Remembering Lord Buddha

By P. Gopakumar, The Rising Nepal, May 4, 2007

Article written in conjunction with Buddha Purnima (Buddha Day) celebrations in Nepal

Kathmandu, Nepal -- BUDDHISM is a greatly admired religion in the world. Founded by Gautama Buddha, who believed in peace, compassion, spirituality, Buddhism helps explain the reasons for the human predicament and sufferings. It provides practical solution to mankind to attain salvation from human sufferings.

According to Buddhism, the individual is the ultimate reality and human life is bound in a mystical cycle of birth and death.

To Buddhism human sufferings is an integral part of human life. All men regardless of religion, race, and social status are bonded to suffering; this is an inescapable truth.

The root cause of human suffering is ignorance. Ignorance gives rise to desires and attachments. One can attain freedom from sufferings if he makes a transformation from ignorance to knowledge. The transformation is possible through moral and spiritual training.

Buddhism believes that each and every human being irrespective of race, religion, and social status can attain spiritual enlightenment or Nirvana in this life. Nirvana is not the freedom from the cycle of birth and death. It is the emancipation of human beings from spiritual bondage. Nirvana literally means extinction, but it does not follow that extinction of life itself - rather it means extinction of or the liberation from sufferings. Nirvana in Buddhism is the extinction of desires and attachments rather than life itself.

Lord Buddha has repeatedly reminded his disciples that the ultimate goal of life is freedom from the bondage of life rather than life itself. Therefore, a man seeking nirvana does not cease to be a man of this world. Rather he understands the world better and lives in it free from all attachments. There is nothing physically distinguishable between an ordinary man and an enlightened man, except that the latter is free from worldly desires and attachments to life.

According to Buddhism, if a man has to attain spiritual emancipation, then he has to follow and practice certain moral laws or dharma. Dharma consists of virtues like compassion or Karma, absence of greed, self-control, abstinence, friendship and non-violence. But in the absence of a community or society an individual would be unable to practice moral virtues like compassion and friendship.
Today, the world is being divided on the lines of religion, race, nationality, language, class and ideology. Our world does not lack resources; we have plenty of land, food and resources for each of us to sustain ourselves. It is human greed that has prevented an equitable distribution of this wealth. These disparities have led to an increase in hatred and animosity between people, communities and nations. According to the Dharmapada "hatred never ceases through hatred in this world; through love alone they cease. This is an eternal law". Thus with a little bit of sharing and love, we can indeed make this world a better place for all of us.

In Buddhism, the striving is to awaken insight within oneself, through one's own efforts. Buddhism advocates tolerances ? to accept that there are differences in human experiences; that diversity is part of life, whether in experiences, cultural backgrounds or religions/faiths. Buddhism is the religion of compassion, mercy and forgiveness for all forms of life. It does not preach the superiority of its belief systems over those of other religions, nor does it believe in any sort of hierarchical ordering of faith systems; it does not discriminate anyone, least of all on account of faith or belief. The recognition of diversity and pluralism and the resulting absence of any coercive or violent means of proselytizing is the very essence of the humanism of Buddhism. All life forms are treated as sentient beings of equal status, possessing innate dignity and potential for achieving Buddha hood. Remember, we are all brothers and sisters who eventually share the fruits of all our actions in an increasingly globalized world community.

Buddhism teaches us to practice behaviors and actions in everyday life to achieve the goal of true non-violence, love and collaboration. It is first and foremost practice, not scholarship. Those who recite sutras faithfully but neglect engaging in practice may, in fact, betray the true spirit of Buddhism. All Buddhas of the past practiced in the human realm, and their greatness showed in their behavioural manifestations. Throughout many lives, the Buddhas practiced generosity, befriended all, suffered with all, and worked ceaselessly to alleviate suffering among all forms of life.

The Sakyamuni Buddha taught a great many sutras and mantras and practiced then in person for 49 years after enlightenment. He taught and set the example for kings, ministers, farmers, men, women and children and people of all faiths. In this way he engaged in social actions and established the tradition of humanistic Buddhism to purify people's minds and to help establish a pure land. All Buddhas were role models in establishing the showcase of everyday practice of compassion and peaceful collaboration.

In order to emulate Buddha, we should first discover and cultivate our own Buddha nature, intrinsic dignity and the Bodhi mind, and the door to our ultimate freedom from worldly suffering. By discovering and cultivating this boundless treasure and resource, we can also help all other sentient beings rediscover their kindness, pure and boundless compassion, joy, equanimity, nobility and gratitude, all of which they already possess. Several small steps can be taken to make a beginning to help us find our true nature. Treasure life, your own and of others; respect nature; show gratitude; be aware of natural resources; do not be greedy, be content.

We need to recognize our traditional responses to disorder and chaos. We tend to punish those individuals who are responsible for such disorders to serve as a deterrent to further aggravation. Punishment, however, can produce only temporary results. To transform violence to harmony, jealousy to praise, greed to generosity and impurities to purities, we must not only rely on negative and reactive punishments. We must promote in a proactive manner, mutual understandings and respect, compassion, collaboration and honest transaction among all people.