There are so many unsettling things happening in the world these days – the corruption of the ruling class provoking the grassroots rebellion; the arguments and attacking of different religious practices; the authoritarian governments escalating their already extreme control to persecute dissidents and suppress human right activists; the waves of refugees and immigrations forced out of their home by the nonstop warfare in the middle east…etc. Under these apparent upheavals, there are even stronger hidden currents of destabilizing factors: the environmental and ecological damage of mankind’s activities are posting threats to our very own existence; the extreme human exploitation of nature resources overload the Earth to the blink of exhaustion; the extremely unbalanced allocation of resources creating societal tear-off and conflict between the haves and have-nots, the mammoth debt level at both sovereign and average household level, currency war between nations, rising sentiments of nationalism…etc. The more I know of what is happening in the world, the more I realize how little I know about this world, and the more at loss what is a sensible response to these situations.
But as a matter of fact, my last two years writing and research were in essence addressing the fundamental root cause of these issues. In the Know Thyself piece, Gus Speth explained clearly: “I used to think the top environmental problems facing the world were global warming, environmental degradation and eco-system collapse, and that we scientists could fix those problems with enough science. But I was wrong. The real problem is not those three items, but greed, selfishness and apathy. And for that we need a spiritual and cultural transformation. And we scientists don’t know how to do that.” There had been many similar whistle blower by passed the public attention, many good-intent wise suggestions went unheeded, now the deteriorate situation shall serve as a good reflection point. Walpola Rahula, a Buddhist monk who in 1959 published an influential book called What the Buddha Taught, put it this way: “Accoring to the teaching of the Buddha, the idea of self is an imaginary, false belief which has no corresponding reality, and it produces harmful thoughts of ‘me’ and ‘mine’, selfish desire, craving, attachment, hatred, ill-will, conceit, pride, egoism, and other defilements, impurities and problems. It is the source of all the troubles in the world from personal conflicts to wars between nations. In short, to this false view can be traced all the evil in the world.”
The graph of World GDP Over the Last Two Millennia, Courtesy of WorldInData.org, paint a clear picture of the exponentially increase of global GDP in the last few decades. Up till 1900, the world GDP is 3.42 Trillion, until 1967 it was still 20.4 trillion. From there, in 50 years, it skyrock to 104.72 Trillions of 2014. The dialectical philosophy taught us there are always two sides to a story, everything has a pro and cons. These much advancement in our productivity output comes at expenses of gargantuan scale of depletion in nature resources and environmental pollution. How much longer can the Earth sustain such exploitation? Our human nature tends to attach to the material level possessions, attach to the dominance of our status. But all the human distress mentioned above should be loudly enough alarming us out of the complacency.
Should we continue to use GDP as a measurement of well being of our existence? Shall this path of self-defeating GDP growth or army contest for dominance continues to be the priority of national pursuit? Should the ruling class continue to hoard themselves wealth by all means – tweak the economic policies screw toward their advantage? Shall we allow the corruption to continue and totalitarian government to suppress the democracy and the voice of truth? Shall Wall Street continue be the invisible hand of our society?
In his1973 book Small Is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered, Schumacher foresaw the problems that come about with excessive reliance on the growth of income, especially overwork and dwindling resources. He argued for a system hat valued individual character development and human liberation over an attachment to material goods – the maximum of wellbeing with the minimum of consumption. Recently Clair Brown’s Buddhist Economics expanded on Schumacher’s notion to advocate an approach to organizing the economy reflects our caring for one another and global sharing for the world’s resources in a sustainable system. Her book complements the award-winning work of Jeffrey Sachs and Bill McKibben, and the paradigm-breaking spirit of Amartya Sen, Robert Reich, and Thomas Piketty by incorporates the Buddhist emphasis on interdependence, shared prosperity and happiness into her vision for a sustainable and compassionate world.
Catastrophe and disaster has their purpose in the course of human evolutionary journey. It is in those moment of hardship in human history that we are waken up to sublime our animal instinct for spiritual ascension, we are driven to transcend the material struggle to learn our spirituality. The process leading to today’s desperation are decades in its making to the minimum. It is not an exaggeration to say the chaotic and dysfunctional world we are in is the results of at least a few hundred years of repeated human behaviors. With the science and technology advancement of the last two hundred years, humanity is certainly more capable than ever to bring about things at their own whimsical wish. We can create weapons more lethal than anytime in history; the DNA crone technology is already under human’s control for creating new life; the space science enable us to explore galaxies and study black holes million light-years away; our computing power can produce Bit coins and digital transfer money at our fingertips. So much is human power! But are these power serve humanity for the better or giving us self-afflicted wound in the end? Is human’s maturity/wisdom a good match to such powers? Such scenarios are unlike a 3-year-old playing the fire, the danger of self burn is extremely high. Humanity totally get lost in their delusion of controlling this world. In Mind’s False Perception by Attachment to 5 Aggregates, I explained how the false perception comes from.
A year ago, I wrote a piece about the Pluto-Neptune-Uranus cycle and its manifestation of the last 50 years, we post the question of how can we channel these destructive tendency to more constructive outcome. This should be something everyone of us, especially the national leaders should ask ourselves. The bestselling author Gretchen Rubin’s wrote in The Happiness Project: “ I had to find some way to steer my mind toward the transcendent and the timeless, away from the immediate and the shallow … to appreciate the glories of the present moment… to put the happiness of others before my own happiness. Too often, these eternal values got lost in the hubbub of everyday routines and selfish concerns.” This words reflect a prevailing phenomenon of our world, Capitalism drove people by greedy and desires to compete with each other, in our eagerness to win and getting the upper hand, we get trapped in the short sighted gratification and strayed from our spiritual path.
Of course, capitalism has its virtue of promoting individual efforts and reward people according to their contribution. Egalitarian of socialism is not something we should advocate. The conflict of ideology in the last two hundred years did not really solve our problem. Living in the fast paced modern life, we are so busy keep up with everything that we rarely have time to think about the meaning and value of all these hustle bustle. Maybe only sometimes in the late of night we have a moment of startling realization that after all these business competition, we have not get much far in our inner peace and true sense of fulfillment. Religion in its constructive usage is to help us in connecting to that yearning and needs. Of course, there exists misleading spiritual fanatics, like the Jim Crow sorts, who remind us to stand firmly on the ground when trying to grasp the unfathomable. Still religion and spirituality serves a purpose in life, just as Dalai Lama teaches us “every religion emphasize human improvement, love, respect for others, and sharing other people’s suffering.” This need for love and empathy is deeply innate of our human nature. The golden rule of “treat others as you would like others to treat you” is the teaching of this simple alas universal wisdom. In essence, we are spirit incarnated into human form. Our body is capsulated by the Saturnian world, but our spirit goes beyond and stay eternal. This is how materialism and spirituality relate.
Since Neptune ingress into its ruling sign Pisces in 2012, this inner calling is ever more pressing in our awareness. Alas different interpretation of spirituality and religion dogma prompted people focusing on the differences rather than our common needs for kindness and compassion. This whole year, when Jupiter in Sagittarian squares the Neptune In Pisces, this frenzies turn into mania as we observe several killings targeting at religious groups. We may not need to adhere to any religious group, alas in truth that we come from the same source, as the Big Bang theory and modern science can testify that the world is made up of energy, and energy never disappear but only transforms as taught in the Heart Sutra. We human are the miniature of the larger cosmos, we are all interconnected by unseen forces. That is why all the essence of religion is to teach love and self-discipline. The precepts are designed to keep us from making fatal mistakes and foster our spiritual journey. Devolution acts like Hitler is a downfall of his part and does require redemption. Cause and effects are the nature laws govern the energy world. Our choice of love over hatred, compassion over apathy, care over indifference, equality over prejudice is ultimately the higher way to our spiritual ascend and evolutionary future.