Malaysian Buddhists are gathering this week to usher in the year 2562 of the Buddhist Era, which is calculated from the Mahaparinibbāna (Great Passing Away) of the Blessed One, Buddha Gotama. The day known as Vesakhā full-moon ‘Buddha Day’ marks the anniversary of His Enlightenment. There is great joy for us as we recollect with gratitude the contributions of the Enlightened One to free beings from the shackles of Samsara.
When Buddhists express our joy on this day, we do not associate it with festivity and merrymaking to please the senses. Rather, ‘Buddha Day’ is a day to remind us to ennoble ourselves and rise to the highest level of spiritual development. The Buddha taught that we have the capacity to raise ourselves as ‘manussa’, even to beyond the level of the gods.
On ‘Buddha Day’, we dedicate ourselves to understanding and practising the teachings of our Great Teacher to develop the qualities of Wisdom and Compassion. By developing these noble qualities, we contribute to the welfare and happiness not only of humans, but also all other beings that share the world with us.
Our theme for ‘Buddha Day’ B.E. 2562 is “A Life of Humility, Modesty and Moderation”. The Buddha taught us that the greatest hindrance to becoming noble beings is ego-centralism. Humility strives to destroy our sense of self-importance and arrogance. Not only at individual levels, but also communally and nationally, many people blindly cling to their own beliefs and confidently declare that they alone have monopoly of the truth. This is the cause of all the bigotry and persecution which plagues the world. To eradicate these ills, we should constantly be humble, and use our abilities not to glorify ourselves but to serve the world.
With humility also comes modesty, which means we conduct ourselves with dignity and decorum. It is widely considered a virtue to maintain an unassuming demeanour, to be self-effacing and unpretentious.
Humility and modesty are best nurtured through the path of Moderation taught by the Blessed One. At all times we must avoid any form of extreme behaviour in thought, word, and deed. The world today is being torn apart by the evil of extremism. As Buddhists, we are committed to work for the welfare of all and we can do this by transforming society to become more compassionate and selfless. Moderation also applies to our attitude as consumers; living within our means and using only what we need will spare the world from endless wastage.
Just as a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step, if we want to change the world and make it a better place, we must begin by transforming ourselves.
Therefore as Buddhists, on this sacred ‘Buddha Day’, let us reflect wisely on how we can as individuals and members of the community spread these great qualities – Humility, Modesty and Moderation – for the well-being of all. Happy ‘Buddha Day’!