According to the Agganna Sutta, the evolution of the world, the appearance of greed and moral degradation caused the environment to decline. With each successive moral decline, the beings and their environment devolved presenting an increasing challenge to feeding themselves.
by Ven. Aggamaha Pandita Dr. Walpola Piyananda
( December 31, 2017, Los Angeles, Sri Lanka Guardian) In recent years, more and more people in Sri Lanka have been affected by drought, floods, landslides, and countless other varieties of natural disasters. Of course, climate change is wreaking havoc all across the globe. The punishment inflicted on the natural environment by human beings is, like anything else, subject to the law of kamma. There is cause; there is effect.
The Buddha spoke of the effects of not taking good care of the environment, which includes its living beings: “Bhikkhus, when kings are unrighteous, the royal vassals become unrighteous…. (Likewise) Brahmins and householders…people of the towns and countryside… …The sun and moon proceed off course, the constellations and stars… day and night…seasons and years blow off course….” He goes on to point out how this affects rainfall, and therefore crops, and therefore food supply.
As I wrote in my book Away from L.A., the Buddha’s intention was to eradicate human suffering, so it stands to reason that he would speak about the natural environment and our close relationship with it. According to the Agganna Sutta, the evolution of the world, the appearance of greed and moral degradation caused the environment to decline. With each successive moral decline, the beings and their environment devolved presenting an increasing challenge to feeding themselves.
For a country to be happy, it must have a just government. How this could be realized is explained by the Buddha in his teaching of the “Ten Duties of the King.” Of course this teaching is applicable to “Governments” and therefore, applies today to all who constitute the government. The first of these duties is liberality, generosity, and charity; the wealth and property should be used for the welfare of the people. The second is that those in government should have high moral character, at least observing the Five Precepts of a layman. Third, he should be prepared to give up all personal comfort, name and fame in the interest of the people. Fourth honesty and integrity is important; he must be free from fear or favor in the discharge of his duties. He must be sincere in his intentions, and must not deceive the public. Fifth, he should possess a genial temperament; to be kind and gentle. Sixth: He must have self-control; not indulging in a life of luxury. Seventh: He should be free from hatred, ill-will, enmity and not bear a grudge against anybody. Eight: Non-violence is important; he should try to promote peace through the avoidance and prevention of war and everything which involves violence and the destruction of life. Ninth: He must be able to bear hardships, difficulties and insults without losing his temper with patience, forbearance, toleration and understanding. And finally ten; he should not oppose the will of the people, should not obstruct measures that are conducive to the welfare of the people. In other words, he should rule in harmony with his people.
As the leading Theravada country in the world, Sri Lanka should be the embodiment of the Buddha’s basic instructions for the living, viz. the four Brahma Viharas, known in English as Lovingkindness (metta), Compassion (karuna), Appreciative Joy (mudita), and Equanimity (upekkha). Successive governments in the history of our country have been sometimes more observant of these principles, sometimes less observant. But the last few years, the rampant disregard of these principles has become critical, to a point where those of us who love our country cannot keep silent about it.
In Western psychology, there is a disease of character known as sadism, where one derives pleasure from the infliction of evil. Unfortunately, this is the current state of affairs in Sri Lanka under the current government. Three years after taking office, the government is still devoting countless resources to avenging perceived slights or offenses. As soon as the government came into power a secret police unit was established with some officers loyal to current regime. Their ultimate goal was to go after political opponents in a vindictive manner; detaining and questioning them using unprofessional tactics. The secret police unit, FCID hunts its perceived enemies even abroad.
Not only had they detained the politicians that didn’t support current regime but also the government officers who had worked with past ministers. It is ironic that the FCID unit has become an obstacle to government’s day to day activities. High ranking government bureaucrats are now reluctant to perform routine duties fearing that someday they too will be called by FCID. Because of this, most of the allocated budgets for ministries are unspent. It is correct to state that the FCID has boomeranged on the people who formed it.
Let me tell you a little story about the Wolf and the Lamb, a tale from Ancient Greece by Aesop in which the wolf reminds me of the FCID.
A wolf was drinking at a spring on a hillside. On looking up he saw a lamb just beginning to drink lower down. “There’s my supper,” thought he, “if only I can find some excuse to seize.” He called out to the lamb, “how dare you muddle my drinking water!”
“No,” said the lamb, “if the water is muddy of there, I cannot be the cause of it, for it runs down from you to me.”
“Well, then,” said the wolf, “why did you call me bad names this time last year?”
“That cannot be,” said the lamb, “I am only six months old.”
“I don’t care, snarled the wolf, “if it was not you, it was your father,” and with that he rushed upon the poor little lamb and ate her all up.
What does this have to do Sri Lanka? This current government devotes itself of its attachment to past perceived slights, instead of devoting itself to improving the country by addressing our numerous problems. These people are indeed sadists, and will face something like the “10 states” as explained by the Buddha in the Dhammapada, 137-140.
”He who inflicts punishment upon those who do not deserve it, and hurts those who are harmless, such a person will soon come to face one of these ten states: he may soon come to terrible pain, great deprivations, physical injury, deep-rooted ailment or mental disorder, the wrath of the monarch or a dreadful accusation, loss of relatives, the complete destruction of wealth, or a sudden fire may break out and burn his houses. After the dissolution of his physical body, he will surely be born in hell.”
This is a waste of time, energy and resources. It is antagonistic to all our common goals of wanting a better country with a stable, democratic government that represents all the people, and which, out of love for the motherland, want to develop it. I appeal to the government to come to its senses and serve the country by doing the job for which you were elected.
( The writer is the Chief Sangha Nayake of America )