The Buddha lived
and preached more than 2,500 years ago. Yet his words are more
appropriate today than ever. The Buddha’s eternal message of
peace will reverberate throughout the world today as Buddhists
celebrate Vesak, the Thrice Blessed Day which marks His Birth,
Enlightenment and Parinibbana (Passing Away).
This Vesak, we must ponder on Buddha’s words as the world
experiences an unprecedented economic crisis. The root cause of
this crisis is money - or rather the relentless pursuit of it.
The Buddha explained that attachment to worldly goods
including money results in suffering, which keeps us in a
Samsaric journey. He enunciated the Four Noble Truths and the
Eight-Fold Path which could end this cycle of suffering through
the attainment of Nibbana, the Supreme State of Bliss.
It is clear that the greed for more wealth ultimately brought
ruin to individuals and countries. The Buddha, on the other
hand, advocated moderation in all aspects of life - the Middle
Path. Having experienced the extremes of both comfort and
suffering, He learned that the Middle Path was the best option.
This is the path that we should seek as we strive to live in a
highly commercial, competitive world.
There is a wrong notion that the Buddha’s teachings are
complex tenets that cannot be followed by lay persons. In fact,
many of his Discourses including the Singalovada Sutta focused
exclusively on the practical aspects of lay life. The Buddha
showed how we could apply the Dhamma to succeed in our
day-to-day lives. These words hold true to this day and can
easily be followed for a happy family life.
The key to understanding Buddha’s philosophy is realizing the
virtue of getting away from Lobha (Greed), Dosha (Hatred) and
Moha (Delusion). These are the evils that keep us in the
Samsaric journey. This may seem difficult, but why not strictly
adhere to Pancha Seela (Five Precepts) at first? This will make
a difference to our lives and piety will emerge naturally.
True, piety is often the last thing on our minds in a highly
commercialised world. Even Vesak has not been spared in the rush
for commercialization. The true meaning of Vesak must be found
in our inner selves, away from the glitz of decorations and
illuminations. Turning the searchlight inwards is the best way
to cleanse our minds of the impurities of sins.
There is nothing intrinsically wrong in material offerings,
but we should give priority to spiritual offerings to the
Buddha. We should get closer to our religion, whatever that may
be. One of the main reasons for the rise of vice in our society
is the huge gulf between religion and individuals.
The temple used to be the focal point in the village and the
goodness that emanated from it touched all. The temple and other
places of worship must again assume this role to rid the society
of evil. Religious dignitaries should make it a point to
inculcate moral values in the younger generation who are exposed
day in and day out to a morally corrupt world.
Today’s younger generation is very keen to learn more about
Buddhism. More youth are attending Sil campaigns in temples and
engaging in other meritorious deeds. This augurs well for the
future. The media had played a pivotal role in this
transformation and there should be more outlets that cater to
their desire to seek additional information on the Dhamma, which
should ideally become the basis for our lives.
Westerners too are keen to learn more about Buddhism,
especially in the light of recent developments in their
countries. They have realized the futility of pursuing only
material wealth at the expense of true happiness.
Our temples should mould more young Bhikkus who could engage
in Dhamma Dutha missions abroad to spread the Buddha’s immortal
The Buddha’s words can not only bring solace to our minds,
they can also heal the wounds of war. The Buddha visited this
isle on one occasion to defuse tension between two warring
parties and usher in peace. After 30 long years of conflict, Sri
Lanka is finally heading towards peace and reconciliation.
Today, as terrorism is finally defeated and the conflict comes
to a close, peace and reconciliation are sorely needed to take
our country forward.
Rancour and discord should give way to amity and brotherhood
as all communities seek to make a fresh start in a land free of
terror. As the Buddha said “Hatred never ceases by Hatred - it
ceases by Love alone”.
This Vesak, we should offer love and compassion to those who
have been liberated from the grip of terror and in the true
spirit of Buddhism, to former enemy combatants who have
abandoned their murderous ways. That will be an ideal start to
renewed attempts for peace and harmony in our Motherland as we
pay homage to the Enlightened One today.