The Buddha Shakyamuni took birth as a prince of the Shakya clan in India. He achieved enlightenment at the age of thirty-six and entered Mahaparinirvana at the age of eighty-one. These three great events took place on the same day of the year, over 2500 years ago, which we celebrate at the season of Wesak.
As you know, Buddhahood is a state free from all obstructions to knowledge and disturbing emotions. It is the state in which the mind is fully evolved. The Buddha's declaration, based on his personal experience, was that all beings experience suffering even though they do not wish to do so. At the same time all beings also have the innate potential to achieve the joy of liberation. This realization formed the basis for all his teachings. Because his teachings are profound in insights and skilled in means, the Buddha is referred as a supreme guide.
Although our world has changed substantially since the time of the Buddha, the essence of his teachings remains as relevant today as it was 2500 years ago. Many different schools of Buddhism have evolved in different lands. All possess methods for attaining liberation from ignorance and suffering.
The Buddha's advice, simply stated, was to avoid harming others and if possible to help them. We can begin to do this by recognizing that everyone is just like us in that they want happiness and dislike suffering. Seeking joy and freedom from suffering is the birthright of all beings. But personal happiness very much depends on how we relate to others. By developing a sense of respect for others and a concern for their welfare, we can reduce our own self-centeredness, which is the source of all our problems, and enhance our feelings of kindness, which are a natural source of joy.
The achievements of our modern age are great. We have put much effort into technological and material development. Such progress is important, but by itself it cannot bring lasting satisfaction. Obsessed with economic and political strength, we lose sight of the effect our actions have on others. Our narrow and self-centered focus results in widespread suffering and destruction of the environment. We need to reassess our motivation and our behavior in the light of a greater sense of universal responsibility.
From the Buddhist point of view all things originate in the mind. Actions and events depend heavily on motivation. A real sense of appreciation of humanity, compassion and love, are the key points. If we develop a good heart, then whether the field is science, agriculture or politics, since the motivation is so very important, the result will be more beneficial. With proper motivation these activities can help humanity; without it they go the other way. This is why the compassionate thought is so very important for humankind. Although it is difficult to bring about the inner change that gives rise to it, it is absolutely worthwhile to try.
I offer my greetings to all our Buddhist brothers and sisters participating in the Wesak celebrations.... And I pray that each of us, by putting the Buddha's teachings into practice in our own daily lives, may contribute to creating a happier and more peaceful world.