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Buddhisme Toward Peace And Reconciliation
By Dang Thuc Nguyen
The distinctive contribution of Buddha toward peace and reconciliation of ideologies id self-reliance or self-help because Buddha placed the onus of happiness of mankind on man, not on any power alien to man. One thing that can be said about the teachings of Buddha is that they are the teachings of a human being who was keen on nothing else so much as on human service. He did not only preach peace, but he led the calmest, simplest and most peaceful life ever lived on third earth.
Why have most religions failed in making any solid contribution toward peace? Many reasons have been advanced, but the chief one perhaps has been that most religions have based their ideas of brotherhood on one belief or another. This emphasis on considering a certain man or woman as your brother or sister because he or she believes as you do, has divided society into different belief organizations called religions or political ideologies and taught every individual belonging to a particular religion or ideology to think of outsiders not only as strangers or aliens but even as enemies. How can there be any peace in this so divided world when most of our attempts are oriented toward the ‛struggle for life’? Buddha put the emphasis on behaviour, instead of belief.
The teachings of Buddha can be ranged into two principal categories:
1/ Teachings based on the principle of Cause and Effect for Right views.
2/ Commandments for Right conduct.
Right views and right conduct go together. Buddha's whole emphasis is on right conduct. . . .The Marxist says: ‛Profit motive is the root cause of our troubles’. But what is the cause of the profit motive? The profit motive is the outcome of an ignorant tendency called Greed. If individual do not learn how to control it, they cannot think of any peace in the world, even if they have conquered all the power of Nature.
So Buddha laid stress on the conduct and behaviour of man, instead of belief. What you believe may be a matter for your personal and individual consideration, but the whole society is directly and vitally concerned with your behaviour and conduct.
‛I love God’, said Tagore, ‛because He has given me the freedom to deny Him’.
If we could just think of the whole world, of the whole humanity as a single organization, different individuals would have freedom to believe as they like, but when it comes to social behaviour, with everybody behaving in a way he would desire others to behave toward him, and then perhaps we could make a step toward real Peace.
Buddhism has changed the war-like conqueror Asoka into a most peaceful and tolerant man. Since his conversion, he became a fervent Buddhist, and completely and definitely changed his conduct:
"Just after the taking of Kalinga, the beloved of God began to follow Righteousness, to love Righteousness, to give instruction in Righteousness"
_ (Asoka's edicts)--(A. L. BASHAM "The Wonder that was India")
Asoka declared that all men were his children, strongly supported the doctrine of Ahimsa (non injury to men and animals) then rapidly spreading among religious people of all sects, banned animal sacrifices and regulated the slaughter of animals for food, completely forbidding the killing certain species. He took pride in the fact that he had substituted pilgrimages to Buddhist holy places for hunting expeditions, the traditional sport of Indian Kings, and reduced meat consumption in the palace. Thus
Asoka's encouragement was in part responsible for the growth of vegetarianism in India.
That is the good example of pacifist behaviour of an Emperor who applied Buddha's teachings to politics.
After Asoka's conversion Buddhism began to spread quickly and pacifically over Asia. Everywhere it had deed influence over the native societies by its spiritual power, conciliating different beliefs such as Animism, Confucianism, Taoism, as it was the same case in Vietnam. Of course it is classic to say that the soul of Vietnam is dominated by the synthesis of three systems: Confucianism, Taoism, And Buddhism. Each of them belongs to a level of consciousness : the social consciousness is generally influenced by Confucianism, the natural aesthetic by Taoism, and the spiritual religious by Buddhism. In China, the social and the natural were originally opposed to each other for centuries, but in Vietnam, they were reconciled in the spiritual consciousness after our liberation from Chinese domination. This spiritual force of liberation and reconciliation, the Vietnamese people found in the religion of Buddha which has become our traditional faith ever since. This was explicitly expressed by a Zen Master of the eleventh century as follows:
"Confucianism and Moism hold that existence is real, and Taoism denies it. They are worldly teachings and not liberating ways of life. Only Buddhism transcending both affirmative and negative views can solve the problem of life and death. However, one has to keep Right conduct, Right effort and be experimentally proved by edifying Masters ". (Cửu-Chỉ)
That was the active way of reconciliation followed by Vietnam leaders during the two great national dynasties of Lý, Trần from tenth to fifteenth century. In fact, the illustrious King-leader of thirteenth century openly declared:
"The nature of Buddha is universal and transcendent. It is not limited in time or space, in the South or the North. Everybody can find it provided they perfect themselves for the purpose. There are intelligent and stupid people but thanks to the nature of Buddha, they may be similarly enlightened. Therefore the forthright principles of Buddhism are using practical methods to teach ignorant people and direct way to point out to them the reason of life and death. On the other hand, it was Confucius who set up particular patterns and techniques of government for generation to come. Therefore the Sixth Patriarch of Zen said: ‛Sages are no different from Bonzes". So the principles of Buddhism would need the wisdom of Confucianism for its penetration in human societies. Thus, why I cannot have the responsibility of Sages and the principles of Buddha for my own?’ _(Trần-Thái-Tông).
This concept of reconciliation between the two traditionally opposite tendencies of thought is the classical synthesis to be realized by practical active living, not in a close system. It was the way of Vietnamese Buddhist Zen that our King accomplished by a life of unselfish service to the family and to the nation before retiring into the mountains and forests for the eternal life. His living teachings ever since have penetrated the national consciousness and become popular faith as you can see in these opening verse of a popular Buddhist booklet:
"Thus ness (tathata) in Buddhism is really mysterious. In man's consciousness, (Confucian) the first Idea is Humanity which generates Filial Piety of Confucianism. Filial Piety means redeeming one's evil. Humanity aims at liberation from all metempsychosis (Samsara or Life and Death Ocean).
"Its power is magically represented by a being with a thousand eyes and a thousand hands.
"This multiplicity of forms comes out from spiritual unity.
"In the Southern sea of Vietnam, the popular divinity is our Mother Avalokiteçvara or Quan-Âm ( Kuan-Yin ) ".
Thus, you see how Buddhism once combined with Confucianism and Taoism, developed social feeling and universal compassion and intellectual power into spiritual consciousness. That is the union of Reason and Heart, Knowledge and Devotion. That is the solution Vietnamese Buddhism proposes for the problem of Peace and Reconciliation of the world today.