February 15, 2001
Shakyamuni Buddha attained enlightenment and taught in India over two thousand years ago, yet his teaching remains refreshing and relevant today. No matter who we are or where we live, we all want happiness and dislike suffering. The Buddha recommended that in working to overcome suffering we should help others as much as we can. He further advised that if we cannot actually be of help, we should at least be careful not to do anyone harm.
Part of Buddhist practice involves training our minds through meditation. But if our training in calming our minds, developing qualities like love, compassion, generosity and patience, is to be effective, we must put them into practice in day-to-day life. Being more concerned for the suffering of others instead of your own is truly to follow the spirit of all the great religions including Buddhism.
The purpose of Buddhism is to serve and benefit all sentient beings, including human beings. And therefore it is more important to think of what contribution we Buddhists can make to human society according to our own ideas rather than trying to convert other people to Buddhism. The Buddha gave us an example of contentment and tolerance, through serving others unselfishly.
I am often asked whether the teachings and techniques of Buddhism continue to be relevant in the present day and age. Like all religions, Buddhism deals with basic human problems. So long as we continue to experience the basic human sufferings resulting from impermanence, attachment and wrong view, there is no question of its relevance. The key is inner peace. If we have that we can face difficulties with calm and reason, while keeping our inner happiness. The teachings of love, kindness and tolerance, the conduct of non-violence, and especially the Buddhist theory that all things are relative are a source of that inner peace.
I am happy to know that the first International Conference on Buddhism and Literature is being held at the Banaras Hindu University. I welcome the opportunity this will provide to draw attention to books revealing the great teachings of love, compassion and universal responsibility, themes that underlie all the world's great sacred traditions. I pray that participants may find peaceful inspiration in the various functions and programmes that will take place.