The real significance of Vesak lies in the universal peace message of the Buddha.
What the Buddha realised on the night of his enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree in Bodhgaya more than 2,500 years ago, he taught in simple language to the first five ascetic disciples in terms of the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path.
The Four Noble Truths explain DUKKHA, the sufferings and unsatisfactoriness of life; SAMUDAYA, the cause of suffering; NIRODHA, the cessation of suffering; and MAGGA, the path which leads to peace and the end of all suffering.
The path which leads to peace and the end of all suffering is the Noble Eightfold Path. It consists of:
Right Understanding, Right Thoughts, Right Speech, Right Body Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration.
These eight path factors help to purify our thoughts, speech and body action from the tendencies of grasping (or greed), aversion (hatred), and delusion, through the systematic cultivation of:
SILA (morality or good conduct),
SAMADHI (concentration) and
SILA, or morality, refers to the restraint of speech and body actions, through the practice of Right Speech, Right Action and Right Livelihood.
SAMADHI, or concentration, is achieved through the discipline of the mind, by cultivating Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration.
PAÑÑĀ, or wisdom, refers to the cultivation of Right Understanding and Right Thought.
These three phases of training are essential for the purification of our body, speech and mind. Through the restraint of speech and body actions, the tendencies of greed, hatred and delusion can be prevented from manifesting at the physical and verbal level, but not at the mental level. As such, we need to meditate, to cultivate calmness and insight, in order to prevent the tendencies of greed, hatred and delusion from manifesting at the mental level.
When one’s mind is well trained and is at peace with oneself, naturally one’s speech and body actions will be under control, resulting in a peaceful and harmonious way of life.
The training of the mind based on moral and ethical principles is indispensable if we wish to live in peace and harmony within our families, society, nation, and the world.
The preamble of the UNESCO constitution declares that: “since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed”. Therein lies the universal peace message of the Buddha.
We are indeed very fortunate to live at a time when we are able to enjoy the freedom and relative peace and harmony in our country. As such we should make good use of this opportunity to live a life of discipline and to cultivate our minds – not only for our own benefit, but also for the welfare and happiness of all.
As we celebrate Vesak by radiating thoughts of METTA, or loving-kindness, and extending goodwill to all, we need to realise that peace and harmony can only come about with one’s own discipline of body, speech and mind. The inner peace in our minds will naturally manifest in outer harmony. Let us reaffirm our faith and commitment to the Triple Gem.
May the blessings of the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha be upon you always.
May all beings be well and happy.
– Venerable Mahinda –