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World Peace Through Buddhist Philosophy

Bhante Gunaratana, Bhavana Society Forest Monastery, High View, WV, USA


            The Buddha as a realistic physician diagnosed that we are sick. He found the cause of our sickness. He found that it can be cured. Then he found the most effective medicine cure us.

His diagnosis:


1. His diagnosis is that there is suffering. This is Our Common denominator.

 Born with a Cry:

            As we grow, the cry with which we first greeted the world becomes less audible. We might say that it changes to an inward cry that continues for the rest of our lives. We cry for so many gallons of milk; so many tons of food; so many yards of clothes; so many square feet of land for housing, schools, roads, and hospitals; so many trees for making books, papers, furniture; so many pills for various sickness; so many people to love us; so many ways to try to fill our neediness. If we had not been born into this suffering world, all other kinds of suffering would not come into existence. With every baby, it seems, suffering, too, is born.


2. He found the cause of our suffering:

            Our sickness is caused by three kinds of poison, namely greed, hatred and delusion. As long as three poisons keep threatening our lives we are not in peace. These three poisons divide us into various categories—black, white, superior, inferior, high, low, etc. We are obsessed by these three poisons that we forget that we all have one common denominator called suffering.


3. He found that suffering can be brought to an end. We should begin minimizing it to have world peace.


4. Finally, He Recommended Eight-step Treatment:
Greed: Practice Generosity:

            Greed is one poison that causes our suffering.  The way to eliminate this poison from our mind is the practice of generosity. Only the wise know the benefit of sharing.  Sharing makes you peaceful. Sharing is a habit developed from our childhood. When I was about 10 years old I was going on a bus. Then a beggar came on board from the front door and walked in the isle all the way to the end of the isle stretching his hand to each passenger asking them to give him a penny. Nobody gave him even one penny. Getting off from the back door of the bus he said: “What to do? I have the habit of begging. None of these people have the habit of giving.”

Hatred: Practice Metta Meditation:
Man Frowned at Me:

            Here is how my delusion disappeared through my practice of meditation on Metta. Our meditation center is in the hills of the West Virginia countryside. When we first opened our center, there was a man down the road who was very unfriendly. I take a long walk every day.  Whenever I saw this man, I would wave to him.  He would just frown at me and look away.  Even so, I would always wave and think kindly of him, sending him loving-friendliness. I was not disappointed by his attitude.  I never gave up on him.  Whenever I saw him, I waved just as I do with other people.  After about a year, his behavior changed.  He stopped frowning.  I felt wonderful.  The practice of loving-friendliness was bearing fruit.

            After another year, when I passed him on my walk, something miraculous happened.  He drove past me and lifted one finger off the steering wheel.  Again, I thought, “Oh, this is wonderful.  Loving-friendliness is working.”  Another year passed.  Day after day, when I took my walk, I would wave to him and wish him well.  The third year, he lifted two fingers in my direction.  Then the next year, he lifted all four fingers off the wheel.  More time passed.  One day I was walking down the road as he turned into his driveway.  He took his hand off the steering wheel, stuck it out the window and waved to me.

            One day, not long after, I saw him parked on the side of one of the forest roads.  He was sitting in the driver’s seat smoking a cigarette.  I went over to him and started talking.  First, we chatted just about the weather and then, little by little, his story unfolded.  It turns out that he had been in a terrible accident.  A tree had fallen on his truck.  Almost every bone in his body was broken.  He had been in a coma.  When I first started seeing him on the road, he was only beginning to recover.  He did not refrain from waving because he was a mean person.  He did not wave because he could not move all his fingers.  Had I given up on him I would never have known how good this man is. One day, when I had been away on a trip, he actually came by our center looking for me.  He was worried because he hadn’t seen me walking in a while.  Now we are friends.

            Loving-friendliness is a very powerful force to transform suffering, fear, and insecurity caused by hatred.  It is the most powerful force in the world. We are all born with the root of loving-friendliness.  We all have the capacity for loving-friendliness, which in fact is the real message of the Buddha.  You can see it everywhere in the Buddha’s teachings.         

However, eternal happiness and peace come from letting go of poison of greed.    

My Poland Experience:

            At first, you may notice your resistance to this practice.  Once I was invited to conduct a retreat in Poland. The person who invited me asked me what meditation I teach. I said I teach Insight meditation, and concentration meditation. Then she asked me

“Do you teach loving-friendliness meditation?” 

“Yes”, I said.

“I hate loving-friendliness meditation.” She said,

Perhaps, the practice seemed forced to her.  Perhaps she could not bring herself to feel these kinds of thoughts.   Because of experiences in your own life, it may be easier to feel loving friendliness for some people than others.  Children quite naturally bring out our feelings of loving friendliness.  With others, it may be more difficult.  Watch these habits in your mind.  Learn to recognize your negative emotions and start to break them down.  With mindfulness, little by little you can change your responses.

Letter from prisoners:

            Over the years, I have received many letters from prisoners who are seeking to learn the dhamma.  Some have done things, even murder.  They see things differently now and want to change their lives.  There was one letter that was particularly insightful and deeply touched my heart.  In it, the writer described how the other inmates shouted and jeered whenever the guard appeared.  The inmate tried to explain to the others that this guard was also human being.  But, the others were blinded by hatred.  All they could see, he said, was the uniform, not the man inside it.  Hate begets hate.

All the Four Brahmavihāras bring Peace in your mind:

            With this mindfulness of loving friendliness, with this compassion for all living beings you appreciate whatever you have, you experience appreciation of whatever others enjoy, you feel extremely grateful to everything you have received from everybody. No thoughts of hatred find room in your mind. All you experience is nothing but peace.

            This calm, cool and refreshing joyful and friendly feeling makes your mind and body calm, relax and peaceful. When the mind is calm, relax, and peaceful you feel serene, tranquil more peaceful state of mind. You are very satisfied. Your fever of anger is subsided. Fever of lust is subsided. Fever of delusion is subsided. Fever of grief, pain, sorrow, lamentation and despair is subsided. You don’t feel the burning of jealousy, fear, tension, anxiety, and worry. You begin to feel safe and secure.  Although you have not achieved your final goal as yet, you have at least temporary peace and happy state of mind at this level.

Delusion: Practice Mindfulness Meditation:

            Unclean state of mind we cannot minimize and eliminate world’s problems. Whatever decision we make with impure state of mind will result in having more problems and increase world’s problems. We should clean our own minds to do justice to the world’s problems. When we practice mindfulness meditation we become wise to make wise decision to bring peace to the world.

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