Most of the time in our life we do not do what we actually should do. Rather, we do what we think we should do. Thus we are controlled by our thoughts and emotions rather than regulated by our duties. We respond to the outside world in a machine-like way when we could act more positively and creatively. As a result we undergo tension, depression, and various other forms of negative mentalities. In this regard the Buddha in the Sigalovada Sutta of the Dighanikaya presents some very useful advice on how we should actually act in family, society and work place to bring about peace and harmony to the total environment. He says what we need is just a little awareness, nothing more.
The purpose of the Buddha’s preaching here is more on living a harmonious social life, not on spiritual living. Buddhism recognizes that no being on earth desires suffering (dukkhapa?ik?la), but happiness (sukhak?ma). But the ways they follow are not right.
To preserve peace and harmony in a family, society, country, and finally in the world each and every individual has a particular role to play. If every individual is happy to perform his/her duties diligently, then there will be peace and harmony in society. The Buddha says to try to look after yourself by performing your particular duties properly. Prof. Karunadasa gives a very interesting simile in this regard. He says, supposing there are 50 cars on a highway, if every driver of each car is careful and tries only to protect himself, then finally all will be protected because nobody causes harm to anybody.
The Buddha classifies all individuals in society into six groups:
1) Parents and Children,
2) Teacher and Pupil,
3) Husband and Wife,
4) Friends and acquaintances,
5) Employers and Employees, and
6) Clergy and Laity.
These are the people that a society is consisted of. Each has his own particular role to play.
Now, I am not going through all the duties of deferent individuals as spoken by the Buddha, but I shall mention some. For example, if any parent performs their duties by taking good care of their children – by giving them good advice, education and so on – then the children are bound to pay respects to them. Thus the family will appear as a happy family.
In the same way, if there is a good understanding between husband and wife, and they perform their duties accordingly and one takes care of the other, then we can hope that their family life is a successful one.
In the occupations there is the employer and his employees. If the boss does not properly take care of the workers, they will not perform their duties correctly and there will be no prosperity in the industry. On the other hand, if the workers do not do their work properly, then the boss will not like them and he may even dismiss them from their post.
Likewise, between the teacher and pupils, clergy and laity, and friends, there must be mutual respect and duties to be performed. Then we can hope to have a peaceful society in which there will be no disharmony and conflictions. As I have said before, we all want a happy life. And according to the law of causality we cannot be happy as long as we do not give or be the cause of happiness to others. To make ourselves happy, we have to make our surroundings better. Because if I give trouble, if I cheat my friends, neighbours, how can I hope for a beautiful smile from them? Therefore the Buddha’s advice is that by protecting oneself one protects others, and by protecting others one protects oneself: “attano rakkhanto param rakkhati, param rakkhanto attanam rakkhati.” What we need is to be a little aware of our duties and responsibilities and perform them accordingly and honestly. Let us hope for a better social interaction so that peace prevails in the overall environment.