- Buddhist Solutions for the Twenty-First Century
- P. A. Payutto
- translated and compiled by Bruce Evans
The current year of 1986[*] has been
designated the International Year of Peace, but looking at the state of the world today we
may wonder if the present time is entitled to that cheerful and honorable appellation. I
think we should rather call it "The International Year in Need of Peace."
Obviously, we are now living in a time when the world is badly in need of peace. It is not
peace that prevails in the world, but its antithesis, war and violence.
People are too familiar with reports of racial conflict, terrorism,
ideological persecution and the threat of nuclear destruction. In addition to these more
lethal operations, so many conditions pointing to a state of social disorder and
degeneration predominate, such as domestic crime, drug addiction, environmental pollution,
the energy crisis, unemployment, mental disorders, suicide and violence. Seemingly, people
are turning all their efforts into making the earth an unsafe place to live. Peace and
happiness seem to be moving further and further away.
The official symbol or logo of the International Year of Peace
portrays a dove above two hands, enclosed by an olive branch. To stray a little from the
traditional symbolism, the dove represents peace and the olive branch prosperity, while
the two hands stand for the whole of mankind. The dove looks like it is flying out of the
enclosure of the olive branch, away from the two hands, which are trying to hold it back.
In an arbitrary interpretation to suit the current situation, peace has slipped out of the
hands of mankind who, even in the midst of wealth and affluence, can find no way of
getting it back.
It has been the hope and dream of humanity that, with scientific and
technological advances, we will be in possession of all that we want and in control of
everything with which we come into contact, and so live happily. Truly, we have succeeded
to a considerable extent in scientific and technological endeavors. We seem to be equipped
with all that we need to make ourselves and our society happy and peaceful.
However, on the contrary, problems have so increased that we cannot
find peace and society is in turmoil. While the life span of human beings has been
lengthened through medical advances, more and more people, especially the youth, find
their lives in society so unsatisfactory that they seek to shorten them through suicide.
These people turn their hate and dissatisfaction onto themselves, while many others turn
it outwardly to create conflict with their neighbors and trouble in society. Moreover, our
efforts to conquer nature have polluted the natural environment, with adverse effects on
health and well-being. Nature is not on good terms with humanity. Finding no peace with
nature, our hopes for happiness are all the more frustrated.
All in all, humanity fails to realize peace and happiness; our dream
does not come true. The Year of Peace turns out to be not the year in which peace
prevails, but the year in which peace is badly needed. The road to peace turns out to be
the road out of peace, and the path to happiness becomes the path away from it. Peace and
happiness are on the wane, while troubles and miseries grow.
Here, the question is very simple: Why has this been so? And to this, the answer is
also simple: Because the individual human being has not been developed. Truly, we have
developed all kinds of things in the name of civilization, including science and
technology, but we have paid too little attention to the development of ourselves. We
think of ourselves as enjoyers of developments, not as objects of development. Our
problems are much the same now as they were before, this year as three or ten thousand
years ago, and our motives for action are of the same nature, even though they may take
Legends and history tell us of kings, princes and warriors of yore
who waged wars with one another to win the hands of beautiful princesses. Others invaded
their neighbors and pillaged the towns and cities of the defeated. Today, conflicts grow
between industrial powers, and we witness the trade warriors battling for resources and
markets. Kings of olden times marched their troops into war, expanding their empires in
order to be hailed the greatest emperors or the most powerful conquerors. In ancient
times, fanatical rulers persecuted people of other faiths and went into religious or holy
wars. Modern nations sponsor wars in different parts of the world in order to spread their
political and economic "isms," or to maintain their influence and privileges.
Primitive peoples fought one another with sticks and stones, feudal
warriors fought with swords and bows, and modern soldiers fight with grenades and
missiles. With rapid and extensive means of communication and with the equipment and
weapons provided by scientific and technological advances, modern problems appear in a
vast variety of manifestations, affecting mankind on a wider scale and in greater severity
than ever before.
In spite of all the ostensible differences, the motives behind these
actions are the same. All forms of war, conflict, rivalry and quarrel, whether between
individuals, groups or nations, whether current or in the distant past, can be traced to
the same three categories of self-centered motives or tendencies, which are:
1. Selfish desire for pleasures and possessions (tanha);
2. Egotistical lust for dominance and power (mana);
3. Clinging to view, faith or ideology (ditthi).
If not refined, wisely channeled or replaced by wholesome mental
qualities, these three self-centered tendencies grow in people's minds, making their
behavior a danger to society.
Firstly, the selfish desire for pleasures and acquisitions
leads to attachment to wealth and greed for possessions. Its influence in causing crime,
exploitation, corruption and conflict is too obvious to warrant description. This also
explains why, while the wealth-creating possibilities of new technology now seem
boundless, the gap between the rich and the poor widens, and the polarization of wealth
and poverty becomes stronger and sharper.
New agricultural technologies have made food for all a perfectly
realizable objective, yet starvation is widespread and hundreds of thousands of human
beings starve to death. Advanced technology and new economic strategies are used to serve
the profit-making of the industrialized countries, so that developing countries only help
to strengthen the economies of the developed ones. The profit-maximizing approach of the
current economic system and the consumer culture serve only to divert world savings away
from developing countries and make the developed countries richer. Modern modes of
production lead to the benefits of capital accumulation; while costs are borne by all,
benefits accrue to few, the rich becoming richer and the poor poorer. The number of what
the World Bank calls the "absolute poor" is around 800 million. In spite of
numerous foreign aid programs and advances in production technology, the world faces
economic crisis, and the unequal distribution of wealth prevails. Moreover, craving for
sensual enjoyment and sensual indulgence lead to the squanderous consumption of natural
resources and the pollution of the environment, resulting in the depletion of resources,
health problems and aggravation of poverty. With hunger and mass misery prevailing, the
risk of war increases and world peace is unrealizable.
Secondly, with craving for dominance and lust for power,
individuals, parties and nations vie with one another for supremacy. Even in the absence
of an open conflict, they live in fear, distrust and anxiety. At national and
international levels, this is detrimental to mutual security and development. Political
leaders resort to arms as props for political power. Developed countries lend aid to
developing countries with ulterior motives, such as the creation of permanent dependence.
At the same time, many people in developing countries are careless or dishonest in the
handling of aid and loans. Foreign aid programs are surrounded by a climate of disillusion
At the global level, the world has for many decades been dominated
by the hostile relations of the superpowers and the arms race. World military expenditure
is well over $1.5 million every minute of every day. A UNDP administrator in his statement
to the UN General Assembly Second Special Disarmament Session in 1982 said:
"All the technical cooperation UNDP has been charged
to provide to developing countries over the next five years will cost less than the sum
that will be consumed in world armaments expenditures in the next four days."[**]
The late Lord Philip Noel-Baker, at a conference in London in
January 1977, said to the effect that for an expenditure of $500 million, about the cost
of an aircraft carrier, the WHO could eliminate malaria, trachoma, leprosy and yaws --
four diseases that impose a heavy load of economic loss and human suffering on the Third
This shows how human, material and financial resources have been
used far more for negative and destructive purposes than for positive and constructive
ones. The arms race is worsening the economic crisis and making the world over-armed and
undernourished. It is a threat to world security and human survival, both militarily and
economically. Militarily, the military forces and arsenals of the superpowers have grown
far beyond their defensive requirements, to the capability of eradicating all life from
the earth many times over. Economically, as the arms race and social development compete
for the same resources, escalating worldwide military expenditures have a negative
effect on economic growth and development and human welfare in general. The nuclear
arsenals kill millions of human beings even without being used, because they eat up the
resources without which people starve to death. With or without wars, human society cannot
fare happily or in peace.
Thirdly, last in order but not least in controlling power, is clinging
to view, theory, faith or ideology. People have clashed on account of differences in
faith and beliefs since ancient times. Some waged wars with their neighbors out of
religious fanaticism, even marching their armies to faraway lands to enforce their faiths
onto other peoples and make conquests in the name of their Supreme Being. While conflicts
between religious groups and factions still continue today, modern people add the wars and
conflicts of economic systems and political ideologies. Nations have divided into
competing ideological blocs. Religious and ideological persecution and wars between
religious groups and factions with different ideas for the best way to achieve happiness
for all, can be found in many parts of the world. Predictably, not finding any peaceful
means of ideological propagation and coexistence, what will prevail is not the world peace
and happiness that those faiths and ideologies prescribe, but human suffering and death.
On the present-day global scene of war and conflict, it is not
specifically any one of these three motives that drives people to the battlefield, but
rather all three of them combined, and their combination only makes the situation more
serious, the problem more complicated and the solution more difficult.
For example, two major powers may be backing the warring parties in
a small country, one on each side, by providing them with supplies of weapons,
simultaneously making profit through arms sales and keeping the smaller countries in a
state of dependency through debt. Employers want to pay the least and get the most profit,
while employees want to work the least and be paid the highest wages. With each party
wanting the upper hand, conflict is inevitable. To strengthen their claims, they turn to
economic ideologies for support. A conflict of gains becomes also a conflict of
ideologies, and sympathizers take sides. The conflict grows in all possible ways, at the
expense of any hope for peace.
How can we stop wars and conflicts? How can we be sure that peace will prevail and
endure? Some might say that love and cooperation must be established in place of
competition and conflict, but this seems impractical. We have to further ask: How can we
turn hostility and conflict into love and cooperation? So long as people are overcome by
any of the three self-centered tendencies, true love and cooperation are impossible. If we
act on any of them, we cannot be on good terms with one another. We will only hurt others
and cause anger and resentment. With our own desire countered, challenged or defied, we
fall prey to anger and hatred, and they lead only to hostility and conflict, not love,
cooperation or peace.
When two sides are in conflict, one or the other must first act for
peace. But that would mean losing, and each side would feel it is forced to struggle for
victory. The real solution must be made before the conflict starts. More specifically,
there must be a fundamental change in our behavior, so that we will no more engage in
conflict. To get to a real, practical solution, we must turn to the answer to a more
Enabled by science and technology to increase
both the capability to solve most problems and the capacity to destroy everything, why do
human beings tend to choose the latter? Why has the abundance of human talent and material
resources been devoted to such negative and destructive purposes as militarization,
instead of being positively utilized in developing a stable and lasting peace? The answer
is simple: because we have been so engrossed in the development of things outside that we
have neglected the task of developing ourselves, leaving ourselves almost unchanged,
following the impulses of instinct rather than the guidance of wisdom. Professor Albert
Einstein acknowledged this when he said that the atomic bomb has changed everything except
the mind and the thinking of man.[***]
Science and technology serve to advance the frontiers of human
knowledge and potential, for better or for worse. They provide us with free and full scope
to exercise our will on the material world. If our actions tend toward peace and
happiness, everything on earth is on our side to achieve it. If we turn towards war and
misery, we can exterminate ourselves in a matter of seconds. Which direction we will take
is the question of human development. If we develop ourselves properly, we will be able to
steer technology and all other vehicles of civilization towards the goal of peace and
Unfortunately, the development of our inner core, the mind, and the
formation of character and spiritual values, has not kept pace with the rapid progress of
technology. Though we have developed technical capabilities to a very high degree, we have
still not developed the qualities needed to live and deal with our own selves, with others
and with our natural and technological environment.
The undeveloped or underdeveloped condition of humanity, of our mind
and character, and of our liberating wisdom, is discernible in many ways:
Firstly, we behave unintelligently in relation to happiness. We look
at happiness as something we are in search of, that is, something unattained, not already
in hand. In other words, we ourselves are here and now not happy and we are looking for
something to make ourselves happy. With this attitude, we mistreat happiness both in time
and in space. In time, happiness is a state we hope to realize some time in the future,
something in prospect. In space, happiness is a state to be attained through external
objects. Either way, we cannot find true happiness. Unhappy people must forever run after
happiness, and their happiness must depend on things outside of their control. Many people
even sacrifice their already existing happiness, essentially the inner peace and happiness
of the mind, to chase after a promise of happiness, like a dog that drops a piece of meat
in its mouth in the hope of catching its reflection in a pond. If we succeed, we get a
superficial happiness, at the cost of the profound one. If we do not, our loss is twofold
and anguish is our lot.
In the contest for pleasure objects, unhappy people inevitably
create conflict. One person's gain is another's loss. Moreover, this restless search for
happiness goes on at the expense of inner happiness and peace of mind. Thus, in the
process of forever running after pleasure, peace and happiness are not to be found either
within or without. This also shows how irrational people can be. We people in the modern
age may have scientific attitudes towards the outer universe, but regarding ourselves, our
life and mind, our approaches are not scientific at all. The way we treat our lives and
deal with peace and happiness is scientifically irrational.
We must find happiness in the right and proper way, here and now,
not in a promise of pleasures from outside. For the happy person, incidental pleasures
enhance happiness, but for the unhappy person, they can give only extraneous and fleeting
satisfaction, bringing anxiety and tension with their coming and regret and sorrow in
their wake. Just as the beauty wrought by cosmetics and decoration is not real beauty,
even so the happiness of external pleasures is not real happiness. And just as cosmetics
and decoration can enhance real beauty, so can incidental pleasures enhance real
happiness. It is the lack of real happiness which leads to trouble and conflict in
society. Over and above all else, the development of a happy individual is the
prerequisite for peace, and the development of the individual is the central question of
Secondly, unhappy people, in their efforts to find things to make
themselves happy, resort to unskillful methods for obtaining them. They seek enjoyment at
the expense of others: as a man who seeks pleasure by going fishing with rod and line
enjoys himself by causing suffering to the fish, so people tend to seek happiness by
hurting others, either directly or indirectly. Most people do not care what will happen to
other lives or the natural world as a result of their selfish actions. The result of this
is violations of human rights, injustice, poverty and environmental pollution.
In such an unfriendly and depressed atmosphere, people cannot enjoy
real peace and happiness. As the Buddha said: Whoever seeks happiness by inflicting
suffering on others is embroiled in hostility and bound to enmity. [Dh. 291] In fact, it
is the one who hurts who will first be hurt, rather than those he wants to cause loss and
trouble to. In the words of the Buddha: A man spoils himself first before he hurts others.
[A. III, 373] Some people even seek to enjoy themselves at the expense of their own lives.
Drug addicts and alcoholics are like this: all the pleasure-seeking activities of these
unhappy people are obstacles to peaceful living. They are the behavior of an undeveloped
or underdeveloped person.
People who are developed, in contrast, are happy within themselves
and seek enjoyment through means which bring happiness to both themselves and others. In
other words, they are characterized by their inherent happiness and the ways by which they
enjoy themselves, in which they diffuse happiness to people throughout society.
To put it another way, we share with others what we have, both
consciously and unconsciously. If we have happiness, we share happiness; if we have
unhappiness, we share that. The unhappy person, in particular, is weighed down with his
suffering and tries to relieve himself of it by throwing it off onto the people around
him. Thus, the undeveloped, unhappy person will render a peaceful society impossible.
Again, so many people in this technological age, having succeeded in
obtaining material gains and sensual pleasures, in no long time become bored and
discontented. They find that these gains and pleasures do not give them real happiness.
Tired of the ceaseless quest for happiness, surrounded by the ever-increasing problems
rampant in society and around the world, and finding no better means of realizing
happiness, they become bored, frustrated, anxious and confused. They live unhappily,
without peace of mind. This condition is growing to be characteristic of present-day
In sum, our failure to secure peace and happiness lies in that,
being unhappy and not training ourselves to be happy, we struggle in vain to realize peace
and happiness by setting out in these two wrong ways:
By seeking to make ourselves happy with pleasures from outside, and
in so doing covering up, or plastering over, our unhappiness with extraneous pleasures. As
the inner person has not been changed, the process of covering or plastering has to run on
endlessly. And because unhappiness is there deep inside, it will never vanish, despite any
amount of plaster or cover up. And as this process of unrestrained pursuit of
ever-increasing pleasures has to go on in competition with other people, it results in
resentment, conflict and the loss of peace and happiness in society.
Alternatively, with our inherent unhappiness, we seek to make
ourselves happy by throwing it off onto others. Other people then react and retaliate in
kind, and so instead of finding happiness we only spread unhappiness far and wide.
Thus, the process of searching for happiness becomes the process of
driving peace away. In other words, desiring one thing, we create the conditions for
another: desiring happiness, we create the cause for suffering; desiring peace, we create
the conditions for hatred and conflict.
Freedom as the guarantee of
peace and happiness
In Buddhism, peace (santi) and happiness (sukha) are synonymous: an
unhappy person cannot find peace, and there can be no peace without happiness. In the
Buddha's words: "There is no higher happiness than peace." [Dh. 202] However,
Buddhism prescribes freedom as another synonym for peace and happiness. Only the free
person can be possessed of peace and happiness. Endowed with freedom, people can live
happy and peaceful lives. There are roughly four levels of freedom, the achievement of
which is indispensable for the realization of peace and happiness. They are:
1. Physical freedom, or freedom in relation to the physical
environment. This includes freedom from lack of the basic needs of life -- food, clothing,
shelter and health-care; safety from life-threatening calamities and unfavorable natural
conditions; and the detached and wise use of natural resources and technology so that we
can derive benefit from them without being enslaved by them.
2. Social freedom, or freedom in relation to other people, the
community or social environment. This is represented by freedom from persecution,
exploitation, crime and injustice, violations of human rights, violence, terrorism, and
war; it is the non-violation of the Five Precepts, or, in more positive terms, a
harmonious relationship with neighbors, social well-being, and such values as equality,
liberty, fraternity, discipline, respect for law, tolerance and cooperation.
3. Emotional freedom, or freedom of the heart. Ideally, this refers
to the state of freedom from all traces of mental defilements and suffering, the state of
mind that is unshaken by worldly vicissitudes -- purified, sorrow-free, secure, and
profoundly happy and peaceful -- which is called Nibbana. Emotional freedom
includes the absence of all kinds of mental illness and negative mental states, or, in
positive terms, the presence of such beneficial mental qualities as love, compassion,
mindfulness and concentration. It is perfect mental health, consisting of mental clarity
and purity, peacefulness and happiness.
4. Intellectual freedom, or freedom of and through knowledge and
wisdom. Included in this class of freedom are unbiased learning; freedom of thought and
judgment and the exercise of knowledge and wisdom that are free of prejudices or
self-interest; and the knowledge of all things as they really are, or insight into the
true nature of all things, together with the emotional freedom which is its corollary and
the life-view and world-view that are based on that knowledge.
These four levels of freedom can be reclassified as three by putting
the third and the fourth levels together as one and the same level, called
"spiritual" or "individual" freedom.
The four (or three) levels of freedom are interrelated and
interdependent. Without a minimal amount of physical freedom, the road to the other three
levels of freedom is blocked. Without intellectual and emotional freedom, the wise use of
resources, which is physical freedom, is rendered impossible. Lacking the freedom of
knowledge and wisdom, the heart cannot be free. In the absence of the freedom of the
heart, social freedom is only a dream.
With this fourfold freedom, real peace and real happiness, both
within the mind of the individual and externally in society, are secured.
With physical freedom, we are relatively free from the oppression of
natural forces, and at the same time we do not exploit nature. Rather we make wise and
unselfish use of natural resources to achieve mutual well-being for both man and nature.
So we live at peace with nature. Equipped with all the facilities provided by science and
technology as our servants, rather than our masters, we can be said to have fulfilled the
physical aspect of the good or ideal life. With this physical freedom as a foundation, we
are in a good position to realize the other three aspects of freedom.
Proper assessment of science
With such obvious advances in science and technology, physical freedom should have been
achieved by now. However, on the contrary, it turns out that despite all scientific and
technological achievements, the problem of human suffering, even at the physical level, is
on the increase. This seems to be the dilemma of human progress. A solution lies partly in
our disenchantment with the wish-granting power of science and technology, and partly in
the readjustment of our relationship with them.
So far, humanity seems to have put too much trust in science and
technology, as if they were the sole designers of our ideal life, and we have become
increasingly dependent on them to the neglect of individual development. We do not realize
that the fulfillment of a good life depends on us, the creators and masters of science and
technology. We ourselves need to be so developed that we can master their use for our own
freedom and well-being -- otherwise, we may be destroyed by what we have created.
We have been so much enchanted by scientific and technological
progress that we have been deluded into believing that we have conquered nature, and that
with this conquest of nature, all problems will be solved and heaven will be established
on earth. But the nature that we think we have conquered, the external material world, is
not the whole picture. The other half of reality, our human nature, is within us. In the
struggle to conquer the material world of nature, we often neglect our responsibility to
master our inner nature and tend to lose control over it. This inner nature has grown
stronger and stronger and has largely taken control.
Thus, while congratulating ourselves for the conquest of nature, we
have unwittingly been conquered by the nature inside us and obediently come under its
control. It is this unconquered controlling nature within us that has frustrated all our
hopes of turning the earth into paradise. It is this nature that keeps our inner selves
unhappy under the plaster of superficial pleasure, and causes the unhappy person to
diffuse unhappiness, and the unpeaceful person to diffuse violence and conflict in
society. It is this uncontrolled inner nature which has caused us to become slaves of
technology rather than its masters, and to derive more harm form technology than benefit.
It is also the reason so many efficient measures to solve the problems of mankind do not
By way of illustration, while scientific and technological advances
have brought more than adequate abundance of consumer goods to satisfy the basic needs of
people all over the world, requiring only proper distribution to achieve mutual
well-being, it is not distribution that is carried out but appropriation, and more poverty
and conflict are created rather than peace and well-being. Similarly, factions and nations
continue to fight, notwithstanding the solution to their differences seeming very simple.
Modern people pride themselves on their scientific attitudes.
Unfortunately, our attitude to science and technology is less scientific than it should
be. We do not know science and technology as they really are and thus cannot deal with
them in a scientific way. This implies that our knowledge of nature is still inadequate to
maintain a right and proper relationship with it.
In order to understand how to realize freedom, we need to understand
the true nature, the capabilities and limitations, of science and technology. Scientific
knowledge is limited to the data received through the sense organs. Its domain is the
material world, its knowledge of which is really enormous. However, science knows little
about the human individual. When people are depressed and frustrated and their minds are
filled with fear, unrest and anxiety, science and technology can be of little help. Crime,
violence and immorality still abound, even in the countries which are most advanced in
science and technology. Despite all the advances in science and technology, the inner
person is left basically unchanged. Modern problems remain the same in nature as those
afflicting our ancestors, differing only in their wider variety and greater magnitude.
In spite of their unprecedented advances, science and technology
bring to the undeveloped person only heightened feelings of dependence and insufficiency,
and, with their destructive potential, insecurity and anxiety. Science and technology have
rendered great help to mankind in the conquest of nature (on the material level) but they
cannot provide moral guidance and control of our minds. We may be able to conquer the
world but we cannot conquer ourselves. The individual, the mind, our inner nature and our
development, along with our real peace and happiness, are beyond the domain of science and
technology. They are not their province but the domain of the Dhamma, or religion in a
special sense of the term.
Accordingly, we have here two complementary fields of striving for
freedom and perfection, the inner and the outer. Preoccupation with the outer to the
neglect of the inner leads only to partial success, or even to total failure. Success in
achieving freedom, peace and happiness lies in the proper recognition and understanding of
the nature, value, capacity and limitations of each of these two domains as they really
are, and in our attitudes and actions in conformity with such understanding.
The loss of the way to
The process by which freedom (and peace and happiness) is achieved is called
development (bhavana), and in Buddhism human development is synonymous with
education (sikkha). Just as freedom is of four levels, development or education
is fourfold: physical development, leading to physical freedom; social development,
leading to social freedom; emotional development, leading to emotional freedom; and
intellectual development, leading to intellectual freedom.
As for physical freedom and physical development, a considerable
contribution must be credited to science and technology, whose immense achievements must
not be underestimated. Scientific and technological development has provided such material
abundance that goods and facilities are more than enough for all people. Science and
technology have brought physical freedom within easy reach. It is up to us whether we will
utilize them to contribute to our happiness or to our woe. In other words, people of today
are equipped with almost unbounded technological potential, to be used either for positive
purposes, allowing all people to live in comfort, or for negative purposes, putting
mankind to wholesale destruction. Here end the function and responsibility of science and
Nature may be increasingly plundered in the interests of
accumulating wealth, thereby widening the gap between the rich and the poor; greater and
greater amounts of money may be spent on arms production, indirectly rendering food,
education and health care inaccessible to large numbers of people; more and more people
may die in armed conflicts between religious, racial and ideological factions; natural
resources may be selfishly exploited and lavishly consumed, depleting resources and
causing environmental pollution -- but science and technology are not to blame for these
problems. The fault lies with humanity itself. We fail to make wise and proper use of
science and technology and seek their services for the maximization of the three
self-centered impulses: selfish desire for pleasures and material possessions, ambition
for dominance and power, and rigid attachment to views and ideologies. How can we find
fault with scientific and technological developments when they are merely products of
It is at this point that the contribution of true religion, or Dhamma, is needed.
Development of the human individual must be carried out so that we can make wise and
proper use of science, technology, human and natural resources to realize a good life and
harmonious society for all mankind.
Right education or right development is the long-term and sole
solution to the problems of humanity. It entails a fundamental change in the pattern
of human thinking and behavior. Any proposed solutions other than this are superficial and
impractical. Stopgap solutions may seem easy, but they are plagued by uncertainty and lead
only to an impasse. Words may sound beautiful, but they are lacking in practicality. For
example, in a military conflict, we may say that if one party stops, problems will be
solved, but in practice, the contestants can never agree on who is to be the first to
stop. Naturally finding no agreement, each side claims that it is forced to take action
and the conflict merely escalates. This is the usual pattern of thought and behavior of
the undeveloped human being, and it needs to be changed if any solution is to be realized.
The undeveloped human being thinks unsystematically, usually under
the influence of fleeting motives or inherent tendencies. With the arrival of science and
technology, we are taught to think systematically. In terms of science, we think: What is
it? This may be followed by a thought in terms of technology: What is its use? What use
can we make of it? Here ends the thought in terms of science and technology. Beyond this
point, people again think at random or habitually, influenced by selfish motives or
Thus, scientific and technological thinking do not bring about any
fundamental change in our pattern of thought and behavior, and they contribute little to
personal development. Moreover, such thinking is rife with loopholes through which inbred
motives and tendencies can influence us. Scientific and technological thought is at the
service of habitual and arbitrary thinking and is used to expand their dimension and
magnitude. The motives or tendencies to be served are usually the three self-centered ones
Following the first phase of scientific thinking, "What, how
and why is it?" and the second phase of technological thinking, "How can it be
used?" modern thinking continues with: "How can I make use of it to gain profit
or enjoyment? How can I use it to dominate my neighbors? How can I use it to win people
over to my faith or ideology?" The human thinking process can thus be shown in three
phases: in terms of science, of technology and of exploitation. The first two pave way for
the third. Certainly, it is the third phase that will direct and control subsequent
actions. With selfishness pervading the whole process, any hope for peace is surely
Human development as the
prerequisite for peace
The service of religion, or the Dhamma, is indispensable here. Systematic thinking,
free of harmful motives and self-centered tendencies, must follow the first and second
phases of scientific and technological thinking, as the third decisive phase. People have
to be trained to think in terms of ethical or moral values such as: "How can this be
used to enhance the quality of life or to promote the mutual well-being of mankind?"
If moral thought becomes the third phase of the thinking process, moral behavior and
actions will follow, completing a whole process and leaving no loopholes for unwholesome
tendencies. Now the thinking process consists of these three phases: scientific,
technological, and ethical. Science, technology and the Dhamma or religion are
harmoniously integrated, each finding its proper and complementary role. A fundamental
change in the pattern of thought and behavior has been achieved.
However, the thinking process need not necessarily consist of all
three of these phases. The scientific and technological phases exemplify neutral phases in
general and can be dropped or replaced by some other neutral phase. Only the Dhamma or
ethical phase is necessary. The human mind naturally contains both moral and immoral
tendencies. If moral ones are not to the fore, immoral ones will be. (However, with true
knowledge or insight, which usually requires a great deal of mental training, it is
possible to have a pure process of thought, beyond both moral and immoral qualities.)
Today, how to think (clear thinking) is an emphasis in education. We
need to be taught how to think clearly. Many people, however, consider clear thinking only
in terms of scientific or intellectual terms. Their "clear thinking" is too
shortsighted to realize the aim of education, which is to develop the individual human
being so that problems will be solved in the right way and a good life will be attained.
With moral awareness included in the process, clear thinking is complete. Moral awareness
reveals the relationship between the natural order and human well-being. In such a
balanced thinking process, intellectual thought and moral thought are integrated,
producing thought that is rational, sound and wholesome. Then clear thinking means
thinking which is in accordance with truth, imbued with reason, and favorable to a good
life. When this kind of right thought arises, true religion is there.
This right process of thinking is the connection through which
mental or emotional development can induce and occasion physical and social development,
and through which mental or emotional freedom can contribute to the achievement of
physical and social freedom.
Deeper into the sphere of mental or emotional development is the
readjustment or purification of the contents of the mind itself. This aims at liberation
of the mind from the influence or controlling power of unwholesome motives and impulses
through the removal of the three self-centered tendencies -- selfish desire, selfish
ambition and intolerance. In place of these three unwholesome qualities, their three
opposite ethical values will arise, viz:
1. Wise association with pleasures of the senses and material possessions and a resolve
to make use of wealth for the realization of common well-being.
2. Respect for, and appreciation of, the value of life, the ways of other people, and
3. Detached search for truth, with an attitude of tolerance and good will to those who
have different views.
Usually, the three self-centered tendencies are not immediately
given up by generating the three counter-values, and the latter are not directly brought
about to replace the former. The destruction of the former and the growth of the latter
are, as a rule, the corollaries of the development of such virtues as loving-kindness,
compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity, and the practice of such ethical principles as
generosity, kindly speech, service, and participation.
The development of the heart requires development of wisdom, as real
freedom of heart can only be realized through freedom of knowledge or wisdom. Accordingly,
the total eradication of the three self-centered tendencies can only be actualized when
there is Enlightenment, or the full understanding of life. When wisdom is lacking, or
still in the early stages of its development, we have to depend on the three self-centered
tendencies for our self-preservation, at the risk of their harmful consequences. Once
wisdom or true knowledge has been developed, we can do away with them.
There are many practices that are helpful to the development of the
heart. Some bring about temporary freedom, others lead to absolute freedom, but what
distinguishes them is wisdom, true knowledge or insight. Any practice without wisdom can
achieve only temporary freedom. This is evident in the practice of meditation. Generally
speaking, there are two kinds of meditation: calming meditation and insight meditation.
Calming meditation with concentration as its essence leads to temporary freedom. Insight
meditation, in which knowledge of the true nature of things is the guiding principle, can
lead to absolute freedom. Wherever there is freedom, there are peace and happiness. Along
with temporary freedom come temporary peace and happiness; inseparable from absolute
freedom are perfect peace and happiness.
A really happy person has happiness inside. If he is provided with
pleasures, he enjoys happiness to the full. If he is deprived of pleasures, or if some
misfortune befalls him, he can still find happiness. The plaster of unhappiness does not
have any real effect on such a person.
Only the really happy person has real peace, and only the person who
has peace can be really happy. The person who has happiness radiates happiness, and the
person who has peace diffuses peace. People who have no peace of mind tend to destroy
peace -- in their family, among neighbors or wherever they happen to be. Those who are at
peace with themselves naturally and automatically live in peace with everyone. They are
happy and peaceful in the full sense of the terms. Their peace and happiness are true to
life; and it is this truly happy and peaceful person who is the fully developed and
educated human being. The development that creates this free, peaceful and happy person is
entitled to the term Peace Education.
In order to achieve freedom, peace and happiness, we need the
interrelated and interdependent service of the four spheres of development and the
interrelated and interdependent fulfillment of the four levels of freedom. In an
integrated process of development we need to deal wisely with the two principal domains
that affect our lives: the inner, personal world and the outer, physical world. Success in
the solution of problems, and the creation of peace, lies in the proper understanding and
recognition of the relationship between these two domains, and their limitations and
capabilities, and in action in accordance therewith.
Regarding the outer world, we have to appreciate the roles of
science and technology and social institutions in the development of freedom. When science
and technology are rightly used they can be complementary to the Dhamma, or religion, in
achieving physical freedom. Effective and efficient social, economic and political systems
and organizations are indispensable if social development is ever to effectuate social
However, it seems that today we already have such an abundance of
these physical and social tools of development that there is a danger of misusing them and
people, being unprepared for their wise and proper use, derive more trouble from them than
benefit. Now we should stop giving them priority. Although some among us should continue
with the job of improving and advancing science, technology and social, economic and
political systems, more attention should be paid to the comparatively long neglected task
of developing the human individual. This should be our top priority of today.
The development or education of the human being is a unique task. It
is a task of and for the specific life of each person. Unlike other fields of human
activity, where the wealth of experience of former generations can be handed down as a
cultural heritage to later generations and used by them to climb further up the ladder of
civilization, human development or education must begin anew in the span of each and every
life. Considering the fact that each of us is the creator, the main player and the
sufferer and enjoyer of all problems and their solutions, this task is of even greater
Peace and happiness of the individual are the foundation of peace
and happiness for the whole world. Education for the promotion of peace is therefore one
of our most important tasks. Education for human development is the prerequisite for
peace. If this right education has been fully and thoroughly carried out, the
international year in need of peace will surely become the International Year of Peace,
when peace, happiness and freedom prevail all over the world.
In practical terms, the first step is to make our own minds free,
happy and peaceful, and then share our peace and happiness among all other people with
whom we come into contact.
May all be happy and peaceful, and their mental, verbal and physical
actions be contributions to he creation of long years of peace to come. Peace be
unto you and all beings.
[*] From a lecture entitled "Buddhism and
Peace," delivered in Bangkok, 1986, at the International Conference on Higher
Education and the Promotion of Peace. [Back to text]
[**] Quoted in Inga Thorrson, "Disarmament and
Development," Third World Affairs1986 [London; The Eastern Press Ltd. for Third World
Foundation for Social and Economic Studies, 1986], p.368. [Back
[***] Quoted in Willy Brandt, "Peace and
Development" [Third World Lecture 1985], Third World Affairs 1986, p. 350. [Back to text]
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