(1) POWER OF MIND FOR WORLD PEACE
(2) The Religious Roots of Social Harmony
(3) Buddhism and its relevance to the world situation
Venerable Dr. Ashin Ñyãnissara (D.Litt., Ph.D.)
Shihid Rahimi Conference Hall,
Islamic Culture and Relations Organization
Islamic Republic of Iran
30 December, 2014
The following is the full text of speech delivered by Venerable Dr. Ashin Ñyãnissara (D.Litt., Ph.D.) at the Multilateral Dialouge between Islam and Buddhism held in Teheran, Iran, on 30 December.
Today, I’m very much pleased and honoured to be invited to this multilateral dialogue between Islam and Buddhism organized by the International Islamic Culture and Relations Organization of Iran. I really appreciate the organizers for organizing this important seminar with the objective of exchanging views and exploring opportunities on joint scientific and religious cooperation between Islam and Buddhism for world peace. It is also a great honour for me to meet with Muslim and Buddhist brothers and friends including the Minister for Culture of Iran and Islamic Leaders, Chancellor, Professors and Lectures of the Interfaith University of Iran and Venerable monks from Thailand and Sri Lanka here at this august seminar and that I wish you all peace and happiness. I’m happy to share a piece of Buddha’s teaching with you which says holding frequent meetings and discussions is beneficial to all as it further consolidates mutual friendship and understanding among them. I’m, thus, confident that frank discussion at this seminar would bring about mutual friendship and understanding between us, through which misunderstanding that might have arisen between the two sides would be removed, and peaceful co-existence between the two major religions would be built.
As you are all aware, the world today is facing various conflicts and tragedies almost everywhere. At this critical juncture, we need to find out the cause of problem as a matter of priority so that we will reach the right solution to the problem. In other words, it is an urgent need for us to find ways in order that peace and stability would prevail in the whole world.
The current situation of the world is a great challenge for political, spiritual and religious leaders. It is my firm conviction that we all religious leaders, on our part, are responsible to help mitigate tensions and conflicts by disseminating the noble teachings of our respective religions to our followers.
Every religion calls upon their followers to live a moral way of life, to attain mastery over the mind and to cultivate purity of heart. Whether it is the Bible or the Koran, or the Veda, or the Ti-Pitaka, all scriptures call for peace, amity and harmony. From Jina to Jesus, all great founders of all religions have emphasized it with virtues of tolerance and non-violence. But the world we live in is often driven by religious conflicts and sectarian strife, or even the war of brutal fighting. Because we usually attach importance only to the outer shell of religions and we overlook the universal truth or the inner core of religions. The result is a lack of love, compassion, tolerance, forgiveness and self-understanding in the mind.
When there is no peace in individuals, then there cannot be peace in the world. Violence and peace never can coexist. The only way to achieve inner peace is insight meditation. This is non-sectarianism but scientific result-oriented technique of self-observation and self-realization of the truth.
Practice of Insight Meditation brings some unprecedented result — that is — experiential understanding of how mind and body are interacting.
Whenever negative emotion arises in human mind, such as craving, jealousy, hatred, anger, ignorance and so on, these negative spirits trigger unpleasant sensations within the body. On the other hand, sometimes, positive states arise in the mind such as tolerance, love, compassion, sympathetic joy and wisdom, etc. At that time, mental actions create happiness and pleasant sensations within the body.
Every moment to moment, the mind generates hate or love, compassion or cruelty, sympathy or jealousy, positivity or negativity, pleasantness or unpleasantness and selfishness or selflessness. So the entire mind is flooded with pleasant sensation or unpleasant sensation all the time. Insight meditation reveals that mental action precedes every physical and vocal action, determining whether that action would be wholesome or unwholesome. That is why we must find practical methods to create pure and peaceful mind.
The practice of insight meditation can be used for keeping the balanced mind and sound health. By exercising insight meditation, everyone can remove mental disease of negativities and can achieve balance of mind. The balanced mind will make unbalanced world balanced, stable mind will make unstable world stable and peaceful mind will make the violent world peaceful.
The people of any faiths can practice such insight meditation without discrimination of caste, colour or creed. At the same time, they may follow their own religions and traditions in peace and harmony. There is no need for conversion of religion. A common source of tension and conflicts create negativity only. Therefore, conversion is only for changing the negative mind to the positive mind. As an observer, one will find a society living in peace and harmony in its natural setting.
Today in the world, we see clearly various degrees of spiritual pollution like discontentment, dissatisfaction, disagreement, argument, demonstration, strikes, violence, invasion, aggression, and tension, etc. These spiritual pollutions are always creating bad consequences to human societies and human environment. This is the manifestation of unbalanced and untrained mind. They are motivated by negativities latent within human mind. We all understand that we need to protect our environment and society, stop polluting them and remove such mental pollutions.
People are searching for a place of peace and tranquility. However, they cannot find such a place of paradise in this materialistic world. So, let us change our mind from negativity to positivity. Removing such pollutants of negativities will promote peace and harmony as well as balanced mind and healthy relationship between human societies and its natural environment. This is how Buddhism can foster environmental protection.
Now, we the religious leaders of Islam and Buddhist are gathered here at this Dialogue. The International Islamic Culture and Relations Organization of Iran, Buddhist leaders from Thailand and Sri Lanka in cooperation with the Sitagu International Buddhist Academy aim to find out the religious roots of social harmony and also to explore the development of teaching materials highlighting social harmony in Buddhist, Muslim and Christian faiths, as well as a grass-roots education program.
So, I’m confident that we should put our joint effort to abstain from conflicts and violence. We strongly condemn any forms of violence and conflicts. We also urge all political leaders, national leaders and spiritual leaders to join in this declaration. We all leaders must make a vow here and now. We declare that we unconditionally condemn such brutality, cruelty, and any violence. We must try to seek forbearance, forgiveness, selflessness and confession for the establishment of peace, harmony, stability, security and coexistence in the world.
Let us, now, try to formulate a definition of religion. We should try to understand the intrinsic meaning of religion. Then, there would be no greater misfortune for humanity than a failure to define religion as synonymous with peace.
Every religion has its own outer shell and inner core. The outer shell consists of rites, rituals, ceremonies, beliefs, myths, and doctrines. These outer shells differentiate one religion from another. However, there is an inner core which is common to all religions. This is the universal teaching of morality, charity, mental discipline, pure mind, pure love, compassion, goodwill, tolerance and insight truth. This is a common denominator that all religious leaders ought to emphatically teach their followers to practice. If proper importance is attached to the essence of all religions, the pure love, tolerance, forgiveness and compassion are shown for their surface level, then conflicts and violence could be minimized.
I would here like to share my understanding that Water has unchangeable characteristics of coolness to all, regardless of race, caste and religion. It helps one who drinks it free from thirst and makes one who touches it clean and fresh. Likewise, fire has a constant nature of producing light and heat. People produce drinking water in different shapes of bottles with different labels and lighters in different brand names. However, their nature is irreversible. My message here is that if we take a superficial look at things, we see them differently. If we use eyes of wisdom, we will see truth and reality.
All human beings should be free to profess and follow their faith. However, they must be careful not to neglect to practise the essence of their own respective religions, not to disturb others by their own religions, and not to condemn other faiths. In this diversity of faiths, when people of different views approached him, the Buddha said, “Let us set aside our differences, let us give attention to what we can agree on and let us put the common core which we agree upon into practice. Why quarrels?” Such wise counsel still retains its value until today.
The Buddha said, “Animosity can be eradicated by its opposite which is pure love, patience, forgiveness and so on. Animosity cannot be eradicated by animosity. Violence is ceased by non-violence. Violence is never ceased by violence. Hatred is never ceased by hatred. Through pure love only, it can be ceased. This is the eternal law.” This is the Dhamma. What is called Dhamma in the world has nothing to do with Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, Judaism, Sikhism, Islamism, or any other “ism”. Dhamma is a simple truth-
1) To understand the Truth is our common core.
2) To understand the Truth is our common goal;
3) To understand the Truth is our common solution to all problems;
4) To avoid extremism and aggressiveness and to follow the Middle Path are our Common Platform.
I would, once again, like to appreciate the organizers of this seminar for their vision and efforts. I would also like to express my profound thanks to all participants and to the Minister for Culture of Iran and officials and staff of the Ministry, Chancellor and Professors of Interfaith University of Iran, Islamic Leaders and academicians for their all-round support to make this seminar a success. And I wish to repeat my particular thanks to all religious leaders in Iran for giving us this great opportunity of building further mutual friendship and understanding and exchanging views for world peace. I, now, conclude with my earnest hope that Buddhist and Islamic leaders work together for peace and stability of the future world.
May all beings be free from aversion. May all beings be happy.
May Peace and Harmony prevail in every corner of the world.
Venerable Dr. Ashin Ñyãnissara (D.Litt., Ph.D.)
Aggamahapadita, Mahadhammakathika Bahujanahitadhara, Aggamaha Saddhammajotikadhaja,
Sasanadhaja-dhammacariya Chancellor of Sitagu International Buddhist Academies
Principal of Sitagu International Buddhist
Founder of the Board of Directors of Theravada Dhamma Society of America
Honorary Professor of International Theravada Buddhist Missionary University Chairman of International Association of Theravada Buddhist Universities