| Freedom, democracy, and science—these were once a vision that many people throughout the ages have longed for. Indeed, we remember and we are grateful for these people. Freedom has enabled us to explore the once unexplored, democracy has given us the opportunity to open the once unopened, and science has aided us to discover the once undiscovered. From these, we have also realized how powerful and driven we are. In our modern society, we have used this power and this drive stemming from freedom, democracy, and science in numerous ways. And one of these ways, unfortunately, is one where respect and tolerance are taken for granted or are even completely and deliberately forgotten. Herein comes Buddhism. It teaches us to convert to a life of respect and tolerance—a life where the true meaning and end of things like freedom, democracy, and science are understood and given priority.
Freedom is “a freedom that respects the freedom of others.” The recent gun shooting in Arizona, for instance, shows us a scenario where there is no freedom at all. One of the Five Precepts of Buddhism tells us that “no killing is the freedom to respect the lives of others.” When the young gunman opened fire, he was not free. His intention was to kill, to end the lives of innocent people. He took away the freedom of these people—the freedom to continue on living and respecting the freedom of others. Had the gunman given importance to and had he understood what freedom truly consisted in, he would have opted to apply in his life what he knew. This gun shooting in Arizona reminds us that respecting the value of life and respecting the possession of others (in this particular example, the possession of freedom) are a must for, simply put, a happy and peaceful life.
Indeed, we all hope for a happy and peaceful life. Even a tiny insect such as an ant aims for this kind of life. If we were to name one thing we share with this tiny ant, it is this big, wonderful stage called the world. We are a family, and everything in this world is our brother or sister. Our goal is not to create a family feud. Rather, our goal is to have purely good wishes and intentions for one another—we hope and we let a bud blossom naturally into a beautiful flower. We see this beautiful flower. It is ours, but it’s not exclusively ours. It is also the soil’s, the worm’s, and the cloud’s. A happy or a peaceful life consists in this: that we see the wonder of nature and not just the wonder of technology, that we only taste the things of this world and not wallow in them. True enough, a happy life is one where respect continually grows.
What comes with this interactive relationship is harmony. When we say there’s harmony, we may likewise say that there’s tolerance for diversity. For instance, just as a father welcomes back his runaway daughter, so does Buddhism take everyone in its warm arms. All are welcomed, all are cared for because all are equally important. A company executive and a fish ball vendor are both capable of following Buddha’s teachings. Hence, in no way is one better or more privileged than the other. A saying goes, “Lose yourself in wonder. Open yourself to possibility.” Abiding by the precepts of Buddhism is a chance of growth and realization for a vendor who seeks to be contented with what this life offers him or an executive who wishes to have the real richness of the world. These two people’s physical and mental strengths and weaknesses are all taken into account, in the sense that both strengths and weaknesses, in whatever form they take, are no secrets shoved in the background. Again, in Buddhism, there’s no division, no duality. Things are tolerated and accepted for the reason that everything or everyone has worth.
By now, it is clear to us how and why a life of respect and tolerance is beneficial. Ultimately, we respect and we tolerate in order to live a simple, blissful, carefree life and in order to let others live this kind of life as well. The teachings of Buddha offer us a vision of how we should lead our lives. They aim to help us appreciate beauty as it is, pain as it is, love as it is, misfortune as it is. We all agree that everyone makes mistakes. For instance, we may make the mistake of not treating our pet animal well. We may even make the mistake of not taking a certain idea in its proper context. Even so, we can always correct our line of thought and action, and we can always look forward to a brighter, more wonderful day ahead.