Beyond Tolerance and Pleasure

Somdet Phra Buddhaghosacariya (P. A. Payutto)

No Happiness Without Peace; No Peace Without Freedom

In the final analysis, peace begins in the mind and happiness is its concomitant. Thus, one who has peace of mind finds happiness in every place. This inner peace and happiness also asserts itself in everyday life and activities, so that the person lives peacefully with his or her neighbors. Also, he or she readily appreciates the peace and beauty of nature, feeling happy to be in the midst of the natural environment. Therefore, it is natural that one who has peace and happiness in the mind would not invade his or her neighbors and would not destroy the environment.

Fundamentally, inner peace and happiness in the mind is relatively independent of external material pleasures. This independence makes one free from the basic circumstances and conditions that bring one into conflict with neighbors or force one to exploit nature. On the contrary, peace and happiness inside enhances the happiness in friendly relations with one’s neighbors and nature, thereby contributing more to the preservation of peace outside.

It is a pity that people in this age of globalization mostly lead their lives in dependent ways. Instead of human development towards independence and freedom, they make progress in the way of causing their lives to be more and more dependent. For them, freedom has a narrow and often dubious meaning. By freedom they understand only social, economic and political freedoms such as freedom of speech and free enterprise. They think of being free as doing what they like or want to do.

Only some decades ago, modern people, following the idea of mastery over nature, were free to exploit natural resources, but now we are forced to restrain their abuses. People in developing countries may be free to criticize their government here, but, unknowingly and/or unconsciously, they must obey the restraints imposed by multinational corporations in another corner of the world.

Freedom is relative. True freedom is thoroughgoing and it is, at all levels, indispensable to peace. As the inner peace of mind is indispensable to peacekeeping outside, freedom of mind is indispensable to the maintenance of inner peace.

This inner or spiritual freedom consists in the ability to free one’s mind of undesirable motives, especially greed, hatred and delusion. For example, one should always keep the mind free from the desire to exploit one’s neighbors or nature and is able to do away with it whenever it arises. This includes the preservation of the mind cleared of the above three forms of selfishness, namely, craving for wealth and pleasures, desire for power and dominance, and clinging to view and ideology.

To realize true freedom, right human development is required. New generations of free people can be raised through right education. True education brings about a real change in human character. The three principal qualities of liberality, universal love and wisdom must be cultivated in place of greed, hatred and delusion. This means education must also be thoroughgoing. It is surely not the development of the ability to make money and is not merely training to make a living. It is not merely the development of human resources to serve social and economic development either. It is the transformation of humans from conquerors of nature into sustainers of global well-being.

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