Be Peaceful & Useful

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The concept of “Dhammic Socialism” was introduced by Ajahn Buddhadasa. He defined Dhammic as being “Peaceful” and “Useful” and Socialism as serving our society selflessly.

Anyone who can be at peace with the universe, and be useful is a true follower of the Dhamma. Dhamma is the universal truth, which was realized by the Buddha, and He showed us the way to realize it by ourselves. The path to that realization is the Dhamma.We have to respect the Buddha and be grateful for showing us this path.

The best way to show our respect and gratitude is by trying to follow the path. That is all he would have expected of mankind, on this day when it is 2600 years since the Buddha attained enlightenment.

Today we are so confused with so much information, which has no direct concern with the Buddha’s teachings, that there are many among us who have not realized what this anniversary is. We find some Buddhists calling it the Buddha’s birthday, others calling it the day of Parinibbana because the Buddhist Era begins on that day. According to the Buddhist calendar this year is 2554 B.E. We have already celebrated 2500 B.E. and 2550 B.E.

What we need to contemplate on the Sambuddhatva Jayanti is about the teachings we received 2600 years ago and also about the teacher. Birthdays and anniversaries and celebrations are a part of our materialistic life, part of our social customs and habits. Celebrations, with decorations, lights, and sounds and processions will only distract us and let Mara lead us astray. This distraction is made worse by the labels we attach to ourselves and use of symbols and elaborate descriptions. We forget the significance of this day, by making it a religious occasion.

To be peaceful and useful we do not need to resort to traditional forms of religious worship. Dhamma is beyond religion. We cannot seek release from Dukka by religious observances, because today these practices only bring more dukka. Our attention is drawn to the ritualistic rules and our concern to follow the correct procedures. Our greed is enhanced when we strive to perform such rituals better than others, and our envy is aroused when someone else does better, offers more flowers, lights more lamps, donates more money and material. When someone builds a taller or bigger temple or statue, it only creates a senseless competition, which does not benefit man or beast or Mother Earth, it would only deplete more of our natural resources. It takes away our happiness and it leads us down dead-ends, and leads us away from the Path.

The Noble Eightfold Path is open to any sentient creature, irrespective of his race, creed or caste. The realization of the Four Noble Truths will lead us to ultimate happiness.

Till such time we can still be happy, to some extent. We are happy when we are satisfied with what we have. To be satisfied we need to know when to say enough. If we do not form attachments to material wealth or impermanent life forms, they cannot deprive us of our happiness when the attachment is broken. Our happiness goes away when we are disappointed. If we can accept a failure or a loss, when we realize nothing is permanent. Then we can retain our happiness.

We believe a Buddhist is a person who seeks the refuge of the Triple Gem who observes the Five Precepts. The refuge of the Triple Gem has today become a meaningless greeting as an attempt to ape the Western concept of ‘May God Bless You’, which has a meaning only for a person who believes and has faith in God.

The Five Precepts have become an empty ritual recitation, preceded by the seeking of refuge with the Triple Gem. Observation of the Five Precepts is hardly seen today, among many of those who claim to be Buddhists. All Five Precepts are broken every day, by most people who recite it, and they break them without any feeling of guilt or remorse, and hardly any thought at all. Consumption of alcohol and flesh of dead creatures is going up day by day. Taking what is not given, or what does not belong to us is also increasing. We take what is not given to us, by fraud or by force. Family values are deteriorating and sexual misconduct is seen openly and with no regard to social norms or existing laws. In order to cover up all these inhuman and anti-social activities, we have to resort to falsehoods and suppression of the truth.

To follow the Path shown us by the Buddha, and to be “Useful” and “Peaceful”, we really do not need the Five Precepts or any such guidelines. We do not need rules and regulations to be laid down by a religion, by the society or by the State. True discipline is what comes from within ourselves. Unfortunately, even during the time of the Buddha, there were a few Bhikkhus who strayed from the path and Vinaya rules had to be laid down. We claim to be the most advanced intelligent animal form on Mother Earth, if such a claim is true, then we should be able to realize what is right and wrong, what is beneficial and what is harmful to ourselves and to others and live accordingly.

All this has been discussed over and over, for the past 2600 years. Man is aware of the problem, but he does not want to accept it. He does not want to give up his tanha (craving), even though he knows tanha leads to dukka. Man is aware that craving for more wealth, more power, more sensual pleasure only leads to more grief. But he clings on, while pretending that he wants to find an end to his dukka. Man knows attachment brings only grief, but he is forever looking for more attachments. He knows that life is dukka, that life only brings more suffering. He knows that in today’s world, in today’s society there is more and more suffering. Yet knowing this he brings forth more children, knowing that they will probably suffer more. We have to think again if the need for children is more a selfish desire and peer pressure.

Man studies the Tripitaka. Listens to the Sutra and to sermons, day in and day out. He listens to the explanations, and to examples from the Jataka stories, but all that ends up like water over an upturned vessel, or a vessel full of sewage. When man offers flowers at the feet of the Buddha statue and recites the gatha of offering the flower, he does not contemplate on the meaning and purpose of the offering. If he did, he would not try to offer a million flowers.

Man is taking a greater interest in meditation than ever before, yet meditation does not help most of the people who seek it, because they cannot and do not want to let go of all the confusion in their minds. They want to continue their labours to fulfill their cravings and still seek temporary solace from meditation, believing it would strengthen their mind and body, in the same manner an athlete would take a performance enhancing drug. The purpose of meditation should be to rid ourselves of avijja (ignorance) and tanha.

On this great occasion, let us stop deceiving ourselves and everyone else. Let us contemplate on the teaching of the Buddha, instead of reciting it mechanically. Let us try to be Peaceful and Useful.

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