I read this few years ago in our local paper – Kuensel released weekly in Bhutan and felt i should share this with everyone. For Buddhist practising Buddhism is the only way to gain ultimate happiness as opposed to acquiring materials is the only way to most people in the western societies. Hope you enjoy reading it.
How does practising Buddhism help the world?
That is a common concern, especially with regard to monks or yogis who leave society and live in isolated places. From a Buddhist perspective, anything that helps alleviate suffering is considered good and worthy of praise.
However, even if a person is well educated or has access to advanced medical resources, it does not guarantee that he is free of suffering. So, while Buddhism certainly does not reject advancement of science or knowledge, it is not its main focus. Instead, Buddhist practice targets the root of our thoughts and emotions – the mind.
Material goods are impermanent. From the moment we acquire them, they begin to change and deteriorate. Consequently, they leave the owners with a sense of loss and a craving for more. In fact, without wisdom, even a healthy bank balance can become the source of torment due to worry about losing or acquiring funds.
Take an example of the predominant influence of mind in dictating our feelings. When we are at peace, the bright sun and a bird singing are a source of joy. However, for a person wracked with worry or anger, the sun may feel oppressively hot and the bird’s chirps may cause annoyance. The outer situation is the same. Yet, because of the differing states of mind, it is perceived in a totally different way.
Some people might contend that our state of mind may hold sway with minor problems, but it is impossible to be happy when faced with major difficulties. However, this is not true. A few years ago there was a report of Tibetan who was tortured and often held in isolation. Despite his tremendous suffering, he showed no signs of trauma after being released. In fact, when asked was he ever scared, he humbly replied that he was only afraid of losing his compassion towards his captors. This is the power of mind.
Likewise, we have all seen scowling businessmen in expensive suits pass smiling beggars in rags. This is not to say that you cannot be happy and rich. You can – definitely – it is just that material things are not the source of happiness. They are temporary and characterised by change, and so can only bring temporary joy. Inner happiness, however, is the result of wisdom. This is not reliant on external factors, and so is stable and inexhaustible.
Therefore, the only way to benefit others on a profound level is to offer them a means to develop the wisdom that brings inner peace. A person with wisdom sees reality, and as such is not at the mercy of external factors. Generally, we are like children that are afraid of the mask dancers at a tsechu, not realizing that the characters are unreal. Buddhist training allows us to strip the mask from the dancers, revealing their true identity. From that moment on, we are never sacred by them. As a result, our action becomes peaceful and appropriate.
Beyond offering individual peace, Buddhism also helps the world on a broad basis. Take for example the issue of global warming. It has been concluded beyond doubt that pollution is a major factor in the scenario. As a result, many accords have been signed to reduce our carbon footprint. The Buddha would applaud this, but he would take the initiative a stage further. The reason that industrialists pollute the environment is due to ignorance. They are like the liver or kidneys deliberately poisoning the body without recognizing that they are part of the whole structure. When the system fails, they fail. Contrarily, a person seeped in the understanding of interdependence as taught by the Buddha could no more damage the environment than could his left hand deliberately hurt the right.
Therefore, to return to the question, practising Buddhism has a direct and positive influence on society and the planet as a whole because it awakens humanity to reality, and with this realization we naturally become sane and decent beings.
[excerpt from kuensel]