By Venetia Walkey
Understanding the nature of impermanence is vital to our understanding of the Buddha?s teachings. Everything that exists is constantly changing. Nothing exists independently. We cannot be certain of anything, apart from the knowledge that one day we will die.
If we practice mindfulness of breathing in and breathing out we have a simple example to observe. When our body dies, there is no more breath.
If we observe our minds objectively, then we can see how our thoughts and mental and physical feelings come and go and are constantly changing. They may be pleasant, unpleasant or neutral. Our reactions to them whether negative, positive or neutral depend on our conditioning. If we watch our minds objectively, we must maintain awareness and accept that sooner or later personal relationships, economic, social cultural, political, and environmental situations will change,
The Buddha taught us the importance of not becoming attached to things which make us happy. We can enjoy them fully while they last, but if we are strongly attached we will suffer when we are deprived of them. We also become attached to our negative feelings and must learn to let them go. They are overweight baggage for which we must pay a high price on our journey through life. We need light, not heavy hearts.
As human beings we are all deeply concerned for the future of the survival of Gaia our Mother Earth and everything that depends upon our fragile biosphere and the universe. We attach to many different ways of solving the universal problems, depending on our motivation and beliefs. Human consciousness and awareness is gradually evolving. Holistic education is fundamental to developing a peaceful, harmonious and civilised society. All sentient beings want to avoid suffering, and desire happiness, but we are easily deluded and exploited in our pursuit of happiness, if we lack noble spiritual guides and friends.
If we have chosen the Buddha to be our guide, it is only by practicing his teachings to the best of our ability to develop our full positive potential, that we may encourage others to follow the Noble Eightfold Path of Right Conduct that enables us to make wise choices in life.
The Buddha metaphorically turned the wheel of the law in the Deer Park at Sarnath, after he became enlightened. He invited us to follow in the hoof prints of the oxen who hauled the wagon. The wagon wheel symbolized the wheel of Right Conduct. If we are guided by the wheel of Right Conduct, remembering that this is the foundation of Holistic Education, we will be able to proceed towards justice and peace in the world and be able to help others on their psycho physical journey through life.
Einstein believed that Buddhism would be the religion of the future because it has no dogma only doctrine. It is based on pure logic
If we do not become attached to the many different traditions and forms of the Buddhist teaching and institutions we can enhance understanding the study and practice of the teachings as a transformative practical science of positive personal development to assist us on our psycho/physical journey through life. It is a valuable guide for people of all beliefs and for those who have lost or not yet found their right direction in life, as well as for those who are seeking for virtue, truth and beauty which has not been commodified and commercialized.
The Dhamma, Truth, is indestructible and has existed and survived long before and during recorded history. The perennial wisdom of the great spiritual teachers and what remains of the indigenous wisdom of those who were persecuted and marginalized is available to everyone who cares to learn how to become a truly human being.
As a system of high spiritual technology, the applied psychology of the Buddhist teaching gives us the opportunity to eliminate our negative habits of body mind and speech which cause suffering to ourselves, our fellow beings, our environment and the universe. Peace depends on us.
When Mahatma Gandhi was asked to define civilisation, he replied ?Right Conduct.? If the Buddhist teaching can be continually updated and presented in ways to which people can relate according to their needs, and particular situations, they can learn how to apply them to keep their balance. This will help them find the middle way to navigate the raft of the Dhamma through the turbulent waters of the constantly changing, confusing and terrifying situations which beset us.
In Plato?s Laws, Ethics and the Arts were the foundation stone of education to create a harmonious, civilized and peaceful society where wisdom was the goal. Wise elders were elected for their exemplary character to ensure that the standards were not degraded.
The key for survival lies in the quality of education for hearts hands and minds. Education which is purely knowledge based and lacking in wisdom is a recipe for disaster. Great spiritual leaders are few and far between. Wise guardians may exist as members of The World Future Forum
The interfaith movement is admirable and essential to bring the wisdom of the great spiritual traditions together. Moral ethics are the foundation of all the great religions without them we cannot develop right relationships, good will and contribute towards the progress of justice and peace in society. Without a sound foundation of moral ethics we cannot connect with our higher consciousness and our innate creativity and spirituality. Spirituality is the unifying principle of all human beings.
We have never before had such amazing tools for communication. If the Buddhist teachings are presented in entertaining ways which are fashionable and fun, they will attract young people to explore their own positive potential and encourage the understanding of the vital importance of right conduct. They will be enabled to make wise choices in life and to develop healthy bodies, minds and spirits for their own and others true well being. The level of spiritual and environmental awareness will grow.
The arts are a vital means of communication. Artists have a vital role to play in diverting the current suicidal thrust of human consciousness and many are courageously helping to unite people who are divided by their historical, racial, cultural, political and religious differences. The arts transcend racial, cultural and political boundaries. They providing an outlet for the oppressed to express and communicate injustice and inequality, and to promote human rights and responsibilities. They are a vital asset in education.
Socially engaged Buddhists are involved in networking internationally, promoting human rights and responsibilities, peaceful conflict resolution, holistic education, sustainable agriculture, economics, self sufficiency and life styles. They try to balance the inner work to ensure that the outer work is based on right motivation, mindfulness. and understanding, for the good of the whole; generosity and restraint on a personal level; and loving kindness for all sentient beings, .including themselves.
As long as we do not become attached to the rules and rituals and institutionalized forms of Buddhism?s many different traditions and use all skilful means in the here and now, to communicate and sincerely study and practice the teachings, the legacy of the wisdom of the Buddha, will survive. Throughout the centuries it has adapted to different geographical locations, conditions and cultures. Its positive influence is pervading many aspects of civil society, in humanistic psychology, complementary medicine, sustainable agriculture, ecology, life styles and right livelihood. It is applied to economics, peaceful conflict resolution and holistic education.
The Buddha has been recognized by the United Nations (UN) as the greatest influence for World Peace within living memory. A Buddha Reliquary has been established in the UN building in Geneva, Switzerland, where the Buddha?s birthday is commemorated. Truth is indestructible, it survives ideologies and isms, and it cannot be imprisoned. It can be suppressed and denied but it will always reveal itself sooner or later.
The challenge today is for survival in the face of over rapid scientific developments without proper research into the possible consequences. We will soon be sending robots programmed by fallible human beings, to explore outer space and exploit the resources of the universe. Genetic engineering, stem cell experimentation, nanotechnology, bio technology, presents us with both advantages and risks. Warfare conducted long distance via computers, may reduce bloodshed but is fraught with danger. Oceanography will exploit the resources under the sea bed. There is no end to human greed and ingenuity. Nothing is sacrosanct.
The Buddha forecast a time when the rain of the Dhamma would no longer nourish the land, a time which would be personified by speed and heat. A time when many new diseases would manifest and when natural disasters, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and floods would devastate the world. Because of the disappearance of moral ethics, good teachers would be hard to find. Many Monks would become parasites on the people, especially in the cities. We are living in a period of transition. The crisis presents us with opportunities for positive change.
Spiritual communities will endeavour to survive and preserve the ancient wisdom. The Buddha taught us not to be attached even to the teachings, but to practice and integrate them into our daily lives. The future of Buddhism in its current secular forms is unpredictable. That it is growing in popularity is undeniable. The practice of right understanding, right mindfulness, Right Conduct and awareness that everything we think and say and do depends on our personal and circumstantial conditioning and produces an effect. We must accept the consequences whether they are good or bad and take responsibility for them. We are interdependent and interconnected with everything that exists. What is important is to concentrate mindfully on the present moment and live creatively each day in the knowledge that it might be our last.
Who knows whether Buddhist communities might continue to exist on satellites or biospheres in outer space. Peaceful coexistence with other forms of life and the ability to adapt to existing conditions will be easier for Intronauts who have explored inner space through meditation, than for the astronauts who have pioneered outer space, but they will be mutually dependant. They may also have to depend on the robots. How they behave will depend on their conditioning. If they have been programmed regardless of moral ethics there will be conflicting situations to contend with. Hopefully there will be robots that have been intelligently programmed as well. Speculating about the future of Buddhism is intellectually stimulating, but its survival depends on its intelligent and practical application here and now.
Earthquakes tidal waves, volcanoes erupting,
Wake us to the fact that what lies beneath the surface
So with society.
Unease, unrest, disease, resentment,
Stirring revolution, both civil and uncivil,
Disrupts our little plans.
We can only be certain of uncertainty.
To live creatively each day according to changing conditions,
Just to live with that.
To die each day
Just as each day dies,