When we make the beautiful dedication “May all beings be well and happy” (loosely translated from ‘Sabbe satta sukhita hontu’), do we really mean it?
Is it “May all beings be well and happy … … except those foreigners who are here in Singapore!” or is it “May all beings be well and happy … except those who were not nice to me, … but I will forgive you Tan Ah Kow for criticising my work that day … but but …” …
Almost all religion profess a message of love and peace encompassing all on earth, but there seem to always be a “but” creeping in somehow. Are we Buddhists any better? While the Four Immeasurable (Metta, Karuna, Mudita & Upekkha) is pride to be so all encompassing, they are immeasurable, are we saying our dedication with that level of commitment? Do we really mean “sabbe satta” (all beings) when we say it?
In the Buddha’s teachings, all beings is super, duper encompassing. It includes all living beings, but not living things like trees and plants (note: the Jains in Buddha’s time included plants in their list. I think they still do!). Meaning, all human beings, all heavenly beings (devas, god(s), God(s), everything in between if you will), animals, ghosts and even hell beings!
So when we say “May all beings be well and happy”, we should mean it. But realistically speaking, most of us still have not made it there yet. We should not as a result, excuse ourselves from this noble aspiration or mindset. Perhaps, it would be truer to ourselves to realise that we are not there yet, but still set consciously set our aspiration and mindset in that direction. And work towards it.
Perhaps, it is precisely because we are not quite there yet, that we tend to wish for wellness and happiness for only our friends and those who are nice to us, that we have to set ourselves towards a greater goal or path.
When I visited China last year, I happen to have the chance to observe the Beijingers. Many of them are from provinces out of Beijing, while others are native Beijingers. Watching them, my mind start to filter out the cultural nuances. Their slang and accent start to be appreciated
as a unique part of who they are and not an alien aspect as some might find. And occasionally, I overhear (trust me, you just cannot help it but hear them!) their conversation and for all that matters, it seems like they are very much like Singaporeans, with our dreams and hopes, our little petty quibbles at work and our simple pursuit of happiness.
I came away from that trip having a much deeper sense of connection with Chinese people than before. Maybe it helps that I have met more Chinese nationals over the past few years than I have in my whole life. The result is that a part of me feels more empathy for them. Maybe a bit more loving kindness and compassion if you will.
They are definitely not just from China anymore. They are fellow human beings in Singapore, fellow sentient beings in samsara.
It is easier to demonise faceless strangers; it is harder to demonise your friends.
Sabbe satta sukhita hontu! May all beings be well and happy! ^_^