Buddhism and the Future of Humanity

By Graeme Lyall

Although the Teaching of the Buddha has been with us for the last 2,500 years, it has taken a long time for it to spread throughout the entire world. As you are aware, it wasn't until the Koryo dynasty, from 936 to 1392 that the glorious teachings really blossomed in Korea. As far as western counties are concerned, a period of another 600 years had to pass before serious study and practice of' the Dharma began in Europe. One of the earliest Europeans to declare himself a Buddhist was the German philosopher, Schopenhauer, in the 1820's, his book, "Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung" - "The World as Will and Idea", had a profound Influence on popularising Buddhism in the 19th century. Actually, it was to the German mind that Buddhism had its greatest appeal in the west. Max Muller, another German, edited two series of books based on translations of portions of the Tripitaka, "'Sacred Books of tile East" and "Sacred Books of the Buddhists", both of which are still in print. In England, the writer Sir Edwin Arnold published his poem based on the life of Sakyamuni Buddha, "The Light of Asia", which, until recently was very popular with English speaking readers. Its popularity waned, however, as a better understanding of the teachings in the west, exposed the inaccuracies in Sir Edwin's understanding. One important impact of the publication of "The Light of Asia", however, was that it profoundly influenced a young Englishman named Allan Bennett, who journeyed to Sri Lanka and Burma to study Buddhism and, in 1901, ordained as Venerable Ananda Metteya, the first Westerner to become a Buddhist monk. The first German born Buddhist monk was Anton Guerth, a world famous violin virtuoso, who ordained in Rangoon in 1903 as Venerable Nyanatiloka. He spent most of his monastic life in Sri Lanka but, being a German and Sri Lanka then being a British colony, he was sent to Australia in 1915, for imprisonment as an enemy alien. Although he was unable to do much teaching during his internment in Australia, he was a prolific writer and much of his time was spent in preparing Dharma books.
The early practise of Buddhism in England and Europe was according to the Theravada or Hinayana tradition. In 1922, a British expedition set out for Tibet in order to study Tibetan Buddhism. They reached the southern Tibetan city of Shigatse but were refused permission to proceed to the capital Lhasa where they had hoped to meet the Thirteenth Dalai Lama. However, one of their number, Frederic Fletcher, ordained in the Gelugpa or Yellow Hat tradition under the name of Lama Dorje Prajnananda. he later also received Theravada ordination in Sri Lanka and therefore had dual loyalties to both the Theravada and Vajrayana traditions. It wasn't until 1937, however, that a German refugee scholar, Edward Conze, who was living in England, dedicated his life to the study and translation of the Mahayana scriptures, with the result that it stimulated an interest in the practise of the Mahayana with the formation in the 1950's of the Mahayana Study Group. The Korean Seon Master, Seung Sahn Sunim, has, more recently, had quite a profound influence in Europe, especially in Poland, where he has established a branch of the Kwan Eum School of Zen. In fact, on my first visit to Korea nine years ago, I was staying at Hwagye Sa and nine Polish monks were also there at that time. Perhaps, largely due to the late arrival of an interest in the Mahayana in England and Europe, the predominant teaching followed in those western countries remains the Theravada or Southern Buddhism. Across the Atlantic in North America, Buddhism took a very different turn. The first American Buddhists were mainly of Chinese and Japanese origin. In the late 1900's many Chinese came to California to work the gold fields. Their Buddhism was a syncretic blend of Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism and traditional Chinese deities. However, the most popular form of Buddhism among the Chinese then as it is now was Pure Land although there was a small group practising Cha'an.
Many Japanese had settled in Hawaii and when it became one of the States of the U.S.A., many of them moved to the mainland. They, too, tended to follow the Pure Land (Jodo Shinshu) school of Buddhism. However, as a result of the very successful World Parliament of Religions held in Chicago in 1893, one of the main speakers, Rinzai Zen Master Soyen Shaku, invited one of his students, who was fluent in English to join him in America. This student was D.T.Suzuki whose profound understanding of Zen, has done much to popularise it in the West, especially among Westerners in North America. Korean Seon was introduced to the United States in 1967 by Samu Sunim who founded the Zen Lotus Society. Samu Sunirn later moved to Canada and the Zen Lotus Society is now based in Toronto. Perhaps, the greatest pioneer or Korean Zen in the West, though, has been Seung Sahn Sunim who went to the States in 1972 and established the Kwan Eum School of Zen in Providence, Rhode Island. He has since then established branches of the Kwan Eum School of Zen in many countries throughout the world including Australia, where it is represented by the Dae Kwang Sa Zen Society in Queensland.
As a result of the 1959 occupation of Tibet by the Chinese Communist Government and the devastation that they have wreaked on that small Himalayan country, many of the monks fled to India and some of them later settled in North America. Two of the most notable and influential Tibetan teachers who settled in the United States were the late Chogyam Trungpa Ripoche and Tarthung Rinpoche. Both of them, as well as establishing Dharma Centres, have founded publishing companies to print and distribute Dharma books. Tibetan Centres in the West are extremely popular with young people who are attracted by the elaborate rituals, the mystical teachings and the emphasis on the psychological aspects of the Dharma. The Theravada has remained an insignificant part of the American Buddhist scene. The main interest in Theravadin practice from Westerners is in meditation practice, especially Vipassana or insight meditation but this is mainly taught by lay teachers, such as Jack Cornfield, Joseph Goldstein and Sharon Salzberg, most of whom have trained in Burma and Thailand. The few Theravadin monks resident in the United States are mainly serving migrant and refugee communities. It is possibly due to the British colonisation of Sri Lanka and Burma, that these countries have had such a profound influence on the direction that British Buddhism has taken, whereas North American Buddhism has mainly been influenced by migration, especially from China and Japan.
No serious study or practise of Buddhism began in Australia until the early 1950`s. Leo Berkeley, a Dutchman by birth, who had spent the war years in England, later migrated, with his family, to Australia. Early in 1952, whilst on a ship returning to England for a visit, he met Sir Lalita Rajapakse, the then Sri Lankan Minister of Justice. Sir Lalita was returning to Colombo after attending a Commonwealth Conference in New Zealand. The two became acquainted and, as Sir Lalita was a very devout Buddhist, it seemed inevitable that their daily conversation would turn to Buddhism. Sir Lalita recited to Leo the Dharmapada verse:
"By ourselves is evil done; by ourselves we pain endure. By ourselves we cease from ill; by ourselves become we pure. No one can save us but ourselves, no one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the Path, Buddhas only point the way."
Which caused Leo Berkeley to observe: 'I was very much impressed by this wisdom because I always had believed that we ourselves create our life and our destiny. I said: "Sir, please tell me a little more about the Teaching of the Buddha". His answer was: "My good friend, Id like you to meet a learned monk. Come and see me tomorrow when we arrive in Colombo". The learned monk turned out to be the late Venerable Narada Maha Thera from the Vajirarama Vihara in Colombo. Venerable Narada instructed Leo Berkeley in the Dhamma. Venerable Narada suggested to Leo Berkeley that, on his return to Australia, he should establish a Buddhist society. Leo Berkeley, after making some enquiries, was put in touch with Marie Byles. It was during the 1940's in Sydney, whilst studying books on non-Christian religions, that Marie Byles became intensely interested in Buddhism, and no account of its development would be complete if her contribution were ignored. She was a pacifist, naming her home 'Ahimsa', meaning 'harmlessness' and her meditation hut, 'The Hut of Happy Omen'. Since her death, the home and garden have been given to the people of Sydney as a quiet retreat. It is currently administered by the National Trust. Marie Beuzevllle Byles was born in 1900 into a Christian family in England. At the age of eleven years, she migrated with her family to Australia. She wrote at least six books, four of which were on Buddhist topics. 'World Buddhism', vol.5, No. 1, 1956, a publication of the World Fellowship of Buddhists, reported: 'Miss Marie Byles, who spent a short holiday and study tour in Ceylon after a trip to the Himalayas for meditation purposes, is now writing a book on "The Human Aspect of the Buddha's Life " for publication shortly.' She spent the year 1954 in North India researching this book which was eventually published under the title of "Footprints of Gautama the Buddha". Marie gave many talks to the Theosophical Society in Sydney, as well as broadcasting on their regular Sunday night programme on a local radio station. She also preached Dharma at the Unitarian Church in Sydney. Marie disliked participation in organised groups, preferring to study and meditate in a hut in the garden of her Cheltenham (a Sydney suburb) home...Leo Berkeley told her of his intention to form a Buddhist Association. "Oh, Mr.Berkeley", she said, "the Australians are not yet ready for the teaching of the Buddha." Leo Berkeley replied- "Miss Byles, if you are ready and I am ready, we can start together an association." Hence the embryo Buddhist Society of New South Wales was born. Additional members were recruited following an advertisement placed in the newspaper, "Sydney Morning Herald". It was not a formally constituted society, but a loosely formed group of people gathering together to study the Dhamma. Soon after this group was formed, a seventy year old, American born, Buddhist nun, Dhammadinna, arrived in Sydney. She had been living in Sri Lanka for nearly thirty years.
Sister Dhammadinna arrived in Australia in 1952, with little money and only one address of a person to contact. She arrived at the home of her contact, Marie Byles, requesting shelter. It was eventually Leo Berkeley, who invited Sister Dhammadinna to live in his home where she was able to conduct regular Dharma teaching and meditation classes. Usually fifteen to twenty people attended her lectures. She did not accept all of those who attended these meetings for personal instruction, however. She chose eight persons whom she considered were 'ready for the Dhamma'. She referred to them as "my Buddhists". I was fortunate in being one of those eight. She administered the Three Refuges and Eight Precepts to this group on the Holy Day of Vesak, the Buddha's Birthday, 29th of May, 1953.
At this juncture, you may be interested to know how I first became interested in Buddhism. Following the Second World War, with the fall of colonialism, the newly independent countries, especially those in Asia, tried to establish an infrastructure to enable them to take their place in the modern world. A scheme was implemented, known as the Colombo Plan, which was to select the brightest students from the newly independent countries and send them to universities in some of the more established countries such as Great Britain, the United States and Australia so that they could fill the vacuum left with the departure of their former colonial masters. A great number of these students chose Australian universities, partly due to their highly rated international reputation and also due to their close proximity to their homelands. Regrettably, Australia, at that time, was into its half century of the notorious "White Australia Policy", so there were few people of Asian background living in Australia to provide support and friendship to these lonely students. A few friends and I decided to try to alleviate some of the misery suffered by these students by arranging weekend outings and picnics so that we could offer the hand of friendship. I was brought up in a Christian family but in my mid-teens decided to disassociate with my church connections as, I felt, it failed to offer me satisfactory answers to the problems of life. The Christian church offered only dogma and many of its doctrines were impossible for me to accept. I questioned one of my Colombo Plan student friends about the religions of Asia, especially Hinduism and Buddhism. When I heard about the teachings of the Buddha, it struck a chord. This teaching seemed to coincide with the views I already held. It made a lot or sense, so I decided to investigate it further. This was when I discovered that the Buddhist nun, Dhammadinna, was conducting classes so I asked permission to join them. So it is now 49 years since I first went to the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha as my refuge. It was in May 1953 that the first Buddhist society, the Buddhist Society of New South Wales was formed by Leo Berkeley, who was its first President. I served for three years, at the tender age of 22, as its first Secretary. Sister Dhammadinna stayed for only one year in Australia.
For the next few years it was quite difficult to keep our newly formed society alive. None of us in Australia had a profound knowledge or experience in the Dharma and no Buddhist monks, even if our Immigration authorities at that time would have allowed it, were prepared to come and teach in Australia. We had the occasional visit from Buddhist monks, perhaps staying for one or two months, every two or three years. This made the development of Buddhism in Australia very difficult indeed. One of the main problems was that there were very few monks in the world at that time who were fluent in English and, those that were, were also in demand in other Western countries such as England and the United States of America. Australia, with its mere handful of Buddhists, was not considered significant enough to warrant a resident teacher. It was not until the 9th or May, 1971 that Venerable Ratmalane Somaloka arrived in Sydney to become the first resident monk. His devotees and supporters in Malacca had paid his fare and expenses to enable him to undertake this mission to Australia. He was followed a year later by two monks from Thailand, one of whom was an Englishman, Venerable Khantipalo, who was already well known to us through the many Dharma books that he had written. The monks from Thailand established Wat Buddharangsee, the first temple in Sydney, which, until this day, is the focal point of Theravada Buddhism in Sydney. Sydney's first Mahayana temple was also established in 1972 by an Australian Chinese businessman, Eric Liao. Following the tragic Communist takeover of many South East Asian countries in the mid 1970's, many refugees arrived to seek the safe refuge of Australia. As an essential ingredient of their settlement into their new home, they established Buddhist temples and invited monks to come to serve their communities. The Vietnamese community, by far the largest group of newcomers, followed the Mahayana tradition, whereas the Lao and Cambodian communities established Theravadin temples. . Early in the 1980's, the Korean Dharmakaya Society was formed at Summer Hill, a western suburb of Sydney. In 1984, a monk, Venerable Jin Sang Sunim, arrived from Korea and premises were leased at Earlwood to serve as a residence and temporary temple, known originally as Hong Boep Sa and later renamed Dharma Sa. Venerable Jin Sang left Australia early in 1985 and was replaced by Venerable Jang San Sunim, who arrived on the first of April, 1985. Venerable Jang San Sunim has since returned to Korea where he heads a large temple in Pusan. Sydney now has four Korean temples serving our very small Korean Buddhist community. Over 75% of the Koreans who are living in Australia, reside in New South Wales. The last census from which figures are available shows that some 16,137 Koreans had chosen New South Wales as their home, but very few of these are Buddhists. The Korean Christian churches in Australia engage in an aggressive recruiting campaign and, supported by the wealth of the established Christian churches, have been able to supply material support to the newly arrived Korean migrants. The Korean Buddhist temples, being under-resourced, are not in a position to match this social support offered by the Christians and, therefore, are attended only by committed Buddhists. Korean Buddhism has had little or no impact on the Western followers of Buddhism in New South Wales. This is due to our Korean Buddhist Sangha having little or no English and therefore being unable to share the Seon teachings with Westerners. Queensland, as mentioned earlier, is fortunate in having a branch of Master Seong Sahn's Kwan Eum School of Zen, so, at least one of our States is making progress in benefiting from the rich Korean Buddhist heritage and, hopefully, it will soon spread to other States.
Although the Mahayana tradition is that followed by the majority of Australian Buddhists, the largest ethnic grouping being that of the Vietnamese and Chinese, regrettably, Mahayana Buddhism has had little impact on Western Buddhists. As with the Korean Sangha, few Mahayana monks are sufficiently fluent in English to undertake Dharma teaching in languages other than that of the specific ethnic group that they are serving. This situation is gradually changing since the Taiwan based Fo Kwang Shan organisation recently opened the largest Buddhist temple in the Southern Hemisphere at Wollongong, an hour's drive south of Sydney. Its mere size has attracted many visitors and engendered an interest in investigating this ancient religion. Many of the Sangha at this temple are fluent enough in English to offer teachings in English as well as in Chinese. As in North America, many of our young people are attracted to Tibetan Buddhism for much the same reasons as their American counterparts. The most dominant teaching followed by most Anglo-European Australians is the Theravada tradition. This is partly due to its being the earliest tradition of Buddhism to become established in Australia. Many English speaking monks from this tradition are resident in Australia and they offer meditation instruction, especially Vipassana, which is most attractive to Australian Buddhists.
What is it about Buddhism that is attracting so many Westerners to practise its teachings? More and more Westerners are leaving Christianity, their traditional religion. Many churches in Australia are closing their doors due to lack of support, whilst others are limiting the number of religious services due to small congregations. Although 75% of Australians claim Christianity as their religion, fewer than 26% ever attend church services. Christianity is merely a convenient label that they wear should anyone ask them about their religious adherence. One of the main problems in dealing with Christian doctrine is that it demands blind faith and places the responsibility for one's salvation on something external to one's self As you may have observed from the Dhammapada verse quoted earlier when I was speaking about Leo Berkeley, the founder of the Buddhist Society of New South Wales that Buddhism teaches self reliance. We are responsible for our own happiness and our own suffering. To put the responsibility for our actions onto another is shirking our responsibility. Rather than blind faith, the Buddha encourages us to examine his teaching and test its efficacy for ourselves. One of the most attractive sutras that has had a profound influence on and encouraged many Westerners to study and practice Buddhism is the Kalama Sutra. This Sutra comes from the Anguttara Nikaya which is found in the Pali canon, the earliest collection of Buddhist teachings. This Sutra is known as the "Buddhist Charter of Free Enquiry". Times have not changed all that much since the Buddha's day. The Kalamas, a tribal group living in the Kingdom of Kosala, experienced religious teachers who came to them claiming that what they taught was the true religion and all other religious teachers taught false religion. Due to their confusion, they wanted advice on how to test the truth of a religion - hence the Buddha gave them the following advice:
It is not surprising, Kalamas, that you are confused. Don't accept ideas just because others have believed them for a long time or because others say that it is true. Don't accept these ideas just because they are written in ancient books or scriptures. Don't accept these ideas just because the teacher offers a convincing argument. Don't accept these ideas just because you have great respect for the teacher. Kalamas! You should examine these ideas for yourself and ask yourself if they are of benefit to your life, are not a source of sorrow or regrets or likely to bring blame from the wise. If these ideas are profitable to your life and are unlikely to cause suffering to yourself or any living creature and are praised by intelligent people and are likely to produce happiness, then, and only then, should you accept them and live according to these principles.
This was a tremendous and courageous challenge that no other religious teacher has dared to make. The Buddha has asked us not to even accept what he has taught unless we examine it and put it into practice to prove that it really works. He freed mankind from dogma and showed them how, by practising his teachings, that we can overcome life's frustrations.
Many Westerners are willing to consider accepting any theory that conforms to scientific method such as that used by a medical practitioner when examining a patient, that is to identify the problem, examine its cause, prescribe a remedy and then test the remedy to see if it has been effective in removing the problem. The core teaching of the Buddha, the Four Noble Truths, certainly fits this framework of scientific method. Perhaps, we can look at the Four Noble Truths.
The first Truth is that life is subject to Dukkha. Dukkha is a Pali word which is often translated or, rather, mistranslated into English as 'suffering' but it is much more than that. It certainly means physical and mental suffering but it also means that life is full of frustrations - we would always prefer that things be other than the way they are. As we grow old, we wish we could remain young. If we are poor, we wish we could be rich. When we are separated from our friends and loved ones, we are saddened. Dukkha is birth, sickness, old age, pain and despair, separation from those whom we like and association with those whom we dislike. All of these are examples of Dukkha and that is the First Noble Truth. So we have identified the problem - Dukkha.
The Second Noble Truth states that the Cause of Dukkha can be attributed to three things - greed, anger and a deluded mind. We tend to be attached to people and material things and when we are separated from them, we suffer regret. We cling to these things as if they will last forever and we find it hard to accept the fact that they don't. We get angry or have aversions to those things that we do not like. Buddhism teaches that anger harms the one who is angry more than the object to which this anger is aimed. The more we get angry with someone and they react to our anger the more this anger increases. The next time you see someone who is angry, look at their face and see how ugly they appear. Anger is unproductive - it doesn't solve the problem. Our minds are deluded because we do not see things as they really are - that is, subject to impermanence or constant change, known in the Pali language as anicca, , frustrating, known in Pali as dukkha, and devoid of a permanent self or substance, empty or void also known as Sunnyata. Everything, material or immaterial, is subject to change or impermanence. Perhaps you are sitting in a comfortable chair listening to this talk. If you remain in that chair for the next three hours, without moving, do you still think you could regard the chair as comfortable? Believe me, I do not intend to keep you here for the next three hours. If you remained fixed in that chair for a month, you would probably find that you are crippled and unable to move. If you remain in that chair for a hundred years, you will probably be a skeleton and the chair will be the worse for wear too. When coming to Korea from Australia, I sat in a very comfortable seat but, after flying for several hours, the seat ceased to be comfortable and I couldn't wait until we landed in Seoul to stretch my legs. What starts as being regarded as comfortable can soon change to being uncomfortable. Everything is relative. The way we see things depends on the time, place and current situation. We, ourselves, are subject to this change. Every cell in our body is constantly ageing and dying and being replaced. Our thoughts and ideas are constantly changing or being modified. Your thoughts and ideas, since you arrived here today, are different from when you left home to come to Chogye Sa. They have changed considerably. Is there anything in you which is not subject to change? All that we are is a collection of five constantly changing components, known as the five skhandas. They are body, feelings or sensations, perceptions, volitions and consciousness. Let us use a car as an illustration. What is a car? Is it the body, the engine, the wheels, the steering mechanism? It is none of these individually. The term "car" has no existence in itself. It is dependent on all of its components and is a combination of all of these. We are dependent on the five skhandas before we can use the term "I". "I" has no independent existence in itself. This is why Buddhism teaches that, in the ultimate sense, there is no 'I' or 'you' or unchanging self entity. This concept of change and non self is difficult to accept and is, therefore, Dukkha - frustrating or unsatisfying.
The third Noble Truth concerns the overcoming of Dukkha, that is, overcoming the greed anger and delusion, also known as the Three Poisons, which are the source of Dukkha. Accepting change as a characteristic of life and not becoming angry or frustrated about it is part of the way to overcoming Dukkha. The complete overcoming of Dukka is termed "Nirvana". Nirvana is not a place but a state of mind - a mind that sees things as they really are and not clouded by delusion. It is not something that we have to wait until death to experience. We can experience it here and now if we follow the method taught by the Buddha. This is the proof of the effectiveness of the Dharma in that, if we follow his teaching, we will not be in any doubt that it really works. It is the medicine that cures all ills.
The Fourth Noble Truth is the method taught by the Buddha for attaining the state of Nirvana, in other words, the medicine or remedy that he has prescribed to overcome our problems. It is known as the Noble Eightfold Path. You may be wondering why the term 'Noble' is used for the Path. One who walks the Path is considered to be a noble person. The eight steps of the Path are:
Right Understanding is knowledge that the Four Noble Truths lead to the overcoming of Dukkha. It does not imply a total understanding of these Truths but a confidence that, by following the Path, the desired result will be attained. Right Thought is to be constantly aware of one's thoughts and actions and thereby avoiding harm to oneself or any living creature. Before one speaks or acts, one should 'wear the other person's shoes'. One should visualise oneself as the recipient of that speech or action and be aware of the effect of that speech or action. If the effect is negative and likely to cause hurt to the recipient, then one should neither act nor speak. Mindfulness of one's actions avoids conflict and leads to a peaceful existence. Right Speech is awareness of one's speech so that, what one says, is beneficial to the hearer. It is the avoidance of lying and deceiving, slander and gossip which ruins somebody's reputation.
Right Action is to be aware of one's actions and observe the five precepts so that one does not cause harm to oneself or any other living creature. These five precepts, which are an essential starting point for any Dharma practice are:
To undertake the training to avoid the taking of the life of any living beings. This precept applies to all living beings not just to humans. All beings have a right to their lives and that right should be respected. This is why many Buddhists are vegetarian. They don't want to contribute, even indirectly, to the taking of life.
To undertake the training to avoid taking things not given. This precept goes further than merely avoiding stealing. One should avoid taking anything unless one can be sure that is intended for you.
To undertake the training to avoid sensual misconduct. This precept is often mistranslated or misinterpreted as relating only to sexual misconduct but it covers any overindulgence in any sensual pleasure such as gluttony as well as misconduct of a sexual nature. A Buddhist should be mindful of the possible effects on themselves and on others of improper sexual activity. This precept would include adultery because this also breaches the precept of not taking what is not freely given. A relationship with someone who is committed to another is stealing. Similarly in cases of rape and child abuse, one is stealing the dignity and self respect of another. One is also causing mental pain, not to mention physical pain so one is, therefore, causing harm to another living being. Such behavior is, in effect, breaking several precepts.
To undertake the training to refrain from false speech. As well as avoiding lying and deceiving, this precept covers slander as well as speech that is not beneficial to the hearer or to the welfare of others. A Buddhist should be mindful that what is spoken should benefit the hearer. If what one says is likely to harm a person's reputation then one should, preferably, remain silent.
To undertake the. training to abstain from substances which cause intoxication and heedlessness. This precept is in a special category as it does not infer any intrinsic evil in, say, alcohol itself, but indulgence in such a substance could lead to heedlessness and be the cause of breaking the other four precepts.
These are the basic precepts expected as a day to day training of any lay Buddhist. Indeed, aren't these the basic moral principles that should govern any harmonious society?
Right Livelihood is to earn one's living in a way that does not cause harm or suffering to oneself or any living creature. Such occupations as the selling of intoxicants, firearms or animals for slaughter would be considered inappropriate for Buddhists.
Right Effort is the avoiding of evil which has not already arisen, rejecting evil which has already arisen, the acquiring of wholesome things which have not yet been acquired and the stabilising of those wholesome characteristics that have already been acquired.
Right Mindfulness is training in constant awareness of the effects of one's actions, whether of body, speech or mind, and thus avoiding harmful actions.
Right Concentration is cultivating the mind through concentration and meditation so that one attains intuitive insight. This intuitive insight is gained through the regular practise of Seon.
By practising the Noble Eightfold Path, letting it be our blueprint for living, we will observe for ourselves that our life has undergone a great change. We learn to respect all living creatures and cultivate compassion for their suffering. As we cultivate compassion for all creatures, we overcome our anger as we realise the futility of being angry and nurturing hatred. As we practise Seon and cultivate insight, we understand the nature of life and we become unmoved by life's frustrations. We are able to see through our problems and they cease to be problems. A problem is only a problem when we don't see a solution. Through intuitive insight we can understand their nature and they no longer disturb us. I hope that I have been able to show you, with the all too brief explanation of the Four Noble Truths, that the Buddha's teaching is a scientific teaching - one that can stand the closest scrutiny and the test of time. It, therefore, has great appeal to Westerners who are seeking a more realistic teaching on which to base their spiritual life.
What role will Buddhism play in the future development of our world? With modern communications and the ease of travel from one corner of the globe to another, this world has shrunk to the status of a village. We can no longer see each other as strangers from some far off place. We are gaining a better understanding of each other's culture and points of view. Nowhere is this more evident than in my country, Australia. We are a diverse society with citizens originating from almost every country in the world. We are a country where every religion, no matter how obscure, is practised by someone. We are trying to set an example to the world that we truly can have unity in diversity and that all races, religions and viewpoints can share a country and live together in harmony. Not all people in Australia share this point of view but it has been welcomed by the majority and we have progressed so far along the multicultural road that there can be no turning back. Through this diversity in our culture, more and more Australians are becoming aware of the many religions practised by our Australian community. Buddhism is well accepted and respected by many Australians regardless of their own particular spiritual path. They are now aware that Buddhism poses no threat.
Buddhism, traditionally, is a non proselytising religion which teaches peace and harmony and respect for the points of view of others. It is this reputation, that Buddhism has earned, that makes it so appealing to more and more Australians. Buddhism is Australia's fastest growing religion having increased its numbers by 300% in the ten years from 1981 to 1991. Although immigration accounts for a large portion of this increase, more than 30,000 Australians of European background claimed Buddhism as their religion in the last census. More than 200,000 people in Australia, or 1.1% of the population are Buddhists
As the number of European Buddhists is on the increase, it appears that Buddhism in Asian countries seems to be on the decrease. As consumerism and other less desirable practices, such as globalisation which is a new name for colonialism have been adopted from Western countries, people are tending to become more materialistic and greedy with the consequent decline in spiritual values. It seems that many people in Asia are forsaking the values that have served them so well for centuries and are adopting some of the less desirable practices from the West. Respect for parents, the aged, the treasure of close family relationships and concern for neighbours is gradually being replaced by the selfish attitudes that are destroying Western culture. Not everything in the West is good. One should be discerning and adopt only those things that are of benefit to society. We can show the West that, by making spiritual values a guide to every facet of our lives, it is possible for society to progress but with compassion. The values of Buddhism can permeate the world like the perfume of incense permeates this temple and we, together can create a world free of greed and hatred. The suffering of the world, whether it be through war, famine or other natural disasters, must become our concern. We must look for inspiration to the Bodhisattva Kwan Se Eum Bosal, and vow not to rest until we have offered ourselves to serve humanity and relieve its suffering. This is known as Engaged Buddhism. Buddhism is often seen as passive - unconcerned with feeding the poor, establishing hospitals and schools and taking a stand on injustice and suppression of human rights. Not only must we cultivate ourselves spiritually but we must dedicate ourselves to actively serving humanity at large. This, I see, as the most important contribution that Buddhism can make to the future of this world.