By Nishthar Idroos –
Maitri which I believe is Sanskrit denotes benevolence, friendliness, amity, friendship, goodwill, and kindness, close mental union and active interest in others. The cultivation of benevolence (mettā bhāvanā) is a popular form of meditation in Buddhism. In the Theravada Buddhist tradition, this practice begins with the self then one’s loved ones, friends, teachers, strangers, enemies, and finally towards all sentient beings. The more you love, the more light you bring into your life. Embracing love and light through unconditional friendship requires honesty, patience, compassion, courage, persistence, and discipline. It requires an unwavering commitment. It requires that you fully accept responsibility for your life, and leave behind blaming and complaining.
If this is what Maitri means the country should grab the opportunity to enthrone Maithripala Sirisena as the next President. Compassion, empathy, humanity, mercy are great qualities for a leader. These are qualities that will not only win the hearts of people but will enable and motivate them to function as human beings and to their true potential. A leader, leadership, administration solely exist to look after the people and laboriously work to ameliorate their socio-economic condition. It is essentially and primarily the sole responsibility of a government to ensure the safety, security and well being of its entire people and the environment. Ensuring that poverty does not become excessive or uncontrollable due to unreasonable levels of inequality. This is based on the notion of dharma, which means that one’s life should follow the principles of nature and accord with what is right. A truly noble and righteous ruler would live in accord with dharma, ruling without violence or coercion. The following is a succinct summary of a king’s duties according to an early Buddhist text. “What is the duty of an emperor? Depending on the dharma, honouring it, revering, cherishing it, one should establish guard, ward and protection according to dharma for one’s own household, troops, nobles and vassals, for Brahmins and householders, town and country folk, ascetics and religious, for beasts and birds. Let no crime prevail in your kingdom, and to those who are in need, give property.” This is the Buddhism we the non-buddhist know and can Maithripala live up to it?
The bloke has had a reasonably untainted political life with a lot of moral rectitude. A true son of the “soil”. Son of a hardworking farmer. He represents those that stride the earth with a very close affinity to it. Those that are dreaming sometimes screaming for change. The silent, innocent and unsuspecting majority whose purchasing power had plummeted and collapsed due to strangulating taxes and menacing inflation. Those that have become apathetic and dispassionate due to the colossal and monumental corruption that’s taken root. Those that have pawned everything they’ve got to place food on the table. Those that have been humiliated and sometimes incarcerated for not being able to return the money borrowed on high interest to have a child’s wedding. Those that have taken their own lives unable to countenance the dire economic predicament. A nation drained, weakened and disengaged. A pained psyche aimlessly wanders hoping against hope for redemption.
Hopefully with Maitri intervention and election people will feel energised and resuscitated, feel so completely returned to the present moment after the nightmarish misadventure. Not dwelling in the past, not living in the future, but just very calm and serene and in the very moment enjoying the lost kindness and compassion. Hope people will feel lighter not heavier devoid of worries and problems that posed huge impediments. Buddhism doubtless has a reputation for being a tradition of peace and justice. Scenes of agitated Sinhalese monks spewing unpalatable profanities and acting as provocateurs to incite violence and murder constitute a major aberration to the classical Buddhism acknowledged by the world. Buddhism doubtless has zero tolerance and no accommodation for this kind of nonsense. This can only be construed as manipulation justly comparable to the clumsy marionette dangled behind the scene to perfection by the all powerful adroit in the palace.
Buddhism as a philosophy and as a contemplative process has contributed immensely to human civilization. Its propensity for social justice ethics are born from the principle of compassionate action. According to Buddhism human beings make choices that have consequences. If they are informed, wise and with compassion, the outcome will be happiness; if they are informed by greed, hatred, and delusion, the outcome will be suffering. In the sphere of social justice the Buddha pointed out that, while it is normal for people to want to experience the pleasures of life, when greed becomes excessive it creates conflict. This conflict is rooted in the reality of limited resources: the earth is generous and abundant, but can only supply so much. When some decide to take for themselves beyond what is reasonable, others go without. Thus inequality is born, from which stem jealousy, distrust, lies, crime, and violence.
The Quranic standards of justice transcend considerations of race, religion, color, and creed, as Muslims are commanded to be just to their friends and foes alike, and to be just at all levels, as the Quran puts it: “O you who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even if it be against yourselves, your parents, and your relatives, or whether it is against the rich or the poor…” (Quran 4:135) “Let not the hatred of a people swerve you away from justice. Be just, for this is closest to righteousness…” (Quran 5:8). The Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) said: “There are seven whom Allah will shade in His Shade on the Day when there is no shade except His Shade: one of them is a just ruler. The concept of justice is most important for the Ruler, since he is in charge of his people and the primary disposer of justice in the land. For this reason, the Ruler is given special mention as one of the seven who will be honored with Allah’s Shade.
When a people constitute a majority the metrics too remains very much the same when suffering, adversity and hardship proliferate. Whether its terrorism, natural disaster or any other form of catastrophe. This is very fundamental for anyone to understand. You cannot work for a group of people at the expense or overlooking another. Forces are certainly against you. As a nation we have to move forward with love, kindness and benevolence. Let’s eschew innovations in religions which are generously magnified in the media by courtesy and at the behest of rulers. If Gautama Buddha was to revisit he for sure will not be able recognize what he bequeathed to his disciples. The same is true for the other religions. Let’s immerse ourselves in rivers of sincerity. Let’s get rid of hypocrisy, chauvinism and malignant phobias. Sri Lanka has a lot to achieve and badly needs a true and honorable leader to take us there.