Buddhist way of living in harmony Equality without divisions
Venerable Dr. Omalpe Sobhita Nayake Thero
Living beings are differ in bodies and minds. “Nanatta kaya, nanattha sanna”
People having different temperaments are the nature of the world, according to the Buddha. Living beings differ according to their karma or the volitional action. It is a universal truth. Failure to accept it leads to disaster. (Kammam satte vibhajati yadidam hinappanitataya)
Dictator Hitler wanted to create an ‘Aryan Nation’ and make the Germans a superior race. The strong moves he made in this direction resulted in the deaths of over five million people.
Cambodian Leader Pol Pot wanted to build his country under a dictatorship of the proletariat. He thought that only the proletariat should live. His policy thus led to the deaths of at least two million people.
Many destructive events occurred in Russia and China because of attempts to create socialism. Not only in the fields of political but also in the religious fields we have experienced many such disasters throughout the world history. The main reason for war is intolerance of different views and lack of equanimity. The solution to this problem is to pave the way for equality. It is needed for those who suffer from the injustice of inequality. Attempts to create inequality artificially cause most unfortunate situations.
An example of this is the caste divisions and other forms of discriminations in India during the time of the Buddha. Though it faced various criticisms this system is going on even today. It was the outcome of one group in society in its selfish interests trying to suppress and degrade another group, ignoring the fact that all people have equal rights. The Human Rights Charter of the United Nations Organisation too has endorsed everyone’s right to life. Accordingly people have a right to live without fear, to earn a living in freedom and to believe in any religion of their choice. The refusal of some groups to accept this inevitably leads to crisis. To understand the Buddha’s attitude towards the other religious practices the following story gives very good example.
Upali was an educated, intelligent patron of the teacher Nighantha Natha Putta. Upali was also a philanthropist and a great debater. He came to meet the Buddha to defeat him in a debate but ended with engaging in a discussion on the Dhamma. Eventually Upali realized the truth.
He told the Enlightened One:
“O Great master, I came to defeat you in debate. It was foolish of me to do so. You are clearly preaching the truth. From today onwards I will be your patron and follower”
However, the Buddha advised him:
“Do not be in such a hurry. It is not right for people like you to make sudden decisions. Go to your teacher”
Upali appealed again:
“No Venerable Sir. I have achieved full realization. Please accept me”
So the Buddha expressed his willingness to accept Upali as one his patrons and followers but on a certain condition. It is to respect his teacher Nighantha Natha Putta as before and treat him well as done before.
This advice made Upali respect the Buddha even more. This one of the best examples of equality taught in the Buddha Dhamma.
To maintain peace, which is most relevant factor to lead a happy life one should accept the different nature of the living beings and there equal rights in living the lives.
Emperor Dharmasoka who based his rule on the Buddha Dhamma has stated in stone inscriptions, “All humans are my children. (save manusa paja mama) His compassion was inspired by the Buddha’s teaching which spreads the message of loving kindness to all living beings: “May all beings be happy and live without fear.” (sabbe satta bhavantu sukhitatta)
The Buddha declared that women have rights equal to that of men. The Buddha the Enlightened One paved the way for women to raise their social status by preaching against the injustice and degradation they suffered in the patriarchal society of that era. The Buddha said that women too were just as efficient as men in doing the same tasks that the latter did. (Itti pi pandita honti tattha tattha vicakkhana)
Buddha Dhamma plays important role as a universal teaching which upheld the rights of not only humans but also all creatures.
All beings are afraid of pain, punishment and death. All beings are sensitive. (Sabbe tasanti dandassa sabbe bhayanti maccuno) However the Brahmins in their teachings did not recognize this fact relating to animals and other creatures. That is why they organized animal scarifies to please the gods. (yaga or bali puja) Consequently they suffered great injustice. The Buddha Dhamma emphasizes the need to treat all beings equally without any discrimination.
In this context the advice Venerable Arahat Mahinda gave King Devanampiyatissa in sri Lanka – 3rd century BC is of great importance:
“O King this land and this sky belongs to everyone. They belong to birds, reptiles, animals and all other creatures in the jungle and also to humans. You are not its owner but only the caretaker. Your duty is to ensure their existence and provide them with protection”.
There after the rulers who followed the Buddha’s teaching introduced ‘Maghata,’ the law to prevent the killing of animals in accordance with the first precept of Buddhist moral conduct. Equality in Buddhism also applied to trees and plants.
“Clear the jungle but do not cut the trees, (vanam chindatha ma rukkham) ” says the Buddha Dhamma. The ‘jungle’ here means the dark, thick jungle in the human heart. It is filled with lust, ignorance and hatred. These should be uprooted. But trees and plants are innocent. These ideals were clearly reflected in the Buddha’s character.