“Humanitarianism and Buddhism” Discussion
UNHCR holds talk on humanitarianism in Buddhism with V. Vajiramedhi and top celebrities
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) today convened a special discussion on the important role of faith in providing international protection for refugees at a time of record-high levels of forced displacement.
Titled “Humanitarianism and Buddhism”, the talk was attended by Thai renowned Buddhist monk the Venerable V.Vajiramedhi, UNHCR high-profile supporter Pu Praya Suandokmai Lundberg and famous media television host and producer Woody Vuthithorn Milintachinda.
The event builds on the UNHCR High Commissioner's 2012 Dialogue on Protection Challenges that gathered more than 400 faith leaders and representatives of governments as well as non-governmental organizations and academia in Geneva to discuss the issue of Faith and Protection.
“Humanitarian principles share the same core values as fundamental religious teaching. The concept of sympathy and compassion toward fellow human beings in need is the foundation of every religion including Buddhism,” said Ruvendrini Menikdiwela, UNHCR's Representative in Thailand. “We hope Buddhists can realize that the Dhamma they live by – making merit, meditation, participation in religious ritual – also applies to helping people in need."
The links between Buddhism and humanitarianism have become even more relevant today as the world grapples with the highest number of people to flee their homes since the end of World War II. Recent natural disasters in places like Ecuador and Japan have also devastated thousands of lives.
“We as Buddhists believe in helping people as underlined in Lord Buddha’s core teachings on the Principle of Giving, Five Precepts and Cultivating Four States of Mind,” said the Venerable V.Vajiramedhi. “The Four States of Mind consist of ‘Metta’ for loving kindness to all fellow humans, ‘Karuna’ for compassion towards people in need without limits, ‘Muditha’ for sympathetic joy when other people are happy or safe from harm and ‘Upekkha’ for equanimity to see others without prejudice and bias. These are ways to bring peace and understanding to all human beings despite race, nationality and religion.”
Another panelist at Wednesday’s talk was Pu Praya Suandokmai Lundberg, who has devoted herself to help refugees for over the past two years. ”I am a Buddhist and when I deeply study the teaching of Lord Buddha, I realize that Compassion is the essential part of being a good Buddhist. Being compassionate can better lives of all. The better lives of others are the better life of you. You truly feel happiness when you give to others in need. The recent moment is when I visited a refugee camp and spoke with refugees who have suffered immensely particularly when losing their loved ones, I was unable to ease their pain but could only listen to their story, hold their hand and cheer them up. Helping them to get back on their feet brought a moment of happiness to them and me.”
Fellow panelist Woody Vuthithorn Milintachinda, a well-known TV host and producer who recently went through monkhood, added, “After I had been in monkhood for a while, I discovered that the teaching of Lord Buddha, especially ‘Metta’ and ‘Karuna’ are missing from today’s society. We usually feel removed from the world’s crises, but the truth is Lord Buddha himself never teaches us to be quiet in the face of violence or to refuse to help those who need our help. With the core of Cultivating Four States of Mind he has enlightened us that sympathy and compassion are the only way toward salvation for now and in the future.”
With more than 60 million people forced to flee their homes, living in difficulty and needing everyone’s support, UNHCR is hopeful that today’s discussion will be the beginning of continued dialogue on the role of Buddhism and other faiths in protecting refugees.