Non-violence, the foremost principle in Buddhism | Sunday Observer

Non-violence, the foremost principle in Buddhism

4 June, 2023
Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena and Buddhasasana, Religious and Cultural Affairs Minister Vidura Wickramanayaka at the United Nations Vesak Day celebrations in Thailand. 
Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena and Buddhasasana, Religious and Cultural Affairs Minister Vidura Wickramanayaka at the United Nations Vesak Day celebrations in Thailand. 

It is with deep respect and honour that I express my kind thoughts and well wishes to Maha Chula-long-korn-raja-vidyalaya University, the MCU, for organising the United Nations Day of Vesak in Thailand, in celebration of the Thrice Sacred Day of Vesak full moon Poya day, of Buddhist era 2567 (common era 2023), as this year we gather in re-congression to celebrate important milestones in our journey together.

My sincere gratitude goes to the Most Ven. Maha Sangha, International Council for Day of Vesak, International Association of Buddhist Universities, the Maha Chula-long-korn-raja-vidyalaya University (MCU) in Ayutthaya, to the United Nations ESCAP Centre in Bangkok, and to the organisers of the UN Vesak Day for inviting me to deliver this speech.

Prince Siddharta Gauthma destined to be the greatest religious teacher of the world was born on a Vesak day. Though, brought up in lap of luxury, he clearly understood the sorrow of humanity, and after a super human struggle of years, unaided and unguided, but with his own efforts and wisdom, eradicated all defilements in the process of grasping, realising pain as true they are on his own knowledge, on the full moon day of Vesak, and he became Buddha-the Enlightened One. He was not born “a Buddha”, but He became “the Buddha”.

For 45 years the Buddha taught and worked for good and happiness of all beings-human and other, and passed away on the full moon day of Vesak, leaving to his disciples the doctrine and discipline as their “only teacher”. The teaching complements and emphasises the importance on integration of human activity in Madhayama Pattipada, the moderate or middle path, and Parat-tham Pati-pajjatha, to engage in the service of others, which, collectively protects and serves all ecology.

Important milestone

As we are gathered here in Thailand this year, we celebrate the 20th anniversary and the 18th occasion of ‘United Nations Day of Vesak’. It is an important milestone in our journey as Buddhists gathered from all parts of the globe in fostering and propagating the teachings of the Enlightened One, as over one-fifth of population of today’s world regard the Buddha as their supreme teacher.

Let us take a moment to remember that today we celebrate this great day for Buddhists the world over, because of a resolution moved on behalf of the Maha Sangha and followers of the Buddha the world over, by an exemplary son of Sri Lanka, an international diplomat of par excellence, the late Lakshman Kadiragamar. Let us also remember the immense blessings continuously given by the late King of Thailand Bhumi-bolAthul-yadej.

Relations between Thailand and Sri Lanka are over millennia, as we exchanged the teachings of the Buddha to establish and to revive the Buddha-sasana, over and over again. Sri Lanka is always grateful to the Most Ven. Upali Nayaka Maha Thera from Siam for reviving the Sangha order in Sri Lanka.

This year Sri Lanka celebrates the 270th Anniversary, efforts of Most Ven. Upali Maha Thera of Thailand, and Most Ven. Saranankara Sangaraja of Sri Lanka, together they revived the Sangha Order of Sri Lanka, and established the Siyam Sector of Sangha in Sri Lanka.

This august gathering and our journey so far would have not been possible if not for the farsighted guidance and blessings of Most Ven. Sangaraja Maha Thera. On behalf of President Ranil Wickremesinghe, the Government, and the people of Sri Lanka, as Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, I extend warm wishes for best of health, happiness, and long life to Somdet Phra Ariya-vangsa-gatayana the Sangaraja of Thailand.

The success of this annual assembly is also mainly due to the farsighted patronage of the King of Thailand Maha Vajira-long-korn. His Majesty is special to the Maha Sangha and People of Sri Lanka, as we remember the king visited Colombo, Kandy, and Galle in Sri Lanka in 1993. Thirty years ago, as then Crown Prince visited Deepa-duptama-arama temple in Colombo, where since 1897 Royal ancestors of the king’s family were ordained and lived in Bhikkhuhood.

While in Kandy, the king visited the most Sacred Tooth Relics of the Buddha at Sri Dalada Maligawa. As Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, I convey best wishes of the President of Sri Lanka to the King, for long life, best of health, and happiness.

Glowing example

It is a delight to observe yet again as UNDV has shown a glowing example in the sincere interest of the United Nations to understand deeply how “Buddhist wisdom can cope with global crisis”, and thereby bring fresh remedies for a new way forward. All of us who are gathered here understand that mindful citizens across today’s world engage in Enlightened discussions in Buddhist responses; to “Sustainable Development”, to “Social Change”, to “Global Warming”, to “Environmental Protection”, to “Healthy Living”, to “Peace-Building”, to“Post-Conflict Recovery”, and similar discussions.

Of course, there is no greater crisis than Sansara, this endless cycle. This, the Enlightened One mindfully critically analysed through the application of “Cause and Effect”, realising the true nature of things as they truly are. Then understood the “Middle Path”, as the only moderate pragmatic way forward, and the need to “Mindfully be Engaged” with one’s self in the path until cessation or end was reached.

As Buddhists for us, every other crisis is only a new opening to engage solving and managing issues with a fresh state of mind.

A lifelong engagement in deep thoughtful establishment of practices, towards caring for the environment-human, animal, and plants - was founded by the Enlightened One. The importance of “being content”, is only echoed in Buddhist teachings underlining the responsible and moderate use of time, and resources for human progress.

Wisdom words of “health is the greatest wealth” was taught 2600 years ago to the world by the Enlightened One. It was Siddhartha Guathama the Buddha who began the greatest revolution in history of mankind by challenging and revolutionising, the then established social structure towards “responsible uplift of persons” and “society’s sustainability” through the moderate path.

Today, we are meeting after a global pandemic of unprecedented scale, where loss of human lives was counted in millions, in all corners of the world, of all walks of life, from affluent to the poor. It opened minds of the world to realise that no longer sole survival through material wealth alone was possible, and overcoming a crisis of such magnitude was only through collective reach out in service of others.

The aftermath of the pandemic was soon followed by a global economic crisis, contributing to a tremendous slowdown of economic activity around the world, pushing more people below the poverty lines. This includes families consisting of children, elderly, women, and other vulnerable sections of society. This furthered scarcity of essentials across the world. Neither Governments, private sector, nor any establishment was able to find a reasonable solution.

Middle path

On the other hand, as US President Joe Biden said, during the same period, the global shipping magnets were making unreasonable profits of over 1000 percent, causing further disruption and shortages in distribution of essentials, like food, medicine, and key exports world over. To level the situation, President Biden had to intervene with a tax remediation. That was to bring things closer to a Middle path; to lessen worries of those suffering, and moderate over indulgence in unethical super gains.

Sri Lanka in the past 10 months have let go of decades long extreme economic policies, and have adopted the middle path. This has tremendously helped Sri Lanka to show great resilience and regain global confidence to continue to steer ahead in the middle path.

Gauthama, the Buddha, in Angut-tara Nikaya Anana Sutta talked about indebtedness. The meaning of the word Anana is debt free. If an individual or a nation could live Anana, or debt free, the individual or the country could attain four kinds of happiness. Atta Sukha, Happiness of ownership of wealth by righteous means, Bhoga Sukha, happiness of using the wealth so earned properly, Anana Sukha, happiness of being debt free, and Anawajja Sukha, happiness of leading a blameless life. That is the culmination of a happy state.

Therefore, let this august assembly unanimously call for a universal moratorium, or any similar remedy, on all debt and unserviceable financial commitments accumulated on nations as a result of unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic which was never heard, seen, or imagined by humankind. This is fundamentally the most ethical relief that could be granted to millions of worried minds world over.

The modern crisis begins with an ever-growing human population. Today, the world has more than eight billion people. This phenomenal growth has to continuously grapple scarcity of water, land and food, in their struggle to fulfil essential needs to sustain life. This is amid global pandemics, natural calamities, financial meltdowns and destructive wars.

The world’s most populous nation till beginning of this year was China, with over 1.4 billion people, and they had to carry out a specifically targeted poverty alleviation program, in recent past to uplift over “a few hundred million people” out from “absolute poverty”. Their success is a good example in history of mankind and important in poverty alleviation, tackling issues with a fresh state of mind.

Some 80 million rural farmers of India were directly paid by the PM’s Office, electronically despatching nearly over two billion US dollars, recognising the village agriculture production as a backbone component in the food production, to serve today’s world’s most populous nation, again, tackling with a fresh state of mind.

Most recently, Spain was able to continuously power 100 percent of electricity demand, during a heavy week day, purely through renewable energy sources of hydro, solar and wind, thereby being considerate of the environment as well as public demand, marking what should come in essential energy formulas of tomorrow’s world over, once again, tackling with a fresh state of mind.

Sustainable development

Similarly, sufficient economic policy of Thailand is a good example providing a linkage between Buddhism and sustainable development. This is a unique sustainable framework where sufficient economic philosophy is based on the Buddhist world’s view on inter-relationships with economy, society, and environment which has been extended to public, private, and citizen organisations.

Clearly, Asia is showing the way to the world how this fundamentally most essential crisis has to be met with a fresh state of mind. It has been said many times, in many forums, that “this century belongs to Asia”. Asia is where historical wisdom and practices must be discovered essentially for world’s future. And ASEAN is an integral part of Asia. ASEAN is a doorway Buddhist wisdom for the mind, and sustainable agriculture practices in global food production.

The Theravadha tradition is the most sought-after wisdom in the world. Mindfulness through Vipassana Meditation is the core synergy for Theravadha countries to be in service and heal many crises of the world. Towards this endeavour a broader cooperation among Theravadha Nations: Sri Lanka, Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, is vital. We must further strengthen greater free movement, or mobility, and interaction among our nations.

The other essential component is the Dhamma schools the world over, where the future, the youth, both girls and boys, are nurtured in the most wholesome education focusing the “humane” aspect in global scale and mindfulness in a modern civilisation.

On behalf of the Government and as Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, I wish to inform this august assembly that Sri Lanka is willing to take this step forward, and wish for blessings of all of you to host the 19th UN Day of Vesak in Sri Lanka in 2024. This will be a great strength and blessings for Sri Lanka and her People.


Penultimately, let us remember that this is the age of information, or even call it the age of mis-information. As information is powerful, it can be used for betterment and for the worst. Misinformation can bring more danger than ever before. The Buddhist world should be mindful of this, and I wish to quote from the late Dr. Ananda Guruge, an eminent Buddhist scholar;

“…In the twenty-six (26) century Buddhist history, no major wars, invasions, coercion or use of force had taken place in the name of Buddhism or on account of the rise of Buddhist tradition.”

“…The recent and current conflicts in traditionally Buddhist countries are in no way connected with Buddhism even though some media sometimes so “mis-represent” them.”

“…On the contrary, the Buddhist communities are inspiring example of selfless assistance to victims of prejudice and violence. This is the impact of Buddha’s precept and practise.”

Remember to always emphasise that Buddhists have historically and the world over practised “Non-violence” as a foremost principle.

In conclusion, I wish to express my sincere gratitude and pay my humble veneration to Most Ven. Prof. Phra Brahma-pundit, President of the International Council for Day of Vesak, for his continued untiring efforts and commitment towards achieving great success in organising and leading this assembly of world Buddhist brotherhood.

May All beings be Safe
May All beings be Well
May All beings be Happy
May the Blessings of the Noble Triple Gem be with You All!