A number of our Sangha members recently attended a Peace Symposium at a conference centre at the Cotter (near Canberra). Our monk Jamyang gave a speech there, alongside a Jewish rabbi, a Christian deacon, a Muslim imam, a Shadow Minister of Parliament and an anti-terrorism expert. Below is a transcript of Ven. Jamyang's speech.
Firstly, I would like to thank and congratulate Ahmed and the rest of his Muslim community here for this noble initiative [of hosting the Peace Symposium]. Along with my Buddhist friends, I attended the Symposium this time last year at Albert Hall, and in turn you have maintained this connection between our spiritual communities by having representatives attend some of our events. And a good afternoon to all of our spiritual brothers and sisters present here today.
I've been requested to talk today about 'World Crisis and the Pathway to Peace'. The second half of this topic is easy for me to address as a Buddhist, as – generally speaking – the whole of Buddhist philosophy and way of life is based upon a pathway towards the peace of Nirvana. The most important thing to stress here is that peace is to be found within. The Buddhist teachings explain that it is more productive and effective to work on oneself and then influence others by setting an example, than it is to try to fix things outside ourselves while lacking inner peace. Buddhist teachings don't talk so much about a higher power outside of ourselves, but of a deeper power within ourselves, which we can access through study, contemplation and meditation.
It is this introspective quality that makes Buddhism a minority faith, as we are not so concerned with converting people, but we merely work to ensure that our teachings are accessible for all those who are interested. Even though we are a minority, we try to keep our hearts as big and all-encompassing as we can. We pray not just for ourselves but for all other human beings; not just for all humans but for all living beings, such as animals; and even the natural surroundings, such as plants and trees. If something lives and breathes, then, by definition, it is in our prayers; it is an object of our kindness, because we are all of the same kind. While it is important for us to celebrate diversity, it is also essential to keep in mind that all living beings are the same in the sense that they desire happiness and don't want to suffer. We respond to this common bond by offering to all beings our kindness, compassion and love.
As for the world being in a crisis, well, this is a little more difficult. I'm not sure if anyone has all the answers. There have always been conflicts in the world, although perhaps we are more aware of them these days, with our advances in technology and media. Probably the most relevant thing I can say here is to echo the words of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who says that while the 20th century was a century of war, this 21st century should be a century of dialogue. We should see peace not just as a withdrawal from the world and its problems, but also as an active engagement with conflict and crisis. Perhaps the Buddhist teaching of impermanence is relevant here. At first, impermanence is confronting for most people, because it teaches us that all good things – even this very life of ours – will not be here forever. But we must also remember that negative things, such as conflict, arguments and crises, are also impermanent by nature.
I would like to share with you a teaching from the Buddhist tradition that we use to motivate ourselves in a discipline of daily meditation. It is called 'the four thoughts that turn the mind towards spiritual practice.' Ideally, we think through these four thoughts on a daily basis, before engaging in our meditation. These four thoughts are disillusionment, opportunity, urgency, and consequence. Firstly, we try to cultivate a sense of disillusionment with worldly involvement. Then we recognize the special opportunity we have to engage in spiritual practice. Thirdly, we create a sense of urgency, as this opportunity will not last forever. And finally, we consider the law of karma or cause and effect; that everything we do has a consequence. I thought this teaching would be relevant here, because it begins with disillusionment with the world; if the world was perfect, we might not even think of engaging in spiritual practices such as praying for, and working to benefit, others. Attitude is more important than circumstance. It is easy to be overwhelmed by all the problems in the world these days, but our tradition of teachings provides tools to help us even today, over 2½ thousand years after the Buddha's time, to deal with life in this complex world.
So I will end by thanking the other representatives here for sharing their wisdom on this topic based on their own faiths, as well as the secular speakers. And I offer my prayers that the positive energy generated by all of us here at this Peace Symposium will contribute to peace in the world at large. That's all from me, thankyou.