Buddha’s search for Kinkusalagavesi; discovering what is skilfull

Saturday, 27 April 2024 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

  • This is part one of the review of the book ‘How Buddhism empowers personal and social change, and we will this week focus on the first five chapters
  • The book was published in 2024 by the Buddhist Cultural Centre in Nedimala in Sri Lanka 
  • Authored by Buddhism focused researcher Don de Silva the book presents what the Buddha searched for and presents to the reader in a manner that is productive for society at a practical level
  • The book is illustrated with colour photographs and quotations from the Dhamma of the Buddha posturing the Buddhist philosophy as a living doctrine that transcends time and relevant as a mechanism of empowerment, healing and peacemaking today as it was 2,500 years ago
  • The book does not pontificate but rather breaks down into easily understandable language, method and metaphor to drive home the point that the Buddhist doctrine is meant to not just be listened to but to be thoroughly used in today’s world of war, inequality and exploitation of both humans and planet


A killer creates a killer

A conqueror creates a conqueror 

An abuser creates an abuser 

A bully creates a bully 

And so as deeds unfold, the plunderer is plundered 

– The Buddha linked 



By Surya Vishwa 

One of the illustrations within the book attributes to the discourses linked to the Buddha shows clearly what the world has forgotten; that all wars are moulded first in the human mind and that the first action of violence or injustice breeds a series of reciprocations of the same vein. 

This book is interesting in the backdrop of peace studies now being a global academic discipline, especially in the Western world within and adjacent to similar themes such as peace and conflict studies or human rights or reconciliation studies. These are terms coined within the past 50 years when international scholars such as Johan Galtung (Norwegian) considers the father of peacebuilding scholarship began looking at ways to prevent unrest in the mind of man and world through diverse ways, focusing on peace through sociological theories he developed influenced by the social realities of the current world. 

This is what the Buddha did and what many sages of this world did in the ancient world when scholarship was associated with the wise and was something that had to be strived for, often with nature being a close associate in the seeking of that knowledge. 

Even in cultures that could be described as violent (owing to the rough terrains that bred tough survival instinct) there is no sage who has said ‘go and kill’. If man interprets it in this manner it is the interpretation of religion from a weak and shallow mind which has not harnessed insight. 

In Buddhism explicitly there is not even a remote excuse that can ever justify killing fellow beings and the sometimes present ambiguity in terminology is that some religious texts do not exist in Buddhist scriptures which entirely focuses on the skill of peacemaking within the self. 

The book by Don de Silva drives home this point although it has not emphasised the words that are sometimes decreed as ‘NGO language’ i.e. peacebuilding, human rights and equal rights. 

In a recent conversation with someone who believes in the sacredness of war rather than peace, I was told I sound ‘like an NGO person’. I replied that I sound like a follower of the Buddha. 

Peace is a skill. Among the ancient peacebuilders; the many sages of all religious traditions, across the lost expanse of time, sought to eliminate strife within the heart of a human and between hearts of people. The Buddha was a foremost personality who was solely committed to this mission as he examined the depth of skill it takes to create peace and the entire doctrine could be described as an encyclopaedia on how one does this. 

He showed how non-peacefulness within the self causes attachment, defilement and sorrow. But how can modern writers show this and make it relevant to a world that cries out for peace; in a world when human rights are discussed in super luxury while starving children die in battlegrounds like flies. 


 The platform to discuss the above is laid in chapter one of the book titled the Transformation of a prince; pursuit of peace: kinkusalagavesi.

Chapter one explains that in the Buddha’s quest for enlightenment a critical statement captures the essence of his journey; the search for ‘kingusalagavesi – the discovery of what is skillful. 

Excerpts of the book are placed within quotes. 

“The term kinkusalagavesi is a profound amalgamation of two concepts; kinkusala which translates as skillful or wholesome and gavesi signifying seeker or explorer.”

 “In our present day society the pursuit of skillfulness is often overshadowed by the relentless drive for material success and fleeting pleasures. However the Buddha’s statement serves as a potent reminder that true mastery transcends the superficial and delves into the sublime peace that the Buddha himself once sought.”

“Today the significance of the Buddha’s search for the sublime path of peace is urgent and critical. Amidst war, economic challenges and climate change that characterises our lives today, the pursuit of kinkusalagavesi serves as a beacon of hope, illuminating the way towards personal and collective transformation.”

The author being a veteran global practitioner in areas of environment and sustainability, affiliated to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and being based in the United Kingdom, having also travelled to over one hundred countries in the UN and international organisations linked career spanning many decades has obviously used his exposure/experience to pitch this book to this turbulent world in a manner that transcends geography.

He thereby presents the Dhamma of the Buddha as a universal analysis of improving the human condition with awareness so that the world could be left behind by humans in a more peaceful state. 

To be empowered one must know oneself

Chapter two of the book is titled A young traveler named empowerment. 

In a writing style that is different to chapter one, here the author turns lyrical as he states;

“The adventure began on a beautiful sunny day, and as empowerment set off, a magical breeze seemed to whisper, “Your journey will be filled with excitement, wonder and transformation.” 

“Empowerment’s first destination was the enchanting village of self-awareness. Upon arrival the villagers greeted Empowerment with open arms and began to share their stories. Each individual had a unique tale, yet they all seemed to echo the same message that to be empowered one must know oneself.”

The author continues to use the metaphor of villages/towns/cities to describe the centres of the mind that one must visit in order to infuse those spaces with light and thereby be able to see clearly. 

“As the journey continued, Empowerment found itself in the bustling city of skills. The city was a melting pot of talent where people from all walks of life honed their ability in various fields. The city’s motto was, “Skills fuel empowerment. The citizens of skills firmly believed that developing one’s abilities was essential for personal growth, professional success and societal contribution. They explained that by acquiring and mastering a diverse array of skills, individuals could unlock their full potential and become powerful agents of change.”

“Next empowerment ventured into the serene and calm forest of self-confidence. The forest was home to a community of wise and self assured beings who lived in harmony with their surroundings. They explained to Empowerment that self confidence was the cornerstone of empowerment as it enabled individuals to trust their instincts, believe in their ability and take risks.”

“Empowerment’s next destination was the vibrant island of opportunities. The island was a hub of innovation and creativity where individuals were encouraged to dream big and seize the opportunities life had to offer.”

The above excerpts as quoted from chapter two belong in the office of a modern day human resources manager. It belongs in training manuals of every organisation.

Rather than posit and encourage the thinking that Buddhism belongs to those who renounce life and offer a static view of life, this chapter encourages in-depth thinking on what the foremost asset is to any organisation. 

To do so would require us to comprehend that for any task, one needs insight and that insight comes with the practice of being better self aware and that the primary asset for this is the human mind. 

If a person has a pessimistic mindset and blames others constantly, the minute he or she diverts attention towards the realm of his own mind, he or she will understand that looking at others and their faults is the darkness one must leave. One leaves that darkness only by acquiring knowledge of oneself. Therefore for empowerment, skills, self-confidence and opportunities to shine on one’s life one needs to revert to the foundation of awareness. It is this fact that this chapter highlights explaining the importance of knowledge of self which then extends to all phenomena. 

“As empowerment ascended the mountain peak the crisp air filled lungs, invigorating with a renewed sense of purpose.”

“The journey was arduous but the allure of the knowledge that awaited at the summit fueled their determination.”

Thus this chapter speaks of the support of the sangha necessary to reach the illuminating summit of knowledge and refers to the great influence one correct action can have on a wider sphere. 

 Road to empowerment

 Chapter three is titled the Road to empowerment: understanding empowerment; a deeper look. Again what is unique about this book in encouraging Buddhism as relevant to today’s commercial world and this is highlighted in this section as it focuses on organisational empowerment for cultivating success. 

“Organisational empowerment involves creating a culture of empowerment within a company or organisation. By providing employees with the necessary resources, support and opportunities for growth, organisations can foster a sense of ownership, engagement and commitment among their workforce.”

“By understanding and embracing the three cornerstones of empowerment, self awareness-knowledge and skills, and support and opportunities – individuals, communities and organisations can transform their lives and create a lasting positive impact.”

The author Don de Silva is also a capacity building coach and trainer working with key universities in the UK to increase the mental potential of youth. It is therefore apparent that this aspect of his profession for which he uses Buddhism as the route, has helped him to broaden the horizons for the modern world to see Buddhism in its highest scale as relevant for the present and the future. 

 For challenging times

 In chapter 4 titled The Buddha: for challenging times he states as follows.

“The Buddha’s journey started with his birth as Siddhartha Gautama, a prince from the small Shakya kingdom in present day Nepal, nestled above the mighty kingdoms of Magada and Kusala”

 This chapter refers to the four noble truths and the noble eightfold path. 

“The four Noble Truths are the truth about suffering (dukka), the truth of the origin of suffering (samudaya), the truth about the cessation of suffering (nirodha), and the truth of the path leading to the cessation of suffering (magga).”

“The Noble Eightfold path is the practical guide to achieving enlightenment, consisting of right understanding, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration.”

One may at times wonder why this foundation was not presented in the earlier chapters but in retrospection it is clear that the author has attempted to get the attention of the reader of this modern age and then revert to the basics of the doctrine in a continuum. 

 A radical doctrine

 Chapter five is titled A radical doctrine. 

In the opening paragraph of this chapter the author points out that the Buddha’s radical Dhamma was not just an abstract philosophy but a call to action where he encouraged his followers to put the teachings into practice in their daily lives, fostering a spirit of compassion, generosity and loving kindness.”

This is among the most powerful chapters of the book where it is shown how the Buddha stood for equality at a time when spirituality was corrupted to the extent where some humans were demeaned following an interpretative false hypothesis that heralds only a segment of persons being close to God claiming they emerged from the upper realm of this deity. 

“One of the most inspiring aspects of the Buddha’s life and teachings is his commitment to social justice and equality.”

“By rejecting the idea of caste based superiority and advocating for the equal treatment of all individuals, the Buddha helped to create a more just and compassionate society.”

This chapter thus looks at the interconnectedness of phenomena and humanity while pointing out the revolutionary stance of the Buddha at a time when caste based prejudice was considered sanctimonious. 

This chapter also refers to the resilience faced by the Buddha when he was opposed. With caste prejudice existing even today, one can only imagine how difficult it would have been for one human being to change this two thousand five hundred years ago. Yet, this is what the Buddha did and where ordaining of high caste Brahmins were done at times by those who were considered low in the man created caste hierarchy but senior in their spiritual path which was the only concern of the Buddha. 

“Throughout his life he faced numerous challenges including attempts on his life, betrayal by his close disciples and slander from rival teachers. Yet he remained steadfast in his commitment to the Dhamma and his equanimity in the face of hardship serves as an inspiring example of resilience and inner strength.” This paragraph in this chapter deserves to be reflected upon deeply. It serves as a reminder for all those in leadership positions such as current day politicians on what true integrity is. 

In the billions of years that this earth has survived, we are left with the teachings of many beings who came to uplift humans with wisdom and insights in how to live life better and how to treat the world kinder. Today we are divided as religions and countries but if we lift our minds out of that rigidness we will see that every single teacher that changes one mind and heart into an interlinked network of peace, justice, empathy and equality has helped to change humanity. 

We hope to review the rest of the book ‘How Buddhism empowers personal and social change,’ in a series in the next few weeks especially to complement our 2024 May Harmony page edition. Highlighting May as a Month of Peace we commemorate the victory of peace that Sri Lanka needs to celebrate, linked to the victory of justice and equality. 

 (The reviewer is a student of comparative spirituality, researching equally on all spiritual paths that have emerged into this world, including the very ancient nature based spiritual teachings of the indigenous people. She promotes peace creation through intangible cultural heritage, integrated knowledge and respecting the earth.)