The World Needs Buddha, Not War
| Bhikkhu Sanghasena, President, Mahabodhi Intl Meditation Center, Ladakh - 24 Jun 2020

Ominous Cloud of War Hanging Over the Beautiful Pangong Lake, Ladakh

"India and China cannot afford war. These two giant countries of Asia must come together to lead the world. This century is the century of Asia..."

Tensions in India and China are still high after the killing of 20 Indian soldiers in Galwan valley by the Chinese army. This happened in the year 2020, which was designated as the "Year of Cultural and People to people Exchanges between India & China."  The ominous Cloud of War is still hanging over the beautiful Pangong Lake in Ladakh. However, famous Buddhist monk Bhikkhu Sanghasena hopes that world's two great leaders PM Modi and President Xi Jinping, with their depth and breadth of vision, will be able to resolve the challenges and differences that currently exist. In this Exclusive article Bhikkhu Sanghasena reminds that “the greatest gift India has given to China is the gift of the Buddha's teachings of wisdom, compassion, peace and friendship, which still inform and guide the Chinese culture in both obvious and subtle ways -  

– Onkareshwar Pandey, Editor in Chief, Indian Observer Post Dot Com

By Bhikkhu Sanghasena

The past days and weeks have seen a deeply worrying escalation of tensions, unprecedented since 1962, on the disputed India- China border in the area of Pangong Lake, eastern Ladakh.

The current border tensions are not new to this 3,488km (2,167 miles) frontier between India and China, most of which remains hotly disputed and un-demarcated. That said, the de facto border has largely remained peaceful, aside from the sporadic scuffles and other minor confrontations that reportedly occur from time to time, usually when disoriented border patrols unexpectedly run into each other, throughout the course of any given year.

The current tensions, which seem far more threatening on this occasion, might have been triggered by infrastructure improvements and additions carried out by India along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), according to some analysts. Throughout the last decade, India has bolstered its existing border infrastructure, building new roads and establishing airbases, in remote Himalayan areas.

Now people are seriously talking about the possibility of war between India and China, with alarming troop buildups on both sides of the border.

Can India and China really afford another war though? Is war really the only possible solution to the border disputes that periodically strain the relations between these two mighty and historic nations?

The greatest threat to peace today is posed by those irresponsible and warmongering people who are convinced that violence is the only means of achieving peace. Others, meanwhile, believe that peace can only be attained through scientific and technological progress, trustworthy and independent legal structures, secure financial systems, and evenly distributed material abundance.

While our highly interconnected and interdependent, "globalised", world calls for mutual trust, respect and cooperation, there are some governments that have invested astronomical sums in acquiring more advanced military hardware and software, and ever larger stockpiles of weapons, intended for waging deadly wars that would, they argue, secure a peaceful world order.

This is utterly absurd! How could violence ever lead to non-violence? How could darkness ever dispel darkness? Violence is a most vicious circle. It leads to no end of suffering, trauma, and a deep-rooted bitterness that constantly cries out for bloody revenge. If militarisation and violence are in the ascendency, then societies, even those fully intent on realising peace and harmony, cannot ever be truly peaceful. The enlightened, and enlightening, words of the Buddha clearly stated this over 2,500 years ago:

Na hi verenaverani, sammantidhakudacanam

Averena ca sammanti, esadhammosanantano

Hatred never ceases through hatred in this world.

The Buddha

Through non-hatred, that is, loving-kindness (friendliness) alone it ceases.

This is an eternal law.

To engender peace, we must first and foremost realise that people are not mindless, mechanical bodies: they are governed by thoughts and emotions. Greed and hatred, which are the cause of so much conflict in the world today, are a direct manifestation of the pollution of mind. The preamble to the Constituition

of UNESCO states: "Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed." The Buddha made the same declaration more than 2,500 years ago, teaching that all things, both good and bad, wholesome and unwholesome, beneficial and harmful, originate in the mind. 1f the mind is pure, the world is pure; if the mind is beautiful, the world is beautiful; if the mind is at peace, the world is at peace.

Accordingly, if we want to manage, if not positively resolve, border disputes and conflicts, as well as other social, political and resource disputes and conflicts, then we must purge the evil thoughts in our minds that give rise to harmful actions.

There is the deluded thinking that peace can be achieved through the obvious expression of military power, economic power or technological power, usually in the form of some aggressive or warlike statement or behaviour.

Such delusion does not reflect the more profound truth that external aggression and war is merely a reflection of a misguided human mind. Why do human beings seem so incapable of creating outer, world peace through the cultivation and propagation of inner peace, through meditation and the many other timeless contemplative practices of the human spirit? By looking into the human mind, one comes to clearly see how everything begins and ends in the human mind.

At the very heart of the Buddha's teachings is the practice of observing, controlling, and purifying the mind. Through self-reflection, focusing on one's own mind, one can quell the evil thoughts that lie therein. While economic progress, medical advancements, and militarisation may bring a semblance of physical security, genuine peace -- mental and emotional well-being -- can only be achieved through spiritual growth. We must aim to promote spirituality through meditation, loving-kindness, and non-violence. In our quest for world peace, we must begin with transforming the hearts and minds of individuals, families, communities, regions and nations.

The prevailing, and rather small-minded, attitude of securing and protecting "my country", "my religion", "my race", "my colour" and so forth, without due consideration of, and concern for, the hopes, needs and wishes of others, must change! We must outgrow our childish fixation on the superficial differences that may apparently exist between us, and which all too easily and mpidly harden into the narrow views and poisonous ideologies we have all come to see over the years expressed through divisive politics, racism, nationalism, religious extremism, and so many other harmful forms of"-ism".

How can we enjoy a peaceful sleep when we hear the cries of people who are being tortured, burnt, murdered, and raped in our neighbourhood? How can we sit quietly, attempting to pray and meditate, while we hear the anguished voices of the dying men, women and children of our neighbouring house?

How can we remain secure and at peace within ourselves when we see tanks, warplanes and missiles, and thousands of soldiers and police armed with bullets, bombs and guns strapped to their bodies hastening all around, with their terrifying demands and dreadful threats? How can we sit relaxed, enjoying our breakfasts, lunches and dinners, when we hear the thunderous and devastating explosions of bombs and the cacophonous firing of guns?

Alas! We have not learnt the painful, yet so valuable, lessons from the inconsolable incidents of the First and Second World Wars! Dear friends, let us say: "Enough is enough", of these insanities. Let us bid farewell to the distressing follies of the misguided past. The past is gone, it is now but a memory, while the future will depend on our mode of living, thinking, and acting now, in the present. What we do, or fail to do, right now will determine the future of our country, and the world at large.

Let us conceive and perceive a new vision for the future of our country, and the world at large. Let us hold out our hands and open our hearts in loving-kindness and friendship, to join together to build a single, united, global family. Let us start new lives, let us build a new world, a world of human divinity!

Everything in this world is interconnected and interdependent. Scientific, technological, economic and trade developments in recent years have shrunken the world incredibly, and this "globalisation" across all spheres of life has only served to increase that interconnectedness and interdependency further.

Through globalisation, and by the very nature of increased interconnectedness and interdependence, one individual or community in one nation can no longer live in security, peace and harmony unless security, peace and harmony is also enjoyed by their neighbours.

Asia can no longer live in security, peace and harmony if there is no security, peace and harmony in Europe or America. America can no longer live in security, peace and harmony if there is no security, peace and harmony in Europe or Asia and so on. So, it has become a matter of great importance, and increasing urgency, for all people to expand their awareness and thinking beyond their traditionally localised views, to develop a deep appreciation of the "global family" and the "global village" we now inhabit.

It is high time that we, vulnerable human beings living on this fragile planet, fully recognise and collaboratively respond to the most serious, existential threats we are facing as a species today.

We must forget the madness of the past and develop an entirely new attitude and approach toward the world, creating a seamlessly integrated world union, in which everyone, all the diverse peoples and populations of the world, are rightly recognised as essential members of one united family -- the human family; as the Sanskrit phrase "Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam", so eloquently conveys, "The whole world is one family."

We are not different, not strangers, and not enemies of one another...we must all breathe the same air in order to survive. Every human being has an equal right to live on this planet. The sun, the moon, the sky, the air, the water and the mountains belong equally to all. No one group or nation has a monopoly on this planet and its life-sustaining resources.

The media, both mainstream and social, has an important and significant role to play in both cultivating and sharing a new, positive and bold vision for the world-that of a single "global family", living peacefully and harmoniously within a single "global village".

While many media companies can rightly be recognising for their positive role in presenting an accurate, informative and often highly insightful picture of the news and current affairs, there are others who seemingly revel in presenting issues quite differently, preferring to adopt sensationalist headlines, partial or skewed coverage, and an overtly aggressive and nationalistic agenda, propagating mistrust, antagonism and hate within and across communities, regions and nations.

Electronic media is particularly powerful in today’s highly connected world. Within a matter of seconds, news from anywhere in the world can be streamed live into the homes of billions without proper fact-checking or editorial scrutiny. With this new, and often invasive, reach, media companies must be increasingly vigilant, taking a more judicious and responsible attitude to what they allow to be broadcast so widely, particularly when it comes to difficult or sensitive issues.

Media companies must think much more deeply, particularly in tmlay's highly interconnected and interdependent world, about the possible consequences of what they choose to broadcast or publish, especially during times of political, economic and/or social crisis and upheaval, such as these.

Too many media companies seem to be blindly preoccupied with increasing their market share, boosting their viewer, reader or subscriber numbers, and opting for profits over responsibilities!

Too many of our media companies are broadcasting content that has not been adequately assessed and evaluated in terms of how it is likely to be interpreted and acted upon by those who consume it. There is an ethical dimension to everything they put out into the world, and thus there is no scope for content that is inaccurate, imbalanced and irresponsible. The truth should be paramount, with no place for ill-informed and ill-judged content intended to inflame and provoke rather than inform and educate.

Rather than encouraging peace, calm, trust and harmony in the world, too many media companies seem intent in whipping up a fury, hoping this will boost their ratings and advertising revenues. Broadcasting inflammatory reports that promote the notion of conflict and war, jingoistic images of a nation flexing its military muscles, with overt displays of weapons of mass destruction, is just simply wrong in today's increasingly integrated world, where international cooperation is needed, if not demanded, above all else.

It is easy for media commentators and executives to sit in the comfortable, and relatively secure, surroundings of a studio or editing suite and talk of conflict, violence and aggression, not fully appreciating the true horrors of such foolish endeavours. Surely, even the most basic reflection would stop them in their tracks!

A fully fledged nuclear war would likely lead to the extermination of all human life, and almost all other living things on this planet also! In Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, where the very frrst atomic bombs were dropped in 1945, even after 75 years, plants and trees do not grow properly, and the off-spring of humans and animals are born with severe physical defects at an alarming and disproportionately high rate. Thus, the devastating effects of war ripple on through time for decades and centuries afterwards.

With the intention of fostering a single "global family", living peacefully and harmoniously within a single "global village", media companies have a central role to play. Their obvious reach and seeming authority requires them to adopt a more positive and inclusive tone, promoting peace and harmony, building confidence and trust, within and across communities, regions and nations. If all media companies became powerful and positive advocates of peace, the world would certainly be a very different one!

The whole world is currently waging the greatest war of the modem era, against the novel Coronavirus strain COVID-19. The world is facing an unprecedented challenge due to the sudden outbreak and rapid spread of this deadly viral disease, which has ravaged the populations of so many countries around the world, irrespective of wealth, technological advancement or military might. The current COVID-19 pandemic is the largest single human catastrophe since Spanish flu brought the world to its knees in the wake of the First World War.

The COVID-19 pandemic has locked-down and crippled the whole world in an overwhelming and unprecedented manner. It has brought the entire world economy to a standstill and jeopardised the lives of millions of poor and marginalised people across our societies almost overnight.

The International Monetary Fund has described the economic decline resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic as being the worst since the Great Depression of the 1930's. It states that the pandemic has plunged the world into a "crisis like no other", with nearly 6 million people infected and having already claimed the lives of more than 379,941 people worldwide (as of3rd June 2020). And the numbers of both COVID-19 cases and the tragic death toll just keep increasing, day after day, with no sight in end. Millions have been forced out of their homes and onto the streets, now destitute, with no jobs and no proper shelter. Experts say, the Indian GDP is now expected to fall below zero this year! The United States of America, which is the richest and most powerful country in the world, alone has more than 30 million unemployed!

It is currently estimated that, even during peace times, an average of 5% of the world's annual GDP is directed to military spending, while it is estimated that about 40,000 children die of hunger or hunger-related diseases every day, and more than 700 million people in the world are malnourished.

Now we are competing in the production and deployment of nuclear weapons, which could all too easily lead to the destruction of the entire planet and all that we hold dear. In the past, wars were fought to win, but now, in this terrifying nuclear age, there will be no winners or losers, all of us will perish.

Under these circumstances, could India or China ever even conceive of engaging in any conventional military engagement, let alone a nuclear war?

War is not the solution to internal or international disputes! It cannot bring the peace, harmony and understanding that so many of us are looking for in life.

India and China are two of the oldest civilisations in existence, and benefit from the very finest and the richest of cultures in the world. Currently these two countries are also emerging as world economic superpowers. These two giant neighbouring states of Asia cannot conceivably think of war and of remaining enemies forever. This century is the century of Asia!

Given the whole world is passing through an unprecedented economic crisis and times of once unimaginable instability, India and China, these two giant nations of Asia, must seek to strengthen their bilateral cooperation and cultural relationship, and come together to lead the world. It is the time of Asia to lead the world with our ancient wisdom and widespread culture of peace.

India and China actually share a very deep and long-standing spiritual and cultural relationship, which can be built upon and used to foster increased cooperation in many other critical spheres, including trade, finance, politics, and humanitarian assistance.

The greatest gift India has given to China is the gift of the Buddha's teachings of wisdom, compassion, peace and friendship, which still inform and guide the Chinese culture in both obvious and subtle ways. Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping of China have designated 2020 as the "Year of Cultural and People to people Exchanges".

I am very confident that all issues, whether international borders or other matters, can be successfully resolved through peaceful dialogue and the establishment of mutual understanding.

Our Prime Minister Modi and President Xi Jinping are two of the world's great leaders, and as such I am confident that, with their depth of wisdom and breadth of vision, they will be able to work together constructively, to resolve the many challenges and differences of opinion that currently exist and the many challenges that will inevitably come out of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, our Prime Minister is a Karma Yogi-an embodiment of the ancient wisdom of India and an apostle of world peace.

 As is well known, Buddhism originated and flourished in India more than two and a half millennia ago, and from where it travelled the full length and breadth of the Asian continent. The Chinese people accepted the Buddha's teachings with great reverence and before long Buddhism became their main national religion.

The great pilgrims and missionaries Fa Hian, Zuan Zang and Itsing from China, and the Great Zen master Bodhidharma from South India, travelled far and wide carrying the sublime teachings of the Buddha into each other's countries, and thus further strengthened the relationship between the two countries.

By carrying and sharing the sublime Buddha Dharma to the Chinese people, they opened up a new horizon of spiritual relations between India and China. The prolonged visits of these teachers to their neighbouring countries, that is the Chinese to India and the Indians to China, served as powerful symbols and instruments of shared peace and common wisdom, and marked the beginning of the religious and cultural exchanges that took place between the two great civilizations of India and China, enabling both countries to enjoy deep religious and spiritual fellowship for many centuries.

Fa Hian (Fifth century A.D.), Zuan Zang (Seventh century A.D.) and Bodhidharma belong to the pantheon of great spiritual masters, practitioners and important documenters of social and religious history.

Zuan Zang arrived in India in 630 CE after the arduous journey across central Asia. He spent fourteen years visiting Buddhist temples and monasteries, cities and places of interest in the Indian subcontinent, leaving behind a fascinating and authentic account of the Indian history, geography, economy and society of that time.

While Bodhidharma arrived in China in 526 A.D. and was received at Nanking by Liang Wu-ti, the emperor of South China, the discussion he is believed to have had with the emperor is historical and briefly reproduced here. The emperor asked what is meant by Dhamma in the true sense.

Bodhidharma replied: "It consists of purity and enlightenment, completeness and depth, as such, cannot be acquired by worldly means." The emperor then asked: "Which is the most important concept of the sacred doctrine?" Budhidharma replied: "Everything is insubstantial and impermanent''-- the central concept of Emptiness (or Sunyata). The Japanese Zen tradition arising out of this deep philosophical concept. Bodhidharma himself laid stress on meditation, by which alone enlightenment could be attained. Today, Buddhist meditation is popular all over the world.

We should draw wisdom from our ancient civilisations, exploring the constructive ways and means by which we can move forward together, as powerful neighbours with very similar hopes, ambitions and wishes for our people, cementing a positive and flourishing future relationship focused on "enhancing mutual trust, promoting cooperation, managing differences, and striving for common development''.

The spiritual and cultural relationship between India and China is much deeper, longer-standing, and so much more important than the relatively petty enmities created by border disputes and conflicts.

Surrendering the option of war is not a sign of weakness; it is a supremely powerful expression of wisdom and compassion, expressing deep care and concern for the happiness and well-being of the people.

Protecting lives is superior to Killing.

Image Courtesy –Bhikkhu Sanghasena with PM Modi – Courtesy-

Venerable Bhikkhu Sanghasena – Courtesy - YouTube / Bhikkhu Sanghasena 


Bhikkhu Sanghasena is founder President, Mahabodhi International Meditation Center, Leh, Ladakh;  Introduced Vipassana Meditation and Yoga in Ladakh more than 35 years back;  Vigorously promoting Meditation and Yoga for physical, mental, spiritual, and social health and happiness and world peace; Also the Founder of Save the Himalaya Foundation (SHF), New Delhi, the Foundation for Indian Buddhists (FIB), N. Delhi; the Mahakaruna Foundation, N.Delhi, Ladakh Think Tank Forum, Leh, Ladakh.

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