Sivaraksa, one of Thailand’s most prominent social critics and Buddhist activists, told Majirox News during a July visit to Tokyo that, “people should realize that crises also provide them with opportunities. People might think that a crisis is filled with death, but it is also a heavenly sign to help us. Buddha himself found his way through much suffering.”
He added the disaster tells us that the Japanese need to change.
“The people can’t go on this way,” Sivaraksa said. “This is wrong. Once one begins to question their way of life, minds listen and compassionate hearts wake up.”
Sivaraksa, a founder of the International Network of Engaged Buddhists that connects Buddhists from around the world, says that contemporary Japan has become too caught up in the mainstream media, and places too much emphasis on capitalism, materialism and scientific knowledge, instead of on the creation of a healthy soul. However, he said, the somber mood surrounding the country hinted at a brighter future.
“There are problems in Japan today, such as rising suicide rates, a lack of interest in voting among young people, and general apathy about politics and other issues,” he said. “This seems hopeless. But for me, this is a good sign. We can expose the youth to politics and tell them that that many people are suffering. This will lead us to empowerment. Learning how to be happy and how to empower yourself is important.”
In 1995, Sivaraksa was awarded the Right Livelihood Award, or the Alternative Nobel Prize as it is otherwise known, which goes to those who work on solutions to the most urgent challenges facing the world. His answer for turning Japan’s current crises into opportunities lies in strong communication.
“What is needed is to talk and have dialog with people, and to study one another,” Sivaraksa said. “Also, it’s important to make good friends. A good friend is someone who can tell you what you do not want to hear.”
The 78-year-old humanitarian added that wealth was not always the key to contentment.
“GDP can equate to happiness to some extent,” he said. “But even rich and educated people are not happy in the present. For happiness, you have to learn how to be self-reliant, how to be mindful, how to be content and how to be generous.”
Ogi is Majirox’s Religion Writer