The Nepalis observe Buddhism Day on Tuesday as per the ritual calendar in Nepal. This is the day on which Gautam Buddha was born in Lumbini 2555 years ago. He was a prince who sacrificed his luxurious palace life and set on a journey of life as a psychological explorer seeking to know the causes of bad consequences of human thoughts and actions. He was able to discover truth that human body was a representative mechanism of the Universe. Mind exists so long as body exists. This was the discovery of Gautam Buddha.
The majority of Nepalis understand Gautam Buddha as a God rather than as a philosopher. Within the religious belief in Buddhism itself, there are various trends and angles with varying definitions. However, the crux of Buddhism is something more scientific and real-life related. This being the reason, Buddhist philosophy has existed as a science closely concerned with our mind and behavior. Efforts to trivialize this science in the name of God and rites will continue, but this philosophy has a high level relevancy in the modern democracy and the principles of social justice. Buddhism is extremely important in connection with the implementation of human rights.
For good and ethical politics equipped with a sense of public accountability, the eightfold path principles developed by Gautam Buddha 2500 years ago is more relevant today than ever before. Today, criminalization of politics all over the world has reached an alarming scale. State apparatuses have been misused exclusively for the protection of the criminal networks; consequently, the people do not feel secure. State exists in legal format but in a real and practical sense, people feel the absence of state.
Wars have escalated. Civil wars have become part of the global war, which has been decentralized. More arms have been produced and sold. Arms production and trade is mainly the affair of states. International intelligence operatives have been mobilized to destabilize world and give continuity to the politics based on violence and massacres. About two million Iraqis have lost their lives after the arrival of ‘democracy’ there. Has any powerful democratic institution raised a debate regarding the need to take those responsible to the Hague?
Today ruthless murders occur while the experiments of military technology go side by side. Who is to take those responsible to the international court? Who runs the international court?
If only reactions over reactions and reactions after reactions become our way of politicking and gambling, this will further degrade our life while also aggravating our pro-crime mindset.
While we remember Gautam Buddha as a good son of the Earth, it is essential for us to internalize his eightfold path in order to better ourselves optimistically.
Rationale of the Eightfold Path
The Eightfold Path contains Right View, Right Intention, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration.
The Right view refers to studying the world analytically and critically and understanding it from scientific perspectives. This principle is related to the development of scientific viewpoint against superstitions and ignorance. Without correctly examining the society we live, how can we ever think of improving it? Therefore, facing the existing realities and trying to transform them is the major point of the Right View path as shown by the Buddha.
Similarly, the Right Intention matters in every sector. If spoken words are good but intention is bad, one cannot expect good things to happen. If intention is to commit a crime for the sake of luxurious life, shining cars, superb buildings and brilliant profile will be worthless. Good intention results in good actions that produce good results.
Gifted with communication power and tools, human beings have definitely achieved much. But no good actions and consequences can be expected with wrong speech. The Right Speech here refers to the ethical and true communication. Lies have no place in Buddha’s Right Speech domain.
Another important contribution by Gautam Buddha to make human life better and meaningful is Right Action. Wrong actions produce wrong effects. Wrong actions are the products of wrong thoughts in the main. Good speech and wrong actions do not match. In today’s politics, this trend is growing alarmingly. Therefore, re-examining our actions is essential.
Equally important is the principle of Right Livelihood. In a country like Nepal, people spoil their mentality from early childhood. ‘Earn money any way, without considering whether it is good or bad’ is the wrong path adopted generally. Those who are honest and totally depend on their good thoughts and actions are mocked at. This shows how wrong path one has adopted for the sake of livelihood. Professional murder industry, kidnap industry, arms industry and more are some examples against the Right Livelihood principle of Buddha.
Moreover, the Right Effort encourages human beings to work hard by not wasting their energy, be it physical or mental. It helps us to put our energy in good things, with a proper degree of continuity and focus. Even good policies cannot be successfully implemented without the right effort.
Likewise, Right Mindfulness can be a vital component to succeed in our work. Being attentive to our own thoughts and behavior can keep us on track. Being watchful and careful in every sector is equally important. Psychological tendencies affect our behavioral culture. The quality of Buddhist Mindfulness actually makes our mind pro-active, dynamic and productive so that we can be better human beings.
But we cannot become successful without adding one more Buddhist eightfold Path component here. It is the Right Concentration concerned with exactly focusing our mind on what we do, how and why we do it. Discontinuity, distraction and mind dullification cannot help us at all. Meditation is essential to operate our mind in the most scientific and engineering ways.
Thus, the Buddhist Eightfold Path principles are vital for the modern human society. They need more attention on a global scale.
For the global peace and justice, understanding the significance of the Eightfold Path is necessary. It teaches us that peace comes from mind. Thousands of fighter planes, drones or bombs cannot bring peace. Can we cite a single example here? The world is being punished by anger. Ignorance, as Buddhism says, is the greatest enemy of human beings, who follow a wrong path seeking happiness. One wrong thought produces more wrong thoughts. One wrong action produces more wrong actions. One bad consequence produces another bad consequence to suffer. One negative reaction towards bad consequences produces more negative reactions. This is what the eightfold path teaches us.
Democracy fighters are depending on others for their liberation. They get money, arms and other training from others in the name of democracy. But Buddha taught us so long ago that we must depend on ourselves to work out our freedom while we co-exist with others for international freedom, fraternity and equality.
The transformation of human life must be the goal of politics. In clearer terms, criminalization of the society is not the goal of human politics. Buddhism can greatly help the human world think better and act better. American film actress Koo Stark reminds us, “Buddhism teaches you to embrace change.”
Finally, it would be advisable to examine the following famous quote of Buddha:
“Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.”