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Mindful Development

Posted by Chan Phap Ho at May 08, 2011 04:58 AM |
a message from Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh to the 8th United Nation International Vesak Conference 2011

In which way should our society develop, economically and socially, so that we can touch interbeing, the interconnectedness of all on this planet – cultures and governments, continents and nations, earth and sky, plants and animals, students and teachers, and fathers and sons?

How can we guide the next generation of young people to a world that is more sane and healthy – bodily, emotionally, and spiritually?

What teachings and practices of Buddhism can help us find true happiness and freedom, and handle and deal with our current social and economical state?

We congratulate the Buddhist Supreme Sangha Council and all the participants and organizers of the 8th UNDV conference, for gathering as a community to celebrate and enjoy our togetherness and to build brotherhood and sisterhood. It is our conviction that the Buddhist teachings and practices can make a major contribution towards a global spirituality and ethic that can guide humanity in this critical moment.

With the various crises we are witnessing in different parts of the world, it is clear that the era of independent nations with borders and separate interests is gradually coming to a close; that the suffering and pain of one nation is fundamentally linked to and is shared by the hearts of people of all nations; that the instability and depression of another nation affects the prosperity and security of peoples all over the planet. In our present time and place, it is clear that social and economic development and all the challenges that come with it are no longer individual matters.

But we are not without hope. The problems that confront our planet and our humanity – environmental tension, social and family dysfunction, economic instability, and political unrest – give us an opportunity to pause, recognize, re-examine the sources of our suffering, and find a path that can lead us towards a brighter future and to an even brighter present. This is the basic formula that the Buddha used during his own lifetime to guide his fellow beings to tend to their suffering. This basic formula can help guide us now, to our own salvation. The three distinctively Buddhist virtues of mindfulness, concentration, and insight can lead us to this salvation. Applied appropriately and skillfully, they can help us discover a global ethic and a mindful way of living that can guide the development of our society towards a more sane and healthy direction.

We must find ways to apply the Buddhist teachings – namely, the practice of mindfulness, the teachings on suffering and well-being, the wisdom of inter-being and non-discrimination, the Five Mindfulness Trainings (5 Precepts-see attached), and the teachings on the Four Nutriments – so that our society can become more mindful in its production and consumption; so that companies and individuals can produce less toxic waste that harms our collective minds and the environment, and can consume less and in a way that nourishes our body and heart. We as individuals and as nations should apply the Buddhist teachings of moderation, of knowing that we already have enough.

In the intimacy of our homes, fathers and sons apply the teachings so they can have more time and be more present for one another (rather than for their computer screens), and can restore communication by learning to listen deeply and speak more lovingly.

In the sterile classrooms and cold halls of our institutions, teachers and students can learn ways to support one another as in the warm atmosphere of the family, to be less stressful, to relax and handle their feelings and emotions, and to apply themselves in a direction that is meaningful and wholesome – graduating young people not just for the work-force of a capitalistic machine, but for a kinder and freer generation who cooperate more than compete.

In power oriented offices of companies and governmental workplaces, colleagues and fellow workers can serve more mindfully, building brotherhood and sisterhood, nourishing their compassion and generosity, and guiding our society in the direction of true happiness and reconciliation.

In our modern times, as we look for models of development in the ten directions, freedom to develop is highly prized and sought after, but at what price to our young ones and our fragile environment and at what cost to our individual and collective body and consciousness. It is never too late to pause and reflect and to find practices that can bring responsibility and ethical behaviors back into our society, our governments, into our families, and our lives.

With love and trust,

Thích Nhât Hạnh

Comments (1)

Larry Berkelhammer Feb 20, 2012 04:37 AM
Personal change = social change
William Stewart, MD, the founder of the Institute for Health and Healing at California Pacific Medical Center pointed out: "In a collective context, lasting social change often requires deep personal transformation." Gandhi is a perfect example of the power of deep personal transformation to catalyze global social change. Sri Aurobindo: "If you want to change the world, first change yourself. And when you are changed, truly changed, everything around you will be changed."