18 A HOLISTIC BUDDHIST APPROACH TO SAFEGUARD HUMAN DIGNITY FOR A SUSTAINABLE SOCIETY

Thứ năm - 09/05/2019 12:02
by O.A. Samantha Lal Opanayake





 
A HOLISTIC BUDDHIST APPROACH TO SAFEGUARD HUMAN DIGNITY FOR A SUSTAINABLE SOCIETY

by O.A. Samantha Lal Opanayake*






ABSTRACT

The modern society is almost devoid of human dignity as human qualities have been deteriorated. The Pāli term for dignity is pabhāva, patāpa, mahima, teja, mahesakkhatā. Human dignity has no partial, racial, territorial or dogmatic attributes but it is endowed with wholesome qualities. Human dignity according to Buddhism is entirely exposed in humans potential. Hence, it can be enhanced and safeguarded in Buddhist perspective in ethical, behavioral, mental and cognitive aspects for the reciprocal wellbeing of humankind. Safeguarding of human dignity in ethical or wholesome behavioral aspects is based on the purity of morality (sīla visuddhi) as depicted Rathavinītha Sutta, threefold purity in Right speech, Right action and Right livelihood (Mahācattārīsaka Sutta), wholesome behavior as revealed in the Suttas like Sikkhā, Saṅgīti, Vyagghapajja, Cunda Kammāraputta, Sāleyyaka, etc. conduce to safeguard human dignity that contributes to restore a sustainable society. Enhancement of mental and cognitive aspects such as the twofold Right View (Mahācattārīsaka Sutta), 44 effacements (Sallekha Sutta), purity in threefold mental actions (Cunda Kammāraputta Sutta), the three kinds of mental conduct in



*. Visiting Lecturer; Buddhist and Pali University of Sri Lanka, BA (Hons)- Buddhist Phi- losophy (BPU), MA - Linguistics (UKEL), MA – Buddhist Studies (UKEL), PGDE TESL (Colombo), MPhil (reading) (PGIPBS), Sri Lanka.
 


accordance with the Dhamma (Sāleyyaka Sutta), six recollections of good qualities (Mahānāma Sutta), the Four Sublime Abodes (Brahmavihāra Sutta), oneness of mankind that rejects caste discrimination, etc. safeguard human dignity. Human dignity can be safeguarded in Buddhist perspective in ethical, behavioral, mental and cognitive aspects for the wellbeing of mankind irrespective of castes, creeds, races and nations but in oneness of mankind in an all-pervading global context restoring a sustainable society bringing about happiness, justice, peace and harmony in the world.
***

The Pāli terms for dignityare pabhāva, patāpa, mahima, teja, mahesakkhatā. As defined in the English Dictionaries, the term dignity, is calm, serious and controlled behaviour that makes people respect one another or it is the state or quality of being worthy of honour. Human dignity has no partial, racial, territorial or dogmatic attributes but it is endowed with wholesome qualities according to Buddhist teachings. The absence of human dignity causes diverse problems and conflicts in the world. Loss of human qualities and values destroy human dignity causing problematic behavours and mental states that harm wholesome mutual relations, harmonious living with fellow citizens and sustainable co-existence in ethnic, religious and cultural diversity. As a whole, lack of human dignity leads to detrimental states like selfishness, hatred, jealousy, hypocrisy, insincerity, meanness, cruelty and all types of harmful actions which incur miseries in individual, family, social, professional, economic, political, cultural and religious contexts where sustainability of the society is destroyed.

SAFEGUARDING HUMAN DIGNITY IN ETHICAL CONTEXT FOR A SUSTAINABLE SOCIETY

Ethical or wholesome behavioral aspects based on the purity of morality (sīla visuddhi) as in Rathavinītha  Sutta,  threefold purity in Right speech, Right action and Right livelihood as in Mahācattārīsaka Sutta, wholesome deportment as revealed in the Suttas like Sikkhā, Saṅgīti, Vyagghapajja, Cunda Kammāraputta, Sāleyyaka, etc. conduce to safeguard human dignity. The five precepts   which   enhance   ethical   deportment   safeguard   human
 


dignity for sustainable living in individual, family and social life. The observance of the five precepts by all the humans in the world safeguards not only the overall human dignity but also the fundamental Human Rights promoted in the UN Human Rights Convention. For instance, refrain from of killing, stealing, sexual misbehaviour, falsehood and taking intoxicants safeguards the basic human rights – right of every man to protect ones life, right of every man to protect his wealth and property, right of every man to lead a peaceful family life, right of every man to know true information and right of every man to keep peace of mind. Thus, the five precepts lay the foundation for the enhancement of human ethical qualities and values safeguarding human dignity which protects human rights and vice versa bringing about peace, harmony and trustworthiness in family making the modern society sustainable one.

SAFEGUARDING HUMAN DIGNITY IN BEHAVIOURAL CONTEXT

According to the Kodhavagga of the Dhammapada, “Kāyena saṁvutā dhīrā – atho vācāya saṁvarā, Manasā saṁvutā dhīra – te ve suparisavutā,1 the wise are controlled in bodily action, speech and thought. The three  good  practices  of  body,  speech and mind, the three forms of purity – purity of body speech and mind and the three perfections – perfection of body, speech and mind are the fundamental moral prerequisites which lay the moral foundation for the enhancement of human dignity. As the Cunda Kammāraputta Sutta2 explains, being pure in skillful verbal actions in four ways – (1) by abandoning and abstaining from false speech,
  1. divisive speech, (3) abusive speech, (4) by speaking words worth treasuring, seasonable, reasonable, circumscribed, enhances behavioural human qualities that illuminate human dignity. The three kinds of bodily conduct in accordance with the Dhamma introduced in the Sāleyyaka Sutta,3 Namely, (1) abandoning the killing of living beings and becoming one who abstains from killing living beings, (2) taking what is not given and (3) from misconduct in sexual desires are behavioral prerequisites that safeguard human
 
    1. The Dhammapada, Ch.17. V. 234. p.195 – 196.
    2. The Numerical Discourses of the Buddha (Aṅguttara Nikāya), 10.176 (10), WP. p. 1518ff .
    3. The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha (Majjhima Nikāya), 41. BPS. p. 380.
 


dignity in its overall sense. The reciprocal performance of 61 ethical obligations as elaborated in the Sigālovāda Sutta enhances human dignity in family, educational, professional, economic, social and religious contexts leading to a sustainable society.

According to the Vyagghapajja Sutta (Dīghajānu),4 the conditions of welfare such as persistent effort (uṭṭhāna-sampadā), the accomplishment of watchfulness (ārakkha-sampadā), good friendship (kalyāṇamittatā), a balanced livelihood (sama-jīvikatā), the accomplishment of faith (saddhā-sampadā), virtue (sīla- sampadā), charity (ga-sampadā) and the accomplishment of wisdom (pñā-sampadā) develop mans dignity by developing moral and wholesome behavioural qualities as well as spiritual qualities for both mundane and supramundane life. One who allows himself to become spoiled by the stains of immoral conduct that causes ones ruin as elucidated in the Parābhava Sutta blocks his own road to worldly, moral and spiritual progress and lowers all that is truly noble and human in mans dignity. Buddhist ethics elaborated as thirty-eight blessings in the Mahā Maṅgala Sutta rightly and comprehensively safeguard human dignity enhancing moral and spiritual progress. These ethics in the form of blessings starting with refrain from evil company” develop human dignity to a higher level that brings about sustainable harmony and ethical progress for the individual as well as for society, nation and mankind.

SAFEGUARDING HUMAN DIGNITY BY LEADING A SIMPLE AND BALANCED LIFE

The  ethical  prerequisites  shown  in  the  Metta  Sutta5   reflect a  simple  life  with  fewness  of  wishes,  satisfaction  (santussako), a light living (sallahukavutti) with few duties (appakicco), less attachment and less craving, a balanced livelihood (sama-jīvikatā) are obligatory behavioural prerequisites which make one endowed with human dignity of universal value. As the  Vyagghapajja Sutta reveals regarding balanced livelihood (sama-jīvikatā), a householder knowing his income and expenses should lead a balanced life, neither extravagant nor miserly, knowing that thus his
    1. The Numerical Discourses of the Buddha (Aṅguttara Nikāya), 8.54 (4) WPB. p.1194ff.
    2. The Group of Discourses (Suttanipāta), PTS. p. 126 ff.
 


income will stand in excess of his expenses, but not his expenses in excess of his income. The four sources for the increase of collected wealth through right living – (1) abstinence from debauchery, (2) drunkenness, (3) non-indulgence in gambling, (4) companionship with the good should be developed to lead a simple and balanced life that perpetually maintain human dignity required for a sustainable society.

RIGHT LIVELIHOOD SAFEGUARDING HUMAN DIGNITY FOR A SUSTAINABLE  SOCIETY

Man has no right to dominate other beings and the environment destroying the mutual and peaceful dependent existence although man is of advanced mental states among all other beings on Earth, Human supremacy is to be enriched not through selfish dominance but through the enhancement of human dignity. Wrong livelihood (micchā ājīva) increases selfish exploitation and deteriorates human dignity as engagement in unwholesome occupations destroys values and degrades wholesome qualities in individual, family, society and the whole world in every aspect. As the Vaṇijjā Sutta 6 elucidates, the five types of occupations that a person should not be engaged are wrong livelihood (micchā ājīva)– business in weapons (sattha), human beings (sattha) meat (maṅsa), intoxicants (majja) and poison (visa), and other evil and unethical means of livelihood like adulteration (missikaraṇa), false weighing (tulākūṭa), false measuring (mānakūṭa), counterfeit metal or false gold (kaṃsakūṭa), dealing with perverting justice or crookedness (ukkoṭana), deceitfulness (vañcana), fraud or dishonesty (nikati), etc. The mind of one who is engaged in such wrong business or occupations becomes unkind, ruthless, rough, wicked, cruel and immoral and destroys individuals, family and society spoiling the dignity of man. Right livelihood (sammā ājīva), according to the Maggavibhaṅga Sutta,7 is the abandonment of dishonest livelihood and keeping ones life going with right livelihood through righteous means not through harmful ways of earning, and so Right livelihood

 
    1. The Numerical Discourses of the Buddha (Aṅguttara Nikāya) 5.177 (7). WP. p.790.
    2. The Connected Discourses of the Buddha (Saṃyutta Nikāya), 45.8.  WP. pp. 1528 –
 


is a preliminary requisite that protects and enhances dignity of man. Hence, Right livelihood appreciated in Buddhist teachings should be applied by everyone in every stratum in the modern society to safeguard the dignity of man which is in turn conducive to sustainable peace and harmony among every fellow citizens in the society.

ENHANCEMENT OF HUMAN DIGNITY IN MENTAL AND COGNITIVE ASPECTS

Enhancement of mental and cognitive aspects such as six recollections of good qualities (Mahānāma Sutta),8 purity in threefold mental actions (Cunda Kammāraputta Sutta),9 the three kinds of mental conduct in accordance with the Dhamma (Sāleyyaka Sutta),10 the twofold Right View (Mahācattārīsaka Sutta),11 44 effacements (Sallekha Sutta),12 the Four Sublime Abodes (brahmavihāra) (Brahmavihāra Sutta), oneness of mankind that rejects caste discrimination, etc. safeguard human dignity for a sustainable society.

Human dignity can also be enhanced based on wholesome mental actions, states and qualities that conduce to mental purity. The Cunda Kammāraputta Sutta explains that one is made pure in three ways by mental actions.13 (1) Refraining from coveting the belongings of others thinking that what belongs to others would be his, (2) By bearing no ill-will and not corrupt in the resolves of his heart thinking, ‘May these beings be free from animosity, free from oppression, free from trouble and they look after themselves with ease!’ and (3) By having right view that there is what is given, what is offered and what is sacrificed. There are fruits and results of good and bad actions. There is this world and the next world. There is mother and father. There are spontaneously reborn beings; there


8. Ibid. 55.21(1), 55.22 (2) WP. p. 1809.
      1. The Numerical Discourses of the Buddha (Aguttara Nikāya), 10.176 (10), WP. p. 1518ff.
      2. The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha (Majjhima Nikāya), 41. BPS. p. 380 – 381. 11. Ibid. 117. BPS. p. 934.
12. The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha (Majjhima Nikāya) 8. WP. p. 125 ff. 13.The Numerical Discourses of the Buddha (Aṅguttara Nikāya), 10.176 (10), WP. p.
1518ff.
 


are priests and contemplatives who, faring rightly and practising rightly, proclaim this world and the next after having directly known and realized it for themselves.14 One is made pure in three ways by skillful mental actions and this threefold mental purity is an essential mental prerequisite for enhancement of human dignity. The three kinds of mental conduct in accordance with the Dhamma as exposed in the Sāleyyaka Sutta15 are mental prerequisites for enhancing human dignity. They are (1) not being covetous and not being a coveter of anothers property, (2) having no mind of ill-will, with the intention of a mind unaffected by hate and (3) having right view, undistorted vision that there is what is given and what is offered and what is sacrificed, and there is fruit and ripening of good and bad kammas, and there is this world and the other world and mother and father and spontaneously (born) beings, and good and virtuous monks and brahmins that have themselves realized by direct knowledge and declared this world and the other world.16 Mental qualities purified in three skillful mental actions as elucidated above enhance mans dignity for a sustainable society.

RIGHT VIEW FOR SAFEGUARDING HUMAN DIGNITY

Right view on the unwholesome, the root of the unwholesome, the wholesome and the root of the wholesome is to be developed. The unwholesome is killing living beings, taking what is not given, misconduct in sensual pleasures, false speech, malicious speech, harsh speech, gossip, covetousness, ill-will, wrong view. The root of the unwholesome is greed, hatred and delusion. The wholesome is the abstention from the unwholesome mentioned above and the root of the wholesome is non-greed, non-hatred and non- delusion.17 Thus, Right view which helps ones mind to refrain from the unwholesome but to engage in the wholesome enhances human dignity. Right view that safeguards the moral life is a prerequisite for development of sustainable human dignity. According to the Mahācattārīsaka Sutta, Right view is the forerunner as one sees
  1. Ibid.
  2. The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha (Majjhima Nikāya), 41. BPS. p. 380 – 381.
  3. Ibid.
  4. The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha (Majjhima Nikāya), 41. BPS. 9. WP. p.
 


wrong view as wrong view, and right view as right view, right resolve as right resolve and wrong resolve as wrong resolve, right speech as right speech and wrong speech as wrong speech, right action as right action and wrong action as wrong action and right livelihood as right livelihood and wrong livelihood as wrong  livelihood.18 Thus, the individual who has such an awareness of right view that enhances the moral life is of sustainable human dignity.

DEVELOPMENT OF EFFACEMENT FOR SAFEGUARDING SUSTAINABLE HUMAN DIGNITY

Development of effacement as elaborated in the Sallekha Sutta,19 on thoughts arising, on avoidance, on the way upward and on quenching is a very important mental and cognitive development for the enhancement of human dignity to its highest level for sustainable society. The instructions on effacement that should be practised by any person to enhance human dignity are as follows.20
    1. not to be harmful although others are harmful. (2) to abstain from killing living beings. (3) to abstain from taking what is not given. (4) to be chaste. (5) to abstain from false speech. (6) to abstain from malicious speech. (7) to abstain from harsh speech.
(8) to abstain from gossip. (9) not to be covetous. (10) not to have thoughts of ill will. (11) to have right view. (12) to have right intention. (13) to have right speech. (14) do right actions.(15) to have right livelihood.(16) to make right effort. (17) to have right mindfulness. (18) to have right concentration. (19) to have right knowledge. (20) to have right deliverance. (21) to be free from sloth and torpor. (22) to be unagitated. (23) free from doubt. (24) not to be angry. (24) not to be hostile. (25) not to denigrate. (26) not to be domineering. (27) not to be envious. (28) not to be jealous.
(29) not to be fraudulent. (30) not to be hypocrites. (31) not to be obstinate. (32) not to be arrogant. (33) to be easy to admonish.
(34) to have noble friends. (35) to be heedful. (36) to be faithful.
(37) to be shameful. (38) to have conscience. (39) to be learned.
(40) to be energetic. (41) to be established in mindfulness. (42)


18. Ibid. 117. WP. p. 934.
  1. Ibid. 8. WP. p. 125 ff.
  2. Ibid.
 


to be endowed with wisdom. (44) not misapprehend according to individual views nor hold on to them tenaciously, but shall discard them with ease.

TWO QUALITIES FOR SUSTAINABLE HUMAN DIGNITY

The two bright qualities – Moral shame (hiri) and Moral dread (ottappa) that protect the world enhance human dignity. In the absence of these two bright principles that protect the world, the world would fall into promiscuity as with goats, sheep, chickens, pigs, dogs, and jackals and there would not be discerned respect for ones mother, maternal aunt or maternal uncles wife or a teachers wife or the wives of other honored persons. The two dark qualities
– moral shamelessness and moral recklessness 21 makes the world promiscuous destroying human dignity. The presence of the two bright principles – shame and fear of wrongdoing (hiri-ottappa) protects the world establishing discerned respect for mother maternal aunt or maternal uncles wife or a teachers wife or the wives of other honored persons as elucidated in the Lokapāla Sutta.22 Thus, moral shame and moral dread establishes the basis for the moral and mental deportment that enhances human dignity.

ONENESS OF MANKIND FOR SAFEGUARDING HUMAN DIGNITY

Oneness of man as appreciated in Buddhism prevents the discrimination of man on the delusive ground of caste, clan, creed, birth, colour, race, territory, occupation, etc. develops universally sustainable human dignity. Everyman in the world is of five aggregates, a psycho-physical combination. According to biological, physical, psychological, ethical and mental factors as exposed in the Suttas like Assalāyana, Vasala, Vāseṭṭha, Ambaṭṭha, Soṇadaḍa, etc., oneness of man is proved and man cannot be discriminated as high or low by birth, colour, occupation, etc. but by virtue, wisdom, etc. According to the Assalāyana Sutta (MN93), caste, race, social class, national identity, etc. do not determine mans virtue or spiritual potential. As the Vasala Sutta (SN 1.7.) exposes, man is neither low nor high according to his birth but by virtue. Thus, the adoption

 
  1. The Numerical Discourses of the Buddha (Aṅguttara Nikāya), 2. 7 (7). WP. p. 143.
  2. Ibid.
 


of this universal Buddhist view on oneness of mankind enhances human dignity in its overall aspect that leads to restore peace, harmony and justice in the world.

SAFEGUARDING HUMAN DIGNITY THROUGH SUBLIME ABODES

Human dignity and qualities for a sustainable society can be safeguarded up to a higher through the four sublime abodes (brahmavihāra) – loving-kindness (mettā), compassion (karuṇā), altruistic joy (muditā) and equanimity (upekkhā). They are known as abodes (vihāra) since they should become ones minds constant dwelling-places. The mind should become thoroughly endowed with them and these four sublime abodes should become inseparable qualities in ones common activities. When loving- kindness is cultivated towards people irrespective of caste, race or social status, etc., compassion is practised in family and social life in every context, joy is altruistically felt and wished in others success and victory and equanimous attitude is maintained in the vicissitude of life. Thus, the four sublime abodes safeguard human dignity providing answers to all situations arising from social contact, removing tension, bringing about peace in social conflict, healing wounds suffered in the struggle of existence, levelling social barriers, building sustainable harmonious communities, reviving joy and developing human brotherhood against the forces of selfishness that destroys sustainable living.

CONCLUSION

The modern society is almost devoid of human dignity as human qualities have been deteriorated and it is a threat to a sustainable society. Buddhist teachings can be globally applied to safeguard human dignity to restore a sustainable society. Hence, human dignity through the application of holistic approach should be safeguarded and enhanced in Buddhist perspective in ethical, behavioral, mental as well as in cognitive aspects for the sustainable wellbeing of entire mankind and environment. Safeguarding of Human Dignity in its pristine concept of oneness of mankind endowed with ethical and spiritual qualities and values that can universally be applicable as advocated in Buddhism brings about sustainable justice, prosperity, peace, harmony, happiness in the modern society.
 


 

Reference


Bodhi, Bhikkhu, (2000), The Connected Discourses of the Buddha, A New Translation of the Sayutta Nikāya, Translated from the Pāli, Wisdom Publications. Boston, USA.

(2012), The Numerical Discourses of the Buddha, A Translation of the Aguttara Nikāya, Translated from the Pali, Wisdom Publications. Boston, USA.

Ñānamoli, Bhikkhu (2009), The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha, A Translation of the Majjhima Nikāya, Translated from the Pāli Original Translation, Translation Edited and Revised by Bhikkhu Bodhi, Wisdom Publications. Boston Fourth Edition, USA.

Norman, K. R., (1984), The Group of Discourses (SuttaNipāta) Vol. 1, Translated, alternative translations by I. B. Horner and Walpola Rahula, The Pali Text Society, London.

Walshe, Maurice, (2012), The Long Discourses of the Buddha, A Translation of the Dīgha Nikāya, Translated from the Pāli, Wisdom Publications. Boston, USA.

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