Seeking A Better World: A Buddhist's View.
It is not too late to seek a newer world
Seeking a Better World Through Buddhism:
By Bob Young
“It is not too late to seek a newer world.” These words, from Alfred Lord Tennyson offer hope to a disenchanted seeker of knowledge, frustrated in the search for complicated answers to simple questions.
Tennyson’s words are echoed by Epicurus who wrote, “Let no one be slow to seek wisdom when he is young, nor too weary in the search for it when he has grown old. For no age is too early or too late for the benefits of wisdom.” Life should not be a still-life of angst. There are answers to life’s questions somewhere. A true seeker just needs to find the right path to get there.
Many people desperately look to religion for those answers. In most religions, faith means trust in an outside force or person. We’re told to look outward and to show blind obedience in something separate from ourselves. We hope this external force will deliver our salvation if we appease it.
When one discovers Buddhism, the refreshing thing about it is that it advocates having faith in one’s self. Everything you need to improve and reach enlightenment is already inside you. No need to beg for what you already have. Western religions once realized that but forgot it. In the lost scrolls, Jesus once said “If heaven were in the sky, the birds would be closer to it than we are.” That sounds very Buddhist.
Buddha said “Do not accept anything I say just because I said it.” We’re told to think instead of blindly follow. This concept is very new to those brought up on Western religions. Buddhism means “To be awake”. A seeker wants to be awakened to the truth.
Buddhism, unlike other systems of worship, offers a way to eliminate suffering during life, not after it’s over. You can find happiness in living, not in dying. This comes as very good new to many of us.
Thoreau said “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.” The majority of people today feel resigned to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. We accept and we toil on, hoping for a miracle which will bring us the happily-ever-after that fairy tales promise us. We wait for answers. We wait to feel good. We wait to wait. But the waiting doesn’t help. We learn only by doing.
Back in the Fifth Century BC, a wise youth saw the suffering of humankind but refused to be resigned to it. He didn’t surrender to fate. He acted! He became enlightened. And ever since, others have built upon and expanded upon the work of Shakyamuni Buddha, one of the great teachers. He provides us with a guide to navigate past our inner demons and hopefully achieve inner peace. “Oh, to hold life henceforth in the palm of new joy.” The new world beckons. “Seek and ye shall find,” even if your looking for yourself. We need to listen and learn. We need to be still and subdue our own mind.
Confucius said “Whoever knows essentially his own mind can also know that of other men and can collaborate in the transformation and progress of Heaven and Earth.” A seeker needs to be mindful to truly experience life. Thoreau said to “Live deliberately and suck the marrow out of life. To put to route all that is not life.”
Socrates told us “the unexamined life is not worth living.” We are a curious race and we spend time studying every particle of our physical world. We’ve walked on the moon and send probes into space. Human history is a timeline of great discoveries. And yet, we avoid studying the greatest enigma of all…ourselves!
Why don’t we know ourselves as well as we know our computers? Why are we less curious about ourselves than we are about celebrities? Why aren’t we compelled to know our inner working? We should be. We have to and need to and must. We don’t have to be sitting under the Bodhi Tree to have an epiphany about ourselves. Buddhism is the path we have chosen to begin this exploration. Buddhists are pioneers of the greatest frontier. “Oh brave new world that has such beings in it.”
Seneca said “How can the soul which misunderstands itself understand others?” The truth is that it can’t. This is the truth that Shakyamuni knew centuries ago. We modern seekers are still trying to catch up with him.
The Aborigine have a custom called “the Walk-About”, where they travel the world to learn about themselves. Buddhists take the opposite approach. We search within ourselves to change the world. And whether or not we succeed is less important than the fact that we keep trying. We may never reach enlightenment but the continuing search for it fulfills us in ways that nothing else could. A true seeker can only promise his or herself to keep seeking. “This above all, to thine own self be true.” Simple words but so important. We owe it to ourselves to listen.
“It is not too late to seek a newer world.”