddhism to the best of their ability. Perhaps it is this lack of organisational power and central control that resulted in Buddhism being wiped out from countries where it once flourished. But that is Buddhism. The Buddha Himself predicted that Buddhism will start waning after 2500 years. However, Buddhism cannot be completely wiped out. The philosophy will bounce back as the teachings of the Buddha are more valid today than it ever was.
There is no praying in Buddhism. The learned Father is correct in that. Buddhists are not expected to grovel before anyone, seen or unseen, God or Deity, to obtain favours or material benefits. There are no Gods in Buddhism who could come to ones aid through prayer or offerings of cash or kind.
There are no Gods who could defend or punish you. Buddhism teaches that good thoughts and good deeds sill be rewarded with good life. Man controls his own future and destiny. Those Buddhists who pray to Gods and seek favours do so without a proper understanding of Buddhism. Science, according to the Oxford Dictionary is a branch of knowledge involving systematised observation and experiment especially one dealing with substance or animal and vegetable life and natural laws. Science therefor concerns the study of man and his environment in relation to the external conditions.
The findings of Copernicus, Galileo and other such scientists, have changed the old religious concepts, other than that of Buddhism. New discoveries in Science, have confirmed and underlined the teachings of the Buddha. Long before Galileo, the Buddha referred to the earth as being a small planet in the universe which has an endless number of planets.
Buddha talked of lives in other worlds - planets - and today scientists claim possibility of lives in other planets. That there are micro living organisms in water was revealed by the Buddha and today science has proved that right. The Buddha, over 2500 years ago, established that all component things are impermanent and that everything is subject to change. Substance can be created and can be destroyed. Einsteins theory of Relativity is in complete agreement with Buddhism. Contrary to what Rev. Fr. Ratnasekera says, the teachings of the Buddha remain true up to date, without change, though Christian beliefs have been changed from time to time.
Then again the learned Fathers contention that the Buddha did not identify himself with the Dhamma is wrong. The Buddha preached the Dhamma based on His research and findings and hence it cannot be said He did not identify Himself with what He preached.
Material progress and comforts that we have achieved and enjoy are immense. Our ancestors could not have even thought of them. But are we really happy as our ancestors were? Life has been made easier due to advances in science and technology. But are we living in safe and secure surroundings? Are we as safe and secure as our ancestors were?Greed for money and craze for power have led to violence, bloodshed and cruel murders.
Selfishness and deceit have taken the upper hand. Are these not the result of moral degeneration and misused intelligence and knowledge? Buddhism, in essence, is the path that leads to the overcoming of these ills. To do good, not to do evil and purification of the mind are what is required in Buddhism. The essence of the teachings of Jesus Christ, leaving aside the subsequent additions, leads to the same path. Albert Einstein, the famous scientist, delivering a speech on Science and Religion as far back as 1939. said:The religion of the future will be a cosmic religion.
It should transcend a personal God and avoid dogmas and theology. Covering both the natural and spiritual, it should be based on a religious sense arising from the experience of all things, natural and spiritual, as a meaningful unity. Buddhism answers this description.
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