BuddhaSasana Home Page English Section

The Indispensability of Peace in the Present World Context

Bhikkhu Sugandha

Theme Paper presented at the World Buddhist Summit 2004, Lumbini, Nepal

"All tremble at punishment, all fear of death; comparing others with oneself; one should neither kill, nor cause to kill." - The Buddha

"Peace is not merely the absence of war but the presence of justice, of law, of order - in short, of government." - Albert Einstein

It is indeed a matter of great privilege and honour for me to be here with you all and join you on this momentous occasion of Second World Buddhist Summit 2004. We have assembled here at the Sacred Lumbini Garden to discuss and understand the role of Lumbini: 'A Symbol of Unity in Diversity – the Fountain of World Peace'. The Summit surely will prove to be an effective platform to promote Lumbini as a symbol of international brotherhood, peace and prosperity. I do hope that at the end of three days of Summit the indispensability of peace in the prevailing international situation will emerge as the major agenda of deliberations. Friends in the Dhamma! We are here to pay our respects to the Buddha who has shown to us all the possible ways and means to establish a peaceful society and make our human life comfortable, happy and contented.

Introduction [2]

Before we can speak about 'The Indispensability of Peace in the Present World Context', we have to first explain what is meant by the term 'peace'. Peace is one of those things everyone says they want, but can't seem to find. So if everyone really wants it, then what is the problem?

What do we mean when we talk of peace? Is peace really achievable in the present world context? Is peace just a utopian concept or can it exist in our daily lives? How can one achieve peace in a war zone? Is peace achievable through religious practice or political dialogue?

The present world we live in is witnessing violence at an unprecedented level. Although the Cold War has ended, there are new conflicts that develop everyday, while old ones deepen and escalate. As citizens of this world, we seem unable to stem the violence, and our representative, the United Nations is struggling to keep afloat of the tide of unrest. Therefore, how can we create sustainable World Peace in the present world context?

As we converge here in Lumbini, having walked our different paths in life, philosophy and religion, we all carry in our hearts a desire for peace. Both the Nepalese government and the Maoists are struggling for the betterment of society, but this cannot be achieved without first establishing peace in the country. In this climate of conflict here in Nepal today, we forget that this is where the Buddha, the Emissary of World Peace was born. How did we let the message of peace be shrouded by the violence of war? We have seen the capacity of war to destroy men and human resources, to cripple entire generations, to crush human rights underfoot, to disrupt the values upon which living together is based and to make every aspect of our lives less human. Although we may be weary and wary about the concept of conflict, it is the prospect of peace that brings us here today, and it is in this spirit that we should move forward for the future of our nation and our world.

Indeed, how can we realize the indispensability of peace in Nepal? In order for peace to be indispensable, are we willing to dispense with our own personal goals? What are we willing to sacrifice for the cause of peace? How can peace feature as an objective for constitutional politicians? What is the monarchy willing to give up in the name of peace? And what is the place of peace in the Maoists ideologies? Democracy has been embraced by Nepal since 1990 but it is obvious that peace has not been one of its products.

The subject of the indispensability of peace in the present world context is a very big one, but the organizers of this World Buddhist Summit, besides asking me to speak on it, have allotted me some thirty minutes in which to do so. Either they underestimated the dimensions of the subject or overestimated my ability to deal with it in the time allotted. It would be pleasant to think that the latter alternative was the case, but if this is so then I am going to have to disappoint our good organizers, and must ask them and you to forgive me. I am quite unable to deal with the subject of the 'Indispensability of Peace in the Present World Context' systematically in the space of some thirty minutes. Being a son of the Buddha myself, I shall deal with it from a Buddhist perspective and its application to present world context and particularly to present-day Nepal, the birth land of the Buddha.

If there are those amongst you who are cynical of peace, I do not blame you for having that sentiment. Talking about peace is an activity that is totally disconnected from the real world. While we are talking about peace here in the peaceful sacred garden in a very amicable environment there is violence not far away from here and other places in the world this very minute. There are so many religious, political, inter-religious and peace conferences like this which are discussing the issue of peace but at the end of the day, all it is paying lip-service to the issue. People who are involved and engaged in the violence hardly attend those conferences and are not involved in shaping the content of those conferences.

If politicians and decision makers of this country and Maoists leaders were to participate in conferences for peace such as this, then there is a chance that they might reflect upon their policies and actions that directly or indirectly caused the death of many innocent lives. They will at least have a chance to learn about the great message of peace echoed worldwide for over 2,500 years through the mouth of the Buddha, a Nepalese hero who lighted a powerful torch of peace to the world.

Peace: What it really means to us

Our popular concept of peace has failed. It is concepts of peace such as "peace is not war" or "not conflict" that I accuse of failure. Many [3] suggest a relationship between peace definitions and peace action. Peace definitions or concepts are the basis on which we decide how to make peace. For example, if I define peace as not war, then I would attempt to make peace by attempting to eliminate war or at least mitigate its severity. On the other hand, if I define peace as inner harmony, I would attempt to develop 'inner me' and meditate as much as possible in order to make peace with myself and surroundings. The point is that concepts or definitions of peace are the basis for peacemaking. What one does to achieve peace depends on how one imagines, defines, or conceptualizes peace. If our present peace efforts are in danger of catastrophic failure then our concepts may need revision. Perhaps it is also our inability to make those concepts clear that has led to their failure. Indeed "peace" has proven difficult to define. Perhaps it has rhetorical uses for political leaders who benefit from the ambiguity of the term. Also there are socially constructed cultural differences in peace concepts.

"Peace" is a word that is uttered almost as frequently as "truth," "beauty," and "love." It may be just as elusive to define as these other virtues. Common synonyms for peace include "amity," "friendship," "harmony," "concord," "tranquility," "repose," "quiescence," "truce," "pacification," and "neutrality." While some of these descriptions are appropriate, they are still quite limited in describing both the nature of peace and the role of the peacemaker. Any attempt to articulate the nature of peace and peacemaking, therefore, must address those conditions that are favorable to their emergence. Freedom, human rights, and justice are among such prerequisites. Also included are proactive strategies such as conflict resolution, nonviolent action, community building, and democratization of authority.

Although 'peace' is a common word we use globally, the understanding of it varies from culture to culture. For example, we find that there is an East-West dichotomy of peace concepts in the present world context. In the Western concept the most common elements of peace are prosperity and order where order refers to rule of law. Therefore, the Western concepts see peace more as a property of social systems functioning to assure prosperity. On the contrary, the Eastern concepts of peace emphasize order and tranquility of mind. Here order refers both to the political and cosmic order achieved through individual conformity to custom, norms, etc. as an outcome of individual internal harmony. [4]

Additionally, some categorize peace as

1) a world without war,
2) world justice, and
3) world order. [5]

1) The peace is not a war category [6] that is concerned with disarmament, control of or elimination of war, understanding the root causes of war, and the control of or elimination of war-like violence (oppressive, bloody regimes like Idi Amin in Uganda or the Khemer Rouge of Cambodia). To these ends most of peace research has been dedicated to three conceptual groups: 1.1) peace through no violence, 1.2) peace through conflict resolution, and 1.3) peace through disarmament. [7]

2) The peace as world/social justice category [8] has shifted focus from the causes of war to the conditions of violence and peace. In doing so it has continued to define peace in terms of violence and has added conflict theory to peace theory (e.g. "War to end all wars").

3) The peace as world order category [9] attempts to address the problem of human survival in the face of increasingly complex world problems such as nuclear war, and ecological disaster. The primary problem under this category is the existence of autonomous, independent nation-states which, except for the influence of an emerging world economy, function largely in response to their own internal needs.

All of the above conceptual schemes imply two basic ways of conceptualizing peace:

1) Concepts of peace that are largely materialistic, international, and external. Materialistic in the sense that peace is associated with prosperity; war and violence reduce prosperity. International in that the appropriate starting point for peace is at the level of relations between nations. External in the sense that peace, if it is possible, must exist outside the individual or the relationship (individual to others/society); peace is more the product of social structures than of interactional patterns or subjective states. The problem of obtaining peace is seen as war or violence (physical and structural).

2) Concepts of peace that are more idealistic, inter- and intra-personal, and both internal and external. Idealistic in that non-material goals and processes are valued in the achievement of peace; peace is not necessarily related to prosperity. Additionally, peace is idealistic in that like other aspects of social reality, it is constructed and maintained through social processes and can be revised through those same processes. Inter- and intra-personal in that the best level at which to begin peacemaking is seen as developing internal peace with which one then interacts more peacefully with others. Internal in the sense that peace must first exist within the individual in relationship to others; peace is more the product of interactional patterns or subjective states than of social structures. Yet external concepts of peace are not excluded. Social structures must also be changed to institutionalize changes in interactional patterns or subjective states.

In other words, the concepts of peace can be divided into two aspects: 1) Negative peace and Positive peace. Negative peace means the absence of war, violence both personal and social, terrorist activities and hostilities in general. Therefore, "peace is the absence of violence in all its forms - physical, social, psychological, and structural" [10]. The term positive peace, on the other hand, connotes not only the absence of war, but also more significantly, the promotion of a harmonious functionally cooperative and well integrated society. [11]

Buddhist 'Peace'

Having discussed on the popular concepts of peace let me look back to our Buddha, the Emissary of World Peace. Let us see what Buddha would say about peace in the present world context. In short, Santi or peace in Buddha's term is a synonym of the Buddhist ultimate goal i.e. Nibbana and/or happiness. Nibbana literally means extinguish. Extinguish from all defilements namely desire, hatred and delusion. In other words, when we can extinguish the fire of desire, hatred and delusion we are in peace. Those defilements are the major roots of physical, social and mental conflicts that we encounter in our day to day lives. Therefore, attaining Nibbana means not to be in physical, social and mental conflicts but to be in physical, social and mental peace. Therefore, 'peace is not just absence of war. Peace is a state of consciousness dynamically maintained by the people in a society where the evils of greed, hatred, and ignorance are reduced to minimum and non-greed and non-hatred are increased to the maximum.' [12]

As a matter of fact, peace is the characteristic of Nibbana. The Buddha extends the concept of peace to include both inner peace (ajjhattta-santi) and outer peace (bahiddha-santi). Inner peace which is generally known as 'peace of mind' is a mental state free from 'disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions.' Inner peace is a prerequisite for outer peace which involves interpersonal relations. We can feel outer peace when we live harmoniously with our fellow beings. Parallel to mental peace, outer peace includes communal, national and global peace. [13]

From the Buddha's perspective, the meaning of peace, in terms of our living experiences combines four primary issues: happiness, peace, freedom and security. According to the Buddha, Nibbana is called parama sukha, the highest happiness; anuttara santivarapada, the supreme state of sublime peace; vimutti, liberation or deliverance; and anuttara yogakhema, the supreme security from bondage. [14] While these aspects of Nibbana may seem far removed from our present world context, a little reflection will show that they link up with our most basic aspirations, indeed with the most basic desires of all human beings. When we consider the true motivation behind all our actions, it should be immediately clear that what we really desire most is a state that combines these four qualities: happiness, peace, freedom, and security. The reason we fail to attain them is not that we desire their opposites – for no one deliberately seeks to be miserable, distressed, enslaved, and imperiled – but because we misconceive them and thus do not know how to attain them.

Not understanding the truth we seek our basic aspirations in the wrong direction, like a man who wants to go from Lumbini to Kapilavastu by heading north-east to Kathmandu.

(1) We cannot distinguish true happiness from sensual gratification, thus we seek happiness by frantically pursuing sensual pleasures. This is like trying to satisfy one's thirst by drinking sea water: the more one drinks, the more thirsty one becomes.

(2) Again, we think that peace means the absence of conflict; thus we try to gain by subduing our opponents and by bullying our environment to serve our desires, unaware that this process is ultimately self-destructive.

(3) We identify freedom with license, the freedom to act on impulse, to do whatever we wish; thus we demand the right to act impetuously, without having to pay the price, without having to bear responsibility for our irresponsible actions.

(4) We think of security as protection from external harm; thus we shield ourselves in high-walled homes equipped with high-alert security systems, yet we never feel completely safe but live in the shadow of fear, of an anxiety that swells up from within.

It is said that there are 84,000 teachings taught by the Buddha which we call Buddhism nowadays. When we investigate those entire teachings one easily finds that the ultimate teaching of all those teachings is peace and how to achieve that physical, mental and social peace within this life. Buddhism, therefore, is the religion of peace and happiness. For nearly 2,600 years ago the Buddha was already talking about the peace and the way to achieve that peace. Nibbana is not a Buddhist heaven or certain place for Buddhists to aspire after death but it is the human peace everyone yearns for. Consequently, a scholar boldly state Buddhism has taught peace more strongly among its followers, more effectively, during all its history, than has any other great religious faith to the world. [15]

Will peace be achievable in the present world context?

As to where or not peace would be achievable in the present world context is a topic for a good debate. Based on a recorded history of civilization of already 6,000 years, it seems that our earthly society is destined to undergo periods of wars from time to time. However, if the UNESCO preamble is to be taken seriously, then we may have some hope of a lasting peace. UNESCO's preamble starts with the words: Since war begin in the minds of men it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed. This would mean that we should develop a kind of educational program that would make it possible for a new generation to wage peace among themselves instead of war. Although this is theoretically sound, in practice we need to do a lot of groundwork if we were to visualize a 21st century for our children and grandchildren which is characterized by peace.

To this end we need to find out, in the first place, what has caused so much violence and wars over the centuries up to the present time. Among several possible reasons we find the following:

1. Politics: The formation of various political parties led to a number of wars unnecessarily because each of such parties tried to impose its political philosophy over the rest of the population.

2. Religion: In spite of the fact that religion in itself is a very peaceful institution, yet various religions found it appropriate to wage wars against their neighbor in the name of God.

3. Communism: This type of ideology visualized people living together as members of the same family where everything is shared with each other. In practice, communism has deprived people of their basic human rights.

4. Capitalism: This system advocates the never-ending building of a capital in a way that people never feel satisfied because they always yearn for more and more. This often leads to greed which tends to disregard other's people need.

5. Exploitation: One of the evils of colonialism has been the exploitation of people's resources. This element nowadays is still among us under various guises. It explains why it is said that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

6. Power-Abuse: The concept of power is frequently rendered as an opportunity to provide excellent services to people everywhere. However, when power is abused, people are forced to rebel and a war generally takes place.

7. Jealousy: When people see other in a more privileged position, instead of thanking his karma for being so kind to them, they get annoyed instead and in a number of instances figure out a way to destroy people's goods.

8. Ethnicity: People tend to make such a big dean to one's ethnic background that they find themselves often divided and all of a sudden involved unnecessarily in tribal conflicts. This type of conflict is also known as racism.

9. Organized Crime: Many refer to this type of crime simply by the word "mafia." Here people are blackmailed and threatened so as to comply to anything the mafia gang proposes. As a result, conflicts are bound to follow.

10. Terrorism: In the wake of the September 11, 2001 incident, the term 'terrorism' becomes part of our daily conversation. It has more frequently been associated with violence committed by disenfranchised groups desperately attempting to gain a shred of power and influence. Although these groups cannot kill on the scale that governments with all their military power can, their sheer numbers, their intense dedication, and their dangerous unpredictability have given them influence vastly out of proportion with their meager military resources. Some of these groups have been inspired by purely secular causes and they have been motivated by leftist ideologies. [16] Current development of terrorism and the 'state anti-terror terrorism' present a complex and new situation for the question of peace and war. This surpasses all the past understanding of war and peace. This confrontation has no national boundaries. It has no definite military targets. It defies all rules that regulate wars. There is neither the beginning nor the end of the war.

In addition to the above source, there are many numerous others which instigate tension among human beings to the point of war. Of course, agencies such as the weapons industrial complex, will not hesitate to take the advantage of every situation conceivable to provide weapons of destruction to everyone who is willing to pay the right price. In fact, this agency has become one of the most lucrative businesses in the world.

With regards to various sources of conflict the Buddha often referred to the negative effect of attachment to speculative or fixed views, dogmatic opinions, and even correct views if not personally know to be true [17]. Grasping at views can be seen to have led to religious and ideological wars (offensive or defensive), crusades, bloody revolutions, and gas chambers. Indeed, millions of deaths were caused, in the 20th century, by those attached to particular ideologies which 'justified' their actions: Hitler, Stalin, the Khmer Rouge, and terrorists of various kinds.

The bad influence of other members of one's community is seen as another factor which may lead to conflict. It is said that when a king acts in an not virtuous (adhammika) way, this influences his ministers to do likewise, and this influence then spreads to Brahmins and householders, and on to townsfolk and villagers. That is, rot at the top can easily spread downwards through the whole of society [18].

Once Sakka the ruler of the gods came to the Buddha and asked: 'By what bonds are people bound whereby, though they wish to live in peace, without hate and hostility, they yet live in conflict, with hate and hostility.' The Buddha replied: 'It is the bonds of envy and avarice that so bind people that, though they wish to live in peace, they live in conflict, with hate and hostility.' If we trace external conflicts back to their source, we will find that they originate not in wealth, position or possessions, but in the mind itself. They spring up because we envy others for the qualities they possess which we desire for ourselves.

World peace in the present world context is feasible and attainable. However, we have to work at it by taking several steps simultaneously, the sooner the better. Needless to say, everyone must try to make contribution to this end. As we have already seen negative effect of attachment to speculative or fixed views and dogmatic has become our greatest enemy to world peace. It needs to be thoroughly understood and put totally out of views and opinion in the line of 'right view', even it were to take us longer than expected.

How to stop an insurgency? Personal Experiences

Since the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) launched its People's War in February 1996, their insurgency kept continuing to the present day. With eight years of time span many hundreds of lives were killed in Nepal. Several attempts were tried and keep trying to stop this killing field of Nepal but it is progressing no where and degree of insurgency getting wider and wider. What happened in Nepal? Why?

This is because when we realize that there is nowhere else to go, we face the problem rather than running away. I believe that most problems have solutions that we can't see when we're running in the other direction. As the people of our world come to live ever closer to each other, we have to find solutions to our problems. There is no place to run away to. We simply cannot afford major conflicts any more.

I had personal experiences of how a national government found such a solution to a major crisis, one that threatened the very existence of their democracy. I left Nepal to study Buddhism in Thailand as a 15 years novice-monk in 1975. At that time Thailand was a very similar to present Nepal. South Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia fell to the Communists within a few days of each other in 1975. The 'Domino Theory' current at that time among the Western powers, predicted that Thailand would soon fall next but most Western governments were to be surprised that Thailand didn't fall. All that time, I was a young novice-monk in Bangkok residing in a royal monastery under the patronage of the present Supreme Patriarch of Thailand.

His Holiness the Supreme Patriarch or Deputy-Supreme Patriarch of the time was quite influential in Thailand. Their Majesties King and Queen, many top Thai generals and senior members of the national government would visit him for advice and inspiration. I had become fluent in Thai, and so gained an insider's understanding of the seriousness of the situation. The military and the government were not as concerned with the Red armies outside their borders as they were with the Communist activists and sympathisers within their own nation.

Many brilliant Thai university students had fled to the jungles in northeast Thailand to support an internal, Thai, Communist guerrilla force. Their weaponry was supplied from beyond Thailand's borders as was their training. But the villages in the 'pink' parts of the region gladly supplied their food and other requirements. They had local support. They were an ominous threat. They were able to announce many region of Thailand as 'Red' region where it would be very dangerous for civil servants or governmental staffs to step in. Often bombs were exploded in different places and Thai militaries always encounter those Communist guerrilla forces in bloody fight.

I remembered following my teacher who was Deputy Supreme Patriarch to Communist captured regions trying to help villagers who are the invisible supporters of Communist guerrilla force. Many times we were threatened that they might attack us any time. On one occasion, a bomb was detonated on the route where my teacher passed after visiting a monastery and villagers.

Many occasions I witnessed Their Majesties King and Queen of Thailand personally visit my teacher at the monastery in Bangkok and consult about the crisis after Their Majesties visited those dangerous regions personally. Out of great compassion to his troubling subjects Their Majesties dare enough to visit those regions where it is dangerous for outsiders to visit. Their Majesties visited in those areas personally to understand the grass root problem of those people and extend his hands to help them in all possible ways.

One of the ways out of crisis applied by Their Majesties to stop the insurgency was to heal physical, mental and social scars from those people in jungle and remote places by reducing the gap between urban and rural and rich and poor. With introduction of many royal projects development was decentralised and poverty was slowly alleviated. In terms of social and mental development, with the full support of Deputy Supreme Patriarch and the monastic Order, Their Majesties would help villagers to set up a simple religious community where they could learn and share their spiritual experiences and practice the teachings of the Buddha in their own way. This slowly developed to be well informed and educated religious based community where they can achieve peace, harmony and happiness within their own means. Those religious communities led by Buddhist monks in those 'Red' regions began to transform to 'pink' and later cleaned completely with their own understanding and achievement. Of course, to achieve those goals Thai government played equally very wise role and closely followed many virtues of Buddhist teachings in handling the crisis.

In regards to the solution of this crisis, my senior colleague a British Buddhist monk, Ajarn Brahm, who was in Thailand during 1970s too wrote beautifully about how Thai government handled the crisis in his recently published book as follows [19]:

"The Thai military and government found the solution in a three part strategy.

1. Restraint: The military did not attack the Communist bases, though every soldier knew where they were. When I was living the life of a wandering monk in 1979 80, seeking out the mountains and jungles to meditate in solitude, I would run into the army patrols and they would give me advice. They would point to one mountain and tell me not to go there – that was where the Communists were. Then they would point to another mountain and tell me that was a good place to meditate, there were no Communists there. I had to heed their advice. That year the Communists had caught some wandering monks meditating in the jungle and killed them – after torturing them, I was told.

2. Forgiveness: Throughout this dangerous period, there was an unconditional amnesty in place. Whenever one of the Communist insurgents wanted to abandon his cause, he could simply give up his weapon and return to his village or university. He would probably experience surveillance, but no punishments were imposed. I reached one village in Kow Wong district a few months after the Communists had ambushed and killed a large jeep full of Thai soldiers outside their village. The young men of the village were mostly sympathetic to the Communist soldiers, but not actively fighting. They told me they were threatened and harassed, but allowed to go free.

3. Solving the root problem: During these years, I saw new roads being built and old roads being paved in the region. Villagers could now take their produce to town to sell. The King of Thailand personally supervised, and paid for, the construction of many hundreds of small reservoirs with connected irrigation schemes, allowing the poor farmers of the northeast to grow a second crop of rice each year. Electricity reached the remotest of hamlets and with it came a school and a clinic. The poorest region in Thailand was being cared for by the government in Bangkok, and the villagers were becoming relatively prosperous.

A Thai government soldier on patrol in the jungle told me once:

- We don't need to shoot the Communists. They are fellow Thais. When I meet them coming down from the mountains or going to the village for supplies, and we all know who they are, I just show them my new wristwatch, or let them listen to a Thai song on my new radio then they give up being a Communist.

That was his experience, and that of his fellow soldiers.

The Thai Communists began their insurgency so angry with their government that they were ready to give their young lives. But restraint on the part of the government helped to prevent their anger being made worse. Forgiveness, through an amnesty, gave them a sate and honourable way out. Solving the problem, through development, made the poor villagers prosperous. The villagers saw no need to support the Communists anymore: they were content with the government they already had. And the Communists themselves began to doubt what they were doing, living with such hardships in the jungle covered mountains.

One by one they gave up their guns and returned to their family, their village or their university. By the early 1980s, there were hardly any insurgents left, so then the generals of the jungle army, the leaders of the Communists, also gave themselves up. I remember seeing a feature article in the Bangkok Post of a sharp entrepreneur who was taking Thai tourists into the jungle to visit the now abandoned caves from where the Communists once threatened their nation.

What happened to those leaders of the insurgency? Could the same unconditional offer of amnesty be applied to them? Not quite. They were not punished, nor exiled. Instead, they were offered important positions of responsibility in the Thai government service, in recognition of their leadership qualities, capacity for hard work and concern for their people! What a brilliant gesture. Why waste the resource of such courageous and committed young men?

This is a true story as I heard if from the soldiers and villagers of northeast Thailand at the time. It is what I saw with my own eyes. Sadly, it has hardly been reported elsewhere.

At the time of writing this book (2004), two of those former Communist leaders were serving their country as ministers in the Thai National Government."

In regards to Communist (Maoist) insurgency, Nepal is 25 years behind Thailand. Therefore, I believe that there is a lesson which Nepal could learn from Thailand to stop the insurgency and bring old Nepal back to 'peaceful Nepal'.

Buddha's solution of present crisis of peace

In essence, the whole teaching of the Buddha is a solution to all conflicts because his teachings are aiming to cease conflicts and to achieve peace. However, following are few solutions I would like to bring out here as examples.

1. Economic means: Based on many discourses, it is said that poverty is a root cause of crime. The Buddha points out that if a ruler allows poverty to develop; this will lead to social strife, so that it is his responsibility to avoid this by looking after the poor, and investigating in various sectors of economy. [20] To the extent that economic grievances are factors in a conflict, then, this implies that addressing them can help resolve it.

2. Negotiation and emphasizing the mutual harm of war: The Buddhist way of solving conflict by peaceful means is well indicated in the life story of the Buddha who actually intervened on one occasion to solve a conflict in a peaceful manner. He gave a practical lesson in tolerance in the field of politics. A conflict had arisen between the Sakyas – members of the republic from which he himself came – and the Koliyas over the water of the river Rohini which flowed between their territories. Soldiers from both sides had assembled and a battle was about to begin. The Buddha personally intervened and stopped them by pointing out how foolish it was for them to destroy invaluable lives for a matter so trivial. Then he asked: Why on account of some water of little worth would you destroy the invaluable lives of kings?

3. A non violent moral stance: The Buddha always instructs his followers to be true pacifists who live a non violent life. Any monk who uses violent means to solve conflicts is not a true follower of the Buddha. The Buddha says, though thieves and bandits were to cut limb by limb with a double edged saw, even then one who defiles his mind (feels angry about it) is not a follower of my instructions [21]. The Buddha teaches his followers to meet anger with love and not with anger, and to conquer evil with good and not with evil. The Buddha says:

Conquer anger with love, conquer evil with good, conquer the stingy by giving, and conquer the liar with truth [22].

Though he should conquer a thousand men in the battlefield, yet he, indeed, is the nobler victor who should conquer himself [23].

Of course, such an approach does not always save lives, and indeed it is said that the Sakya people came to be annihilated when they did not defend themselves against aggressors.

4. Reflections to undermine hatred and develop patience: In other to promote peace in society the Buddha instructs his followers to advance themselves from human to godly behaviour by practicing four 'Divine Abidings': loving kindness, compassion, appreciative gladness and equanimity [24]. These virtues are naturally own by a mother when she deals with her children. Accordingly, the Buddha suggests all of us to develop mother minded mind when it comes to human relationship. Allied to these is the virtue of patience or forbearance. All such values are directly relevant to defusing conflicts, and their practice will make these less likely to occur in the first place.

5. Forbearance and forgiveness: In accordance with the spirit of the above, certain scriptural passages recommend the strength and transformative potency of forbearance and forgiveness. One passage concerns a conflict between the gods (devas) and the power hungry titans (asuras). The story [25] goes: the leader of the gods is cursed by titan leader. When the god leader is not angry, his charioteer asks whether he forbear from fear or weakness? The god leader replies: neither, I simply do not wish to bandy words with a fool. Further, he explains that the words of a fool are best stopped by responding to his anger and verbal onslaught by oneself remaining calm, not by harsh measurers. This will not lead to one's opponent thinking he can take advantage of one's 'weakness', for forbearing patience (khanti) is a sign of real strength, unlike the deceptive 'strength' of a fool:

Worse of the two is he who, when reviled, reviles again. He, who does not, when reviled, revile again, wins a twofold victory. He seeks the welfare of both himself and the other, who, having known the anger of another, mindfully maintains his peace [26].

6. Developing amicable view towards others: The Buddha teaches his followers to have religious tolerance and peaceful coexistence with followers of other religions. The story in Sihasutta is a good case in point. When Siha, a chief follower of another faith taught by the Niganthas, declares himself a Buddhist, the Buddha accepts his adherence and allows him to continue giving alms to the Niganthas who come to his house. These are the Buddha's word: Your family, Siha, has been as a well spring to the Niganthas for a long time. Therefore, you might consider giving alms to the Niganthas who approach you [27]. Based on this teaching it is not difficult for us to understand that why Buddhists can live peacefully with the followers of other religions.

If one truly follows those teachings he would not only live in harmony, prosperity and happiness but lead a peaceful life. However, out of numerous ancient wisdom of the Buddha if we to solve present crisis I can site few teachings if political leaders either governmental or Maoists could practice it sincerely guarantee peace in Nepal.

Buddha's Teachings to a Ruler to Achieve Peaceful Society

Buddhism and Kingship has a very close connection. Buddha always emphasized monarchies and put in a high esteem. Kingship at the time of the Buddha perhaps had a different nature from the present kingship. King at the time of the Buddha can also simply mean a ruler or leader. A leader of any kind be it a king or a Prime Minister or a Maoist leader who control the lives of people in a country or an organization. Therefore, there are so many teachings which Buddha addressed directly to monarchies and the rulers of the country. Buddha pointed out that one of the causes of lacking peace in the society depends on the ruler of the country. According to the Buddha, the ruler of the country should abide by moral principles and rules which means to cherish the happiness and well-being of the country and its people. The king is specially admonished to observe the Ten Royal Virtues (dasarajadhamma), upon which his kingship is founded. The traditional explanation of these ten virtues is as follows:

1. Dana: He should practise the virtue of charity, generosity and reward. He should not be enslaved by the craving for the attachment to material gains, nor seek them merely for his own pleasure and satisfaction; he should rather seek material gains to help others and to contribute to their welfare.

2. Sila: He should observe the Five Basic Principles of moral conduct (pancasila) to refrain from all physical, verbal and mental impurities.

3. Paricaga: He should practise the virtue of self-sacrifice in order to devote himself for the good of the people, and be willing to sacrifice his personal comforts in the interests of the people, holding that the happiness and welfare of a king lies in those of his subjects and that what is in the interest of the subjects should be also in the interest of a king himself.

4. Ajjava: He should practise the virtue of honesty and integrity, should be free from fear in discharge of his office, should be sincere and faithful in his intentions and should not deceive the public.

5. Maddava: He should practise the virtue of gentleness, politeness and friendliness and be possessed of a genial temperament.

6. Tapa: He should practise the virtue of austerity in habits and lead a simple life, he should not indulge in a life of material luxury, but should be self-controlled and self-disciplined.

7. Akkodha: He should practise the virtue of freedom from hatred, ill-will, enmity, and should bear no grudge against anybody.

8. Ahimsa: He should practise the virtue of non-violence, which means not only that he should harm nobody, but also that he should try to promote peace by avoiding and preventing war or any other undertaking that involves violence.

9. Khanti: He should practise the virtue of patience, forbearance and tolerance, being able to bear hardships, difficulties and insults; and

10. Avirodha: He should practise the virtue of non-opposition; he should not oppose the will and demand of the people, nor should he obstruct any measures that are conducive to the interests and welfare of his people, but he should rule the country in conformity with the will of the people and the principle of righteousness.

The ruler's actions are of far-reaching consequence since they affect his own kingship as well as the fortune, fate and destiny of his subjects who are almost entirely dependent upon him; that is, whatever may be his action it affects the whole sphere and environment of the national life, physical as well as mental. Thus, by his exemplary action the king , the leader, influences, for good or bad, for weal or woe, the material as well as the spiritual condition of those who live under his rule, and he thus influences and determines their happiness or misery.

Buddha states that as the leader, ruler and protector of the people, the king or ruler is entrusted with great responsibilities, the whole kingdom and maintain the righteous order this world; [28] he is deemed responsible, directly or indirectly, for all the bad or good things of his subjects. Everything in his country is right if the ruler is righteous: the shortage of rainfall and crops, dangers from famine, pestilence, disease, war, and even from evil spirit that overcome the people – all these are thought to be caused by the king's fault, and the people would complain and suspect that he does not longer practise his royal virtues and is not righteous in ruling the kingdom. [29]

In addition to above principles, there are other moral principles pertaining to governmental affairs. To restore the peace it is necessary for the governmental leaders to study and practice these principle taught by the Buddha himself. Perhaps the ancient wisdom of the Buddha who was nurtured through Nepalese soil can solve the current Nepalese problems.

A New Path to achieve Peace in the Present World Context

 If we really want to have a clear concept of how the world would be like without this bloody fights, terrorism or civil war, we need only to study the nations which have abolished their military or reduced this element to merely a token. Among such countries we have Costa Rica, Malta, Switzerland, Austria, Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and Germany among the few others. When such nations relied on the military for their national safety and security, their people were very miserable. Poverty was rampant. Many suffered from hunger while many others slept in the streets like strayed animals.

Throughout the history the military industrial complex has proved itself to be more of a curse than a blessing. Due to this reality, in quite a few countries like the United States, the weapons industrial complex owns the major new media – radio, press, and television – as to indoctrinate people with "good" news about the military industrial complex. In brief, the weapons industry is depicted as angel sent from heaven to keep the nation safe and secure!

Professor Charles Mercieca, President of International Association of Educators for World Peace interestingly states some of the advantages of a world without the military industrial complex, of a world without weapons or where the existence of such elements become noticeably insignificant. We need to keep in mind that billions of dollars which are being wasted on such elements of destruction will be then spent for merely positive and constructive purposes, such as the following:

1. Adequate houses for all people: In United States alone there are some 23,000,000 people who are classified as homeless. Such people everywhere are living like strayed animals, totally abandoned by a civilized society, because their government chooses to spend money on weapons for its own people instead of good housing facilities.

2. Complete elimination of hunger: Countless millions of people are starving to death especially in the underdeveloped countries. The developed nations, headed by the United States, takes all the little money these poor nations may have to furnish them with weapons instead of food and adequate nourishment. This reveals human cruelty at its worse.

3. Free education for all children: If we were to reduce military spending in the world by just 50%, every nation will have enough money to provide free education for their children at all levels: elementary, secondary, college and university. Education inspires wisdom to choose properly between alternatives in the best interest of the entire human species without exception.

4. Proper health care for everyone: The weapons industry has polluted our air and water with so much toxic wastes that countless millions are now dying of cancer of some kind. How do government officials dare to tell their people that their nation needs more weapons for national defense and security, when such weapons have become the number one deadly enemy of their own people?

5. Elimination of organized crime: There is hardly one case of an organized crime where money has not been the motive. The weapons industry, as the Center for Defense Information in Washington, DC underlined exist not for the defense of the nation but profit. The manufacture and sales of weapons has now become a part of an international network of organized crime.

6. Respect for every form of life: Since the beginning of times, every religion has advocated respect for every form of life. The weapons industry has constantly demonstrated it has no regard for any kind of life whatsoever. With its lethal toxic wastes it has destroyed countless thousands of species, thus seriously upsetting the balance of our ecological system.

7. More beautification of our cities: Planet earth is our home... the only home we have! It is our sacrosanct duty to keep it healthy and beautiful through the preservation of the rain forests. We also need to get rid of our air and water pollution, grow more trees, and create a spiritual atmosphere in our communities characterized by mutual love and respect.

8. Immediate repair of our streets: If you were to be traveling in Russia, India, and numerous other countries, you may likely find numerous roads that need repair very badly. They have become a hazard to travelers. The government of such nations says there is no money available. However, they do find unlimited money to purchase a never-ending amount of weapons!

9. Preservation of our culture heritage: From the biblical days of Hammurabi to the Persian, Roman, and Ottoman Empires, up to the present day, wars have constantly destroyed our rich cultural heritage. Weapons and wars could be eliminated through the development of mutual love and respect in an ever increasing interdependent world.

10. Creation of global family spirit: Modern technology has brought the world very close together. Hence, we cannot afford tolerating the suffering of even one human being as this would affect the entire human race eventually. Our greatest challenge at this stage of history is to turn enemies into friends. To this end we need patience, determination, firmness, love and perseverance.

The Buddha says, 'Hatred never ceases through hatred. Only through love does it cease. [30]' Similarly, he also says, 'Though one many conquer a thousand times a thousand men in battle, yet he indeed is the noblest victor who conquers himself. [31]' In view of this, it is somewhat incomprehensible for our government officials to search for our nation's enemies outside of themselves. They tell us that we need to increase still the budget for defense because our prospective enemies have the weapons we have and we must make sure ours will be superior. Here we need to raise some legitimate questions: Why do we allow our weapons industry to sell weapons of destruction to every single country on earth, friend and enemy alike? Why does the President of the United States insists with the U.S. ambassadors in every single nation on earth to advertise American merchandise including the various kinds of weapons of destruction?

Instrument Used for Peace

When it comes to a collective effort, the solution becomes psychologically different because of the strength which will find when we are united together for a common cause. Here are some organizations which need to feel responsible for the eventual achievement of a permanent peace in the present world context.

1. Religious-Related Organizations: Such organizations need to condemn in the open the violence for the harm it inflicts on our environment, cultural heritage and life of people on the whole. They need to encourage their members not to associate with any kinds of anti-peace activities.

2. Academic Institutions: Our schools, colleges, and universities have the sacrosanct duty to educate for peace. It would not serve any purpose at all to provide our children with knowledge but, at the same time, without the ability to use such knowledge constructively to promote a permanent world peace.

3. Community Groups: It is nice for community groups to discuss the needs of their community relative to the beautification of their town, needed recreational facilities and the educational opportunities for every citizen. But they need to realize that wars never end the war only peace can end war.

4. Students' Confraternities: Unless students become involved right away in dealing with the enemy of their future life, destructive wars, it may be too late afterwards to do anything constructive about it. They should make a resolution not to engage for such a destructive activity and to urge their friends everywhere to do likewise.

5. Prospective Politicians: The politicians of the future are composed of today's young generation. This generation, composed of boys and girls, of young men and women, should restructure the priorities of the nation relative to the vital needs of the population. They should start planning the to achieve peace of their own nation and of the nations of the whole world.

6. News Media Reporters: Although the news media reporters theoretically exist to be informative and to educate the people, in practice they view their job as position to make a lot of money through the exploitation of people's emotions. They need to become more conscientious and to realize the great responsibility they have to unmask the dangers of the war, violence and terrorism.

7. Human Rights Advocates: Although all the nations of the world signed the United Nations Universal Declaration on Human Rights, yet there are very few countries which seem to observe all the norms laid down to bring to the attention of the world that the self-benefited destructive activity has become the greatest and most atrocious violator of human rights. Human Rights activists should know that they are not in a position be biased.

In addition to those activities which promote peace in the present world context it is equally important to reflect upon some of the other facades of peace which are sacrosanct in peacemaking process. They are:

1. Accountability for Peace: The lack of peace is evident in Nepal, and the wounds are fresh and deep in the hearts of those who have lost their loved ones in the war. What would the Maoist say to the mother who has lost her son? What would the government say to the orphan who has lost her whole family? How would the king address his subjects who are suffering? Let us not talk about who is to blame, or who to take revenge on. All sides should take responsibility for the atrocities that have happened and work towards ensuring that they do not happen again. Also, various programs should be introduced to heal the victims of war and violence.

2. Self interest and peace: It is no point to talk about peace if personal interests are sacrosanct. The only thing that should be sacrificed in the name of peace is self-interest, not lives. As long as people are working for their own self-interest, then peace will NOT be achieved.

3. Relationship between Peace and Power: In most cases peace and power are two things closely linked like two facades of a coin. Let us ask who design peace in our societies? Is that man in power or man who is oppressed? Isn't it that man with a power always exercises his power to defend his own peace without regarding others' means of peace? If it is so when peace can be achievable? What is power hierarchies for, isn't it to achieve peaceful society? But do power hierarchies gearing up to its objective of peace? Similarly, Why two parties do not come to talk on the same table? It is because they are afraid of losing their grip of power. Dispensability of power is a key element to bring two parties to the same table. This relationship between peace and power can easily be seen amongst any marriage couple. A working marriage means the couple has agreed upon the equal share of power and respects each others' rights by dispensing some of self-interests for the bigger benefits of a union.

4. Peace promoting activities: As peace is only achievable through determination of all members of the society there should be different kinds of peace promoting activities in societies aiming for world peace. For example, in connection to Lumbini we could think of founding a 'Buddhist Peace Institute' to work towards peace promoting activities which could easily developed into a national institute. In the academic fields, running courses on peace would greatly benefit future generations. In a similar vain, several peace building activities can be introduced to different sectors of the society.

5. Promoting of peace through international initiatives: No one can escape from the effect of globalization these days. Similarly, various projects and programs on developing culture of peace are exercised in many parts of the world perhaps with the help of international organizations. These could be lessons of co-operation to achieve peace in different places.

In view of what has been stated, will world peace be achievable in the present world context? The answer is in the affirmative only if what has been stated above is properly understood and taken seriously. Peace should be the main aim of all organizations, and it should be achieved through planning and negotiation, not by accident. We need to keep in mind that world peace is not imposed from the outside. Indispensability of peace evolves and develops from the inside of every individual. The root of the seed of peace is found in the human heart which is made possible to develop through a program of peace education, a good health care system, and an adequate education for every human being without exception. For peace to be enduring, it must not be based on any one person's view of their ideal world. Rather, solutions must be based on facts, not fantasy - history, not propaganda.

As I observed at the beginning of this paper, 'Indispensability of Peace in the Present World Context' is a very big subject, and I hope that by telling you the story of my own and my perceptions about peace have been able to shed at least some light on it. This Buddhist Summit is being held in Lumbini Sacred Garden, and I am addressing you not far from the area where the Buddha was born and gave us unparallel solution to peace to the world. Having said that we should remind of the Buddha's wisdom how Buddha himself intervened between two neighbouring states – the Koliyas and the Sakyas – who had reached the brink of war over a question of the distribution of water from the Rohini River, not so far away from this very spot. 'Blood is thicker and much precious than water,' a simple wisdom of Buddha can stop bloody violence if we truly understand the value of human life. As a result, both states became integrated into peace. Politically, in Nepal at present, we are concerned with a different kind of integration the integration of Democratic government and Maoists. Let us therefore do away with our divisions. Let us do away with the divisions between democrats and Maoists, between oppressor and oppressed, and between the followers of different political ideologies. Let us have an integrated Nepal and an integrated peaceful Nepalese community. Let us base ourselves firmly and unmistakably upon our common aspiration of true happiness, peace, freedom and security among all walks of life.

One last word. I have spoken on the indispensability of peace in the present world context because that is what I was asked to speak on. But as my paper proceeded it will have become obvious to you that what we really have to do is understand and follow some of the message given by our national hero, the Buddha, to achieve undeniable peace in our lives and how can we develop culture of peace in our present world context. I do hope that the Summit will not only work to find resolutions but it works as reflections of the present world context.

May this Buddhist Summit be a step in the righteous peaceful direction and may Nepal resume peace as soon as possible.


[1] Bhikkhu Sugandha (Anil Sakya), Assistant Secretary to His Holiness Somdet Phra Nyanasamvara, the Supreme Patriarch of Thailand, graduated MPhil from Cambridge University and PhD in Social Anthropology from Brunel University, United Kingdom. Currently, he is a lecturer in Mahamakut Buddhist University and Visiting Professor at Mahidol University in Bangkok and Santa Clara University in US.

[2] I would like to thank Dr. K. M. Shakya and Dr. Alfiani Fadzakir for helpful comments on the process of writing this paper.

[3] Reardon (1988), Reardon, Betty. 1988. Comprehensive Peace Education: Educating for Global Responsibility. Vermont: Teachers College Press; Darnton, Geoffrey. "The Concept of Peace." in Proceedings of the International Peace Research Association Fourth General Conference. 1973. IPRA Secretariat, Oslo. pp. 105 116; Hall, B. Welling. "The Antinuclear Peace Movement: Toward an Evaluation of Effectiveness." Alternatives. v.9 Spring, 1984. pp.475 517.

[4] Ishida, Takeshi. 'Beyond the Traditional Concepts of Peace in Different Cultures'. Journal of Peace Research. n.2 1969. pp.133 145.

[5] Johnson, Gunnar L. 1976. 'Conflicting Concepts of Peace in Contemporary Peace Studies.' Sage Professional Paper in International Studies. v.4 n.02 246.

[6] Wright, Quincy. 1942. A Study of War. Univ. of Chicago Press

[7] Johnson, Gunnar L., cit., op. p. 17

[8] Galtung, Johan. "Social Cosmology and the Concept of Peace." Journal of Peace Research. v.18 n.2 1981. pp.183 199.

[9] Clark, Greenville and Louis Sohn. 1966. World Peace Through World Law: Two Alternative Plans. Harvard.

[10] Reardon, B. A. (1988). Comprehensive Peace Education. New York: Tearchers College Press. P. 16

[11] Glenn, D. Paige, (ed.) 1984. Buddhism and Leadership for Peace. Hawaii: Dae Won Sa Buddhist Temple. P. 13

[12] Ariyaratne, A.T. 1999. 'A Buddhist Approach to Social and Economic Development: An experience from Sri Lanka' in Socially Engaged Buddhism for the New Millennium. Bangkok: Sathirakoses-Nagapradipa Foundation and Foundation for Children. P. 21.

[13] Thepsophon, Phra, Prof. (Prayoon Mererk) 2004. Buddhist Morality. Bangkok: Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya University press. P.21

[14] Bhikkhu Bodhi. 1999. 'A Buddhist Social Ethic for the Next Century' in Socially Engaged Buddhism for the New Millennium. Bangkok: Sathirakoses-Nagapradipa Foundation and Foundation for Children. P. 50.

[15] Dhammananda, K., 1965. Great Personalities on Buddhism, Kuala Lumpur: the Buddhist Missionary Society. P. 41

[16] Juergensmeyer, M. 2000. Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence. Berkeley: University of California Press. P.5

[17] Suttanipata: 766-975

[18] Anguttaranikaya II: 74

[19] Brahm, Ajahn. 2004. Opening the Door of Your Heart and other Buddhist tales of Happiness. Victotia: Thomas C. Lothian Pty Ltd p.71-5

[20] Dighanikaya: 134-6

[21] Majjhimanikaya I: 129

[22] Dhammapada: 223

[23] Dhammapada: 103

[24] Dighanikaya II: 196

[25] Samyuttanikaya I: 220-2

[26] Samyuttanikaya I: 222

[27] Anguttaranikaya IV: 186

[28] The Jataka V. p. 123, 233

[29] The Jataka II, p. 124 f.; 367 f., The Commentary on Dhammapada III. P. 436 ff.

[30] Dhammapada: 5

[31] Dhammapada: 103


Sincere thanks to Bhikkhu Sugandha for making this digital version available (Binh Anson, 04-2005)

[Back to English Index]
last updated:05-05-2005