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  • Parbatya Bouddha Mission
    Dear friends: This following documents recently I received from a friend in Singapore. For your kind information, I ve forwared it to you. In Metta;
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 27 11:17 PM
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      Dear friends:

      This following documents recently I received from a friend in Singapore. For
      your kind information, I've forwared it to you.

      In Metta;
      Uttamalankar Bhikkhu

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      Date: Tue, 21 Nov 2000 20:45:54 +0800
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      Bhikkhu Bodhi's Vesak Address
      to the United Nations

      On May 15, 2000, Bhikkhu Bodhi addressed the United Nations on the
      occasion of the first official U.N. celebration of Vesak, the day marking
      the birth, enlightenment, and passing away of the Buddha.

      Here is his enlightening address, in full:

      The Buddha & His Message
      Past, Present, and Future
      Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi


      To begin, I would like to express my pleasure to be here today, on this
      auspicious occasion of the first official U.N. celebration of Vesak, the day
      marking the birth, enlightenment, and passing away of the Buddha. Though I
      wear the robe of a Theravada Buddhist monk, I am also a native of New York
      City, born and raised in Brooklyn. I knew nothing about Buddhism during the
      first twenty years of my life. In my early twenties I developed an interest
      in Buddhism as a meaningful alternative to the materialism of modern
      American culture, an interest which grew over the following years. After
      finishing my graduate studies in Western philosophy, I traveled to Sri
      Lanka, where I entered the Buddhist monastic order. I have lived in Sri
      Lanka for most of my adult life, and thus I feel particularly happy to
      return to my home city to address this august assembly.

      Ever since the fifth century B.C., the Buddha has been the Light of Asia, a
      spiritual teacher whose teaching has shed its radiance over an area that
      once extended from the Kabul Valley in the west to Japan in the east, from
      Sri Lanka in the south to Siberia in the north. The Buddha's sublime
      personality has given birth to a whole civilization guided by lofty ethical
      and humanitarian ideals, to a vibrant spiritual tradition that has ennobled
      the lives of millions with a vision of man's highest potentials. His
      graceful figure is the centerpiece of magnificent achievements in all the
      arts -in literature, painting, sculpture, and architecture.

      His gentle, inscrutable smile has blossomed into vast libraries of
      scriptures and treatises attempting to fathom his profound wisdom. Today, as
      Buddhism becomes better known all over the globe, it is attracting an
      ever-expanding circle of followers and has already started to make an impact
      on Western culture. Hence it is most fitting that the United Nations should
      reserve one day each year to pay tribute to this man of mighty intellect and
      boundless heart, whom millions of people in many countries look upon as
      their master and guide.

      The Birth of the Buddha

      The first event in the life of the Buddha commemorated by Vesak is his
      birth. In this part of my talk I want to consider the birth of the Buddha,
      not in bare historical terms, but through the lens of Buddhist tradition -
      an approach that will reveal more clearly what this event means for
      Buddhists themselves. To view the Buddha's birth through the lens of
      Buddhist tradition, we must first consider the question, "What is a Buddha?"
      As is widely known, the word "Buddha" is not a proper name but an honorific
      title meaning "the Enlightened One" or "the Awakened One." The title is
      bestowed on the Indian sage Siddhartha Gautama, who lived and taught in
      northeast India in the fifth century B.C. >From the historical point of
      view, Gautama is the Buddha, the founder of the spiritual tradition known as

      However, from the standpoint of classical Buddhist doctrine, the word
      "Buddha" has a wider significance than the title of one historical figure.
      The word denotes, not just a single religious teacher who lived in a
      particular epoch, but a type of person -- an exemplar -- of which there have
      been many instances in the course of cosmic time. just as the title
      "American President" refers not just to Bill Clinton, but to everyone who
      has ever held the office of the American presidency, so the title "Buddha"
      is in a sense a "spiritual office," applying to all who have attained the
      state of Buddhahood. The Buddha Gautama, then, is simply the latest member
      in the spiritual lineage of Buddhas, which stretches back into the dim
      recesses of the past and forward into the distant horizons of the future.

      To understand this point more clearly requires a short excursion into
      Buddhist cosmology. The Buddha teaches that the universe is without any
      discoverable beginning in time: there is no first point, no initial moment
      of creation. Through beginningless time, world systems arise, evolve, and
      then disintegrate, followed by new world systems subject to the same law of
      growth and decline. Each world system consists of numerous planes of
      existence inhabited by sentient beings similar in most respects to
      ourselves. Besides the familiar human and animal realms, it contains
      heavenly planes ranged above our own, realms of celestial bliss, and
      infernal planes below our own, dark realms of pain and misery. The beings
      dwelling in these realms pass from life to life in an unbroken process of
      rebirth called samsara, a word which means "the wandering on." This aimless
      wandering from birth to birth is driven by our own ignorance and craving,
      and the particular form any rebirth takes is determined by our karma, our
      good and bad deeds, our volitional actions of body, speech, and thought. An
      impersonal moral law governs this process, ensuring that good deeds bring a
      pleasant rebirth, and bad deeds a painful one.

      In all planes of existence life is impermanent, subject to aging, decay, and
      death. Even life in the heavens, though long and blissful, does not last
      forever. Every existence eventually comes to an end, to be followed by a
      rebirth elsewhere. Therefore, when closely examined, all modes of existence
      within samsara reveal themselves as flawed, stamped with the mark of
      imperfection. They are unable to offer a stable, secure happiness and peace,
      and thus cannot deliver a final solution to the problem of suffering.

      However, beyond the conditioned spheres of rebirth, there is also a realm or
      state of perfect bliss and peace, of complete spiritual freedom, a state
      that can be realized right here and now even in the midst of this imperfect
      world. This state is called Nirvana (in Pali, Nibbana), the "going out" of
      the flames of greed, hatred, and delusion. There is also a path, a way of
      practice, that leads from the suffering of samsara to the bliss of Nirvana;
      from the round of ignorance, craving, and bondage, to unconditioned peace
      and freedom.

      For long ages this path will be lost to the world, utterly unknown, and thus
      the way to Nirvana will be inaccessible. >From time to time, however, there
      arises within the world a man who, by his own unaided effort and keen
      intelligence, finds the lost path to deliverance. Having found it, he
      follows it through and fully comprehends the ultimate truth about the world.
      Then he returns to humanity and teaches this truth to others, making known
      once again the path to the highest bliss. The person who exercises this
      function is a Buddha.

      A Buddha is thus not merely an Enlightened One, but is above all an
      Enlightener, a World Teacher. His function is to rediscover, in an age of
      spiritual darkness, the lost path to Nirvana, to perfect spiritual freedom,
      and teach this path to the world at large. Thereby others can follow in his
      steps and arrive at the same experience of emancipation that he himself
      achieved. A Buddha is not unique in attaining Nirvana. All those who follow
      the path to its end realize the same goal. Such people are called arahants,
      "worthy ones," because they have destroyed all ignorance and craving. The
      unique role of a Buddha is to rediscover the Dharma, the ultimate principle
      of truth, and to establish a "dispensation" or spiritual heritage to
      preserve the teaching for future generations. So long as the teaching is
      available, those who encounter it and enter the path can arrive at the goal
      pointed to by the Buddha as the supreme good.

      To qualify as a Buddha, a World Teacher, an aspirant must prepare himself
      over an inconceivably long period of time spanning countless lives. During
      these past lives, the future Buddha is referred to as a bodhisattva, an
      aspirant to the full enlightenment of Buddhahood. In each life the
      bodhisattva must train himself, through altruistic deeds and meditative
      effort, to acquire the qualities essential to a Buddha. According to the
      teaching of rebirth, at birth our mind is not a blank slate but brings along
      all the qualities and tendencies we have fashioned in our previous lives.
      Thus to become a Buddha requires the fulfillment, to the ultimate degree, of
      all the moral and spiritual qualities that reach their climax in Buddhahood.
      These qualities are called paramis or paramitas, transcendent virtues or
      perfections. Different Buddhist traditions offer slightly different lists of
      the paramis. In the Theravada tradition they are said to be tenfold:
      generosity, moral conduct, renunciation, wisdom, energy, patience,
      truthfulness, determination, loving-kindness, and equanimity. In each
      existence, life after life through countless cosmic aeons, a bodhisattva
      must cultivate these sublime virtues in all their manifold aspects.

      What motivates the bodhisattva to cultivate the paramis to such
      extraordinary heights is the compassionate wish to bestow upon the world the
      teaching that leads to the Deathless, to the perfect peace of Nirvana. This
      aspiration, nurtured by boundless love and compassion for all living beings
      caught in the net of suffering, is the force that sustains the bodhisattva
      in his many lives of striving to perfect the paramis. And it is only when
      all the paramis have reached the peak of perfection that he is qualified to
      attain supreme enlightenment as a Buddha. Thus the personality of the Buddha
      is the culmination of the ten qualities represented by the ten paramis Like
      a well-cut gem, his personality exhibits all excellent qualities in perfect
      balance. In him, these ten qualities have reached their consummation,
      blended into a harmonious whole.

      This explains why the birth of the future Buddha has such a profound and
      joyful significance for Buddhists. The birth marks not merely the arising of
      a great sage and ethical preceptor, but the arising of. a future World
      Teacher. Thus at Vesak we celebrate the Buddha as one who has striven
      through countless past lives to perfect all the sublime virtues that will
      entitle him to teach the world the path to the highest happiness and peace.

      The Quest for Enlightenment

      From the heights of classical Buddhology, I will now descend to the plain of
      human history and briefly review the life of the Buddha up to his attainment
      of enlightenment. This will allow me to give a short summary of the main
      points of his teaching, emphasizing those that are especially relevant

      At the outset I must stress that the Buddha was not born as an Enlightened
      One. Though he had qualified himself for Buddhahood through his past lives,
      he first had to undergo a long and painful struggle to find the truth for
      himself. The future Buddha was born as Siddhartha Gautama in the small
      Sakyan republic close to the Himalayan foothills, a region that at present
      lies in southern Nepal. While we do not know the exact dates of his life,
      many scholars believe he lived from approximately 563 to 483 B.C.; a smaller
      number place the dates about a century later. Legend holds he was the son of
      a powerful monarch, but the Sakyan state was actually a tribal republic, and
      thus his father was probably the chief of the ruling council of elders.

      As a royal youth, Prince Siddhartha was raised in luxury. At the age of
      sixteen he married a beautiful princess named Yasodhara and lived a
      contented life in the capital, Kapilavastu. Over time, however, the prince
      became increasingly pensive. What troubled him were the great burning issues
      we ordinarily take for granted, the questions concerning the purpose and
      meaning of our lives. Do we live merely for the enjoyment of sense
      pleasures, the achievement of wealth and status, the exercise of power? Or
      is there something beyond these, more real and fulfilling? At the age of 29,
      stirred by deep reflection on the hard realities of life, he decided that
      the quest for illumination had a higher priority than the promise of power
      or the call of worldly duty. Thus, while still in the prime of life, he cut
      off his hair and beard, put on the saffron robe, and entered upon the
      homeless life of renunciation, seeking a way to release from the round of
      repeated birth, old age, and death.

      The princely ascetic first sought out the most eminent spiritual teachers of
      his day. He mastered their doctrines and systems of meditation, but soon
      enough realized that these teachings did not lead to the goal he was
      seeking. He next adopted the path of extreme asceticism, of
      self-mortification, which he pursued almost to the door of death. Just then,
      when his prospects looked bleak, he thought of another path to
      enlightenment, one that balanced proper care of the body with sustained
      contemplation and deep investigation. He would later call this path "the
      middle way" because it avoids the extremes of sensual indulgence and

      Having regained his strength by taking nutritious food, one day he
      approached a lovely spot by the bank of the Neranjara River, near the town
      of Gaya. He sat down cross-legged beneath a tree (later called the Bodhi
      Tree), making a firm resolution that he would never rise up from his seat
      until he had won his goal. As night descended he entered into deeper and
      deeper stages of meditation. Then, the records tell us, when his mind was
      perfectly composed, in the first watch of the night he recollected his past
      births, even during many cosmic aeons; in the middle watch, he developed the
      "divine eye" by which he could see beings passing away and taking rebirth in
      accordance with their karma; and in the last watch, he penetrated the
      deepest truths of existence, the most basic laws of reality. When dawn
      broke, the figure sitting beneath the tree was no longer a bodhisattva, a
      seeker of enlightenment, but a Buddha, a Perfectly Enlightened One, who had
      stripped away the subtlest veils of ignorance and attained the Deathless in
      this very life. According to Buddhist tradition, this event occurred in May
      of his thirty-fifth year, on the Vesak full moon. This is the second great
      occasion in the Buddha's life that Vesak celebrates: his attainment of

      For several weeks the newly enlightened Buddha remained in the vicinity of
      the Bodhi Tree contemplating from different angles the truth he had
      discovered. Then, as he gazed out upon the world, his heart was moved by
      deep compassion for those still mired in ignorance, and he decided to go
      forth and teach the liberating Dharma. In the months ahead his following
      grew by leaps and bounds as both ascetics and householders heard the new
      gospel and went for refuge to the Enlightened One. Each year, even into old
      age, the Buddha wandered among the villages, towns, and cities of northeast
      India, patiently teaching all who would lend an ear. He established an order
      of monks and nuns, the Sangha, to carry on his message. This order still
      remains alive today, perhaps (along with the Jain order) the world's oldest
      continuous institution. He also attracted many lay followers who became
      devout supporters of the Blessed One and the order.

      The Buddha's Teaching: Its Aim

      To ask why the Buddha's teaching spread so rapidly among all sectors of
      northeast Indian society is to raise a question that is not of merely
      historical interest but is also relevant to us today. For we live at a time
      when Buddhism is exerting a strong appeal upon an increasing number of
      people, both East and West. I believe the remarkable success of Buddhism, as
      well as its contemporary appeal, can be understood principally in terms of
      two factors: one, the aim of the teaching; and the other, its methodology.

      As to the aim, the Buddha formulated his teaching in a way that directly
      addresses the critical problem at the heart of human existence -- the
      problem of suffering -- and does so without reliance upon the myths and
      mysteries so typical of religion. He further promises that those-who follow
      his teaching to its end will realize here and now the highest happiness and
      peace. All other concerns apart from this, such as theological dogmas,
      metaphysical subtleties, rituals and rules of worship, the Buddha waves
      aside as irrelevant to the task at hand, the mind's liberation from its
      bonds and fetters.

      This pragmatic thrust of the Dharma is clearly illustrated by the main
      formula into which the Buddha compressed his program of deliverance, namely,
      the Four Noble Truths:

      (1) the noble truth that life involves suffering
      (2) the noble truth that suffering arises from craving
      (3) the noble truth that suffering ends with the removal of craving
      (4) the noble truth that there is a way to the end of suffering.
      The Buddha not only makes suffering and release from suffering the focus of
      his teaching, but he deals with the problem of suffering in a way that
      reveals extraordinary psychological insight. He traces suffering to its
      roots within our minds, first to our craving and clinging, and then a step
      further back to ignorance, a primordial unawareness of the true nature of
      things. Since suffering arises from our own minds, the cure must be achieved
      within our minds, by dispelling our defilements and delusions with insight
      into reality. The beginning point of the Buddha's teaching is the
      unenlightened mind, in the grip of its afflictions, cares, and sorrows; the
      end point is the enlightened mind, blissful, radiant, and free.
      To bridge the gap between the beginning and end points of his teaching, the
      Buddha offers a clear, precise, practicable path made up of eight factors.
      This of course is the Noble Eightfold Path. The path begins with (1) right
      view of the basic truths of existence, and (2) right intention to undertake
      the training. It then proceeds through the three ethical factors of (3)
      right speech, (4) right action, and (5) right livelihood, to the three
      factors pertaining to meditation and mental development: (6) right effort,
      (7) right mindfulness, and (8) right concentration. When all eight factors
      of the path are brought to maturity, the disciple penetrates with insight
      the true nature of existence and reaps the fruits of the path: perfect
      wisdom and unshakable liberation of mind.

      The Methodology of the Teaching

      The methodological characteristics of the Buddha's teaching follow closely
      from its aim, One of its most attractive features, closely related to its
      psychological orientation, is its emphasis on self-reliance. For the Buddha,
      the key to liberation is mental purity and correct understanding, and thus
      he rejects the idea that we can gain salvation by leaning on anyone else.
      The Buddha does not claim any divine status for himself, nor does he profess
      to be a personal savior. He calls himself, rather, a guide and teacher, who
      points out the path the disciple must follow.

      Since wisdom or insight is the chief instrument of emancipation, the Buddha
      always asked his disciples to follow him on the basis of their own
      understanding, not from blind obedience or unquestioning trust. He invites
      inquirers to investigate his teaching, to examine it in the light of their
      own reason and intelligence. The Dharma or Teaching is experiential,
      something to be practiced and seen, not a verbal creed to be merely
      believed. As one takes up the practice of the path, one experiences a
      growing sense of joy and peace, which expands and deepens as one advances
      along its clearly marked steps.

      What is most impressive about the original teaching is its crystal clarity.
      The Dharma is open and lucid, simple but deep. It combines ethical purity
      with logical rigor, lofty vision with fidelity to the facts of lived
      experience. Though full penetration of the truth proceeds in stages, the
      teaching begins with principles that are immediately evident as soon as we
      use them as guidelines for reflection. Each step, successfully mastered,
      naturally leads on to deeper levels of realization. Because the Buddha deals
      with the most universal of all human problems, the problem of suffering, he
      made his teaching a universal message, addressed to all human beings solely
      by reason of their humanity. He opened the doors of liberation to people of
      all social classes in ancient Indian society, to brahmins, princes,
      merchants, and farmers, even humble outcasts. As part of his universalist
      project, the Buddha also threw open the doors of his teaching to women. It
      is this universal dimension of the Dharma that enabled it to spread beyond
      the bounds of India and make Buddhism a world religion.

      Some scholars have depicted the Buddha as an otherworldly mystic totally
      indifferent to the problems of mundane life. However, an unbiased reading of
      the early Buddhist canon would show that this charge is untenable. The
      Buddha taught not only a path of contemplation for monks and nuns, but also
      a code of noble ideals to guide men and women living in the world. In fact,
      the Buddha's success in the wider Indian religious scene can be partly
      explained by the new model he provided for his householder disciples, the
      model of the man or woman of the world who combines a busy life of family
      and social responsibilities with an unwavering commitment to the values
      embedded in the Dharma.

      The moral code the Buddha prescribed for the laity consists of the Five
      Precepts, which require abstinence from killing, stealing, sexual
      misconduct, false speech, and the use of intoxicating substances. The
      positive side of ethics is represented by the inner qualities of heart
      corresponding to these rules of restraint: love and compassion for all
      living beings; honesty in one's dealings with others; faithfulness to one's
      marital vows; truthful speech; and sobriety of mind. Beyond individual
      ethics, the Buddha laid down guidelines for parents and children, husbands
      and wives, employers and workers, intended to promote a society marked by
      harmony, peace, and good will at all levels. He also explained to kings
      their duties towards their citizens. These discourses show the Buddha as an
      astute political thinker who understood well that government and the economy
      can flourish only when those in power prefer the welfare of the people to
      their own private interests.

      The Parinirvana and Afterwards

      The third great event in the Master's life commemorated at Vesak is his
      parinirvana or passing away. The story of the Buddha's last days is told in
      vivid and moving detail in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta. After an active
      ministry of forty-five years, at the age of eighty the Buddha realized his
      end was at hand. Lying on his deathbed, he refused to appoint a personal
      successor, but told the monks that after his death the Dharma itself should
      be their guide. To those overcome by grief he repeated the hard truth that
      impermanence holds sway over all conditioned things, including the physical
      body of an Enlightened One. He invited his disciples to question him about
      the doctrine and the path, and urged them to strive with diligence for the
      goal. Then, perfectly poised, he calmly passed away into the "Nirvana
      element with no remainder of conditioned existence."

      Three months after the Buddha's death, five hundred of his enlightened
      disciples held a conference at Rajagaha to collect his teachings and
      preserve them for posterity. This compilation of texts gave future
      generations a codified version of the doctrine to rely on for guidance.
      During the first two centuries after the Buddha's parinirvana, his
      dispensation slowly continued to spread, though its influence remained
      confined largely to northeast India. Then in the third century B.C., an
      event took place that transformed the fortunes of Buddhism and set it on the
      road to becoming a world religion. After a bloody military campaign that
      left thousands of people dead, King Asoka, the third emperor of the Mauryan
      dynasty, avidly turned to Buddhism to ease his pained conscience. He saw in
      the Dharma the inspiration for a social policy built on righteousness rather
      than force and oppression, and he proclaimed his new policy in edicts.
      inscribed on rocks and pillars throughout his empire. While following
      Buddhism in his private life, Asoka did not try to impose his personal faith
      on others but promoted the shared Indian conception of Dharma as the law of
      righteousness that brings happiness and harmony in daily life and a good
      rebirth after death.

      Under Asoka's patronage, the monks held a council in the royal capital at
      which they decided to dispatch Buddhist missions throughout the Indian
      subcontinent and beyond to the outlying regions. The most fruitful of these,
      in terms of later Buddhist history, was the mission to Sri Lanka, led by
      Asoka's own son, the monk Mahinda, who was soon followed by Asoka's
      daughter, the nun Sanghamitta. This royal pair brought to Sri Lanka the
      Theravada form of Buddhism, which prevails there even to this day.

      Within India itself Buddhism evolved through three major stages, which have
      become its three main historical forms. The first stage saw the diffusion of
      the original teaching and the splintering of the monastic order into some
      eighteen schools divided on minor points of doctrine. Of these, the only
      school to survive is the Theravada, which early on had sent down roots in
      Sri Lanka and perhaps elsewhere in Southeast Asia. Here it could thrive in
      relative insulation from the changes affecting Buddhism on the subcontinent.
      Today the Theravada, the descendent of early Buddhism, prevails in Sri
      Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos.

      Beginning in about the first century B.C., a new form of Buddhism gradually
      emerged, which its advocates called the Mahayana, the Great Vehicle, in
      contrast with the earlier schools, which they called the Hinayana or Lesser
      Vehicle. The Mahayanists, elaborated upon the career of the bodhisattva, now
      held up as the universal Buddhist ideal, and proposed a radical
      interpretation of wisdom as insight into emptiness, or shunyata, the
      ultimate nature of all phenomena. The Mahayana scriptures inspired bold
      systems of philosophy, formulated by such brilliant thinkers as Nagarjuna,
      Asanga, Vasubandhu, and Dharmakirti. For the common. devotees the Mahayana
      texts spoke of celestial Buddhas and bodhisattvas who could come to the aid
      of the faithful. In its early phase, during the first six centuries of the
      Common Era, the Mahayana spread to China, and from there to Vietnam, Korea,
      and Japan. In these lands Buddhism gave birth to new schools more congenial
      to the Far Eastern mind than the Indian originals. The best known of these
      is Zen Buddhism, now widely represented in the West.

      In India, perhaps by the eighth century, Buddhism evolved into its third
      historical form, called the Vajrayana, the Diamond Vehicle, based on
      esoteric texts called Tantras. Vajrayana Buddhism accepted the doctrinal
      perspectives of the Mahayana, but supplemented these with magic rituals,
      mystical symbolism, and intricate yogic practices intended to speed up the
      way to enlightenment. The Vajrayana spread from northern India to Nepal,
      Tibet, and other Himalayan lands, and today dominates Tibetan Buddhism.

      What is remarkable about the dissemination of Buddhism throughout its long
      history is its ability to win the allegiance of entire populations solely by
      peaceful means. Buddhism has always spread by precept and example, never by
      force. The purpose in propagating the Dharma has not been to make converts,
      but to show others the way to true happiness and peace. Whenever the peoples
      of any nation or region adopted Buddhism, it became for them, far more than
      just a religion, the fountainhead of a complete way of life. It has inspired
      great works of philosophy, literature, painting, and sculpture comparable to
      those of any other culture. It has molded social, political, and educational
      institutions; given guidance to rulers and citizens; shaped the morals,
      customs, and etiquette that order the lives of its followers. While the
      particular modalities of Buddhist civilization differ widely, from Sri Lanka
      to Mongolia to Japan, they are all pervaded by a subtle but unmistakable
      flavor that makes them distinctly Buddhist.

      Throughout the centuries, following the disappearance of Buddhism in India,
      the adherents of the different schools of Buddhism lived in nearly total
      isolation from one another, hardly aware of each other's existence. Since
      the middle of the twentieth century, however, Buddhists of the different
      traditions have begun to interact and have learnt to recognize their common
      Buddhist identity. In the West now, for the first time since the decline of
      Indian Buddhism, followers of the three main Buddhist "vehicles" coexist
      within the same geographical region. This close affiliation is bound to
      result in hybrids and perhaps in still new styles of Buddhism distinct from
      all traditional forms. Buddhism in the West is still too young to permit
      long-range predictions, but we can be sure the Dharma is here to stay and
      will interact with Western culture, hopefully for their mutual enrichment.

      The Buddha's Message for Today

      In this last part of my lecture I wish to discuss, very briefly, the
      relevance of the Buddha's teachings to our own era, as we stand on the
      threshold of a new century and a new millennium. What I find particularly
      interesting to note is that Buddhism can provide helpful insights and
      practices across a wide spectrum of disciplines - from philosophy and
      psychology to medical care and ecology - without requiring those who use its
      resources to adopt Buddhism as a full-fledged religion. Here I want to focus
      only on the implications of Buddhist principles for the formation of public

      Despite the tremendous advances humankind has made in science and
      technology, advances that have dramatically improved living conditions in so
      many ways, we still find ourselves confronted with global problems that mock
      our most determined attempts to solve them within established frameworks.

      These problems include: explosive regional tensions of ethnic and religious
      character; the continuing spread of nuclear weapons; disregard for human
      rights; the widening gap between the rich and the poor; international
      trafficking in drugs, women, and children; the depletion of the earth's
      natural resources; and the despoliation of the environment. From a Buddhist
      perspective, what is most striking when we reflect upon these problems as a
      whole is their essentially symptomatic character. Beneath their outward
      diversity they appear to be so many manifestations of a common root, of a
      deep and hidden spiritual malignancy infecting our social organism. This
      common root might be briefly characterized as a stubborn insistence on
      placing narrow, short-term self interests (including the interests of the
      social or ethnic groups to which we happen to belong) above the long-range
      good of the broader human community. The multitude of social ills that
      afflict us cannot be adequately accounted for without bringing into view the
      powerful human drives that lie behind them. Too often, these drives send us
      in pursuit of divisive, limited ends even when such pursuits are ultimately

      The Buddha's teaching offers us two valuable tools to help us extricate
      ourselves from this tangle. One is its hardheaded analysis of the
      psychological springs of human suffering. The other is the precisely
      articulated path of moral and mental training it holds out as a solution.
      The Buddha explains that the hidden springs of human suffering, in both the
      personal and social arenas of our lives, are three mental factors called the
      unwholesome roots, namely, greed, hatred, and delusion. Traditional Buddhist
      teaching depicts these unwholesome roots as the causes of personal
      suffering, but by taking a wider view we can see them as equally the source
      of social, economic, and political suffering. Through the prevalence of
      greed the world is being transformed into a global marketplace where people
      are reduced to the status of consumers, even commodities, and our planet's
      vital resources are being pillaged without concern for future generations.
      Through the prevalence of hatred, national and ethnic differences become the
      breeding ground of suspicion and enmity, exploding in violence and endless
      cycles of revenge. Delusion bolsters the other two unwholesome roots with
      false beliefs and political ideologies put forward to justify policies
      motivated by greed and hatred.

      While changes in social structures and policies are surely necessary to
      counteract the many forms of violence and injustice so widespread in today's
      world, such changes alone will not be enough to usher in an era of true
      peace and social stability. Speaking from a Buddhist perspective, I would
      say that what is needed above all else is a new mode of perception, a
      universal consciousness that can enable us to regard others as not
      essentially different from oneself. As difficult as it may be, we must learn
      to detach ourselves from the insistent voice of self-interest and rise up to
      a universal perspective from which the welfare of all appears as important
      as one's own good. That is, we must outgrow the egocentric and ethnocentric
      attitudes to which we are presently committed, and instead embrace a
      "world-centric ethic" which gives priority to the well-being of all.

      Such a world-centric ethic should be molded upon three guidelines, the
      antidotes to the three unwholesome roots:

      (1) We must overcome exploitative greed with global generosity, helpfulness,
      and cooperation.
      (2) We must replace hatred and revenge with a policy of kindness, tolerance,
      and forgiveness.
      (3) We must recognize that our world is an interdependent, interwoven whole
      such that irresponsible behavior anywhere has potentially harmful
      repercussions everywhere. These guidelines, drawn from the Buddha's
      teaching, can constitute the nucleus of a global ethic to which all the
      world's great spiritual traditions could easily subscribe.
      Underlying the specific content of a global ethic are certain attitudes of
      heart that we must try to embody both in our personal lives and in social
      policy. The chief of these are loving-kindness and compassion (maitri and
      karuna). Through loving-kindness we recognize that just as we each wish to
      live happily and peacefully, so all our fellow beings wish to live happily
      and peacefully. Through compassion we realize that just as we are each
      averse to pain and suffering, so all others are averse to pain and
      suffering. When we have understood this common core of feeling that we share
      with everyone else, we will treat others with the same kindness and care
      that we would wish them to treat us. This must apply at a communal level as
      much as in our personal relations. We must learn to see other communities as
      essentially similar to our own, entitled to the same benefits as we wish for
      the group to which we belong.
      This call for a world-centric ethic does not spring from ethical idealism or
      wishful thinking, but rests upon a solid pragmatic foundation. In the long
      run, to pursue our narrow self-interest in ever widening circles is to
      undermine our real long-term interest; for by adopting such an approach we
      contribute to social disintegration and ecological devastation, thus sawing
      away the branch on which we sit. To subordinate narrow self-interest to the
      common good is, in the end, to further our own real good, which depends so
      much upon social harmony, economic justice, and a sustainable environment.

      The Buddha states that of all things in the world, the one with the most
      powerful influence for both good and bad is the mind. Genuine peace between
      peoples and nations grows out of peace and good will in the hearts of human
      beings. Such peace cannot be won merely by material progress, by economic
      development and technological innovation, but demands moral and mental
      development. It is only by transforming ourselves that we can transform our
      world in the direction of peace ' and amity. This means that for the human
      race to live together peacefully on this shrinking planet, the inescapable
      challenge facing us is to understand and master ourselves.

      It is here that the Buddha's teaching becomes especially timely, even for
      those not prepared to embrace the full range of Buddhist religious faith and
      doctrine. In its diagnosis of the mental defilements as the underlying
      causes of human suffering, the teaching shows us the hidden roots of our
      personal and collective problems. By proposing a practical path of moral and
      mental training, the teaching offers us an effective remedy for tackling the
      problems of the world in the one place where they are directly accessible to
      us: in our own minds. As we enter the new millennium, the Buddha's teaching
      provides us all, regardless of our religious convictions, with the
      guidelines we need to make our world a more peaceful and congenial place to

      About the Speaker

      Bhikkhu Bodhi was born in New York City in 1944. He received a B.A. in
      philosophy from Brooklyn College (1966) and a Ph.D. in philosophy from
      Claremont Graduate School (1972). In late 1972 he went to Sri Lanka, where
      he was ordained as a Buddhist monk under the late Ven. Balangoda Ananda
      Maitreya Mahanayaka Thera. Since 1984 he has been editor of the Buddhist
      Publication Society in Kandy, and since 1988 its president. He is the
      author, translator, and editor of many books on Theravada Buddhism. The most
      important of these are The Discourse on the All-Embracing Net of Views
      (1978), A Comprehensive Manual of Abhidhamma (1993), The Middle Length
      Discourses of the Buddha (1995), and The Connected Discourses of the Buddha
      (due for publication in October 2000). He is also a member of the World
      Academy of Art and Science.

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