On behalf of Nalanda Buddhist Society, I would like to pay tribute to all venerable Sangha members, Dhamma teachers, Buddhist community leaders, and benefactors of the Buddha-Sāsana everywhere.
Once again millions of Buddhists all over the world will gather to welcome the year 2564 of the Buddhist era. Buddha Day commemorates the Birth, Enlightenment, and Passing of Buddha Gotama, which are celebrated on the full-moon day in the month of Vesakhā. While traditionally the occasion was marked with much pomp and ceremony, this year is markedly different. Due to the Covid-19 Pandemic, most activities are conducted online in what we may call a “Digital Buddha Day”. But just the same, the purpose of Buddha Day is to reflect on the meaning and purpose of our lives in this Samsāric existence.
The last few months have been very difficult for humanity with natural catastrophes and the pandemic. We witnessed the fury of nature at its fiercest and there was almost nothing we could do but watch helplessly. Against these natural calamities there were the usual political, economic and commercial upheavals on a global scale which were the result of human greed, hatred and delusion. On another level, there is the daily suffering which all humans endure. The Buddha says that so long as there is birth, there will be grief, lamentation, sorrow, pain, and despair.
In the face of all these turbulences, many have asked if there is any hope for humankind? Is there a foothold where humans can experience peace and happiness? Can we experience tranquility in the face of uncertainty?
Remarkably the answer is ‘yes’! In the midst of all this gloom, we can find solace in what the Buddha taught twenty-six centuries ago, that happiness is possible, not in some ‘life after death’ but in the ‘here and now’. For too long people have placed their faith on external ‘divine forces’ to provide them with happiness and security, but these have consistently proven to be false hopes. Rather, the Buddha teaches that happiness is to be found within ourselves.
Led by Greed, Hatred, and Delusion, humans will always be subjected to the eight worldly conditions of gain and loss, praise and blame, honour and dishonour, happiness and sorrow. But if as individuals we allow our lives to be transformed by Loving Kindness, Compassion, Sympathetic Joy and Equanimity, we will not only be happy ourselves but create the conditions to spread happiness to our fellow beings.
The secret of real happiness lies in training the mind not to be affected by worldly conditions. This is why we use the symbol of the lotus flower which has its roots in the mud, but which rises above the murky water pure and unsullied. Similarly, one may have to live in an unsatisfactory world, but one’s mind must not be allowed to be tainted. “Ah! Happily do we live without hate amongst the hateful. Among hateful men we dwell unhating” – Dhammapada verse 197.
We cannot change the world, but we can change ourselves. And if each individual makes the effort to change, then the world can be changed. Particularly this year when we are in the throes of a pandemic lockdown, this principle has taken a special significance. If each of us develops a positive attitude and cooperates with the authorities, then every single one of us would have contributed significantly to bring this pandemic to an end quickly.
Therefore, on this sacred Buddha Day, let each of us strengthen the solemn will to work towards developing patience, so as to maintain tranquility in the face of uncertainty.