Commonwealth Day message

Commonwealth Day is a little-known celebratory day to acknowledge the Commonwealth of Nations, of which Australia is a member. A few years ago, Ajahn Brahm and myself attended a Commonwealth Day event when Queen Elizabeth visited Australia. This year, I’ve been invited to attend an interfaith servive at the Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture in Canberra. I’ve prepared the following message.

Human beings seem to have two basic ways to overcome conflict: to bash each other over the head with the biggest stick you can find, or to sit down and have a nice cup of tea and a chat.

The Commonwealth of Nations is a grand example of the latter. It is a civilising and humane presence that encompasses some of the world’s wealthiest and poorest nations, joined in voluntary union.

Historically, much of the Buddhist world came within the sphere of the British Empire, and while memories of that time are not always rosy, the British made crucial contributions to Buddhism. It was a British linguist, William Jones, who discovered the secret affinity between Sanskrit and European languages, a British archaeologist, Alexander Cunningham, who discovered many of the Buddhist holy sites in India, and a British civil servant, Thomas Rhys-Davids, who established Buddhist studies on a modern footing.

Today over 20 million Buddhists live within the Commonwealth. Most prominent, of course, is Sri Lanka, which is the world’s oldest Buddhist majority nation. Significant Buddhist populations are also found in Bangladesh, India, Malaysia, Singapore, and increasingly, Australia.

The Buddhist community is proud to take their place within the Commonwealth. There is much to do, as poverty and religious persecution still exist within the Commonwealth itself. I draw attention to the often-overlooked plight of the Buddhists of Bangladesh, who have endured violence and persecution as they attempt to practice their traditional faith.

I hope that gatherings such as this, and the values and relationships that they foster, will continue to overcome the hatred and blindness that tears people apart. Happiness is all too scarce and fleeting in our world, and we all know that the path to happiness is the path of love, of understanding, and of acceptance.

6 thoughts on “Commonwealth Day message

    • Thanks for the link, Peter. For those who haven’t followed it, it is the story of how prayers have recently been ruled unlawful in a local council in England. The Christian groups in England are protesting it. I’m kind of equivocal. I do think there is a purpose to bringing some kind of spiritual dimension into politics, but the days when this could be dominated by adherence to one particular kind of prayer are long gone. It has been suggested that in Australia, where the Lord’s Prayer is still said before Parliament, that it be replaced by a cycle of prayers from each of Australia’s religious traditions, one per day. A simpler option would be to have a minute’s silence, or a secular prayer.

  1. Thank you Bhante for the beautiful and apt words on Commonwealth Day and especially for the acknowledgement of those remarkably diligent and dedicated Englishmen who re-discovered early Indian Buddhism. It’s a remarkable and inspiring story.

    • Thanks, Annie.

      I was wondering about the mention of the Buddhist persecution in Bangladesh. I do think it’s an important issue, but I wonder whether on such a ceremonial occasion it’s best to avoid getting into an exchange of grievances… What do you think? Perhaps something more general?

    • I cannot see anything that could cause offense in your wording about Bangladeshi Buddhists and I think you should keep it as it is. The passive tense is very handy. It accuses no one and you go on, implying the example of Bangladeshi Buddhist persecution, in your last paragraph to suggest a possible solution through relationship building.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s