As Buddhists, we have an aspiration to be the best version of ourselves, and to one day fulfil our potential for Enlightenment. Let us explore the Buddha Day B.E. 2565 theme, “Moving Forward with Courage and Hope”, and take stock of our own cultivation of Dhamma so that we can continuously improve ourselves as individuals and as a community.
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected people’s livelihood and lifestyle on an unprecedented scale in human history. In the most hard-hit countries, its impact is especially acute to their people’s mental and spiritual well-being. The death of loved ones, separation from family members and friends or loss of jobs, coupled with lack of social interaction, erosion of work-life boundaries, or limited access to a supportive community can push an individual to a lot of negative thinking. Some may react irrationally and build up anger and anxiety within. Some may become depressed or even suicidal.
We may think, “That’s not me, I am handling it pretty well.” Nevertheless, it is likely that many of us would have become prey to unskilful habits such as idle chatter, consuming incessant news and information on social media, and attending classes on-line but with movies and videos playing on another screen. Although these seem to be merely unhealthy habits, they still harm us as our mind becomes increasingly distracted, restless and agitated.
Unless we master some semblance of self-discipline, we will experience an erosion of sati sampajañña (clear comprehension), a cornerstone in developing our virtues and character. Thus, when combined with more adversities and the lack of ability to mitigate the unskilful states, we find ourselves mired in emotional turmoil.
Those negative mental states are especially prevalent in adolescents whose age group are defined by the search for identity and belonging. Increased screen time and exposure to social media has led them to ‘live’ in a virtual world which is dominated by algorithms serving only to perpetuate craving for sensual desire and pleasure.
The pandemic situation also exacerbates the situation; severance from human connections means that they entrench themselves in this virtual world and perceive ‘happiness’ based on what others post on social media. These platforms often display only the ‘best’ while flaws are hidden outside the camera frame. Their happiness and understanding of the world are therefore skewed and shallow, lacking in depth of character and real meaning.
Moving forward means to improve ourselves step-by-step so that we can move away from causes which pull us back from experiencing deeper joy, peace and wisdom. It involves letting go of the past, and forging a path forward which is paved with wholesome thoughts, speech and deeds. But moving forward is not enough; we also need to move upward by ennobling our characters with virtues as taught and embodied by the Buddha.
Courage is defined as “being strong and determined in the face of adversities and challenges in life”. We bear patience and endurance in pursuing a noble way of life, which is often against the way of the world. Instead of ‘running away’ when it gets difficult, we bravely overcome them in accordance to the Buddha’s Teachings. We can also clearly identify our strengths and weaknesses, because we will then know how to never surrender to difficulties. Use courage to push ourselves out of our comfort zone and progress towards the growth zone.
Hope fuels our efforts to undertake noble endeavours as we envision a brighter future for ourselves and the community. It keeps our mind aware of the positive side of things, while being mindful of the impermanent nature in every situation, as well as the need to adapt to change. Hope keeps our energy levels up. The lack of hope, or hopelessness, dulls our senses and enthusiasm where everything seems impossible.
Courage and Hope keep the mind focussed on our lofty but attainable goals. COURAGE enables us to persevere and be strong, and keep rising after facing setbacks and failures. HOPE pushes us forward, knowing that the goal is surely at the end. With the eventual strengthening of both courage and hope, we become more resilient when we fail, and are able to bounce back quicker to stay on the course.
In this way, we live more fulfilling lives and we can also influence and inspire others to do the same. Here are some ways to strengthen these virtues :
Let us stand tall and firm to commit ourselves to living meaningful lives so that we can travel confidently on the path towards freedom and liberation. May you be well and happy.