In this new series with Bro. Ananda Kumaraseri, we’ll explore the Buddhist teachings in the context of the global COVID-19 pandemic. Bro. Kumaraseri will focus on how we can reorient our thinking to one of authentic Buddhist liberation, so that we are no longer constrained by old assumptions and biases that are hurting our chances for global survival and flourishing.
Dato’ Dr. G.K. Ananda Kumaraseri is a career ambassador of over 30 years standing. He retired in 1995 as Director General ASEAN. Since then he has authored over 30 notable books on the cultivation of human values, personal development, holistic education, the sacredness of motherhood, mothercare, holistic parenting, childcare, and development and peace. He is a much sought after Dhamma Speaker in Malaysia and overseas. His recent work on holistic motherhood and parenting is widely used as a practical yet effective training manual for courses on social ills. He is presently the founder and president of the non-profit Human Development and Peace Foundation.
What is the Lotus Greeting?
Against the backdrop of COVID-19, I want to discuss the greeting “Sukhi hotu.” Sukhi hotu is a pratana, (spiritual incantation) in Pali which means, “May you be happy and well always.” When greeting more than one person, the plural, “Sukhi hontu” applies. The greeting presently commands a heightened significance in the wake of COVID-19. It represents a new normal of avoiding shaking hands when greeting one another. Its embrace is bound to gain increasing relevance and global traction as this daily practice is wholly wise and compassionate. Furthermore, the practice is very much in tandem with lessening and/or pre-empting the global pandemic and other global challenges confronting humanity.
The practice of honouring a person and invoking happiness and wellness is commonly referred as the Lotus Greeting. This is because, among other beneficial elements, it embodies Sublime Teachings of the Buddha bearing wholesome life-ideals and noble human values. In addition, the twin namaskara and añjali mudras (spiritual attitudes conveyed through bodily posture) typifying the greeting are compassion-inspired and steeped in insight wisdom. The symbolism of the lotus characterising the greeting embellishes its spiritual aura. The greeting’s rich spiritual persona is further enhanced by the compassion-inspired pratana, “May you come into full bloom like the ever-radiant lotus and actualize the spiritual attributes the blossom personifies”, which is expressed mindfully by both the greeter and greeted.
Another significant feature of the Lotus Greeting is the spontaneous reciprocity and the spiritual vibrations it sets forth all around. The person greeted reciprocates at once the namaskara and añjali and invokes the pratana that the greeter similarly blooms upon cultivating the values the greeting encapsulates. In the process, sati or mindfulness is invoked in both, on the meaning and significance of the greeting. The stream of mindfulness on the realities of the Law of Nature and Life then flows naturally and engulfs others in the community. Internalization of this wholesome consciousness in daily life is hence set forth in the larger society. In developing mindfulness, people as a whole become better focused on the reality of the present moment, or of the here and now. Their minds are better attuned to accept things as they really are. Over time, the wholesome mental culture fostered by practising the greeting gets increasingly entrenched in the psyche of the masses and appreciably conditions their thinking, speech and actions in daily life.
Mindfulness is the state of mental awareness which emerges through paying attention to one’s purpose or intention. The state of mental awareness is also referred as, “living in the present moment” since non-judgmental awareness of one’s experiences from each thought moment to the next is ensured. Furthermore, the wholesome outcomes the greeting effuses, contrasts sharply to impulsive unmindful responses such as anger, hatred, fear, jealousy and envy which normally transpire in the daily interface between and among people. The latter course of unmindful emotions and actions invariably prove detrimental to oneself and to other living beings, and possibly, towards Mother Nature as well.
In the context of the global pandemic and other challenges confronting the world, mindfulness of the Universal Law of Nature and Life should compel humankind to refrain from committing unskillful actions against humanity and Nature. Instead, people would be instilled to promote and safeguard the collective interest of humankind and safeguard our precious planet Earth. When viewed from the overall perspective of life, realisation that the present moment is what matters preempts, if not at the least, minimizes dukkha. One is then better poised to experience sukha, or happiness which is the direct opposite of dukkha. A Right Understanding of these and other underlying conditions and causal factors is central to actualizing a proactive holistic prevention strategy. Towards this end, people have to be trained to be introspective as this is critical for reinforcing contemplation, reflection and right aspiration to live a wholesome fulfilling life. They would then be able to abandon the craving for amassing materialistic possessions, heedlessly seeking sensual gratification and blindly wallowing in narrow self-centred pursuits at the expense of Mother Nature and humanity. The cultivation of a wholesome mental culture is crucial not only for our present generation, but also of our dearly loved younger generations and those yet to come.
Apart from these cogent considerations, anyone can embrace the simple, yet highly meaningful lotus greeting and benefit directly from doing so. Many, however, are not aware of the profound direct benefits its practice in daily life can accrue to them individually and also the larger society and the world in general. We, therefore, need to ingrain among people the greeting’s meaning, significance and universal relevance. An understanding and appreciation of the greeting and insight into its rich heritage is accordingly espoused as we progress. This will simultaneously serve to revive the greeting’s universal embrace and foster the beneficial outcomes the age-old practice beholds, to peoples across the world.