Sulak Sivaraksa: The Meaning of My Life

Excellence Reporter: Mr. Sivaraksa, what is the meaning of life?

Sulak Sivaraksa: The meaning of my life is to breathe properly, in order to synchronize my head with my heart, to transform greed, hatred, and delusion in myself to be generosity, loving kindness and wisdom.

Buddhism teaches us that the transformation of society must first begin with the self. We must nurture and cultivate compassion, wisdom, and loving-kindness in our hearts so that we can help others do the same. By practicing mindfulness, we awaken ourselves to the present moment and become aware of the suffering that surrounds us. The reconstruction of a spiritual, green and just society begins with this clarity in the individual mind.by awakening ourselves to suffering, we can work to change it. To reduce suffering in the world we must also awaken to the structural causes of suffering.

These work hand in hand with the causes from within. Personal change and structural transformation are invariably linked. One without the other is similar to a bird trying to fly with one wing.

As ‘interbeings’ we need good friends – kalayanamittas – because we cannot exist alone. The Buddha said that kalayanamitta – is the most important external element for everyone. We need good friends, good company, and friendships. From others one can learn to develop oneself and help society to be peaceful and just. 

To sustain lifestyle in community, we must have good friends who care for the right scale, who understand that small is beautiful, stressing decentralization, local self-reliance and real participation of all, rather than the centralization of national government and multinational corporations with hierarchical systems which lead to monoculture. 

Too often the environmental movement has been thought of as essentially different from the movement for social justice. This split reflets the deep unconscious division in our minds between the human world and the natural world. The practice of spirituality and ecology seeks to reconnect these two worlds we are asked to look into ourselves so that we can better understand our relationship with nature. We must also look deeply into nature to understand ourselves, and act from that insight. Here, spirituality and social action become united in a common vision – the vision for justice, peace, ecological sustainability, and compassion. 

With peace inside I hope to bring peace to the world by tackling the social structure — which is oppressive and violent — without hating the oppressor.


~Sulak Sivaraksa s the founder and director of the Thai NGO “Sathirakoses-Nagapradeepa Foundation”. Besides being the initiator of a number of social, humanitarian, ecological and spiritual movements and organizations in Thailand, such the Spirit in Education Movement – SEM, an alternative learning platform. Sulak Sivaraksa is known in the West as one of the founders of the International Network of Engaged Buddhists(INEB), which was established in 1989 with leading Buddhists including the 14th Dalai Lama, the Vietnamese monk and peace-activist Thich Nhat Hanh and the Theravada Bhikkhu Maha Ghosananda, as its patrons. He is the recipient of several awards including the Right Livelihood Award in 1995 and the Niwano Peace Prize in 2011 in recognition of his contributions to promoting a new understanding of peace, democracy, and development, and for his advocacy of environmental protection.

Copyright © 2015 Excellence Reporter

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