Yesterday, 2 August, coincided with what the Therawada Buddhists believe as the 2,600th Full Moon of the 8th Lunar Month (that is by Shan count), when the Lord Buddha delivered His first sermon, regarded as the foundation of all His teachings.
It teaches beings, especially human beings, to avoid extremes and follow the Middle Way which consists of right understanding, right thinking, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right diligence, right mindfulness and right concentration. He also urges them to be compassionate to all beings “just as a mother would protect her only child even at the risk of her own life.” He denounces violence and encourages peaceful means. Last but not least, He says “let go” is the soul of his teachings.
Had Buddhists, including myself, been able to follow a fraction of what He taught, there wouldn’t have been Tamil Tigers to suppress in Sri Lanka, Red Shirts and the Deep South to quell in Thailand, and Shan and Rohingyas to subdue in Burma. All these countries will be what the Buddha would have wanted them to be: mini-Asokan nations.
Instead, we all seem to be following His teachings only in name and not in soul, which, on the contrary, has become “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”. Suppose the Lord were still alive, do you think He would have proudly held us as His disciples?
However, maybe I have become too impatient, a character disapproved by Him, in my old age. Maybe we are still in the pre-Kalinga Asokan period, when King Asoka, not unlike many presidents and kings of today, still loved to make war on whoever opposed him. Maybe President Thein Sein will prove himself a truly worthy son of the Buddha that the only one I need to fight before my time comes will be just myself.
Let’s hope my “maybes” become “without a doubt”.
Thank you for your attention.
Mysoong Kha! (All the best!)
Note For those who have never heard of Asoka, here is an excerpt from Walpola Rahula’s What the Buddha taught:
There was one great ruler, well known in history, who had the courage, the confidence and the vision to apply this teaching of non-violence, peace and love to the administration of a vast empire, in both internal and external affairs – Asoka, the great Buddhist emperor of India (3rd century B.C.).
At first he followed the example of his father (Bindusara) and grandfather (Chandragupta), and wished to complete the conquest of the Indian peninsula. He invaded and conquered Kalinga, and annexed it. Many hundreds of thousands were killed, wounded, tortured and taken prisoner in this war. But later, when he became a Buddhist, he was completely changed and transformed by the Buddha’s teachings. In one of his famous edicts, inscribed on rock, the emperor publicly expressed his “repentance”, and said how “extremely painful” it was for him to think of that carnage. He publicly declared he would never draw his sword again for any conquest, but that he “wishes all living beings non-violence, self control, the practice of serenity and mildness.” Not only did he renounce war himself, he expressed his desire that “my sons and grandsons will not think of a new conquest as worth achieving. Let them think of that conquest only which is the conquest by faith.”