The rapid progress of modern life has unsettled the hearts and minds of human beings, creating anxiety and fear. With the mind and body plunged into state of imbalance and contradiction, conflict arises. In recent years, with people fearful yet helpless about the continuous terrorist attacks happening around the world, efforts towards advocating and establishing peace should be viewed seriously.
The search for peace is an extremely positive and meaningful endeavor. It does not manifest solely in man’s actions but is also concerned with protecting the environment as well as our consumption habits. These three aspects are interconnected. Human conflict has not only created chaos in the world but also destroyed the order of nature, resulting in frequent calamities such as hailstone, drought, typhoon and earthquakes.
Human gluttony and desire for delicacies have led to the slaughtering of animals. These actions cause the world to be filled harshness and cruelty, making it harder to achieve a state of peace. This in turn, affects the quality and the stability of life. To make matters worse, with the body and mind gripped by fear, the four elements (earth, fire, water, air) have turned topsy turvy, causing the world to sink into further chaos.
Therefore, how do we build “peace"?
First, inculcate peace as part of societal values and encourage sense of gratitude
We were born as humans and our lives would invariably journey through suffering, old age, illness, death. Amidst all these, there is also peace and kindness, hence leading to joy and gratitude. But how do we ensure kindness and peace prevail and not disappear? In my opinion, the key is to have gratitude and treat every situation with respect and tolerance.
After I first stepped onto Africa 20 years ago and witnessed its change and development, I realized the importance of maintaining peace. Why is Africa always portrayed as an uncivilized continent torn by conflict and impoverishment? This is simply due to the lack of peace resulting in the invasion of foreign powers and hence, causing its people to be thrown into an abyss of misery, hindering its development ever since.
After establishing Amitofo Care Centre (ACC) in Africa, I make every effort to advocate Buddhism and education as guiding principles of life, to promote a vegetarian diet to learn to respect all living beingsas well as to encourage respect for people with different views, of different skin colour, culture, gender, race and religion. This is to provide children who have come to ACC, a peaceful place for a well-rounded development of body and mind with hopes of cultivating a new generation of Africans who are filled with gratitude and who understands the preordained fate.
As we inculcating the values of caring for all children as one’s own and honouring elderly as we do for our own aged parents, we nurture the bodhi seed right from the beginning. Only when human beings are able to accept each other, will the conflicts cease and the influence of peace strengthens. Our soul will then mature and every one gathers strength. This is how benevolence is cultivated. In this way, all the creations on earth will be filled with gratitude and harmony, and we will then move closer to peace.
Second, promote peace through diet: vegetarianism and ecological co-dependency
The world is our mirror. The difficulties and conflicts that we encounter are reflective of our selves. A harmonious state can only be achieved when we start recognising and embracing the concept of co-dependency of living beings.
What is co-dependency of life? It is to acknowledge that all life is equal regardless of sentient beings or not. We have a choice when it comes to food. The impact of our choice of food does not simply extend to our own health.It ripples through all aspects of our lives and affects other creatures on earth. When we practice eating for spiritual health, we practice self cultivation and clear our heads and minds so as to achieve inner peace.
Commercialised meat production is horrifying.It upsets our inner spiritual balance, resulting in a loss of good karma. The current chaos and mental confusion of the world is due to our diet. Our food habits shape our mentality, and the society reflects its value system through its choice of food. Meat consumption has led us to disregard the suffering of others, not knowing that compassion lies on the basis of equality. In today’s world, there are hundreds of millions of people who are suffering from improper and excess diet and yet there are countless others who are dying of starvation.
Meanwhile, there are hundreds of millions of people who are suffering from diseases caused by diets that are high in fat and cholesterol. For every one pound of meat produced, sixteen pounds of grains are needed, when in fact simply a pound of grains is sufficient to produce a meal equivalent to that of a pound of meat. Therefore, by turning vegetarian, we free animals from confinement and torture; we lower our carbon and biological footprints as well as the levels of greenhouse gas emissions. By refusing meat, we contribute to the slowing of climate change, which is certainly much more purposeful than driving a limousine just to boast your material wealth. Abstaining from meat makes one feels better and increases one’s bond with other beautiful creatures on Earth.
We have been taught numerous myths such as animals do not feel and have no soul, and hence, they are just objects subject to our manipulation and exploitation for meat. It is essential to learn to respect other living beings. Removing animals from our menu is crucial for the future of this planet and our spiritual development. It eliminates enmity and conflicts. It is the pathway to peace.
Humans are social creatures. Our survival greatly depends on each other. How do we avoid conflicts to have peaceful and meaningful lives? Realising our interconnectedness with the other beings, I believe it is our responsibility to find peace through promoting gratitude and love. Whether we adjust our lifestyles to restorethe ecological balance or adopt a vegetarian diet to honour animals, these actions ultimately contribute to building of compassion. Bear in mind the teachings of Buddha, let religions “seek similarity in differences and unity in diversity”.Let us echo the values of truth, goodness and beauty in life. With concerted efforts, we can create a better future with lasting world peace.