Buddhist Teachings towards unity and harmony | Sunday Observer

Buddhist Teachings towards unity and harmony

27 October, 2019

The world has experienced numerous conflicts due to different reasons, mainly religious, cultural, ethnic and indigenous. Establishing a peaceful society is the burning issue in the present world scenario. In this dispensation, Buddhist teachings provide sustaining ideas to achieve world peace. The foundation of peace and security can be strengthened within the framework of Buddhism, which is tolerant and diverse. The Buddha introduced a righteous way of life for human beings to follow after he himself experienced the weaknesses and strength of human mentality.

Peace generally means safety from fear and absence of war, conflict and violence. Scholars have structured peace in three stages. The first stage is ‘durable peace’, identified as positive peace. Stable peace does not entail prospects of positive peace as it has limited cooperation. The next is ‘unstable peace’ which is the result of unresolved differences leading to rising tensions and distrust which runs high in today’s society. People should learn to live together with mutual respect, understanding, help and caring for each other’s benefit. These concepts describe harmony (Avirodhatã or Sahitã) which is the smooth, pleasant and non-contentious functioning together of two or more things. The fundamental goal of Buddhism is peace not only in this world but in all other worlds. The Buddha often preached about the need and the desirability of harmony within and among groups of people. The learning process requires a dynamic, holistic and life-long exercise involving education and religion. When a religion can be practised without disturbing other traditions or followers of other religions, this is peaceful coexistence which paves the way for unity and peace in society. Therefore, Buddha’s teaching is a conventional approach for solving social conflict by understanding, compassion, non-violence and peace. Besides, religion gives human beings a sense of self-worth to enjoy spiritual and worldly happiness. The Buddha advised his followers not to hurt, curse or injure any living species in the world. This requires human dignity and kindness without discrimination, while avoiding evil and purifying the mind to gain peace and happiness.

Therefore, this study intends to demonstrate Buddhist teachings which would lead to unity and harmony in society and ultimately to peace. It attempts to ascertain “What are the teachings in Buddhism that lead to unity and peace in society?”

The development of inner peace would lead to reconcile harmony and unity among people. The way to inner peace is to practise four sublime states, namely, Loving Kindness (Mettā), Compassion (Karuńā), Sympathetic Joy (Muditā) and Equanimity (Upekkhā) to love all beings equally without discrimination. These four states are the same in all schools of Buddhism.

A social relationship according to the Buddha is based on these four moods or attitudes and are regarded as respecting the highest (Brahmā) conditions for social well-being. Hence, these four sublime attitudes could be comprehended within the single ethical concept of benevolence. The concept of benevolence in Buddhist social philosophy is the essential foundation for peace and harmony. The Buddha held that “hatred at no time does cease through hatred, hatred ceases only through the negation of hatred.” Therefore, following this path would undeniably minimize conflict among people and enhance unity and harmony in society.

The morality governing Buddhist philosophy is another integral factor to establish unity and harmony. Buddhism maintains that it is the duty of the government of the country to see to the needs of those in want and work to diminish poverty. Buddhist teachings have advised that spiritual and physical wealth should be provided to communities. Buddha taught the duties of a ruler to kings, encouraging them to use their power as a tool for generating benefits to society. ‘Aparihānīya Dhamma’ represents the teachings of welfare, principles encouraging social harmony and unity.

It could be concluded that Buddhism has some particularly rich resources for unity and harmony in society. The true value of nonviolence, compassion and altruism advocated by Buddhism would inspire all people on the path of peace. Buddhist teaching explores every possibility to resolve disputes without resort to violence. On the basis of the above discussion it could be emphasized that the widespread conflict in society can be resolved through Buddhist teachings.

The writer is attached to the Department of Philosophy, Faculty of Arts, University of Peradeniya.