I am continuing in January a series of blogs on human rights that I began in December: “Towards Human Rights.” The purpose of this blog series is to make the case for the implementation and acceptance of human rights as a global values system. It is based on my Human Rights: Towards a Universal Values System?
“…recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.” Preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948
Towards Human Rights as a Global Values System, part 13
By Dr. Denise R. Ames
A History and Philosophy of Human Rights
“Every religion emphasizes human improvement, love, respect for others, sharing other people’s suffering. On these lines every religion had more or less the same viewpoint and the same goal.” …Dali Lama (Tibetan Buddhism
Buddhism, Part 2
Buddhism is a collection of beliefs and practices. In this brief overview are a few of the Buddhist traditions – ethical conduct, morality, behaviors, practices, and traditions – that are closely tied to human rights. Buddhism has organized many of its ethical and moral teachings into numbered groups.
The Three Trainings or Practices of Buddhism
- Sila: Virtue, good conduct, and morality are based on two principles: equality, all living entities are equal, and reciprocity, to do onto others as you would wish them to do onto you.
- Samadhi: Concentration and meditation develops the mind and is the path to wisdom, which in turn leads to personal freedom, and is essential in maintaining good conduct.
- Prajna: Judgment, insight, wisdom, and enlightenment are the real heart of Buddhism. Wisdom will emerge if the mind is pure and calm.
The Four Noble Truths of Buddhism
- Suffering is real and has many causes, such as loss, sickness, pain, failure, rejection, the impermanence of pleasure, and unsatisfied desires.
- The cause of suffering is the desire to have and control things and takes many forms, such as craving sensual pleasures, desire for fame, and desire to avoid unpleasant sensations, like fear, anger or jealousy.
- There is an end to suffering which stops with final enlightenment. The mind experiences complete freedom, and lets go of any desire or craving.
- In order to end suffering, one must follow the Eightfold Path.
The Eightfold Path
- Right Understanding of the Four Noble Truths.
- Right Thinking: following the right path in life.
- Right Speech: no lying, criticism, condemning, gossip, harsh language.
- Right Conduct (see the Five Precepts below).
- Right Livelihood; support yourself without harming others.
- Right Effort: promote good thoughts; conquer evil thoughts.
- Right Mindfulness: become aware of your body, mind and feelings.
- Right Concentration: meditate to achieve a higher state of consciousness.
The five precepts (teachings) are Buddhist ethical practice. Scholars often compare them with the Ten Commandments of Christianity; however, the precepts are different in that they are to be taken as recommendations, not commandments. This means the individual is encouraged to use his/her own intelligence to apply these rules in the best possible way instead of commanding behavior. The five precepts are rules to live by; like training rules that if followed they can help a person live a life of happiness, helpfulness, and meditation.
Five Precepts in Buddhism
- avoid harming living beings (practice non-violence)
- avoid taking things not freely given (not committing theft)
- avoid sensual (sexual) misconduct
- avoid lying (speaking truth always)
- avoid intoxicating drinks, drugs, which lead to loss of mindfulness
From this brief description, we can see that Buddhism focuses less attention on individualism and more emphasis on others. But the Dalai Lama (Tibetan Buddhism) feels that human rights are in harmony with the moral values of traditional Buddhism and provides a useful way for expressing Buddhist views on today’s political and social issues.
About the Author:
Dr. Denise R. Ames is a long-time educator, grade 7-university, author of seven books, and president of an educational non-profit, Center for Global Awareness, based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. CGA provides books, resources, and services with a holistic, global- focused, and perspective-taking approach for their three programs: Global Awareness for Educators, books and resources for educators and students grade 9-university; Gather, Global Awareness Through Engaged Reflection, a self-organizing study and conversation program for adults focusing on seeing different perspectives of pressing global issues; and their most recent program Turn, Transformative Understanding and Reflection Network, which encourages lifelong and transformative learning to help us arrive at a place of personal and global well-being using a seven “path” approach.
For more information about the topic of human rights see Dr. Ames’ book Human Rights:Towards a Global Values System, $17.95, 225 pgs. Also available on Amazon.