Today, on account of selfishness and very many mundane desires in the individual, the world is passing through horrifying conditions. In my view, there are two causes of this state of affairs- in the one hand, leaders of developed countries think that to establish peace in the world they need to manufacture deadly missiles and atomic weapons, and the poorest of the poor countries, neglecting the daily needs of the people - such as food, clothing, shelter, education, and health -, waste their resources by taking the useless out-dated weapons from these developed countries and their outdated technology lying idle for years, and, in their turn, try to threaten and dominate nations weaker than themselves. Materialist and imperialist nations who have no background of a solid spiritual culture have contributed greatly to the instability and disturbance in the world. Are these developed countries not creating mischief everywhere in the world by manufacturing the most modem weapons?
On the other hand, there are the so-called gurus, saints, maulanas, fathers, who take it for granted that so long as the whole world does not take shelter in their own particular faith, peace cannot be established in the world; and as a result of this dogmatic belief they confer religious sanction to allurement, force, and even killing, for converting to their own faith those who are the upholders of a different faith; and thus, in the name of religion, they are encouraging violence, disturbance, and instability; while it is absolutely impossible that all people would become the followers of one and the same religion. When the founders of these religions, who were gods incarnated or His Messengers, or Great souls, could not make this possible, can todays so-called religious leaders do that? Doing that would be like trying to make the body- structures and the speech of all exactly similar to one's own; will it ever be possible? In the same way, can the mind, which is much subtler than the body and the speech, be made such that it would think the same thought?
Today religion has confined itself to erecting gorgeous temples, mosques etc., and to the performance of gross rituals. No one tries to understand the essence of religion. This is just like a gardener, with a delicate piece of cloth, trying to dust away the flowers and leaves on the branches, while he neglects the fact that its roots are drying up for want of water and manure; can the flower be protected in this way? The behaviour of today's so- called spiritual people is exactly like that. When, in this way, leaders of the nation who constitute the body, and the spiritual leaders who form the mind, have both fallen from the path of real peace, have degenerated, can we really hope for world-peace?
Materialists of the world need to think as to why, in spite of their having palacial buildings and not having any problem of food and clothing, thousands of people are internally distressed. Not only this, there are people who do not even know the exact details of their property spread all over the world, and yet they are engrossed in fear and are not free from worries. In spite of having everything, they feel lonely. And, on the other hand, there are the real bhiksus or sannyasins who have no material resources, and yet are peaceful and contented within. They have achieved everything in isolation; what is it that made this possible? In this context, I may cite an interesting episode: When the Greek emperor Alexander was marching with the retinue of his soldiers to conquer the world, he met an ascetic on the way to Takshashila. The soldiers tried to get him out of the way. But he did not give in. The emperor was surprised, and started talking to him. In the course of the conversation, the ascetic asked, "Where are you going with so many soldiers?" The Emperor said, "Jam going to conquer the world." The ascetic said, "What is the use of that, Emperor?" The emperor started laughing at the stupidity of the ascetic, and said, "If I conquer the world, I shall have a sound sleep, I could live peacefully. I shall have no fear of any kind from any thing." The ascetic started laughing at the stupidity of the emperor, and said, "Emperor, if you want peace, if you want happiness, and want to live a fear-free life, take this begging bowl and come along with me; you will get all peace, all happiness, what is the need of these soldiers and this paraphernalia? Fighting with others, having enmity with them, you will never get peace."
The greatest source of beauty and peace is the experience of the mind. This is the source of all things and experiences. One who is ignorant of this fact, and does not wish to know it, is as good as dead. This knowledge, this experience is the central point in all spirituality. A man bereft of spirituality is just like a prostitute who, in spite of accumulating immense wealth, cannot he a respectable person; a man who has no control over his mind, cannot be happy and peaceful, howsoever wealth he may possess.
The Tathagata has said that desire is the cause of birth in this world. And it, again, is the cause of sorrow. So long as there are desires, aversion, infatuation, attachment, egotism, and cunningness in man, how can he be happy? All the wars, oppressions, and injustices in the world are but expressions of man's perverted mind. Can the thought of war, oppression, and injustice express itself in action without first arising in the mind? Therefore, we should see to it that we always cultivate good habits. The great scientist Einstein also had once said that a tiny atomic power has the capacity to threaten the whole universe, but it cannot direct the human mind - such is the nature of our mind. Without religious and moral direction this mind cannot be controlled - Hence he used to say that just the knowledge of the physical world and the technological skills cannot help man to live a happy and worthwhile life - The place of those who practice moral standards is higher than that of those who seek objective material truth. In the history of humanity, spiritual teachers such as the Buddha have served humanity more than materialistic thinkers.
I may say briefly that the human personality is not limited just to the physical body, but it also includes the mind; we have to understand this fact. According to the Buddhist view, an individual is composed of five components - the panca-skandhas - (rupa,vedana, samjni, samskara, and vijnina). Of these, four components are psychological, while only one is physical or material - rupa. Therefore, in order to have peace it is absolutely necessary to maintain a balance between these two. If we confine ourselves to only material advance, we can never be peaceful and happy, and so also if we confine ourselves to spirituality alone. Hence neither should spiritual people look down upon material development, nor the materialists look down upon spirituality. Thus we shall have to concentrate on mind and thought. For example, when we feel heat we try to put on the fan or to do something else to relieve us, when we are hungry, we arrange for food, so that we become free from the pain of hunger. Have we similarly ever made an attempt to make ourselves free from the suffering of attachment, aversion, jealousy and so on? Have we ever tried to look within in order to discover its causes? And if we have not done that, how can we hope to be happy and peaceful? Just as we arrange for food, shelter, and clothing for our physical well-being, and spend our time and money on taking care of the body, do we do that for spirituality? Do we spend for spiritual development? Therefore, just as we become restless for getting bodily comforts, we should also be restless and eager for mental peace, and for that we should strive hard to do away with afflictions like attachment, aversion, and infatuation within us by cultivating compassion, right conduct, contemplation, and wisdom? Only then can we be really peaceful and happy. If the individual is at peace, the society also will certainly be at peace, because what is society but a collection of individuals? And the world is but a collection of many such societies. Thus, only when the individual is at peace, peace would be established in the whole world. So, for real world peace, we shall have to attain peace on the individual level. Peace cannot be established by rules and laws. Genuine peace would be possible only when we cultivate humane qualities like compassion.
Even though the Buddha, during his life-time, gave different teachings to different people according to their dispositions, tastes, and capacities, the central issue in all these teachings is to analyse the mind. This concise treatise called the Dhammapada is the essence of all the teachings given by the Tathagata. And it is lucid, clear, and easily comprehensible by all.
Dhammapada is an invaluable jewel-treatise in Pali literature. This is propagated in the Buddhist world in the same way as the Gita among the Hindus, the Bible among the Christians, and the Quran among the Muslims. Dhammapada contains in all 423 verses, which the Tathiigata taught from the time of his enlightenment upto his demise, to seekers of different dispositions and tastes, addressing to the issues that cropped up from time to time. After the demise of the Buddha, the organizers of Buddhist assemblies collected these verses and arranged them in different classes according to their subject-matter. The Dhammapada is composed of26 classes and 423 verses.
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