People sometimes say that the world is progressing towards being wiser, fairer, more civilised. But I do wonder about that. There’s a lot of unrest and disorder in our world at the moment—politically, economically, socially, and not much regard for individual suffering. Is this new or is it just more of the same since time began—just the old world going round and round?
In Buddhist terms one can see that the world is merely the outward manifestation of greed, hatred and delusion (samsara), and what is happening is to be expected. How can it be otherwise while greed, hatred and delusion reign? There is no suggestion, of course, that one should not try to do something about that world out there as well as the world within. Of course we should; that is our job as Buddhists, isn’t it, to work on greed, hatred and delusion—especially within ourselves?
The trick, of course, is not to do anything by force—there is no point in going around killing or acting violently in the name of peace—and also there is no point in despairing. Then we can acknowledge the world, not ignore it, not bury our heads in the sand, but function in it, and yet not get overwhelmed by it all. Easy!? And then our world of unsatisfactoriness and suffering (samsara) can be transformed into freedom from suffering, into wisdom and compassion (nirvana). Samsara and nirvana—the world of suffering and the world of nonsuffering—they are the same, said the Buddha; just two sides of the same coin.
If we think the Buddha had a point, then we can take heart and make efforts in transforming our own minds and seeing that there is no outer world in turmoil as distinct from an inner one, that one is the other. Then we cannot ignore the suffering of our own minds nor the suffering of others. Then suffering can turn into compassion and the self into selflessness. We have the means of letting the world go without ignoring it. Implementing the Buddha’s teaching will enable us to find that subtle balance for ourselves.
More post by Diana St Ruth here