Discover the Buddhist Contribution to Humanity
Celebrating the 2550th Birth Anniversary of the Buddha
Learning from Buddha Sakyamuni:
Reconciling Confl ict and Promoting Social Stability
and World Peace Through Teaching

By Shi Chin Kung AM
October 7, 2006, General Conference Hall, UNESCO Headquarters, Paris

Respected delegates, leaders, guests, venerable masters from various countries, ladies and gentlemen:

“Infinitely profound and wondrous is the Dharma, which is extremely difficult to encounter in a myriad of eons. Today I get to
see, hear, receive, and practice it; I wish to perceive the unfathomable meaning from the Thus Come One.” [Opening verse to the sutras]

On this rare and wonderful occasion, the delegates from 191 countries around the world and I gather together to celebrate the 2550th birthday of the Buddha and to explore and learn from Buddhist contributions to humanity. Buddhist contributions to humanity refer to the Buddha’s devoting the rest of his life after his enlightenment to teaching all beings how to eliminate delusion and attain enlightenment, and to end suffering and attain happiness. He did this by lecturing on the Dharma at more
than 300 assemblies for forty-nine years.

I have studied Buddhism for fi fty-five years and have taught it for forty-eight years. Today, I would like to offer my humble opinions to everybody. The topic is “Celebrating Vesak.

Learning from Buddha Sakyamuni: Reconciling Conflict and Promoting Social Stability and World Peace Through Teaching.” Your comments are most respectfully welcome.

Desire for Selfish Gain Is the Origin of All Conflicts
In the past few years, after the tragedy of September 11th, 2001, the Australian Centre for Peace and Confl ict Studies at the University of Queensland, Australia, invited me to participate in a symposium at the university attended by professors from the centre. From the centre’s report, I learned that eight universities around the world have such centers for peace.

The Australian Centre for Peace and Confl ict Studies was established eight years ago and has made considerable contributions to research on resolving conflict and promoting peace. After the September 11th tragedy, however, those at
the centre underwent deep soul-searching and realized that the usual methods used in the past such as suppression, retaliation, cold war, and hot war, and so on. could not resolve conflict. They wondered about the feasibility of using only peaceful means to reconcile conflict and promote peace and stability. Thus, the chancellor of the university invited me to take
part in this symposium.

After I listened to the centre’s report on their research of the past few years, the chairman of the symposium asked me to make some recommendations. From the report, I realized that attempting to reconcile conflict is like a physician trying to cure an illness: it is essential to determine the cause of the illness to effectively cure the illness. Where is the root cause of conflict?

I proposed that the root cause lay in the family. A high divorce rate is a common social phenomenon in today’s world. This
phenomenon denotes confl ict between husband and wife. Within the family, there is also conflict between parents and children, and among siblings. In China, there are three generations of family members living together. In this kind of family, there is conflict between mothers and daughters-in-law. Various family problems are all causes of confl ict. When the family members leave home and interact with others, conflict will naturally occur.

Actually, the root cause of all conflicts does not lie in the family. Where is the real root cause of conflict? It lies in oneself. The Buddha said “Delusion is the root cause of suffering, while enlightenment is the source of happiness.” The conflict between one’s delusion from one’s habits and the awakened state of one’s true nature is really the root cause. Confucianism also holds that there is conflict between one’s nature and one’s acquired habits.

Why does conflict arise? Because one’s thoughts, speech, and behavior do not accord with the innate virtuousness of one’s nature. When one’s thoughts and behavior do not accord with one’s nature, conflict will arise. Why can’t one’s thoughts and behavior accord with one’s nature? If we look carefully, we will find that the origin of conflict is greed. Therefore, in the teaching of Buddha Sakyamuni, greed, anger, and ignorance are considered the root causes of confl ict and are called the Three Poisons. The most fundamental among the Three Poisons is greed—one’s greed for any form of selfi sh gain.

In today’s society, is there anyone who does not seek selfish gain? Mencius lived in the Warring States Period (372-289 BCE). When he had an audience with King Lianghui, the first thing the king said to him was, “Old man, you came to our state from afar. I think you must have recommendations that will yield benefi t to my state.” Mencius replied, “Your Majesty, why do you speak of benefitial gain? What I have for you is benevolence and justice, and that is all.” The meaning of Mencius’ words is very profound. People compete for and are greedy for selfish gain. Therefore, desire for selfish gain is really the origin of all conflicts.

To reconcile conflict, it is imperative to decrease and eventually let go of the desire for all selfish gain. The opposite of selfish gain is benevolence and justice, which is compassion (cibei) as taught in Buddhism. Benevolence is “ci”—helping all beings attain happiness and sacrificing oneself for others. Justice refers to helping all beings end suffering. It is equivalent to “bei”. Therefore, Buddhism advocates “Compassion is the essence, and expediency is the means,” while Confucianism teaches benevolence and justice. Although the words used are different, they convey the same meaning. Mencius’ method of solving a problem is exactly the same as that of the Buddha: they both start from the root causes.

From this, we realize that to resolve conflict and promote social stability and world peace, we have to stop competing for recognition and its gain, and actively promote the teaching of benevolence, justice, and compassion, a teaching that will help all beings attain enlightenment. This teaching is the same as the teaching of love taught in religion: God loves people. Through careful observation, we will really appreciate that all the great sages in every country throughout time and the founders of the major religions, who were all sages, had completely renounced selfish gain and greed, and had a pure mind. Therefore, they practiced what they taught and were able to teach others to practice. They exerted far-reaching influence during their times and on future generations.

Education Can Help Reconcile All Conflicts
Love is a virtue innate in our true nature. When we are loving, benevolent, just, and compassionate, we accord with our innate
virtues. To accord with our innate virtues will bring good consequences. Think about this carefully. One who accords with one’s innate virtues will surely love others and treat them benevolently, justly, and compassionately. How could such a person harm other people? On the contrary, competing for selfish gain will certainly lead to behavior that benefits oneself at the expense of others. If everyone has such a mentality, conflict among people will naturally arise. Therefore, suppression by force and retaliation cannot truly reconcile conflict or promote social stability and world peace. Neither can conferences.

What method can achieve reconciling conflict and promoting social stability and world peace? Sages of our world and Buddha Sakyamuni, all reached this goal through teaching. Confucius taught. Buddha Sakyamuni also taught most of his life. According to the sutras, he lectured on the Dharma at more than 300 assemblies. In other words, he held more than 300 courses in his entire life. As the students were different in each course, the objectives, methods, and course duration were also different. Long sutras, such as the Mahaprajnaparamita Sutra (Wisdom Sutra), are rich in content and are divided into many medium and small sections. They required several years of teaching.

Another example is the Avatamsaka Sutra. The Chinese version we have today comprises thirty-nine chapters, each of which is a big section that further comprises smaller sections. It also took a long time to teach it. This is just like running a school. The learning period of some of the students lasted four years, five, six, or even ten years. For other students, their learning period lasted three days, five days, one week, or one month. There were also many instances in which the teaching of the smallest
section lasted two to three hours in a day, which occurred when the Buddha directed his answers to particular students.

During his lifetime, Buddha Sakyamuni held more than 300 courses teaching big sections. His teaching was very rich in content. He began teaching at the age of thirty and passed away at seventy-nine. He spent forty-nine years teaching without interruption. We know that Confucius taught for only five years, and Jesus taught for three years before he was killed. Mohammad taught for twenty-seven years. Among the ancient and contemporary sages of all ethnic groups, Buddha Sakyamuni indeed was the one who taught for the longest period of time, and the content of his teaching was the richest. Therefore, the results of his teaching are outstanding. His life provides a good example for us. Only through education can we really reconcile all conflicts that are complicated and complex.

After I attended the symposium at the Australian Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, the university invited me to become an
honorary professor at the centre and encouraged me to attend, on behalf of the university and even Australia, international peace conferences. This is how I began participating in international peace conferences, and I have participated in eight so far. This peace conference that allows me to meet with you today is the ninth one. Of the previous eight conferences, five were hosted by UNESCO. After participating in so many conferences, I deeply feel that it is really hard to solve problems through conferences.

Looking back at the 5,000 years of history, we see that China never launched a war against its neighbors or occupied one inch of their land. There were changes in regimes and dynasties, but those were events within the country. China did not take the initiative in invading other countries. Therefore, many experts and scholars in the world agree that the Chinese are a peaceloving people.

Six hundred years ago, Zheng He led several fleets to explore overseas. They visited many countries, but wherever they went they did not colonize the land. Instead, they whole-heartedly helped the local people develop agriculture, handicrafts, and culture. That is the reason why Zheng He was held in high esteem by the local people and called Eunuch Sanbao. Today in Southeast Asia, there are still many places that have Zheng He temples, and many people still visit the temples and pay respect to him. This is a clear example. At that time, China was the most powerful country in the world, and the fleets led by Zheng He were the most powerful ones in the world. Why then didn’t they establish colonies? Why didn’t China have the thought of expanding its territory? What is the reason? Frankly, this is because of the teaching of Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism.

The Chinese Educational Ideas Are Developed from Love

Since ancient times, the Chinese way of thinking has been to accord with one’s nature and innate virtues. The Chinese call it the teaching of “daode lunli” [ethnic and morality] and the law of cause and effect. What is “daode” In today’s language, “dao” [the path] is the rules of nature, the order in which nature functions, and “nature is harmonious—supreme harmony.” “De” [virtue] is following the rules of nature. For example, a year is divided into the four seasons of spring, summer, autumn, and winter. This is a phenomenon of the rules of nature. This is “dao” [the path]. The natural path of virtue is called morality in Chinese. If one’s life and thinking (thinking belongs to the mental world, and body to the physical world) accord with the seasonal rules of planting in spring, growing in summer, harvesting in autumn, and storing in winter, one will enjoy good physical and mental health. Therefore, following the rules of nature and according with harmony are “de” [virtue]. If one violates the rules of nature and breaches harmony, one will certainly suffer from bad health and be prone to illness. So we have the definition of “daode”.

“Lunli” is ethics and it is also part of “dao” [the path]. It is following the rules of nature and according with harmony. The Five Morals, that between husband and wife, between parents and children, among siblings, between rulers and subjects, and among friends all are natural phenomena and the natural harmony of the universe. The nature of these relationships is not
created or invented by any particular individual. Therefore, the relationships among people are just the same as the rules of nature. The Five Morals are “dao” [the path], and to accord with the Five Morals is “de” [virtue].

To accord with these relationships, parents should love their children, and children should be filial to their parents; elder siblings should be friendly to younger siblings, and younger siblings should respect elder siblings; rulers should be benevolent to their subjects, and the subjects should be loyal to their rulers; husbands are responsible, and wives are attentive; elders are giving, and young ones are dutiful. These are called the Ten Honors. These ten kinds of harmony are “de” [virtue]. These are the standards for harmony that the Chinese ancestors taught for their descendents to follow.

The starting point and the noumenon of “daode” [moral] is love. Therefore, the starting point of Chinese moral concept is the affection between parents and children in the cardinal relationships. Affection refers to benevolence and justice in Confucianism, compassion in Buddhism, and “God loves people” in Western religions. The starting point is the natural affection between parents and children. This affection is the supreme harmony of nature with no conditions attached. Careful observation will tell us that when a baby is three or four months old, the love between it and its parents is apparent. The Chinese educational ideas come from this starting point.

Therefore, all these years we have been spreading love to the whole world. We agree that human na