Just to mark the new year, I would like to post the following text by
Mettanando Bhikku sent to me by an old friend I met in Bangkok. Happy New Year to all!
THE YEAR AHEAD: Buddha's blessings for the 'double James Bond year 2-007'
Nothing in the world takes place without meaning; and there are always reasonsbehind every event. This belief is shared by most religious traditions: Buddhism, Christianity, Islam and others. Hinduism, in particular, deeply holds that names and numbers are holders of the elements intrinsic to particular persons and events. Therefore, names are very important.
Following this line of thought, the upcoming year of 2007 can, indeed, be very adventurous, as it does not only mean the 2007th Year of Our Lord, but also the double James Bond Year.
As the curtain on the Year of the Dog 2006 draws to a close, it leaves many items of unfinished business; some will be neglected and forgotten while others will escalate into crises to threaten the world.
As the momentum of the Year of the Dog is being transferred to the Year of the Pig, certain factors will determine the course of life of millions on the rollercoaster's rails of public conspiracy, concealment, surprises and adventures. 2007 will be a golden year for those who believe in the Chaos Theory, wherein humankind is moving closer. On the bright side, 2007 will be a good year of creativity, heroism and bold international operations.
In spite of the upcoming uncertainties and adventures, the teachings of the Lord Buddha will be the refuge and security of mind for millions. Since the Buddha said explicitly that the mind is the leader of all things, when the mind is beautiful, life is also beautiful. Beauty of life depends on the beauty of mind. Having said that, it does not mean that problems are to be seen as a part of the beauty. When problems are solved we add more beauty to our lives. The more beauty we add to our lives, the more beauty we add to the whole world.
The key to success in life is wisdom; that paves the way to proper approaches to problems, the so-called dukkha in Buddhism. The word is often mistranslated in English as ''suffering'' or ''pain''. This leads to a pessimistic interpretation of Buddhism as a whole. In practice, Buddhists tend to have a dread of dukkha and are inclined to let go of dukkha as they feel that it is the only way possible. Etymologically, dukkha has nothing to do with pain or suffering. It actually means ''a bad space'', which is a technical term employed by craftsmen to describe a phenomenon when two objects which are supposed to fit in with each other fail to do so. The idiom, ''To put a square peg into a round hole'', appropriately describes
the original meaning of the word dukkha.
Therefore, dukkha should neither be seen as something frightening or worrisome. Rather, the Buddha told us that dukkha is a challenge that we all should strive to overcome. The way to achieve this potential is neither through fate nor arbitrary means, but via a systematically approached set of principles called the Four Noble Truths. These Truths mandate the detection of dukkha and its root cause(s), which then permits their eradication based on the practical protocol it suggests: the Fourth Truth, which is the Eight-Fold Noble Path.
Dukkha if left unattended becomes a catalyst for decadence of all kinds: mental, personal and social. The best way to deal with dukkha is by protection: identify its future trends and nip it in the bud before it can trigger further decay.
Through the lens of the Four Noble Truths, reality is a dynamic network of causality, a complex chain of cause and effect. Nothing came to existence without cause and when an effect is produced, it simultaneously affects other phenomena to rise.
2006 has seen many unfinished dukkhas, both at the global and national levels.
Regarding environmental issues, governments of many countries, especially the European Union, are aware of the looming disaster of global warming. The trend of climatic change is clear, and it is getting worse every year. While EU countries are trying to impose a ''green tax'' on their people to curb the continuous rise of greenhouse gases, the United States has remained quiet even though its energyconsumption is proportionally triple that of other developed countries.
Terrorism and the crisis in Iraq still remain unresolved issues of the world, not to mention the building up of nuclear capabilities of North Korea and Iran, which can easily tip the military balance of the world forever.
Domestically, more social unrest is looms for Thailand. Drafting of the new constitution can easily spark off another political crisis, whereas the investigations into corruption cases by the government is hardly leading to any clear conclusion. The influence of the deposed prime minister lingers on in many institutions and can cause further instability for the government at any time.
Consider the meaning of 007: a licence to kill. But the licence to kill also implies the opposite: the licence to preserve and enhance future life.
So, as we approach the ''double James Bond year'' when all uncertainties are possible, Buddhists can have no greater blessing than the Dharma. With ''Life is Beauty'' well established in our hearts, all dukkha can be systematically solved with hope, courage and creativity. It is a good time to renew our way of thinking for the good of our health and beauty in our heart. Always look to the bright side of life!
Mettanando Bhikkhu is a Thai Buddhist monk and a former physician. He studied at Chulalongkorn University, Oxford and Harvard, and received a PhD from Hamburg. He is special adviser on Buddhist affairs to the secretary-general of the World Conference of Religions for Peace.