While flying home from Luxembourg today, I was listening to some old Buddhist Dharma talks on my iPod, when I enjoyed a nice Dharma talk by Professor Dhammavihari, an elderly Sinhalese (Sri Lankan) monk. The Dhamma talk can be a bit hard to understand at times because Prof. Dhammavihari talks so fast, peppers a lot of Pali-language quotes* from the Buddhist texts, and jumps around, but the content is very useful to appreciating the Buddhist religion. It’s still one of my favorite Dhamma talks online.
In the end, Prof. Dhammavihari talks about the conflict in Sri Lanka between ethnic groups, and points out that the Buddha taught a very important teaching: live and let live. People cling to their identity, ego, religion,** ethnicity and so on, and this inevitably leads to tension and conflict with others. If we can let go of all this, recognize it as transitory anyways,*** then we are free.
The Buddha taught the notion of mettā, “loving-kindness” or “good-will” toward all beings. What’s the point of only having metta for all beings, but not those idiots over there? When someone at works annoys you, or your spouse does something you dislike, or you don’t like that other political party, just drop it. Just live and let live. It’s just not worth the hatred or divisive thinking.
* – The fact he can recite so many off the top of his head is pretty impressive.
** – Including Buddhists.
*** – The only reason why I am American was because someone taught me I was American. There’s nothing inherently American within me, other than what has been caused by external conditioning. When I die and am reborn as something else, I won’t be American anymore, I’ll probably be something else. Maybe I won’t even be a guy in my next time. Sounds funny, but there’s a lot of truth in the notion that we have no permanent identity.