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Buddhism and Peace

A Personal View


Sirima K. Goonesinghe

It gives me great pleasure to be able to address you as a simple Buddhist Mother, sharing some of my long years of experience. This, in fact, is the path shown to us by Lord Buddha. I am a happy, contended, humble person, unshaken by today’s world of chaos, but certainly not unconcerned with it. The duration of my professional duties of ‘giving vision’ to people has added colour to my happiness and has enhanced it much. What is the secret of this achievement? It is the development of metta, loving-kindness to one and all, with great effort and determination. Metta is a friendly feeling of loving-kindness to all beings in every situation, regardless of race, creed or caste. It is love without desire to possess, embracing all beings, big or small, far or near.

As we are told in our Buddhist books, the development of the human personality should be based on four moral foundations:

(i) Metta, loving kindness; (ii) Karuna, compassion for all who suffer; (iii) Muditha, sympathetic joy. (To be happy in others’ happiness, in their prosperity and success, thereby counteracting feelings of jealousy and unhealthy rivalry between individuals and groups.); and (iv) Upekkha, equanimity, the maintenance of a balanced mind when faced with the ups and downs inherent in life.

These moral qualities are known as brahma-viharas, the four sublime states. It is by cultivating these noble qualities and practising them that we will be able to maintain a healthy mind and a healthy body.

All these qualities convey a universal message. They give the most satisfactory way of living in harmony with one’s fellow men and women, the path to true happiness, to everlasting world peace.

Here I must stress that one has to first practice and experience these moral values and create peace within. Only then can one radiate its effect in all ten directions of space to create the desired effect on others, to build the desired peace around the world.

In my own life this kind of moral cultivation started at home, in my childhood, guided by my parents and elders. I can remember we were trained to practise five precepts. These are to refrain from killing, stealing, lying, sexual misconduct and the use of intoxicants, and it is these precepts that formed the foundation stones for the development of true loving-kindness later in my life.

There is no particular time in life at which one must practise these moral qualities. They must be continually practised at all stages of life as students, as family members and fellow members of the community at large. By regular meditation on loving-kindness one can successfully realize inner peace. This is an energy which can be radiated to the whole world.

I have tried in the recent past to promote the practice of meditation on loving-kindness in the community eye-care programme in villages schools and pre-schools and it has been a very successful effort.

This is my personal experience over the last 50 years, both as student and as a professional. I have experienced the happiness of promoting peace and goodwill among various communities at the grass-roots level. I was able to reach many levels of the community with my health care programmes in various parts of the world. This is where we have to plan to use our energies and abilities to create a peaceful atmosphere. I have worked as a consultant eye surgeon, as a volunteer worker in government and non-government organizations like the Sarvodaya, International Lions Clubs, Dharmavijaya Foundation, Eye Donation Society, women’s and students’ organizations in Sri Lanka and also in other underdeveloped countries. I was able to convey to the world at large the message of universal peace and universal benevolence.

Today most people are blind to the norms and value systems of their forefathers. In the Buddhist world, the value systems of our forefathers guided us to live a simple, happy and contended life, following the middle path in our day-to-day activities. Extremes are avoided. The ability to live in harmony with ourselves, with nature around us, and with all living beings amidst us is the very objective of that value system.

Let me quote the words of a great son of India, Shri Jawaharlal Nehru.

If we follow the principles

enunciated by the Buddha

We will ultimately win

peace and tranquillity for the world

If all of us gathered here today make a determined effort to develop loving-kindness and radiate it to the world, I am sure we can achieve our target to create a world of peace and harmony.

May all living beings be well and happy.


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