A WEEK OF VESAK THINKING
Bhikkhu Professor Dhammavihari
A Thought for the Day - 3
By the benevolence of the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha, may all beings be well and happy. Today we pick up the second of the pa¤ca-sãla precepts, namely adinnàdànà-veramaõã, for a closer study. Formulated well over twenty-five centuries ago, it more than anticipates the second of the Fundamental Human Rights. Both endeavour to safeguard a person's possessions. The precept adinnàdànà-veramaõã precisely insists on the legitimacy of the ownership of such possessions. A Commentarial note on it says that 'In the acquisition of private propriety there shall be no violation of state law'. This is specified as adaõóàraho. Such acquisition shall also not be questionable under good public opinion. They call this ananuvajjo.
In committing an act of theft, one is described in Buddhism as dispossessing another of his legitimately acquired property, whether it is a bunch of bananas in the garden or a television set inside the house. What is interesting is that in Buddhism, such possessions are viewed as the source of one's pleasure in one's life or tuññhi-jananakaü. Legally, it is the legitimacy of acquisition which entitles a person to own and possess. Even in the absence of a law-enforcement authority, or its becoming defunct as we witness all around today, a high level of morality would frown upon theft. Buddhism expects this from society.
So it was in Sri Lanka in and around the year 1200. A young girl could walk from one part of this little island to another further away, all by herself, and a with a precious jewel in her hand, without any harassment, sexual or otherwise. There was no moral anarchy in the country and no beasts freely roamed the land then. What is it then today? Is anybody accountable for anything that happens, anywhere? In the homes, in the schols, in offices, or in the streets? Where is prosecution, where is punishment?
These are things to which we as a country or nation, need to awaken, rudely or otherwise, as a new millennium is seen round the corner. On the contrary, monuments large and small, in metal and in stone, i.e. statues to the memory of people, keep competitively shooting up in street corners day after day. People clearly know what each one of them stands for, even in their silence. Statues of gun-wielding soldiers, stand much higher than the rest, almost at every roundabout in the land, ironically blowing out the message of peace or perhaps our military might.
At this time of the century, with just only seven more months to wind up, and as the new millennium keeps amorously winking at us, let us muster all our resources at hand to restore law and order here. In the name of all religions whose messages we deliver without fail at the break of dawn every day, let us identify the villain of crime in this country, crimes of sex, and drugs and anything else perverse, and band ourselves to fight him. Let us not forget that in the survival of crime, all of us men, women and children will all perish. If what is morality has any meaning in any body's head, nothing shall prevent people of all religions, of diverse ethnic communities and of all heterogeneous political groupings, to gather themselves together for this single worthy purpose. We are with you.
Let it be known that sensible people in many countries abroad band themselves together to watch the interests of the neighborhood in which they live. They mark out a segment of their area of residence and declare it a Neighborhood Watch Area. Signboards on road sides show groups of people of diverse identities - of blacks and whites, of men, women and children of all age groups and even of uniformed officers - uniting for this purpose.
They collectively guard the area, keeping an eye on the movable and immovable property of the residents, dispersing trouble makers who hang around, and informing the police by telephone of suspicious characters in the neighbourhood and their questionable behaviour.
To do this successfully we need to restore into our country the feeling of neighbourly love and friendliness. The idea of the multi-ethnic, multi-religious community must be retrieved and re-established. Learn from Bosnia and Albania and other devastated countries of the world where such hostilities have existed on a very much larger scale and stretches over a much longer period. Statistics from these areas which we download from the internet from time to time are staggering and well and truly revealing with regard to motivations behind these murderous ventures.
We do seriously hope that in this lovely season of Vesak when we think of the Buddha as the Lord of Peace whose message of universal friendliness or maitrã shall bring to mankind lasting peace and security, we shall in this island country endeavour to do a great deal more to weld together a nation of peace loving Sri Lankans, inspite of our differences of ethnic and religious diffrenecs.
May all beings be well and happy. May there be peace on earth and goodwill among men.