Weekly Musings: Stray Thoughts On Buddha Jayanti
By Shyam K.C.
Today marks the birth anniversary of one of the greatest persons born on earth: Siddhārtha Gautama. His birth took place over 2600 years ago, and he achieved Nirvana and left a legacy that this world can never forget. His legacy was the teachings that are more valid today than it was 2600 years ago as this world is being torn apart by never-ending religious, political and even social strife. His teachings on non-violence and kindness towards all living things are a message of peace for the strife-torn world.
None of us Nepalese can forget the fact that Lord Buddha was born in Nepal, and we all are proud of the fact, but at the same time it has to be remembered that Lord Buddha is a gift to all humanity that transcends political and geographical boundaries. Today the teachings of Lord Buddha are spread all over the world. This is because one might follow any religion that one likes or believes in, but the teachings of the Buddha are applicable to all religions whether one is a Christian or a Muslim or a Hindu.
No wonder there was a close amalgamation of Hinduism and Buddhism in the Kathmandu Valley: a Buddhist worshiped in a Hindu temple, and a Hindu worshiped at a Buddhist temple. Such a situation may be a thing of the past in these days, but the fact remains that even today in this country, especially in the valley, there is so much love and respect among different religions. This is in keeping with the teachings of Lord Buddha.
It is interesting to note that atheism was by far the largest growing philosophy between 1910 and 2010. The number of atheists in the world is now estimated at around 140 million. The age-old religions like Christianity and Islam came nowhere near this growth figure. Today Islam is said to be largest growing religion, and its world-wide followers is said to be around 1.7 billion, next only the number of Christians who total just over 2.2 billion. Both of these religions believe in converting the “non-faithful” to their brand of religion. The next in world population of seven billion is the Hinduism whose followers number just over one billion. Those who follow Buddhism number almost half a billion. The teachings of Lord Buddha are equally relevant to all religions including atheists.
The concept of non-violence that was put to such effective use by Mahatma Gandhi in India to oust the English colonialists is even more relevant today. The same non-violence principle was used effectively in South Africa by its leader Nelson Mandela to bring an end to the racist regime in that country. In the process he had to suffer a lot but in the end, he won. In the United States, Martin Luther King initiated his Civil Rights movement based on the non-violence principle to bring about racial equality and his success in a developed country like the United States goes to prove how timeless and eternal are the basic teachings of Lord Buddha. These instances prove that revolutions do not have to be successful through violence and bloodshed even though concepts of violence seem to be basic principle of system and government chance these days.
The animal rights movement is gathering momentum across the world. The followers of the movement in this country are advocating a total ban in animal sacrifice despite opposition from those who have been traditionally offering such sacrifices. The opposition to any form of killing – whether sacrifice or slaughter house killings – is a direct outcome of Lord Buddha’s teachings. The day is surely not far off when there will be voices against killings of different types of birds, fishes and insects.
Modern scientific research has established how insects, birds and different forms of bacteria are useful to human life. The slow natural evolution process show the interdependence among different living things including human beings and the present rate of extinction of different species point to the nearing doomsday for the whole world.
Steven Hawkins in a language we lay persons understand tells us in his book “A Short History of Time” how a infinitely small particle with infinite mass burst initiating the process of the expanding universe. The process continues to this day and will in the future. And the process which had been going on for almost 15 billion years has resulted in the formation of the earth and the formation of living things on earth. The scientific findings effectively negate the concept of the All Powerful God found in all major religions. But even when mere scientific theories prevail over religious beliefs, the teachings of Lord Buddha will remain valid because his teachings guide us all to be kind hearted and merciful to all living creatures.
In this day and age when atom bombs, Mother of All Bombs, have been used to stifle the opposition and when huge investments out of tax-payers money are made for inventing weapons that kill or on equipment and gadgets that deliver them, common sense dictate that such investments should have been made in so many other sectors that need them such as health, environment etc.
We observe the Buddha Jayanti with a nationwide holiday today. This is as it should be as the Buddha was born in Nepal and is by far the best internationally and revered figure. But what have we done to communicate the Buddha teachings to the young? We need to seriously consider about educating the youth, no matter which religion they follow, about the relevance of the Buddha teachings in the modern world. Since the youths are the builders of the future, the Buddha teachings could help them build the world in a way that is tolerant of all ideologies – religious or political.