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SUNDAY, September 25, 2022
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A universal teacher for us all

A universal teacher for us all

THURSDAY, October 26, 2017
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On September 27 at the Paris headquarters of Unesco, global recognition was given to the lifework of His Majesty King Rama IX for his thoughtful advocacy of wise living in our ordinary callings as people who can do good.

The Unesco tribute stated that King Rama IX’s contributions to how we can live more sustainably made possible a more peaceful world community.
I was deeply honoured to deliver the first keynote remarks on that occasion. My attempt to honour His Majesty, whom I had met and who had been a good friend of my father, started with an ambition to present his advice and guidance as practical and universal, as applicable to all people in all countries.
I believe that King Bhumibol Adulyadej drew on the deep truths enunciated by the Buddha in his first sermon, as the very sound foundation for sustainability in our personal lives, in our pursuit of profit and happiness, and in our political responsibilities.
His Majesty sought to clearly and persuasively transfer those teachings into all our daily lives, outside the religious ritual of Buddhism and monastic life, and beyond the confines of philosophy. 
For the economy – personal, business, national and international – he prescribed principles of the middle way, between extremes. He cautioned us about the dangers inherent in poor risk management, in not using reason and good thinking, in not having internal confidence and psychological resilience, in being ignorant, and in lacking integrity.
These five principles are well known in Thailand as the core of the Sufficiency Economy concept. But they have global application as well.
Second, King Bhumibol advised that the 10 principles of the Thosapit Rachathamma – derived from the Buddhist teachings of justice for application to kingship – be applied to all who held positions of public power. They too, in addition to the King, were responsible for the quality of justice in the realm. They too, therefore, needed to conform their ambitions and actions to virtuous standards in order to serve the people.
In my remarks at Unesco I tried my best to point out that both the Sufficiency Economy Principles and the Thosapit Rachathamma virtues, as explained by His late Majesty, rested on a foundation of the dharma as expounded by the Buddha.
Following Phra Anil Sakya of Wat Bowonniwet, a descendant of Ananda, the Buddha’s cousin and first disciple, I proposed in Paris that we understand dharma not only as an abstract religio-philosophic concept, but as a practical reality which is all around us and also within us.
The root word of dharma in Indo-European means “to hold up”, “to maintain”, “to sustain”. Thus, the dharma is being sustainable in everything we do.  To turn the wheel of the dharma in the original metaphor is to walk forward with our feet soundly touching the ground with every step we take.
If we do this, we will achieve sustainability and have no regrets.  We will not be the cause of harm or disruption or disappointment. We will thus make the world around us better off.
How can we do this?
I suggested that King Bhumibol understood well the sources of our inability to embrace the dharma in our lives. Second, he then knew how to overcome that personal inability by learning to be virtuous.
In Buddhist teachings, our shortcomings arise from the kilesas – disturbances which arise within us. The Dalai Lama calls these internal turbulences “afflicting emotions”.
They are: greed, hate, delusion, conceit, untrue views, doubt, torpor, restlessness, shamelessness, and recklessness. We might say they are the temptations of Mara which never disappear and infect all people.
Next, to impose control over the kilesas, the Buddha taught that we must work on becoming more virtuous, on becoming one with the paramitras. In Thai, this would be perfecting our individual baramee.
The basic paramitras for each person are: giving of oneself, moral conduct, renunciation, insightfulness, diligence, patience and endurance, truthfulness, determination, loving-kindness, and equanimity of mind coupled with serenity of spirit.
Paramitras function as powers and energisers of our behaviours. They do reflect ideals but, more importantly, sit inside us as capacities for action.
When we have the kilesas under control through our activation of virtues, we will easily follow the Sufficiency Economy Principles and, if in positions of public authority, the Thosapit Rachathamma.
The Thosapit Rachathamma are special paramitras needed for righteous governance.  They include: taking care of others, living by norms and good practices, making sacrifices for the greater good, being loyal to high standards such as truth, turning our backs on arrogance, having self-discipline, purging anger, living without harming others to prevail peacefully, having a calm mind and being composed which permit us to be patient and to persevere when facing obstacles, and rectifying misdeeds and rewarding those who are right.
I asserted in the Unesco conference hall that His Majesty’s understanding of Buddhism as a way of living was open to all people. King Rama IX graciously gave us an ethic compatible with all religions and which can enhance any life and any undertaking.
If we follow the dharma as King Rama IX so encouraged us, we will indeed make the world better.