Buddhist Doctrine and the Culture
Peace is the essential teaching
of Buddhism. As the means of practice, peace cultivated in a person's mind is
a source of an act of peace and a moral deed. Only a peaceful mind can originate
a peaceful act. Many passages of the Buddhist teachings encourage a person to
keep his/her mind in peace and demand peace from others. A passage here may illustrate
All men tremble at punishment,
all men fear death;
that thou art like unto them,
do not strike or slay.
He who, seeking his
does not injure or kill beings
who also long for happiness,
find happiness after death.
All phenomena (originating from a sentient being)
dhamma - are preceded by (the activity of) the mind,
have as their chief agent
and are made up of the mind.
If one were to speak or act
a pure mind,
happiness follows one as a consequence,
even as the shadow
that never leaves one.
Like Mahatma Gandhi's ahimsa, the
Buddhist loving-kindness (metta) and altruistic practices should be cultivated
internally. It is not proved to exist by means of a helpful act, white or yellow
clothing, a smiling face, and so on. It is essentially the sincerity and purity
of a person's heart. It cannot exist without a peaceful mind.
A peaceful mind
yields wisdom and all virtues. Thus, in Buddhism, meditation is a crucial means
to attain a peaceful mind. The principle of meditation is the training of mindfulness.
Whenever we pay attention to our own thoughts, words, and deeds, we are conscious
of ourselves and are aware of our movements. Being aware of our own selves, we
feel ashamed of doing evil and thus do not let ourselves go wrong.
many places in Thailand which offer free courses in meditation to Thais and foreigners.
For example, the meditation teaching at the Non Pah Pong Monastery and meditation
lectures and training at the World Meditation of Buddhists headquarters are well
known to a considerable number of meditators.
In the view of Ajahn Chah, the
former abbot of the Non Pah Pong Monastery, meditation practices are the cultivation
of mindfulness and insight. First, we must find a meditation subject which is
suitable to our particular tendencies, a way of practice which is right for our
character. For example, going over and over the parts of the body: hair of the
head, of the body, nails, teeth, and skin, can be very calming. The mind can become
very peaceful from this practice. If contemplating these five things leads to
calm, it is because they are appropriate objects for contemplation according to
our tendencies. Whatever we find to be appropriate in this way, we can consider
to be our practice and use it to subdue defilements.
If such practice does
not work, we may try again with another meditation subject, e.g. the recollection
of death. For those who still have strong greed, aversion, and delusion, it is
useful to take this subject of personal death for meditation. We shall see that
everybody must die some day. Developing this practice, we find that an attitude
of dispassion arises. The more we practise, the more we find peace. This is because
it is a suitable and appropriate practice for us.
According to the Buddhist
Scriptures, the tipitaka, the Buddha searched for peace and enlightenment in the
forest. Thus, it is a tradition and preference for monks to go to the forest and
live in solitude. There they practise meditation and find peace in their ascetic
lives. In addition, the Buddhist discipline prescribes that monks should live
not too close to and not too far from a village so that they can live a peaceful
life, find some food, and preach the doctrine to lay people.
Since, in Buddhism,
the meditation subject can be anything suitable for each meditator, the meditation
practice is beneficial to all, even to non-Buddhists. It is the universal way
of peace. Christians may concentrate on Jesus as their meditation subject. Hindus
may meditate on Shiva or Vishnu and Muslims on Allah. If all human beings practise
meditation everyday, the world will be free from wars.
Apart from being the
means of practice, peace is also the goal and the ideal of Buddhist life. The
final goal of Buddhist moral practices is the attainment of peace both worldly
and other-worldly. The goal of the monastic life is nibbana or the ultimate peace
The bhikkhu (monk) who lives in loving-kindness,
and is pleased
in the Buddha's teaching,
attains the peaceful state (nibbana),
happiness at the allaying of conditioned things.
goal of everyone, monks and laity, in this world is nibbana.
Those whose minds
are rightly trained in the factors of enlightenment, and who changing to nothing,
delighting in such dissociation,
they - the resplendent ones - attain nibbana
even in this world.
In order to form the habit of peace offering,
Buddhists are taught to diffuse loving-kindness to all beings as often as they
can everyday. For example, before they go to bed at night, Buddhists recite the
verse from the Buddhist Scriptures as follows:
Let creatures all, all things
All beings of whatever kind,
See nothing that will bode them
May naught of evil come to them!
Having the habit
of peace offering, one's mind always rests in peaceful happiness and in peace
with others. Buddhists who reject peace and do not try to live in peace with others
are wayward followers of the Buddha and can hardly be called Buddhists.
(1906-93), an eminent monk of Thailand, once gave a lecture on the subject 'Till
the World Is With Peace'1 asserting that peace should be fulfilled through qualified
peace-makers as follows:
1. Peace-makers should be well educated and moral
people. Education here aims at spiritual growth and moral wisdom. On the contrary,
education today emphasizes only academic knowledge, intellectual capacities, and
technology. Thus, it rouses desire and selfishness and ignores the religious truth
guiding human beings to right thought and right conduct. Ideally and properly,
education should cultivate our basic human-ness in order to make humankind righteous
2. Peace-makers should be physically, mentally and spiritually
healthy. In order to be healthy physically, one should be free from all excessive
enjoyments and indulgence. To be healthy mentally is to be free from all defilements
and fetters. To be healthy spiritually is to be free from false conceptions and
blind faith. The unhealthy are those who are slaves to their own selfishness,
defilements, worldly enjoyments and other trivialities of worldly life. They disregard
and dislike the Buddhist doctrine. They cannot form a good society. Indeed, only
healthy social members can establish a peaceful society.
3. Peace-makers should
come from righteous and peaceful families. Righteous and peaceful families know
their duties and obligations to others. They act according to the Buddhist doctrine.
Those who come from righteous and peaceful families are responsible social members.
For example, if they are the superiors, they will treat inferiors with compassion;
if they are children, they will respect and care for their parents. They can always
secure peace in their society.
4. Peace-makers should live according to a
dhammic economic plan that is moderate in living, in spending and in possessing,
being neither too poor nor too rich. If we live moderately, we shall feel content
with ourselves. We shall not struggle for anything more than we need to survive.
If we are too poor and our morality is not strong enough, we may be trapped into
misconduct and be harmful to ourselves and others in order to survive, e.g. stealing
or even killing others for some money. On the other hand, if we are too rich,
we many be indulgent and careless about others. In Thailand today, rich people
are generally extravagant. The word sresthi in Thai means the rich. In Pali and
Sanskrit, it originally and literally means the noblest. At the time of the Buddha,
the Buddhist rich people were philanthropic and righteous. They built alms-houses
to serve the poor, ascetics and all in need. Peace-makers should adopt the spirit
and practices of the rich in the Buddha's time so that all members of society
can live happily and peacefully together.
5. Peace-makers should know and
practise the dhamma, the life duty of all human beings. Such duty demands all
human beings to work and live for the sake of all beings and in accordance with
the law of nature. In order to fulfil one's duty, one needs to get rid of one's
selfishness and cultivate concern and responsibility for the sake of the world.
6. Peace-makers should be unselfish and altruistic, realizing that all people
are companions in the process of birth, old age, sickness, and death. They should
try to cooperate with others in order to establish a peaceful and loving society.
7. Peace-makers should be moral in thoughts, words, and actions. Morality
keeps the world in balance and equilibrium. Those who think, speak or act morally
always keep themselves to this normative balance leading to peace and happiness
of others. On the other hand, those who act against this equilibrium create disturbances.
Thus, morality is indispensable for the realization of peace on earth.
Peace-makers should have the right view (samma-ditthi). The right view is the
knowledge of morality in the fundamental sense. One cannot conduct oneself morally
unless one understands the real meaning and value of morality. The right view
is the only means to free oneself from all suffering and is crucial for overcoming
one's selfishness. It gives us the true knowledge of the world and thus asserts
the necessity of world peace.
9. Peace-makers should have a 'cooled' life.
Whenever all defilements are eliminated from our minds, our lives are 'cooled
down' (nibbana). Nibbana, which can be experienced in this life, is generally
understood as two stages of a peaceful life, ordinary and ultimate. The ordinary
or worldly stage is the peaceful lives of ordinary people. The ultimate stage
is absolute freedom from all pains and is exclusively experienced by holy people
or the enlightened ones. If all people had 'cooled' lives, the world would certainly
be in peace.
Apart from meditation and moral cultivation, peace can be attained
through all religious arts, e.g. paintings, sculptures, images, and so on. In
Thailand, Buddha images are intentionally made to inspire peace in the hearts
of all who see them. The smiling face of a Buddha image and his eyes gazing downward
seem to invite all sufferers to come and take merciful guidance from him. Entering
the consecrated assembly hall of a Thai Buddhist temple, one finds the Buddha
image presiding at the end of the hall. Looking around, one can see murals depicting
the history of the Buddha's life showing his moral activities and compassion for
all beings. Going to a temple for an appreciation of religious arts is thus a
way to create peace in one's heart.
Besides, all Buddhist temples are sanctuaries.
They are places of peace and protection of all lives. Formerly, those who had
a death sentence and could escape to a temple and be ordained as monks were forgiven
and freed. Nowadays, all kinds of people love to free animals, such as dogs, cats,
birds and small turtles in a temple or a monastery compound. They know that the
animals will be safe there since it is a Buddhist tradition not to harm any being
in a temple.
It is important to call for peace education. All institutions
should teach people to love peace. A proper educational system should be established
to promote humaneness and moral wisdom. Since the word manussa (human being) in
its original sense means 'one of noble heart', the right educational system should
endow students with noble hearts and make them complete human beings. Once people
become human beings, peace can be restored to the entire world.
Translated by Pataraporn Sirikanchana in Donald K.Swearer, ed., Me and Mine, New
York: State University of New York, 1989.