I wish to congratulate the Sitagu International Buddhist Academy for organizing the World Peace Buddhist Conference. I hope to learn from the leaders and scholars from different religious faiths on this important topic at the conference.
Let me approach the subject of promoting world peace in two different perspectives – at institutional level and at individual level.
At Individual Level
I would like to share with you a story:
A Buddhist monk was sitting next to a person of another religious faith on the same flight. The Buddhist monk was using a rosary. Out of curiosity, his neighbour asked, 'How do you use your rosary?' Seeing that his neighbour also had a rosary, the monk asked, 'What about you, what do you recite when you use your rosary?'
'Power! Power! Power! What about you?'
'Let go! Let go! Let go!'
The above story illustrates the Buddhist teaching on anattā (Pali) or anātman (Sanskrit); it is often translated as 'no self'.
If I may further elaborate, the first 'let go' is to let go of our unwholesome deeds, we can then go on to cultivate wholesome deeds. The second 'let go' is to go beyond wholesome and unwholesome at worldly level and reach enlightenment – nibbāna (Pali) or nirvāṇa (Sanskrit). The third 'let go' is to go beyond the distinction of saṃsāra and nirvāṇa and strive for Buddhahood.
At Institutional Level
We have a kind donor for our welfare work in Malaysia. This donor had a religious faith but he gave up because he felt that religions were creating wars all over!
If we are honest with ourselves, many conflicts had been fought in the name of religion. Many conflicts had also been fought over the different denominations of a same religion. Most of us will however be very quick to point out that we cannot equate a group of extremists with a particular religion or a religious denomination.
Let me share with you another story:
The first Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tunku Abdul Rahman, once invited the spiritual leader of the Tibetans, the Dalai Lama, to have a friendly discussion. At that time, he had already stepped down as the Prime Minister, and was the Chairman of the Perkim Islamic Foundation. During the discussion, the Dalai Lama said, “We human beings are so intelligent that we are capable of producing weapons that can destroy the world seven times over!” It is indeed alarming to think that we, human beings, are capable of destroying the only world we live in!! This is truly an unimaginable tragedy!
The Dalai Lama continued to say that the only way to prevent this tragedy from happening is through the collective power of religions. He called upon the leaders of different religions to come together to work devotedly towards spreading the idea of world peace. At present, there is no single religion that is capable to do this on its own. Only through the unification of all the religions of this world can the people be made aware that the world should be protected against a potential destruction by nuclear weapons and not otherwise. If people exploit religions to fight the so-called ‘holy wars’, then the destruction of the Earth by human beings will very soon be a reality.
I would like to advocate that we have more dialogues between different denominations of the same religion and between different religions to promote better understanding and mutual respect. Dialogue itself is not enough, we have to further promote joint activities to promote mutual understanding and respect. The World Peace Buddhist Conference organized by the Sitagu International Buddhist Academy is one good example.