Today is Wesak – or Vesak, how it is known in the West – a holy day that celebrates the birth, enlightenment and death of Gautama Buddha. Apart from paying homage to the Buddha, on this day, Buddhists around the world are reminded to make special efforts to bring happiness to the unfortunate.
It’s a day for contemplating love and compassion, and putting them to mind and into action, reinforcing the importance of practicing them in our everyday life.
Yes, love and compassion – the two qualities most essential in every individual beyond the boundary of religion, and thus are the core teachings in all traditions. Take Christianity, for instance, prior to his crucifixion, Jesus stamped the mark of the Christian:
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 13:33-35)
The ‘love’ Jesus referred to, includes ‘loving all men, in fact, as neighbours.’
These two qualities, love and compassion, are derived from our realisation of the need to step out from our small self into the universal world of humankind. Universal, because all human beings are the same; there is no difference between you, me and him, or the plural you, us and them. This idea coincides with the Advaida tradition, as the great guru Sri Shandananda Sarasvati moves further in saying, ‘All beings are a part of the same. Everything exists in Atman [Self] and it is also reflected in the human form.’
The understanding of this concept encourages the willingness to selflessly give and care for those in need. The foundation of any society is a collective of individuals who, together, make its functionality possible. As all humans are connected to one another, a pull of the string on one end will affect the other; there will not be true happiness for an individual when others are suffering. By loving and helping others, you are in fact loving and helping yourself.
With love and compassion, respecting and assisting others in securing their basic rights become our fundamental responsibilities. In his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, His Holiness the Dalai Lama stresses once again,
No matter what part of the world we come from, we are all basically the same human beings. We all seek happiness and try to avoid suffering. We have the same basic human needs and concerns. All of us human beings want freedom and the right to determine our own destiny as individuals and as peoples. That is human nature.
A statement similar to the above notion is found in the Prophet Muhammad’s last sermon on the occasion of a farewell pilgrimage:
O People! You are all children of Adam and he was created with the dust. Arabs and non-Arabs, Blacks and Whites all are equal. Nobody has superiority over other except by piety and good actions.
The theory of ‘Equality in Rights’ for everyone is starkly clear in the above statement, highlighting the fact that ‘all human beings are equal and they must be treated equally. They all have equal needs to sustain and they must have equal rights to exercise, like right to live, right of freedom, right to express etc.’
It is, ironically, his believing in this idea that has caused Adam Adli’s recent arrest by the Malaysian authorities.
If you haven’t already known, Adam Adli Abdul Halim is a 24-year-old student of Malaysia’s Sultan Idris University of Education. In December 2011, he was suspended for 18 months for replacing a flag bearing a picture of Prime Minister Nazib Tun Razak with one that read ‘Academic Freedom’, in protest against the Universities and University Colleges Act for its repressive nature.
Last Saturday, 18 May, Adam was again being detained, and charged for sedition, for allegedly questioning in a public forum the results of the general election held on 5 May and calling on Malaysians to take to the streets to protest against the illegitimate government.
Adam was only speaking on behalf of the majorities – a total of 51 per cent voters who cast their ballots for Pakatan Rakyat (the People Coalition led by Anwar Ibrahim, the leader of the opposition front), in oppose to the 47 per cent for Barisan Nasional (BN), the winning party that has ruled the country for 56 years. [As to why having received 51 per cent of the votes and yet the People Coalition lost the election, please refer to this report.)
The fraud-infested 13th General Election – that has robbed the people of the true democracy we direly in need of – is just another episode of the BN government’s corrupt practices, an addition to a series of scandals, such as the ‘Cowgate’ issue in which the minister involved is said to have turned public money into personal fund, and the more internationally known bribery and murder related submarine scandal, which allegedly involves none other than the prime minister himself. In both cases, and, as in many other incidents of corruption, those accounted for are hidden safely under the authorities’ protective shields.
When these happen, people are being deprived of fairness and justice, of the wealth of the country they have a share of. They are deprived of their rights to know and to voice their discontentment, as not only the major media are controlled by the authorities, they are also owned by the member parties of BN, and hence become their propaganda machines.
Young Adam knows these well. He knows also, to exercise his right of freedom of expression, and what he expressed, which caused his arrest, are not for himself, but you and me, the people of the country we belong. He did it, because he has love and compassion for the people who are suffering under a regime too self-serving, too indifferent to be called the servant of the grassroots.
Adam Adli knows what love is, the leaders of the ruling party don’t, and that’s the reason they ought to be gone.
On this day, while we are busy sending well wishes to friends and families, while we bathe in the air imbued with messages of happiness, let’s think of others’ lack of it.
Let’s all be Adam Adli.