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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

On The Three Evils - U Nu

(From a speech to the All-Burma Peasants Organization at Mandalay, May, 1953)

Humanity has been led astray by three evils – greed, hatred and ignorance. Whether we are Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Animists, or Atheists, we cannot escape the three inevitables: old age, disease, and death. Nobody can deny that the five sense objects – pretty sight, delightful sound, fragrant smell, savory taste, and nice touch – are only fleeting phenomena. They are neither lasting nor permanent.

Nor can anybody deny that property is transitory: no one can carry away his property after death. Men have been chasing these transitory pleasures with a dogged tenacity mainly because they hold false views regarding property. They forget that this life is not even one millionth part of the whirlpool of Samsara (the cycles of rebirth), and go on amassing wealth even though it never brings them full satisfaction.

This insatiable greed for wealth results in the profit motive which is not directed toward any utilitarian purpose. Once upon a time all commodities were common property, and everybody had a right to use them for his own benefit. But with the advent of the profit motive these commodities became objects of exploitation. They became instruments of wealth and stimulus for greed. This led to the following phenomena:

1. Human society was split into two classes: Haves and Have-nots

2. The Have-nots had to depend on the Haves for their living, and thus the evil system of exploitation of one class by another emerged.

3. With class exploitation, the poor became poorer because they could not get adequate returns for their work. They had to resort to evil ways like stealing, looting, and prostitution.     

4. The Lord Buddha has taught us that there are four causes of death: kamma, frame of mind, weather, and food. Under the system of class exploitation, how can the Have-nots enjoy good food and protect themselves from extremes of weather? Can there be any sense of happiness or contentment for them? Can even a good kamma favor one who is cheerless? Thus one who is born into the class of Have-nots is handicapped in all the above four factors, and disease is the inevitable result.

5. How can the Have-nots care for education with their hard struggle for a bare living? Lack of education breeds an ever-increasing band of ignoramuses and Mr. Zeros.

6. How can a country abounding in ignoramuses and Mr. Zeros ever progress?
It is evident that most of the evils in the world can be traced to the advent of the profit motive. Do you remember the legend of the Padaythabin (the tree of fulfillment) we heard as children?

According to the legend, there was once a time when men and women could get whatever they wanted from the Padaythabin tree. There was no problem of food or clothes or housing, and there was no crime. Disease was comparatively unknown. In course of time, however, the people fell victim to greed and spoiled the tree of fulfillment which eventually disappeared. Then a class of people who could not afford to eat well, dress well, or live well appeared, and crime became rampant.

Now I ask you to think of the Padaythabin as the natural wealth of our country, both above and under the ground. If only this natural wealth is used for the common good of mankind it will be inexhaustible, besides satisfying the needs of everybody. But greed comes in the way. The poorest of the poor wants to become rich; the rich want to become richer, and the process goes on ad infinitum. Spurred on by greed, people are apt to “botanize on their mothers’ graves,” so to say, in order to become richer. Thus the distribution of wealth becomes unequal. While some can amass wealth which cannot be spent in ten lives, others have to wallow in extreme poverty with bare rags on their bodies.