Friday, September 16, 2011

Buddhism and World Peace

Buddhism teaches that whether we have global peace or global war is up to us at every moment. The situation is not hopeless and its not out of our hands. If we don't do anything, who will? Peace or war is our decision.

The fundamental goal of Buddhism is peace, not only peace in this world but peace in all worlds. The Buddha taught that the first step on the path to peace is understanding the causality of peace. When we understand what causes peace, we know where to direct our efforts. We can take many actions in our quest for peace that may be helpful. But if we do not first address the fundamental issues, the things that cause peace, all other actions will come to naught.

The Buddha taught that peaceful minds lead to peaceful speech and peaceful actions. If our minds are at peace, the world will be at peace. So, who has a peaceful mind?

The overwhelming majority of us live in the midst of mental storms that subside only for brief and treasured moments. If we wait for all beings in the world to become calm and peaceful sages, what chance is there of a peaceful world for us? Is there any possibility of reducing the levels of violence in the world and of successfully abating the winds of war if our minds are not completely at peace?

The Buddha taught that all forms of life use the same fundamental spiritual source, which he called the enlightened nature or the Buddha-nature. He did not see essential differences in the spiritual condition of human beings and other forms of life. In fact, according to Buddhist teachings, after death a human being is reborn, perhaps again as a human being or possibly in the animal world. Likewise, animals, in certain circumstances, can be reborn as human beings. All sentient beings are seen as passing through the unending cycle of the wheel of rebirth. They are born, they grow old, become sick, and die. They are reborn, grow old, get sick and die, over and over and over again.

What determines how you are reborn is karma. Whether you obtain a human body, whether male or female, or that of an animal is karma. Whether you have a body that is healthy or sickly, whether you are smart or stupid, whether your family is rich or poor, whether your parents are compassionate or cruel -- all that is karma.

Karma is a Sanskrit word that is derived from the semantic root meaning 'to do'. It refers to activity -- mental, verbal, and physical--as governed by the complex patterns of cause and effect. There are two basic kinds of karma--individual and shared.

Individual karma is not limited to a single lifetime. What you did in your past lives determines your situation in your present life. If you did good deeds in past lives, the result will be an auspicious rebirth. If your actions in past lives were predominantly bad, your situation in the present will be inauspicious. If in this life you act more like an animal than a human being, your next rebirth will be as an animal.

Shared karma refers to our net of inter-relationships with other people, non-human beings, and our environment. There is a certain group of people who live in similar locations and perceive their surrounding in the same way. Because that particular shared situation their karma is the fruition of their former actions.

The doctrine of karma is not deterministic. Rather, it is a philosophy of radical personal responsibility. Although your present situation in every moment is determined by your past actions, your action in the present moment, in the present circumstances, can be totally unconditioned and, therefore, totally free. It is true that you may mindlessly react according to the strengths of your habits -patterns, but that doesn't have to be the case. The potential for you to act mindfully and freely is always there. It is up to you to realize that you have a choice and to make it. This realization is the beginning of true spiritual growth.

The Buddha taught that the fundamental cause of all suffering is ignorance. The basic ignorance is our failure to understand that the self, which is at the center of all of our lives, which determines the way in which we see the world, which directs our actions for our own ease and benefit, is an illusion. The illusion of the self is the cause of all our suffering. We want to protect our self from the dangers of the constant flux of life. We want to exempt ourselves from change, when nothing in the world is exempt from change.

Life centered on self naturally tends toward the selfish. Selfishness poisons us with desire and greed. When it is not fulfilled, we tend to become angry and hateful. These basic emotional conditions keep us from reaching the best of our minds and cut us off from our own intuitive wisdom and compassion; our thoughts and actions then come from deluded and superficial views.

To Be Continued...uh, when I get it written...