Towards Establishing a Global Buddhist Media Network: Challenges and Opportunities

Over and above the foregoing cogent factors, it is to be appreciated that, from the perspective of an individual, the Buddha’s Sublime Teaching encompasses a tried and tested path for anyone to achieve success, well being, happiness and inner peace.


 

SL GUARDIAN ESSAY LONG READ


by G. K. Ananda Kumarasiri

( January 26, 2018, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Many cogent reasons may be proffered for setting up a Buddhist Media Network on a global footing. An outline of these considerations would lay thread bear its significance to not only the Buddhist fraternity, but also to others who are interested to live a wholesome life and flourish as a human being. An underlying cogent reason for establishing such a Buddhist network is the strong belief that the Sublime Teaching of the Buddha offers an effective holistic framework for addressing serious global crises besetting humankind today. Indeed, a sophisticated Global Buddhist Network is especially wanting in light of the proven relevance of the Sublime Teaching of the Buddha in meeting, both the spiritual aspirations and mundane challenges confronting contemporary society. More specifically, it can most certainly play a pivotal role in actualising the targets identified under the rubric of the United Nations Development Goals which the international community of nations is beset. These include challenges such as environmental degradation and the consequent catastrophic repercussions of climate change, gender, fortification and strengthening of society’s twin pillars of marriage and family, the terrifying drug abuse, HIV/AIDS (human immunodeficiency virus and acquired immune deficiency syndrome), and the imperative of holistic education because of the failure of modern day secular mass education systems around the world.

Moreover, the Buddha’s Sublime Teaching can be gainfully applied in daily life by anyone, regardless of her or his religious beliefs, cultural background, ethnicity, gender, traditions, social status and station in life or any other distinction. These characteristic criteria of the Buddha Dhamma’s universal relevance, that has amply been reinforced by modern scientific validation bespeak of the imperative for all humankind to avail the wholesome benefits to be derived from a Right Understanding and diligent practice of the Buddha’s Teaching. The source of Insight Wisdom embedded in the Buddha Dhamma, which can be availed by anyone for free, deserves to be disseminated globally. The establishment of the long overdue Global Buddhist Media Network would eminently serve this noble goal aimed at benefitting all humankind.

 

The urgency to establish a Global Buddhist Network is impelled by a number of other equally pertinent considerations. Aside from pernicious bigotry, prejudice, anger, hatred, fear and other negative emotions, the world today is witnessing unrelenting tragic destructions of sacred religious sites, monuments and rich cultural heritages. Such horrifying sacrileges have been particularly evidenced in West Asia, South Asia and Southeast Asia. Regrettably the insane acts are being fast aped by religious bigots as a calling that is sanctified by their religion. This is especially so in societies where understanding, moderation, tolerance, mutual respect, harmony, peace and other wholesome human values are perilously fragile, even completely bereft. More than ever before in the history of humankind, there is a great need to promote a mental self-culture of embracing pluralism, diversity, multiculturalism and inter-religious understanding among peoples. As outlined in my recent book, “Symbols and Symbolism: Embrace Multiculturalism”, the Buddha’s universally applicable Sublime Teaching presents an effective framework for cultivating the desperately wanting wholesome mental self-culture towards this end. A Global Buddhist Media Network would most certainly contribute profoundly towards acculturating the essential wholesome mental self-culture across the world.


The plain truth, however, is that most people do not know exactly how to achieve these and other wholesome goals in life.


Over and above the foregoing cogent factors, it is to be appreciated that, from the perspective of an individual, the Buddha’s Sublime Teaching encompasses a tried and tested path for anyone to achieve success, wellbeing, happiness and inner peace. It is an undeniable fact that people all around the world want to be successful, to live a healthy happy life and to be at peace with themselves and the world around them. They want to enjoy a happy marriage, experience a wholesome family life and bring up well-groomed flourishing children.

The plain truth, however, is that most people do not know exactly how to achieve these and other wholesome goals in life. Many are taught to seek supplication from an Omnipresent, Omniscient, Omnipotent Supreme External Being or Power as the one and only way to achieve their life goals. They thus fail to understand that they are the very architects of their happiness and suffering. They do not realise that they are the very ones who are totally responsible for all their thoughts, speech and deeds. As a consequence, they end up thoroughly frustrated in failing to actualise their aspirations.

On the other hand, the Buddha underlined the cultivation of a wholesome mental self-culture as paramount for actualising success, wellbeing, lasting happiness and inner peace instead of depending on an unseen external Almighty Being. His Sublime Teaching provides a holistic framework for the spiritual uplift as well as a comprehensive guideline for a person to live a wholesome, fulfilling, happy life enveloped with the bliss of contentment and inner peace.

As captains of their individual noble aspirations in life, what is really required is a Right Understanding of themselves as human beings and of the realities of life and Nature, as explicitly taught by the Buddha. These and other universal realities that the Supreme Self-enlightened Buddha taught apply to all human beings, irrespective of their individual background or profile. This is to be constantly reinforced by cultivating a wholesome mental self-culture through Bhavana or Mindfulness meditation practice. The wholesome mental self-culture that is nurtured and constantly reinforced through meditation practice, progressively would become second nature that would then ensure a wholesome fulfilling life. Out of compassion for humankind, it is incumbent upon Buddhist organisations and institutions to guide as many fellow human beings, through the proposed global media network, to be constantly mindful of these and other critical teachings of the Buddha.

Yet another cogent consideration is that today many people opt to seek the help of life-coachers or personal self-development gurus for hefty fees to resolve their problems and issues or to achieve success in life, instead of cultivating a wholesome mental culture. This is most unfortunate because the so called self-discovered “SECRET” such as the Law of Attraction, which these life-coaches claim is vital for their clients to achieve success, is highly suspect. Little do the gullible clients realise that these aggressively marketed life training programs incorporate a number of the Buddha’s Teaching, albeit rebottled with the flavour of modern jargon and presented as their very own profound discoveries or exclusively possessed hidden “SECRET” wisdom.


The Buddha underlined the cultivation of a wholesome mental self-culture as paramount for actualising success, wellbeing, lasting happiness and inner peace instead of depending on an unseen external Almighty Being.


There is, however, a very significant difference of their life coaching programs in comparison to the Buddha’s holistic framework for actualising excellence and abundance in one’s life. A number of important elements in life such as wellbeing, happiness and inner peace which are entrenched in the Buddha’s Sublime Teaching are strikingly absent in their life-coaching programs. For example, the successes that the life-coaches promote are limited to achieving material gains. In essence, the programs are driven along monetary lines such as the creation of new capacities to earn higher incomes and the accumulation of great wealth within a short period of time.

As a result, most of those who follow these get-rich-quick life coaching programs ultimately get disillusioned as they discover that they neither provide holistic nor durable life-solutions. They eventually realise that even if they were to earn extra-ordinary wealth and other materialistic gains, this is not everything in life. It dawns on them that wealth and riches is not the be all and end all in life. That all the money they amass cannot buy them wellbeing, happiness and inner peace. They thus earn to find a more holistic way living and to flourish in life in ways that extends beyond merely amassing greater wealth.

Photo by Tharinda Elvitigala

Another underlying reason for their malaise is because the life-coaching programs do not include the prerequisite of understanding what exactly they constitute as human beings. A thorough understanding of what exactly we constitute as human beings is a prerequisite for optimising our innate talents and skills. In other words, as stressed in the Buddha’s Teaching, we need to firstly understand what we are and who we are as human beings if we wish to live a meaningful life of abundance. Significantly, the Buddha referred to a human being as manusia. That is, a being which has a mano or mana (mind), which can be developed to its highest potential and that they are symbiotic in that a healthy body needs a healthy mind and vice versa.

Further, the Buddha pinpointed that the mind is the forerunner of all of our thoughts, speech and actions or deeds, regardless of where we come from or what our individual backgrounds comprise. The personal development training programs conducted by the world renowned life-coachers; however, grossly overlook the vital cultivation of a wholesome mind which the Buddha stressed is vital ingredient for a person to actualise success, wellbeing, happiness and inner peace. Whereas the irrefutable relevance of the Sublime Teaching of the Buddha on the pivotal role of the mind in regard to human thinking, speech and actions which is the key to ensuring ones success, wellbeing, happiness and inner peace has been amply validated by modern science.


The Buddha pinpointed that the mind is the forerunner of all of our thoughts, speech and actions or deeds, regardless of where we come from or what our individual backgrounds comprise.


In this regard, we may, for example, refer to the Dhammapada (The Path of Truth, an anthology of the Buddha’s Insightful Sayings), to living a meaningful, successful, happy life and for enjoying inner peace. These wholesome teachings of the Buddha are applicable in any clime. They embody some of the most profound practical advice for overcoming mundane challenges in life and for addressing human challenges and opportunities. I can do no better than to quote the very first two verses of the Dhammapada. They pinpoint the reality of the human being and of our world, regardless of one’s religious preference, ethnicity, culture, gender, social status or station in life. In addition, they underline the indispensible prerequisite for real lasting success, wellbeing, happiness and inner peace:

Manopubbangama dhamma manosettha manomaya
Manasa ce padutthena bhasati va karoti va
Tato nam dukkhmanveti cakkam va vahato padam.
Our actions are all led by the mind;
If one acts or speaks with a defiled state of mind,
Then suffering follows one like the cart-wheel
that follows the hoofs of the draught ox.

Manopubbangama dhamma Manosettha manomaya
Manas ce pasannena bhasati va karoti va
Tato nam sukkhamanveti chayava anapayini
Our actions are all lead by the mind;
mind is their master, mind is their maker.
If one speaks or acts with a pure state of mind,
Then happiness follows one like a faithful shadow that never leaves.

Aside from these fundamental drawbacks, the underlying motive and motivation of the life-coaching programs typically are geared to making huge earnings. However, for marketing purposes the life-coaches endeavour to promote their training packages and related products as a venture that is borne out of profound altruism on their part towards society. In any case, in sharp contrast, the Right Understanding of the paramount role of the mind and the comprehensive framework for cultivating a wholesome mental self-culture, as underlined by the Buddha over 2,550 years ago is available for free to anyone interested in personal development. Yet, there is no global Buddhist media network to promote the Sublime Teaching of the Buddha along these fundamental framework of cultivating a wholesome mental self-culture. Such a media network would beyond question appreciably help to actualise individual aspirations, and simultaneously, also address the serious global challenges confronting contemporary society.

Likewise, significantly, the same drawback is plainly evident when it comes to addressing other global challenges such as actualising the United Nation’s Development Goals or global efforts to seek harmony and durable peace, in most climes around the world. This gross lapse is also evident in the very institutions that are entrusted to promote global harmony and peace and other universal goals. The United Nation and its Specialised Agencies have been expending, billions of dollars on peace keeping efforts, over the past several decades, with no marked improvement in ensuring peace around the world. It would be far more meaningful if world leaders were to invest their resources on preventing conflict in the first place through peace building programs, such as through the cultivation of a wholesome mental culture by practising Bhavana or the purification of the mind through meditation practice.

It is not without significance that this very teaching that the Buddha stressed regarding the imperative of cultivating a wholesome mental culture is enshrined in the preamble to the UNESCO Charter. It is noteworthy that the preamble itself unequivocally echoes the fundamental truth that the Buddha stressed, that conflicts are born in the minds of men and that the solution to human conflict is to be sought in the minds of men and not through the use of force, or worse still, by bloody wars. However, as the spate of conflicts since then has repeatedly proven, only lip service has been accorded to the timeless advice of Buddha on the pre-requisite for people to cultivate a wholesome mental self-culture.


The mindfulness they cultivate of being an integral part of Nature and dependent upon Nature for their very survival will naturally urge them to protect and safeguard the environment and not exploit it unmindfully.


It is to be recalled that, at the negotiations of the San Francisco Peace Treaty in 1951, it was the Sublime Teaching of the Buddha that Sri Lanka’s representative, Mr J. R. Jayewardene (who later became the President of Sri Lanka), had persuasively urged the august gathering of world leaders to adhere as the insightful maxim of the Buddha. More specifically, he counselled the global leaders who sought retribution from Japan as a defeated nation the Buddha’s Teaching that, “Hatred is never ceased by hatred, but by love”. This courageous enlightened stance by the small newly independent Island-nation has ever since evoked, in the hearts and minds of the Japanese people, high respect, admiration and gratitude towards Ceylon (as Sri Lanka was named then). It is most unfortunate that this enlightened diplomatic stance and other real examples of peace diplomacy as advanced in the Buddha Dhamma have not been earnestly emulated by world leaders.

While dwelling on this point, I hasten to add that the very concept of peace has to be reoriented from its conventional physical moorings. We have been acculturated to perceive peace as born out of the absence of war. That is to say we conceive peace as a physical phenomenon in that peace is possible when there is no war, and vice versa, when there is no war then there is peace. The Buddha conceived peace at its very fundamental trigger point by pinpointing that peace is to be realised firstly from within oneself. For, if people are at peace within themselves, then they are at peace with everyone in the family, the neighbourhood as well as in society, the country and the world.

Equally important, is the reality that when people are at peace within themselves, they are at peace with and respectful of the environment and Nature. The mindfulness they cultivate of being an integral part of Nature and dependent upon Nature for their very survival will naturally urge them to protect and safeguard the environment and not exploit it unmindfully. The Buddha’s Teaching of cultivating harmony and peace within oneself is more comprehensively covered in my recent book, “Siddhartha: Prince of Peace”. The ingredients outlined therein for living a wholesome fulfilling life can be effectively used as a curriculum in schools.

Above all, the Buddha stands out as an incomparable role model of Peace for the world to emulate. This portrayal of the Buddha merits highlighting in the global efforts to promote peace. Unfortunately this glorious portrayal of the Buddha as an unparalleled Man of Peace has remained somewhat muted amongst the Buddhist fraternity around the world, and much less among those of other religious preference. If only such profound insights of peace advocacy embedded in the Buddha Dhamma are promoted and conscientiously reinforced and fostered as a universal consciousness among leaders of the international community of nations through a Global Buddhist Media Network, the world would surely be far more harmonious and peaceful. But if we continue to overlook this fundamental reality, the prospects of a peaceful and harmonious world would surly remain as elusive as ever.

Photo by Tharinda Elvitigala

The same can be said of the United Nation’s efforts in preventing social ills such as drug abuse. Billions of dollars are being expended on drug rehabilitation programs which have persistently recorded an extremely high statistics of relapse cases of well over 90 percent. This is largely because the drug rehabilitation programs are limited to detoxification of the person who abuses drugs. The re-programming of the mind through psycho-therapy which is critical is overlooked. This invariably results in unacceptably high percentages of relapse cases in the conventional drug rehabilitation programs in all regions of the world.

Finally, it has to be borne in mind that by and large, it has been through the print and electronic media that increasing numbers of persons from non-traditionally Buddhist countries have been introduced to the Buddha Dhamma and have flourished like the ever radiant lotus blossom. Millions more Buddhists and those professing other religions would benefit tremendously by having a Right Understanding of the Buddha Dhamma and practising the insightful Teaching of the Buddha skilfully and diligently in their daily life. This is where and how the establishment of a Global Buddhist Network can and indeed must make an invaluable contribution for the benefit of all mankind and Mother Nature on which all living beings, including humankind, are inextricably intertwined and dependent upon.


The bitter truth is that a concerted sustained fostering of a consciousness on the practice and practical application of the Buddha’s Sublime Teaching through a sustained global media network has remained a far cry for far too long.


Indeed, a Right Understanding and conscientious practice of the Buddha Dhamma can make a tremendous contribution for the welfare, wellbeing, happiness and inner peace of humankind. For, in a sentence, the Buddha Dhamma encompasses a comprehensive holistic education and a holistic training programme for cultivating a wholesome mental self-culture that address, both spiritual and mundane expectations in life. It is a complete education in that the Buddha Dhamma dispels ignorance and helps one to understand exactly the realities of life and Nature. The Buddha’s Teaching is a holistic training program as well, in that it provides an effective framework for anyone to develop a wholesome mental self-culture that would secure real success in terms of maximising one’s innate talents and skills and for one to flourish as a person to her or his true potential.

The bitter truth is that a concerted sustained fostering of a consciousness on the practice and practical application of the Buddha’s Sublime Teaching through a sustained global media network has remained a far cry for far too long. Unless we provide the requisite global publicity to the Teaching of the Buddha; and more importantly, on the practice and internalisation of His Teaching in everyday life; not much real progress can be anticipated in addressing the pressing problems and challenges confronting the world today. Paradoxically, however, there remains a perceptible lack of a commitment towards networking among the Buddhist print and electronic media fraternity in promoting the practice and practical application of Sublime Teachings of the Buddha in daily life.


This singular achievement will stand out as a major milestone of global collaboration and co-operation among Buddhist organisations, institutions and religious establishments, in the modern era.


In this day and age of the advances in Information Communications Technology (ITC), the time is long overdue for the world Buddhist media community to embrace the much needed connectivity, collaboration and networking on a global scale for promoting the cultivation of a wholesome mental self-culture. This is to be extended to all peoples, regardless of religious preference, ethnicity, culture, gender or any other distinction, for the benefit of humankind as a whole. This singular achievement will stand out as a major milestone of global collaboration and co-operation among Buddhist organisations, institutions and religious establishments, in the modern era. The realisation of this goal would ensure the necessary apparatus for impactfully communicating among the international community of nations the Buddhist thinking and attitude on a wide range of important issues and concerns bearing global ramifications.

In summation, I wish to reiterate that the establishment of a Global Buddhist Media Network will serve as a great fillip to the cause of promoting and propagating the Sublime Teachings of the Buddha across the world. It will simultaneously advance the success, wellbeing, happiness and inner peace of our present generation of fellow manushias as well as those who are who are yet to come. Another immediate spinoff is that Buddhist establishments and communities around the world can look forward to receiving the much needed support to safeguard and promote the interests of the Buddhasasana and that of fourfold Sangha. This has become all the more urgent today because of the lack of understanding and appreciation of what the Buddha Dhamma is and what the religion is not.

The need to present a correct understanding of the Teaching of the Buddha and to disabuse people of misconceptions has also become critical in view of widespread misinformation and disinformation that are being deliberately churned out by narrow self-serving vested interest groups against Buddhism and Buddhists, in many regions around the world. For example, there are copious evidences of deliberate media propaganda castigating Buddhists as idol worshippers. Whereas the fact is that in stark contrast to followers of theistic religions, Buddhists are in fact ‘ideal worshippers’ and not idol worshippers. For, in Buddhism the belief and practice of seeking supplication from an Almighty Creator God or Supreme Being as upheld by theistic religions is absolutely absent. These and other misinformation and disinformation and their repercussions are comprehensively dealt with in my recent book, “Symbols and Symbolism: Embrace Multiculturalism”. The book, in addition, proffers the Buddhist approach to issues that are of global interest and concern such as sustainable development and climate change. These ideas and concepts need to be publicised optimally in order to secure the desired effective outcomes for all of humankind to benefit.


The proposed media network thus merits high priority that calls for an urgent positive response, particularly from the governments of traditional Buddhist countries such as Sri Lanka, Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia, Vietnam and Bhutan as well as by the Buddhist organisations, institutions and larger Buddhist fraternity around the world.


The painful truth is that despite all the great advances achieved in the field of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) in modern times, there is hardly a semblance of Buddhist media networking in the true sense and meaning of the term even within traditional Buddhist countries. In sharp contrast, most other world religions have in place several highly sophisticated and well-harnessed national and international media networks. These media networks which are aptly equipped with the latest technology and know-how in the print and electronic fields are characterised by impressive wide-ranging collaborative efforts at the national and international levels.

Buddha Statue in Forest Pak Chong, Nakhon Ratchasima – Korat, Thailand.

What the Buddhist world has at best is a handful of locally dedicated television channels, radio networks and websites primarily hosting programs comprising talks and discussions by Buddhist monks, nuns and to a lesser extent by lay devotees. The content of these governmental and private media outfits focus mainly on the erudition of the sutras, a broad coverage of major Buddhist activities and events by individual hosting-establishments, and the dissemination of news and information usually on the happenings in the host-country. The content and thrust of the programs cater largely to a parochial audience and the bulk of their content is mostly, if not indeed entirely, in the vernacular. Hardly any formalised co-operation or collaboration exists among the Buddhist media outfits at the national level, let alone collaboration at a Pan-Asian or international footing.

Whilst on this point, I would like to share a revealing personal experience that underscores the lack of earnestness among media practitioners among the Buddhist fraternity to forge a global network. In a recent international Buddhist conference where the case for greater media networking within the Buddhist fraternity was deliberated, I vivid recall the pathetic state of indifference towards forging a closer and wider networking among the Buddhist fraternity. All of the presenters representing various media outfits from around the world were more geared towards vaunting the achievements of their respective organisations and that of their stakeholders and superiors. The more important discussion on the ways and means and wherewithal to enhance media networking with other national and foreign outfits participating in the Conference was hardly mentioned, let alone deliberated upon exhaustively with a view to forging, at the minimum, an embryo lead-organisation towards achieving a global media outfit.

The highly self-centred mode of thinking and attitude among Buddhist media establishments sadly evidenced is reflective of the pathetic state of apathy towards networking among the wider Buddhist fraternity around the world. The Buddhist world is therefore beset with a major task of firstly re-orientating the thinking and attitude among Buddhist organisations, establishments, societies and leaders. We need to galvanise them to move forward from the present state of parochialism and their perceptible indifference towards national and trans-national media networking and collaboration. Their thinking and attitude have necessarily to be transformed from their current inertia into one of being seized with the challenges and opportunities to operate on a wider international platform in collaboration with the larger world Buddhist fraternity.

The proposed media network thus merits high priority that calls for an urgent positive response, particularly from the governments of traditional Buddhist countries such as Sri Lanka, Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia, Vietnam and Bhutan as well as by the Buddhist organisations, institutions and larger Buddhist fraternity around the world. The trans-national media outfit need not have to be a highly sophisticated venture involving a great deal of resources and funding from the outset. Rather an incremental building block approach may be adopted. That is to say, that the proposed media network initially can be set up on a modest footing and progressively developed on an incremental basis into a well-oiled reputed global media network within a gestation of 3 to 5 years. Details of the structure, modus operandi, funding and scope of activities etc. are to be drawn up by an Advisory Board that would give direction and purpose to the regional or global media network. For a start a Working Committee from representatives of traditional Buddhist countries and media experts is to be commissioned to deal with the nitty-gritty of actualising the media network without further procrastination.


Ambassador Dato’ Dr. G.K. Ananda Kumaraseri is our new columnist. He is a career ambassador of over 30 years standing. He retired in 1995 as Director General ASEAN. He has authored over two scores of notable books on the cultivation of human values, personal development, holistic education, the sacredness of motherhood, mothercare, holistic parenting, childcare and development and peace. He is a much sought after Dhamma Speaker in Malaysia and overseas. He is available for public talks and discussions. His email is akumaraseri@yahoo.com. You may also link up to www.livebybuddhism.com for an insight into his works and activities and for free resources. – Editors


 

Author: Sri Lanka Guardian

Sri Lanka Guardian has been providing breaking news & views for the progressive community since 2007. We are independent and non-profit.