Thursday, February 13, 2014

OVERDRIVE: The lessons of Makha Pucha Day

Today is Makha Pucha Day, which falls on the full moon of the third lunar month. Thailand observes this sacred day as a public holiday. Makha is the name of a month in the lunar calendar used in ancient India.

Pucha means to worship. Combined, the two mean "a time to worship in the month of Makha". Makha Pucha Day is a very important day for Buddhism. It marks the occasion when the Lord Buddha was presiding over a special assembly at the Bamboo Grove (Veluvana). Four special events occurred on this auspicious day.

First, it was the full moon day of the month of Makha.

Second, 1,250 monks assembled to seek an audience with the Lord Buddha without a prior appointment.

Third, all of these monks were Enlightened Ones, or arahants, who had attained supreme knowledge and wisdom.

Fourth, all of these monks were disciples of the Lord Buddha, who had ordained them with his own blessing.

At this special assembly, the Lord Buddha delivered a discourse to his disciples, summarising his teachings in three main principles, which have come to be known as the Triple Gem. First, not to do any evil. Second, to do good. Third, to purify the mind. If you practice the Triple Gem with the utmost dedication, you will achieve a breakthrough in your consciousness.

A lesser-known though very important fact about Makha Pucha Day is that it was also the day on which Lord Buddha passed away, a date that the Lord Buddha had predetermined. This has subsequently come to be known as the day of the Rejection of the Aggregates of Life. It represents the greatest renunciation of all. Incidentally, 2547 years after the Lord Buddha's passing away, a special assembly is taking place in Bang Kruay, Nonthaburi, where the headquarters of the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) is located. There are distinct events taking place on this Makha Pucha Day.

First, it is the full moon of the month of Makha, just like the day when the Lord Buddha held a discourse with his arahant disciples.

Second, 7,000 union workers - if you go by the figures given by Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra instead of the 50,000 that was widely reported in the local media - are staging a mass rally to oppose the government's privatisation policy.

Third, these protesters, which will represent some 40 unions of state enterprises, will convene to show their force without a prior appointment.

Fourth, the unionists are rallying their cause around the Applied Triple Gem, which is the foundation of good governance.

In Buddhist terms, we have the Dharma, which has a subtler meaning than the word "governance", which is a foreign term. The Applied Triple Gem is based on three principles:

First, not to do any non-transparent deals.

Second, to embrace good governance.

Third, to suppress one's greed.

The importance of the first principle emerged when Egat planned a murky share swap deal with Banpu before going public. Egat planned to sell its stake in Electricity Generating Plc to mining company Banpu, which in return would sell its stake in Ratchburi Holding Plc to Egat. Nobody knew how the pricing formula had been worked out. In any event, the deal was finally killed by the prime minister over fears of igniting criticism of non-transparency.

The second principle is represented in the call from the unionists for the government to adopt good governance in the privatisation of Egat. This is also related to the first principle. If Egat is to be privatised after all, it has to be done in good faith, based on public interest. It is clear that Egat is being privatised without the benefit of the proper foundation of an independent regulatory body. The third principle arises in the allocation of shares. The unionists are afraid that once Egat has gone public, the shares will end up in the hands of the big-time investors, politicians or cronies linked to the government.

One could say that all the troubles that are now besetting our prime minister - ranging from terrorism in the South and bird flu, to the mass rally against Egat's privatisation - can be traced back to his not following the guiding principles of the Triple Gem. Modern CEO management books offer a lot of recommendations based on sophistic principles that only poison our mind. Don't get carried away by superficial "how-to" advice. The real CEO, with supreme knowledge of all ages, is our Lord Buddha, whose teachings will never die. You only need to embrace the Triple Gem to be successful, in your worldly life or in your striving to attain enlightenment.

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