Buddhism for the 21st Century
By Venerable Thich Minh Thien
The Buddha left everything behind including his palace, his wealth, his wife, and his lovely son in order to find real happiness, the happiness that all people could share, which is the inner peace. This is what we need to practice and carry forward into the 21st century so that the world is peaceful and undamaged.
There are two traditions of Buddhism, namely Mahayana and Theravada, which focus on the path of the Middle Way. For the Buddhist lay people who observe the Five or Eight Precepts in their daily life, they will be blessed by the Buddha. Though the Buddha in his physical form is no longer with us now, we still have the Dhamma as our Guide and Teacher. Therefore, Dhamma is the second body of the Buddha followed by the Sangha, which is the third body of the Buddha. The Sangha in its growing number, plays an important role in the spread of Dhamma, the guidance to the path of enlightenment and the steps to end sufferings. However, not all Buddhists or believers of other religions in today's society may follow the teachings of Buddha or God. For this reason, we have to take the responsibilities to find the inner peace in ourselves. When we find inner peace in ourselves, the world will become a peaceful place. We are fortunate to live in a good country like Australia, where the people are blessed by the loving-kindness and compassion of the Buddha and God.
When one is born, everyone tends to love him/her and share with him/her regardless of religion, cultural background and language. However, as one grows up, he/she becomes more self-centered where hatred starts to accumulate in the mind. This is not the teachings of Buddha. The Buddha loved not only the human beings but also the living beings, which highlights the importance of the First Precept that is the abstention from killing or harming living beings. If one observes the Five Precepts at anytime and anywhere, one is considered a Buddhist. When one attains happiness and peacefulness via the observance of the Five Precepts, no police or solicitors are required. However, the world needs Bodhi Doctors or Mind Doctors in the practice of Dhamma and Precepts.
The world progresses with the advance in Science and Technology. However, people do suffer as a result of that. This is shown in the invention of chemical bombs and airplanes where Japan was bombarded and, World War I and II were started respectively. Human beings are so intelligent to such an extent, can you imagine what is going to happen in the 21st century? Humans can find the way to kill through the invention of weapons but not the way to love and to unite. With the knowledge of Buddhism, we have to practice Middle Path in the 21st century. Everyone has to stay hand in hand, mind by mind, heart by heart and make use of the power of Buddha, God, Nature and the Universe to stop killing. This would not be possible without the unity of the Buddhists and the non-Buddhists.
One must understand that life is full of sufferings. As a result, we have to practice the Four Noble Truths and always keep them in mind. In Buddhism, the practice of the Eightfold Path is important as your right understanding, right thought, right speech and right action can eliminate the unwholesome thoughts and improper and harmful conducts.
Most people live in a world of extremity. They can be very sad today but very happy tomorrow. This is not the teachings of Buddha. The way to get out from extremities is to practice the Middle Path so that everyone can achieve the real happiness without discrimination. Once again I would like to emphasize that when we have noble peace in ourselves, the world will become peaceful.
The world we are living in is the body and the loving-kindness and, the nature are the mind of the world. Without loving-kindness and nature, the world would have been gone for million years. The world exists in the presence of karma. When the karma ends, the world ends. This is also seen in ourselves where our good or bad karma is carried for rebirth.
All the Buddhists have to help one another by showing care and loving-kindness. You can either pay visits to the prisoners in jail and the patients in hospital or to help the poor by giving generous donations in terms of money and foods. You must offer your care and love to others without any conditions.
Selflessness is important for one to achieve happiness, to have more friends and to treat everyone like brothers and sisters. Having this quality, we must then unite to prevent World War III and to build a better world for our young children.
At this point, I would like to share a story with everyone. When I was 9-10 years old, I was hospitalized with bandaged foot and arm. A few young American soldiers involved in the Vietnam War had lost their legs, eyesight and arms. During my stay in the hospital, I learnt English from them and they appeared to like me very much. However, my mother hated them as they were the one who destroyed my country and my countryman. My father had to escape during the war or else he would be killed. Since I was born in a very poor family, my mother and my siblings had to borrow money from the relatives to buy medicine for me. After four years with six times operations, my body is left with many scars.
The young American armies involved in the war because they had no choice. I was the victim because I lived in that village. If the American armies know that I am a monk, they will not hurt me. This is the same as if you observe the Five Precepts, you will not kill the animals and humans. Therefore I believe that in the 21st century, the Four Noble Truths is the foundation of Buddhism for everyone to end suffering, greed, hatred and delusion by following the Eightfold Path.
In the practice of the Middle Path, you will not care about heaven or hell because you have already a natural mind. The Buddha said that the heaven or hell is in your heart. Everyone has been wondering how come I can still love everyone, live a simple life and spread Dhamma around the world after all the sufferings that I have been through. Well, I would say that all people are the same, we breathe in the same air and drink the same water, therefore we must love and care for each other unconditionally. With loving-kindness, we can then stay in unity and build a peaceful world.
Thank you for listening. May all be well and happy.