THE ONLY TRUTH
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Everyone is trying to live right.
Really! It is true. If we did not try to live right, and always made mistakes and committed sins, bad consequences would have happened. When we made mistakes, others would look down on us, or even worse, we might have been punished by law, leading us to a miserable live. And speaking of religious beliefs, the law of Cause and Effect will always govern and direct our lives. The retribution will come to us in many afterlives “As ye sow, so shall ye reap”.
Since no one wants to be punished by law, no one wants to have others’ contempt, and more importantly, no one wants to be damned after death, all of us want to live right. The word “Right” here implies morality. Since ancient times, human beings have always worked hard to define this word. We could refer the word “Right” as “The Truth” in plain language; or from the religion perspective, we can refer to “Morality” “Ethics”… However, since human civilisation, The Truth has been something difficult to comprehend.
According to the research of scientists, human beings might have resided on Earth over a million years ago. And during the early days, human being had lived very basic lives. Even with intelligence and wisdom, at that time human being still could not make significant improvement in lives. Over a few more millions years, human beings still just dressed with loin cloths, hunted with basic tools, ate fruit and lived very simply. This was proven by scientists around the world.
However, accordingly Buddhism teaching, Buddha said that when human beings resided on earth, the earth had already gone through many periods of civilisation. There were times that men could build many magnificent temples, but they were destroyed and disappeared. Then another civilisation was formed, it was still collapsed and disappeared afterwards… And at this point in time, we can only confirm and gather information about human civilisation since the time when the Pyramids of Egypt were built in the desert. According to research, that time was about 5000 years ago. Researches could only confirm that the oldest civilisation of mankind was first formed in Egypt and Pyramids were the masterpieces that mankind has ever created of all times. The secrets of Pyramids
had surprised and impressed the whole world. The special feature of Pyramids is that if dividing its circumference by double its height, we shall get the pi number (approximately 3.14).
And nowadays, when we already have space shuttles, submarines, and advanced technology, we are still on the path to find The Truth, or the way of living right. Modern technology has overwhelmed us all, spoiled us all, and that we can easily forget about morality. It seems that the more advanced the technology is, the more shallow and selfish human beings become. In ancient times, when technology was not available or still very basic, our ancestors were compassionate and always lived in harmony.
We discussed the topic of “The Only Truth” because there are many so-called truths in life, and people all live differently because they all have different principles, different thinking, and different theories about living.
For example, in Buddhism, we are willing to be vegetarian, live in harmony and live with compassion; no stealing from others and no killing of all kinds ever. But in another religion, it is acceptable to kill other people, who follow the opposite religion. These people chose to follow their religion principles, and to them, that is The Truth. Because of the differences in understand The Truth from person to person, from country to country, the world has been self-divided and its division has caused human beings to live in isolated groups.
We must know that there is one and Only Truth, which will be never wrong and that is “People must love and care for one another”. Even if we ask the whole world about this truth, no one would ever argue back. It is because human beings have hearts, and human beings have wisdom, therefore we must all love, support and care for each other. That is the most perfect, absolute and everlasting truth.
However, besides this Truth, there are still so many other ones that humankind has set for themselves, which only makes people have less love for each other, and become more and more cruel to our own kind. There were many truths said, which were completely the opposite to the Only Truth that “People must love and care for one another”.
Today, let’s discuss about The Truth so we all can appreciate about it, in comparison to many other truths. When we comprehend the meaning and rationale of The Truth (we also refer to as the principle throughout this book), we should apply it
to our lives to bring people together and revive the seed of love in every each and everyone. We must always ensure that this principle is the basic in all of our thinking, our actions, our behaviors so that this world could become better, so that humankind would never forget this truth that “People must love and care for one another”.
First of all, we must understand what The Truth is?
The Truth derives from all the facts, all the principles that govern mankind and this world. No matter how civilized the society is, humankind is still being governed by those principles. If we find these principles and abide them, then naturally our life would be peaceful, happy and our soul would be joyful, peaceful and free.
That is our goal.
We live based on many principles that we think they are right. Over many years, we all have been searching for the right principles, the truth. However, how do we show our love for someone? Normally, when we love or care for someone, we would always show our compassion for them, and pamper them.
Most people behave like that, even monks. All Buddhists would feel the monks’ care and compassion for them, when they visit the temple. That love is unspoken.
However, in addition to the principle above, we also have another one, and that is “Spare the rod and Spoil the child”. It means that when we love someone, in addition to pampering them, we must also be strict in teaching and providing guidance to them. So, really, which one is right? Which one is wrong? As we can see, these two principles are completely contradictory to each other. They both are actually correct; these principles were derived from many and many years of our ancestor’s living experiences. However, it really depends on the relationship and the situation to which you would apply one of these principles appropriately.
Educating our children is the typical example. We always want our children to grow up and become a good person, so even we love them so much, we still need to be strict with them. We must know though how strict we should be, so our children still feel our love and caring for them. It does not mean we
use violence in educating our children. The principle basically advises us to be sensible when showing our love to others i.e. be strict when the others make mistakes. mistakes. Our stringency sometimes is very necessary if it can help preventing others others from making serious mistakes, or commit sins in their life.
The teacher-student relationship example is also similar to the above. A friend sometimes needs to be frank with his friend to help the friend avoid making mistakes. A teacher should be strict to help his students make more and more progress in their learnings. Being compassionate and being strict with our loved ones at the same time are very essential. We need to know when and how to apply these two principles appropriately. If you only apply one principle, the consequence would not be good. Again, it is The Truth in life, so we need to apply these principles in appropriate situations to achieve good results.
The next example relates to one of our ancestor’s sayings (or it now has become a principle in our live) “One good turn deserves another“. I have to say this is the Perfect Truth. It is so right. However, sometimes, in life, we still come across someone, who is genuinely good, but still has a challenging life, even struggle to manage his life. Therefore, many people start to lose their beliefs in the religion and they object the law of Cause and Effect. They often wonder why there are people, who are fierce, but still are very wealthy and enjoy an easy life; and why good people often are so unlucky. Many people even believe that there is no such thing as Fairness in this life, and their only belief is “Survival of the fittest.”
We are Buddhists, so we must understand that all the events in our life happen for a reason. Lucky or unlucky events in our life are dominated by our karma, which has been accumulated throughout our countless past lives. Because of our ignorance, we had been making so many mistakes and committing many sins in the past lives. Therefore, when we met a good person, but he/she still struggled to live a happy life, he/she was just repaying for their sins/mistakes from his/her past lives. That is the law of Cause and Effect. And those, who live modestly and love others, would have good outcome, if not in this life, it would be in their afterlives; because the law of Cause and Effect is fair and objective. That is the perfect Truth; it is absolute and universal, and all Buddhists must firmly believe in it. Therefore, we must live right, love all kinds and help others.
However, there is another saying that is widely accepted as a Truth “Pay a man back with a same coin”. It basically means that, how we treats someone will depend
who they are, and how they treat you. Therefore, this principle is somewhat contradictory with the other principle “One good turn deserves another”, which mentioned earlier. Whether we are being kind, or being strict, or being or being cruel would depend on the situations and on the people and their in these circumstances.
For example, a Buddhist, who usually went to temples to pray and ate vegetarian, but he still was annoyed when things did not happen to the way he liked it to. When asked, he responded that his ancestors taught him that “Pay a man back with a same coin”. Because of his belief in this principle, he would still be angry with unpleasant things in life, even would argue and fight until the end. Some people could the old sayings as an excuse for their inappropriate behaviour. They do not even analyse the situation to understand what is right, what is wrong, and what is reasonable. They just apply the principle blindly, without any consideration. This is really a disgrace.
There is another Truth that took scientists many years to figure out that:
The Earth is round and it revolves around the sun. This was accepted as an obvious fact by human kind. Our grandparents and parents would teach us this even before school age.
However, our ancestors, from millions of years ago, did not know this at all .Human beings used to think the Earth was completely flat and was orbited by the sun. Every morning, the sun came up from the ground through a hole, and in the afternoon the sun went down to the ground through another hole. Many people wanted to see those holes. They went to the East and only stopped when facing the sea, hence our ancestors still kept forever thinking the earth was flat and the sun revolved around the Earth. Until Magellan with his friends took the trip around the world by watching the stars in the sky; and they took off and returned to the original point of departure. This indicated that the earth is round and this finding was accepted. It was a great result and there were many hard working scientists involved to achieve it.
Human kind always wanted to find out our origin as well as how life began. We spent countless times and enormous effort to find the information. Yet today, it is still a big question to scientists. There are things which seem simple, but we are still not able to determine what they actually are. The scientists can only make theoretical assumptions without any specifics.
Religious people also have completely different perspectives. For those who worship God, they believe that God has created the earth as well as everything else on the earth. Many people also wondered: “Why did God create human beings?”. And the answer was: “God created men to have company, because he was lonely and sad”. So all human kinds surrendered to God, and did nothing as they thought that God would determine their fate, they would not need to live responsibly and would not have to strive to improve at all.
But if the above was true, then why God also created miseries such as diseases, natural disasters, crimes, sins and wars. If God had created everything, why didn’t He create fairness amongst his children, but to let some rich, and others poor; some happy and others miserable. Therefore, the principle that “God created everything” is not reasonable and not yet accepted satisfactorily. Human beings are still looking for the right answer.
Now let’s talk about Buddhism and Buddha’s answer to the question: “How did life on the earth start?” Our Buddha had said that all things are predestined by many
“Conditions”. “Conditions” is the most reasonable answer but still not really clear. During Buddha’s time, when He said so, science was not yet advanced, human kind still had not really figured out a thorough and detailed way about a lot of things.
If at that time, Buddha had said about the genes, cells, blood type A, B or O, no one could have understood it. He had to give a concise and meaningful answer and that was everything on earth was created and predestined by many conditions. Different conditions formed different things. That statement will never be wrong but is not really clear. Because of that, until today, people still have questions and still try to find out about our origin. We hope that scientists will soon find the truth, and men will soon realise what Buddha said is completely accurate.
And although we yet are not completely sure of our origin, we must believe that our life will end one day. We do not know that time yet but surely that day will come.
There are many scenarios and some typical scenarios are as follows:
The first scenario is all when human beings on earth suddenly want to become monks or nuns. If so, human beings would not be able increase its population, and when we die, we would all go to heaven. The earth would have no human beings, just animals. The animals would eventually be extinct. That day could come.
The second scenario is when terrorists get hold of nuclear weapons. When they are angry, they will blow up everything and the earth will be destroyed. So life ends.
The third scenario is when people destroy forests. When all the trees are cut down, the earth would not be able to survive; the lives of thousands of species will perish. Keep in mind that, a coconut tree, a mango tree… is not simply gives us their fruit but also help maintaining life on this planet. If the forest is destroyed, life will surely end.
If none of the above happens, meaning not all people become monks or nuns; people will not manufacture dangerous weapons to destroy each other; people will help grow trees, build forests and protect forests; the earth will last and human kind would not be extinct.
But there will come a time when the sun is run out of energy. The sun will not shine forever. In the next few billion years, that day will come for sure. However, before the sun stops shining, it blows up and projects heat down to earth, as the result, the earth would be destroyed. Human kind would become extinct. After that terrible day, the sun will collapse into a black hole, floating in the universe.
Or we consider another principle about reincarnation i.e. this life is not the only one. We had lived many previous lives and will live many lives after. It is the fact but not everyone knows and believes in it. Fortunately, all Buddhists absolutely believe in this principle. Although all over the world, there have been many phenomena which had proved that reincarnation exists, it was not still entirely convincing to all that there is an afterlife and many afterlives. Those with wisdom, especially Buddhist monks would know that this life is really just a temporary one.
We know that a human being can live until seventy years of age, on average, if no accidents, no terminal illness etc… For an ordinary person, he/she just simply thinks that is a long time; there are many things that need to be done, and there are many challenges in life that we need to encounter. However, for a monk, that seventy-year period is just a like a moment in time.
If we talk to any monk or nun about their life, we would understand that they live simply but very peacefully. Whatever they need to do, they would dedicate to complete it. They live for the benefits of others not for themselves. They are not greedy because they would realise that seventy-year period is short, it will be gone quickly and they will be close to death very soon. Even when they appear now to be in good health, death can be near and come at any time. Therefore, they would never ask for anything that would benefit them only. We, on the other hand, are often worried about our own benefits and enjoyment, and often forget about helping others, creating more blessings; therefore, when we die, we would not know what our afterlife looks like and where we would end up being.
Reincarnation governs all of us, and the law of Cause and Effect creates karma. The law of Cause and Effect, which is very fair and objective, dominates us not only in this life but also in countless afterlives. When we were born and being blessed with beauty and wisdom, it was because of the law of Cause and Effect. Please remember that all things happening to us are because of our karma, governed by the Law of Cause and Effect. If we do good deeds, we will be blessed, and vice versa.
Although the Cause and Effect Law rules all the events in our live, it does not create everything. We create all, we are the cause. How we treat others now will create different outcomes for us later in life. How we compliment someone by accident, or defame someone else on purpose, all of these actions will lead to different outcomes for us later in life. We should compliment others sincerely for their beauty. Even we are also beautiful, but when we see someone else who is even more beautiful, we should sincerely express our adoration to her: “I have never seen anyone as beautiful as you”. We often then forget what we say or what we do during period of time, but the law of Cause and Effect has magically recorded our actions, our sayings and everything else; and the law will make it a hundredfold. Using the above example, the result is that we would be complimented one hundred times like that in the future: if we want to be beautiful in next life, we should sincerely praise others for their beauty.
However, the above is only one small cause of the many causes that would create blessings for us. If we live kind to others, always love and help others, we will earn more and more blessing. But some cannot wait until the afterlife for good outcome; they want good and great things now. This is indeed very difficult because causality is created from various causes from many past lives. The outcomes could not be changed easily and instantly in this life, yet and it will take very long time. We must do a lot of good deeds to gradually change the upcoming outcomes in our current
life. We must try to cultivate, must be compassionate, often worship Buddha, and often give alms… We must always love other human beings, and treat them all kindly. Why is that so? Because the law of Cause and Effect is very magical: whoever loves and cares for other human beings, in their afterlives, they would become a good and kind human being.
The law of Cause and Effect is fair and it objectively drives everything in life. If we understand this law and how it works, we could be able to control our own happiness or misery as easy as applying makeup. In another word, we could control our own life if we understand and behave in accordance with the law of Cause and Effect. It includes principles and truths that govern our life. If we find the right truth, we would be able to lead our life towards peace, joy and happiness at our own desire. This is an important aspect of The Truth.
A simple example is about when we first learnt mathematics. At first, all we knew was the simple addition e.g. 5+5 = 10, not much else. However, that was the most basic and right thing to learn first, we then could be able to resolve a lot more complicated and advanced math. We all need to start from the most basic concept, the right principle. Similarly, in our life, if we live kindly, modestly with others, and continuously pay homage to Buddha, and though these actions are basic, we are doing the right things. That would help us gradually start understanding more about the law of Cause and Effect, about both of its complication and its magical effects to human beings.
We should consider this fundamental principle: “Whatever makes us miserable, will also make others miserable.” For example, we surely would be sad when being told off by someone. If the same happened to others, they surely felt the same way. It is simple as that.
Let’s consider another scenario. We did not let others know about our own birthday, because we considered it to be insignificant and did not care about it as much. As a Buddhist, we cared more about Buddha’s birthday, which is the 15th of April (full moon) in lunar calendar. Therefore, we did not do anything on our birthday. However, when we got home from work, if we received a bunch of flowers with a birthday card, it was a nice surprise, we would be very happy, because it means someone did remembered our birthday and cared about us. It would be the same effect if we did the same for others.
Again, we must learn to live and care for other human beings. For example, we just got home from work, and we were very tired and exhausted from a long day. Our child told us that the neighbour had injured himself and he was in so much pain. We could have ignored what the child told us, because it was really not our business. However, when we remembered the principle, mentioned above, we visited the neighbour later on. That genuine caring behaviour would make the neighbour very happy, in deed.
There is another principle “Love is an essential element of life. Without love, this world will perish.” Many people have asked: “How do we survive?” Normally, the answer is that we need air to breathe, water to drink, clothes to wear, and houses to stay. Only very few people responds that we need live love to survive in this world.
Let’s consider this. A child would not be able to survive without his parents’ love after he was born. That love helped nurture the child.
Everyone is the same in this regard. We all rely on someone’s loving us in life. When we were born, we were protected by our parents’ love. At school, we were taught and loved by our teachers and friends. As adults, we were loved by our own family. At first, we only believe material is important, but emotion plays a major role and it is extremely important. Elements like air, rice, water, clothes, and houses are necessary, but insufficient. Without love, we would not be able to survive.
If the earth was attacked by aliens with a type of weapon that can destroy love, feelings and emotions from human beings, after just three days, all would die. Luckily, there is no such weapon exist. Love still is around us. Once we understand this principle of love, we must love and care for each other to live right, in accordance with The Truth. In temples, monks must love and care for each other, Buddhists must love and cares for each other, so that Buddhism can continue to grow further. Those are the basic principles.
There is a saying “Having a pure mind is the main path to enlightenment and liberation“. This is an original and very special principle of Buddhism. In the Eightfold Noble Paths, Buddha has pointed out the last level is the precise concentration. When one finishes this level, surely he will be enlightened and liberated. Buddha achieved enlightenment by meditation and He taught meditation to his disciples very carefully. Currently, a lot of Buddhists all over the world practice meditation very hard every day and night in order to achieve calmness and pure mind for enlightenment and liberation as Buddha taught. That is a simple principle and it is eternal.
We have discussed earlier about: “Whatever makes us miserable, will also make others miserable. Whatever brings us joy, will also bring others joy.” So, we understood that we should always make each other happy, not miserable.
But it is easy said than done. There was a saying: “If I live in my own house, eat my own meal, and do not involve with anyone, I would not make anyone’s life miserable.” Was it right? At first, we thought the saying was right, but it is not really. This life is an extremely complex correlation. Everything in life relates to each other in one way or another. Therefore, we cannot be certain that we lived in isolation, and not relating to anything outside, or anyone else. Because of this complex relation, it is very difficult to comprehend completely
Buddha’s principle “Do not make others miserable”.
For example, while playing soccer, our son broke the neighbour’s window, by accident. The neighbour got angry and insulted us, and such behaviour was due to the fact that he did not follow Buddhism and understand its teachings. However, because we understand Buddhism teachings and because we remembered the principle “Do not make others miserable”, we reacted to this bad behavior appropriately by offering apologies and asked to pay for that window. Having said that, deep inside, we still felt annoyed because of the neighbour’s insulting words. In reality, we fight within our inner self to justify what is the right thing to do. It is not so easy at all. Being a human being, we always face temptation to win and be better than others. If we ever want to be kind to other human beings, and do not make others’ lives miserable, we must learn to get rid of our greed and anger that exist deep within our heart and soul. This truth is quite simple, but in deed, it is not easy at all to follow.
We could understand the principle “Do not make others miserable” in a different way, and that is “Let’s bring joy to others“. That just mean, when someone is angry with us is, we should not react in the same way, but to find a way to remove the anger and bring joy to them. It is quite a difficult thing to do, but it is a great thing to do. So now we are asked to bring joy to a lot more people; and help the poor and the needy.
Therefore, we should make the start by reducing time spent on our personal hobbies, and spending more time with others in the neighborhood.
There always are people out there that will be happy to see us, and that means we bring joys to many other people. Well, it is not an easy thing to do, is it? Why should we reduce our enjoyment time to be with others? With all being said, we should, by now, realise that applying a right principle into our life is not easy at all.
As mentioned before, the law of Cause and Effect is very fair and objective, but only Buddha could understand its principles and how it works in depth. Only with
Buddha’s wisdom could comprehend the law, its principles and how it governs our lives. As for us, being very ordinary human being, all we can do is to learn more and more, cultivate more and more to gradually gain understanding about the law. Nobody can claim that they know all about the law of Cause and Effect.
Back to the statement “Having a pure mind is the main path to enlightenment and liberation”; it sounds simply, but how could we achieve the state of having a pure mind? Is it an easy thing to do? Well, we will have to go through so many stages of cultivation, do many good deeds, in order to be able to reach the beginning of having a pure mind. There are people that can achieve this level faster than others, and it is because they already inherited immeasurable blessings, being accumulated over time from previous lives. Because it is extremely difficult to have a pure mind state, we would worship Buddha forever and would be never tired of doing so. Amongst these teachings and these principles, the right and the wrong are mixed together. Principles in life are not always right because they have been formed and shaped by both the right and the wrong. Therefore, different people would have understood these principles differently, which have led to human beings were not united as one. Even Einstein, the greatest scientist of all times, admitted that, only 95% of his thinking and explanation for Mathematics and Physics were wrong and only 5% of those were right. And this 5% proportion really changed the world.
Therefore, we must not misunderstand the principle “Let’s bring joy to others”, the consequences would be very severe. Bringing joy to others does not mean we spoil them. Bring joy to others is an obligation of being a human being. We bring joy to each other but should never tolerate their sins or their bad behaviours. If we misunderstand and misuse this principle, we would suffer from bad consequences later in life.
When we discussed “Love is an essential element of life” principle above, we must understand that the love mentioned in this principle is the love among people; it is not a selfish romantic love with the desire to possess the other person. Love often causes egoism easily. When we love someone, of course, we just want the person for just ourselves. Due to this egoism, people could easily offend and hurt others’ feelings. Therefore, if we misunderstand what love really means, it could mean we make others miserable instead of making them happy.
We all know by now there are rights and wrongs mixed together in these principles. If we are not wise and knowledgeable to distinguish the differences between the rights and wrongs in these principles, we would behave badly and would not be able to live morally; therefore, we would suffer from bad consequences later in this life, or even in afterlives.
Misunderstanding the law of Cause and Effect would also bring bad consequences. For example, we believe that if we bring offerings i.e. flowers to Buddha, this would help us have a beautiful appearance in the afterlife. Is this action right or wrong? The answer is that: the law of Cause and Effect is not simple and exactly works like that. In the Sutra, Buddha did not mention about this at all, this belief was based on the sayings and experiences of many monks. Monks often think that if we decorated an altar of Buddha beautifully, we would be rewarded later on, in some shape for form. This is true. However, it did not yet completely reach the deep end of the truth that Buddha had said.
So, what has Buddha taught us to help us with having a beautiful appearance? Buddha taught us about love and compassion. Those, who have compassion for others will have beautiful appearance, evidenced by the goddesses in heaven. They are extremely beautiful; and because of their love and compassion for all beings, they were re-born to be goddesses in heaven.
Let’s consider this further. In this life, beautiful people usually are more favourable than others, because naturally they are more compassionate than others. In addition, they are always loved and being cared for by others. They had this outcome because in their previous lives, they did many good deeds, had been compassionate and had loved all beings.
So, if we only dedicated flowers to Buddha, hoping that we would have gain good outcome in life, but we do not have compassion, love and care for others, then it is not enough. We could have achieved other good outcomes in our after life, such as being born in a wealthy family, but we could not have had beautiful appearance. Why is that so? Again, because beauty comes with compassion, love and care. Therefore, even we continue dedicating offering to Buddha to worship Buddha, we must know that the most important factors are compassion, love and care for all beings.
Similarly, there are numerous methods of meditation out there, but not all methods are correct. There are methods, which were created based on the personal beliefs, not based entirely on moral standards. Therefore, these methods would not benefit practitioners. Also, in Buddhism, nowadays, there are a lot of moral principles, a lot of methods being taught. They are so called Theravada Buddhism, Mahayana Buddhism, even though both religions worship the only Buddha.
Besides those, there are Zen, Tantra and Pure Land Buddhism religions as well. Each method is said to be the best. And these rituals and practice are also different. We do not know which method/practice is right. This really confused us. In addition to that, each temple has its own ceremonies, and these are held are differently. Although we might be familiar with this temple’s Sutra, we may not be able to do the same in the other temple.
Monks also have different styles and different interpretation about Buddhism principles, therefore, they preach to their disciples also differently. For example, there are monks who are quite easy-going, gentle, and cheerful and their preaching style usually makes us feel very comfortable. When we came to them for repentance: “Master, I repent of my sin. I took refuge in the Triratna but I gambled a few days ago. I promise I will never gamble again.” The Master just smiled and said: “Well, that’s okay. It’s good that you know your sin, you had the sensation feeling now about gambling; remember to remind yourself to remind others not to gamble again.” He was very pleasant, which made us feel a little uneasy and unsure, so we went to other Master, just to check for second opinion.
This time we met a strict master, always using his prayer beads. We came to him for repentance of the same sin. His response was very different to the other Master: “Go to kneel down in front of Buddha. Buddhists are not allowed to gamble.
You did a terrible thing. I feel ashamed if people know you are my disciple. Don’t do that again!”
The two examples above demonstrated two different teaching styles and moral interpretation; we do not know which style is the right way. Because of this difference, Buddhism is split up, and heading towards different religious tendencies. Initially, we worshipped one Buddha; we learnt about the Four Noble Truths, then we believed in the law of Cause and Effect. However, over time, different ways of teaching Buddhism were emerging, causing division in Buddhism principles itself.
So, what is our responsibility for this matter? We must look for a common factor in all Buddhism principles, to get rid of the division, to reunite all beliefs. We should neither accept all, nor ignore all the things that we have learnt so far. We have to clarify again and again to find the most common principle of all times “The Only Truth”.
Firstly, all disciples of Buddha must pay homage to Buddha, regardless of which Buddhism seminary we attend. If we do pay homage to Buddha, we are not genuinely Buddhist. Regardless of how we cultivate, regardless of which Master or which Buddhism seminary we learn from, the most common and the most important factor is our homage to Buddha.
Secondly, we must have compassion for all beings. We could eat either vegetarian food as the Mahayana or nutritious food as the Theravada, but we still must have compassion and love for all beings. It is the most common and the most important element in Buddhism teachings.
We must also cultivate and continuously practise to be modest, to live selflessly, and to have forgiveness. We must cultivate with the right attitude, so that we live and devote ourselves to everything and everyone else in life. That is truly the most accurate principle and that is The Only Truth.
We should not care too much if there was a claim that their Buddhism teaching is the right one. We should not argue, but we also should not believe it immediately. We must consider it carefully though. It is now the right time to find that common and Only Truth to re-unite all beliefs in this whole world. We must have the goal to look for not only a common principle in Buddhism, but also a common truth to influence all human beings to follow. That Truth must make mankind re-united as one because human kind has been divided. Let’s start looking for the Only Truth based on the teachings of Buddhism.
Why based on Buddhism? It is because Buddhism is always the source of truth that no other religion in the world can substitute. We do not blame other religions, we respect them, however, unarguably Buddhism is still the greatest source of truth. And now we all begin to find the Only Truth, the one and only for the whole world, starting with Buddhism.
On the path of finding The Only Truth, all of us would face a terrible problem: that is our own belief. We have been following the Master’s teachings and cultivating for so many years. Yet today, when we realised that we have been following the wrong path, even though we felt disappointed and hurt, we still need to accept the fact, and take time to correct this mistake. It is not easy at all to let go of a habit or a belief, when we realise that they were wrong, because this action relates to our own emotion, our own pride and our own ego. We must start looking for the right principle, The Only Truth.
Therefore, we need to have courage and the focus to do so, no matter how painful and disappointed we feel. We must fix the mistake find the best principles, The Only Truth, to apply to our cultivation journey. It is also because that we would also be mentoring many other people later in this life, not only just for ourselves.
Over many years, when we attended a temple, we had always prayed for ourselves, not for others. Now that we understand Buddhism, and we also understand that the core principle is compassion, from now on, we should do the opposite: pray for others not for ourselves. It is not easy at all because of our ego and selfishness. For example, no one would be willing to pray that: let us lose our cars, not others; or Buddha, our kids are about to take an exam; please let them pass. If someone has to fail, let it be our own kids, not the others. Really! No one would pray that willingly in front of Buddha because it is unnatural, and it relates directly to our own emotions. But we are Buddhists; we have taken refuge in the Triple Gems so we must do that. We must pray for others not for ourselves. Being a Buddhist, we must live a life with compassion, and it does not need to be obvious. We can pray for others quietly, no one needs to know that. Now is the time for us to convert our thinking about how we live compassionately, even though it is extremely difficult. If we find the most accurate and the most fundamental truth, Buddhism will be able to unite, not being divided and further develop.
Buddhism is really weakening because Buddhists ar avoiding the common principle, The Truth we mentioned above. For example, Buddhism is the religion of compassion, but we are becoming less and less compassionate; Buddhism is the religion of paying homage to Buddha, but our reverence for Buddha has become less and less. Those are just a few examples indicating to us that Buddhism becomes weaker. We must not avoid following The Only Truth.
Also, we must not believe in those principles that relates to our own ego and we must get rid of those principles that lead us to have passive attitudes.
The principles that make us work harder and motivate us to dedicate our life for others would be the true ones. So when our Master says that his Buddhism seminary is the most important one, it is not true. There is no such thing as number one seminary to teach Buddhism, or which one is more important than the others. Please remember that the most important and fundamental principle belongs to the only one Buddhism religion. How we cultivate is just different method that we would use to explore Buddhism principles further, in depth to understand more about its most common principle, The Only Truth, and to apply it appropriately.
Whoever made such claim about being number one would cause division amongst disciples. We must be modest. All of the Buddhism seminaries out there must collaborate and re-unite to work towards finding The Only Truth. When there is division within the religion itself, there would also be conflict. As an example, for the same question of “Why are these people suffering and the others happy?” According to one religion, the answer was: “It is because of God!” According to Buddhism, the answer was: “It is because of karma: depending on blessings that had been accumulated for these people from their past lives.” These two answers are completely opposite, so one must be wrong, the other must be right; which means one religion is wrong and the other is right.
This is the weakness. Different religions teach their disciples different things. These teachings are completely opposite to each other. All of which are protected by the law stated and imposed by the United Nations to protect freedom of religion, and Vietnam is no exception. That is, whichever religion you believe in is your business; whether it is right not wrong, no Government would interfere. Government only involves when there is a clear violation of the law.
Actually, this is a very bad thing of the current human civilization. One day in the future, when mankind civilization is more advanced, we would assess all religions in the world and determine which one is right and which one is wrong. Only religions which preach the right ethics would be allowed to continue. All other religions must change themselves to follow the right one, and preach the right ethical teachings back to their disciples.
Today, because religions are very powerful and have so many disciples, the law must be compromised to protect all human being’s freedom in believing and following religions. But the law also allows people to believe in wrong religion, this would create bad consequences to human beings in the future. This is the disadvantage of the current human civilization. Maybe in the next five centuries, this will change. The law would only protect religions which have teachings and ethical standards entirely consistent with the law, and the opposite will be dismissed. Yet now, no one is dared to change the law, but we should believe that in next five centuries this change would come. Why? It is because mankind would never accept this flaw to last forever.
Similarly, this also relates to how we handle and manage different things in life. Although we have a lot of different opinions, we must try to agree on one opinion to progress further. For example, we wished to fix the road leading to the temple. We asked for help from family and friends, but we all had different opinion on how to finish the job. The discussion went on and on without reaching an agreement. If we all just ignore our own voice, our own opinion, our own ego, we would be able to reach an objective and reasonable agreement.
While looking for the right solution, and if our opinion was rejected by others, we were hurt and annoyed, so our reaction was very defensive, which means the discussion just went on and on. We did not have ego and were not selfish, we would be able to accept other’s good idea happily. All Buddhists must have this positive attitude and behaviour. Therefore, regardless whether it is Buddhism principles or just simple events in our ordinary life, we must always try to get rid of our ego, prejudice in order to live right with others. We then could find The Only Truth.
However, things are not really black or white; or completely right or completely wrong. What about those that are half-right and a half-wrong; or mostly right; or absolutely right? For example, we often perceive that that cruelty is bad while kindness is good. Kindness is divided into several categories. Like when we went to a temple to worship Buddha, we met a person for the first time. He did not know us either but he gave us the broom and asked, “Please sweep this place for me.” We did as he requested. Later on, we found that he was one of our subordinate, but we were not angry with him. In this case, we were kind to help other person, no matter he/she was. Similarly, at work, we should also have a positive attitude and tolerance behaviour towards our colleagues.
Let’s consider another side of kindness. When the Master sent us to collect firewood, someone else also asked us to carry some bags of soil. We responded: “The Master asked to gather firewood already”, but the other person yelled back at you: “That is not important, carry some bags of soil for me now.”
We did not respond nor follow his order either, which meant in this case, we were not submissive. And when the other person scolded at us, we explained to him why the Master’s order was very important. We were assertive then. The assertion does not mean we were not kind, but it indicated that we were strong and decisive.
We must understand that kindness does not mean we have to obey everyone. We should listen to others; we should be patient but sometimes we should be decisive and not listen to everything that others say. Those behaviours would be only acceptable in appropriate situations. The important thing is we must assess the situation we are in in order to have the appropriate attitude.
Like any law of any country, an offender shall be punished but how severe should he be punished? Not all offenders are sentenced to death. Yes, may be in in some cases, they could be sentenced to death; but in other cases, they would be sentenced to life imprisonment; or some could just receive the warning. That is, depending on the seriousness and the severity of the offence, the court or the judge will made the appropriate assessment and decision.
Likewise, many principles and truths in life are not just always wrong or right, there are many in between. The key is that we must be wise and intelligent enough to assess, make our own judgment and adjust accordingly.
We know that while we were searching for the right principle and the Only Truth, we have come across many bad things but we still had to forgive and forget because the reality is no one is perfect, everyone makes mistakes.
Let’s assess ourselves. We all have made many mistakes too. If we could not forgive others and vice versa, it would be very difficult for all of us to live in harmony. Therefore, when we are aware of someone else’s mistake and sin, we should be able to sympathize and forgive them, as one day, we may be commit the exact same thing.
But why can someone find The Only Truth, and not others? It’s fate. It’s the destiny. And it is all because of karma from our past lives.
Firstly, we must be honest.
Secondly, when we teach someone, we must be dedicated completely and must explain everything properly.
Thirdly, we must never be ethical, and never accept the wrongs although we might have to suffer. For example, in one of our past lives, there was a kind-hearted person who offered fifty gifts to the poor in our village. Someone knew that we also were in need, so asked us if we want to be added to the list. We knew that our situation was not as bad as the others, so we said no to that offer. If we had taken that gift, someone else would have missed out and they would have suffered more than us. So, we did not accept the wrong doings, we told the truth and were willing to suffer from it. That was the core of the compassion, do not accept unethical thing. By doing that, we had gain many blessings for our afterlives. That is also karma; the law of Cause and Effect. On the contrary, if someone lied for their benefit, in their afterlives, they would not be able to find the right Master to learn the right principles, The Only Truth, and they would have suffered from these bad consequences.
We must believe in The Truth, and protect it. And despite the fact the truth hurts, we must not ignore it.
We might have heard about Jesus Christ’s famous saying: “The truth sets us free.” The truth would help us get rid of miserable feeling and bring us happiness. Why is that so? Because we knew that what we did was right and there would be no bad consequences later. It is simple as the example of when we select a dish from a table full of tasty dishes. We would know which dish is not tasty but healthy, and vice versa… and we must make the right selection to avoid suffering from bad health later in life.
We have got acquainted with many people over the times, some are bad and others are good. We should be aware of who ’s who and their personalities so that we can make the appropriate decision when we have to do business with any of them, either good or bad. If the person is good, we could be more flexible. If the person is bad, we should find the way to educate them slowly. When we behave appropriately, our life would become less complicated gradually. That is why the Truth would bring us happiness. The Truth would calm our mind to help us deal with things in life in the appropriate ways.
There is another deeply meaningful principle, and if we could comprehend this principle, surely one day we would be liberated from the suffering of samsara. This principle is called “Four Noble Truths“. We often hear people say: “All roads lead to Rome“. So we interpreted that all kinds of cultivation would finally lead to liberation. This is not true. The statement “All roads lead to Rome” started from the following event: Once upon a time, Roman Emperor Caesar brought his troops to fight everywhere. He occupied many parts of the world, and whichever part he won over, he made a road leading to the Roman capital. His purpose was to easily control all bases around the world. That was the basis for the above statement.
If we understand the spiritual path to enlightenment is as simple as this statement “All roads lead to Rome“, we are completely superficial. If no matter how you cultivate, you will achieve the same goal after all, then this goal is not enlightenment, but only the three evil paths.
To conclude, from all of principles and truths in life, there is only Only Truth really. Imagining a tree and this Only Truth is like the root. Although there are many branches coming out from this root, there is still only one root. Our duty is to find the root. When we find it, when we understand it, we would find the right path to live and cultivate.
On the path to find this Only Truth, we must get rid of our pride and prejudice to comprehend fully this fundamental truth that any religion or anyone must accept it. And more importantly, this Only Truth should be the one that would help all human beings re-unite, have compassion and care for each other to make this world is a better place, another heaven to live in.
Namo Shakya muni Buddha.