by Matthias Grümayer, Youth Representative of Österreichische Buddhistische Religionsgesellschaft
Buddhism offers tools and practices that help to cultivate openness and care towards other living beings, regardless of species, religions and cultures. What are these?
The practice of the 4 Brahmaviharas, which are loving-kindness, compassion, empathetic joy, equanimity.
The other is to see the relativity of concepts. Ideas do not represent the truth, but they point towards the truth, which is not expressible in words. If this view is remembered, then it is easier to stay open to other viewpoints. If the practice of loving kindness is remembered as a basis for as many actions as possible it can remind us that to come in contact with other people with other religious backgrounds is not to prove whose view of the world is better but to make friends, or at least to stay friendly, because this fundamental friendliness does not mean we need to love everyone. We can even dislike someone and stay friendly.
The Buddhist practice aims for a state of mind beyond concepts or ideas. In the end, every view is a wrong view.
In the second Mindfulness-training of the 14 Mindfulness-trainings of the Order of Interbeing, this is beautifully expressed:
“The Second Mindfulness Training: Non-attachment to Views
Aware of the suffering created by attachment to views and wrong perceptions, we are determined to avoid being narrow-minded and bound to present views. We are committed to learning and practicing non-attachment to views and being open to others’ experiences and insights in order to benefit from the collective wisdom. We are aware that the knowledge we presently possess is not changeless, absolute truth. Insight is revealed through the practice of compassionate listening, deep looking, and letting go of notions rather than through the accumulation of intellectual knowledge. Truth is found in life, and we will observe life within and around us in every moment, ready to learn throughout our lives.”
Arguing about certain concepts can cause a lot of suffering. I remember a situation at university, when I argued with a Christian girl, whether there is a soul or not. I took Anatta as an Idea worth fighting for. Today I know that is just an idea which is pointing to some experience which the Buddha wanted his disciples to explore carefully.
How does your faith inform your sense of responsibility in the global community?
I want to see “global community” in the widest sense. For me global community includes humans, animals, plants and minerals.
Buddhism offers the teaching of kamma (law of causation) and paticcasamuppada (dependent origination). Both of these inform the Buddhist sense for responsibility.
Kamma means action. The quality of action is determined by the underlying intention. If greed, hatred and delusion are motivating an action it is regarded as unwholesome (akusala). If generosity, friendliness and clear-seeing inform an action it is regarded as wholesome for oneself and others.
This makes it clear that our actions have an effect on our surroundings.
The teaching of the dependent origination says that all things arise in dependence upon multiple causes and conditions. From this point of view, the quality of our actions becomes very important. If millions of people on the earth act in selfish ways this has a great negative effect on other human beings and the whole eco-system.
In Thich Nhat Hanh’s Poem “Call me by my true name” the sense of responsibility and interconnectedness is articulated very clearly:
Call Me by My True Names
by Thich Nhat Hanh
Do not say that I’ll depart tomorrow
because even today I still arrive.
Look deeply: I arrive in every second
to be a bud on a spring branch,
to be a tiny bird, with wings still fragile,
learning to sing in my new nest,
to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,
to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.
I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,
in order to fear and to hope.
The rhythm of my heart is the birth and
death of all that are alive.
I am the mayfly metamorphosing on the surface of the river,
and I am the bird which, when spring comes, arrives in time
to eat the mayfly.
I am the frog swimming happily in the clear pond,
and I am also the grass-snake who, approaching in silence,
feeds itself on the frog.
I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,
my legs as thin as bamboo sticks,
and I am the arms merchant, selling deadly weapons to
I am the twelve-year-old girl, refugee on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean after being raped by a sea
and I am the pirate, my heart not yet capable of seeing and
I am a member of the politburo, with plenty of power in my
and I am the man who has to pay his “debt of blood” to, my
dying slowly in a forced labor camp.
My joy is like spring, so warm it makes flowers bloom in all
walks of life.
My pain if like a river of tears, so full it fills the four oceans.
Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and laughs at once,
so I can see that my joy and pain are one.
Please call me by my true names,
so I can wake up,
and so the door of my heart can be left open,
the door of compassion.
Thich Nhat Hanh
From: Peace is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life by Thich Nhat Hanh