BPF talks Non-Violence with the Venerable Bhikkhu Buddharakkhita
If someone attacks you on the street, can you use non-violent means to respond? What if they foreclose your house? Or invade your country? With “The System Stinks”, our 2013 series of dialogues, we’re going to be talking about tough systemic issues like this, and whether non-violence is enough to tackle them. To help us, we’ll be talking with some very wise and learned Buddhists, who have been through some of the toughest situations out there. As a preview, we’ve interviewed some of them to give you an idea of who you’ll be talking to. Our third interview is with Ugandan Dharma leader The Venerable Bhikkhu Buddharakkhita.
What project are you excited to be working on right now? How is it influenced by Buddhism?
I am excited to be working on the non-violence or Peace Project. The Peace project is influenced by Buddhism. The Buddha said that all actions are led by the mind. And if one’s motivation is greed, hatred, delusion and fear, then suffering will be the outcome. On the other hand, all actions are led by the mind, and if one’s motivation is generosity, loving-kindness, compassion, wisdom and courage, then happiness or peace will be the result. With such Buddhist guidelines, it is abundantly clear that violence can be eradicated and real peace can be cultivated or achieved.
What practices have helped you develop more compassion for those who are doing “wrong” in the world? Do you have an example of how that has informed your actions?
My practice of right understanding of law of Karma helped me to develop more compassion towards those who do “wrong” in the world. Most people are ignorant about the operation of this natural law of karma. Simply put, our actions have a potential to yield results. And the law operates whether we know it or not. The more I contemplate on the law of Karma of myself and others, the more I become more tolerant and patient with others.
Also, forgiveness practice has been very helpful. I practice forgiveness in order to let go of the emotion commotion of feeling being hurt or wronged by others. For example, there was a lot of violence in Uganda last year. Perhaps due religious intolerance, our temple caretaker was attacked by unknown person, and he sustained an injury. Also, I was attacked last year and used non-violence means to deal with the situation. Of course, later on, the offender was caught by the police. When I saw him, I knew he was so ignorant to engage in such terrible actions of violence and threating violence. In both situations, my right understanding (wisdom) helped me to arouse lot compassion, and vice versa. I like the saying: compassion is wisdom in action, and wisdom is compassion at rest.
Have you had a moment of insight or wisdom that compelled you to Buddhist-inspired action?
It is the wisdom of “putting myself in the shoes of others.” Seeing the suffering of others deeply touches my heart and mind. I wish for people to be free from suffering and its causes. For instance, several years ago, I began to operate a peace school at the Uganda Buddhist Centre because many children came from poor families, and lacked proper education in ethical conduct and moral values.
Imagine it’s 2022 – what types of inspiring actions are Buddhist activists up to? Mass protests, corporate infiltration, others?
Non-violent mass protests, and peaceful approach to social action.
I’m a member of Buddhist Peace Fellowship because…
First, I do share similar values and vision with BPF of bringing social action through non-violence. Second, I am passionate about working for peace, equality and respect of all beings using Buddhist noble qualities of generosity, compassion, and wisdom.
Ven. Bhikkhu Buddharakkhita was born and raised in Uganda, Africa. He first encountered Buddhism in 1990 while living in India. In November 2002 he received higher ordination under the tutelage of the late Venerable U Silananda at the Tathagata Meditation Center, CA, U.S. He has continued his Dhamma study and meditation practice for eight years under the guidance of Bhante Gunaratana at the Bhavana Society, WV. He is the founder-president and Abbot of the Uganda Buddhist Center in Uganda and has been teaching meditation in Africa, Australia, Brazil, Europe, Asia, and United States. He is the spiritual adviser of Flowering Lotus Meditation Center in Magnolia, MS, and of Global Buddhist Relief, NJ, U.S. and the representative of Uganda at the World Buddhist Summit, Kobe City, Japan. His book, Planting Dhamma Seeds: The Emergence of Buddhism in Africa tells the story of his religious and spiritual work in Africa.