Buddhism and the "Human Revolution"
Rebelling against our worst selves and letting our better selves triumph
“Not in the clamor of the crowded streets, not in the shouts and plaudits of the throng but rather in ourselves lie the victory and defeat.” H. W. Longfellow.
One of the main battles we fight as humans is the struggle against the worst parts of ourselves. As beings with so much potential for good, but hampered by selfish thoughts, we must hope to create a Human Revolution in our souls and in our natural environment by creating profound change within ourselves. By getting in touch with our own better nature, we can be catalysts for a grander evolution of the species.
But looking at the world of chaos we live in, a Human Revolution may seem very far away. In such uncertain times, can we still cling to the hope of changing the world for the better? Is it possible?
The answer is…Sometimes it works! And we need to be heartened and motivated by the victories we see and let them inspire us to seek out more victories. We need to be proud of any positive change in the world because it came from the good intentions and brave hearts of people who believed it could happen.
As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Great is not he who can alter matter, but who can alter his state of mind.” It is our hearts that change other hearts. It doesn’t happen quickly but sometimes it works. Buddhism teaches “In all things, patience is the key to victory. Those who cannot endure cannot hope to win. Ultimate victory belongs to those who can forebear.” And so we strive and we hope and we wait. And occasionally, through the dark times, we see the light of proof. We see evidence of a victory in the human revolution.
From the Emancipation Proclamation, to Gandhi leading his people to liberation, to Martin Luther King leading the Civil Rights movement, there are victories which are as grand as they are rare and they are evidence that sometimes it works. There are victories to be celebrated.
We just have to continue to believe. It’s what Dr. Samuel Johnson called “the triumph of hope over experience.”
Solzhenitsyn once said “The structure of society is secondary to the human spirit.”
Thomas Edison said the secret to his success was to never stop trying until he beat the problem. Once you give up, you are defeated.
We have a responsibility to the world to keep trying to recreate these rare victories and to never stop believing that our actions count. Jean Paul Sartre said “When one does nothing, one is responsible for everything.”
There are billions of dreams for a better world being dreamed every day. There are billions of people all hoping that the problems of yesterday will be gone tomorrow. But how many have faith to really believe that?
Change can occur. We’ve seen the proof. It doesn’t come at the point of a gun, but rather in the hopes and prayers of the people who find greatness within themselves. We are, as Tennyson said, “One equal temper of heroic heart, made weak by time and fate but strong in will. To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield!”
We’ve had our victories in the past. We have proof that battles in the Human Revolution can be won. We’ve done it before and we can do it again, as long as we don’t lose hope.