We desperately need a new way of life that lets us tackle problems in the modern world.
In these complex times of political and economic uncertainty, amidst global military and other discriminatory tensions, mankind needs to look towards solutions that open up the human mind and helps in realising that the problems and solutions come from within. We need a way of life that offers clarity in our way of thinking which further allows us to effectively voice out our opinions and take appropriate actions towards forces that tend to demean us. The captivating ideas of Buddhism are such ways, that suggests in order for a person to be ‘enlightened’, one needs to look towards himself/herself. Unlike other religions, Buddhism considers the seeking of a supreme being as a ‘distraction’ and focuses on the ways in which the human mind can attain happiness. The differentiation of various supreme beings have separated mankind which has led to some discriminatory measures, and the united undertaking of a spiritual way of life such as Buddhism would prevent further progression of such measures.
Since religion is defined as the ‘System of the devotion of a supernatural being’, we can safely say that Buddhism is far from that definition. Although some Buddhists pray to ‘Buddha’, the central figure of Buddhism, this way of life concentrates more on what and how you practice, rather than what you believe in. The central theory of Buddhism can be summarised by The Four Noble Truths:
- The First Noble truth: There is suffering and constant dissatisfaction in this world.
- The Second Noble truth: The root of suffering and dissatisfaction is desire.
- The Third Noble truth: It is possible to overcome suffering and dissatisfaction through the complete removal or management of these desires.
- The Fourth Noble Truth: We can learn to move beyond suffering through The Noble Eight-Fold Path. The Eight-Fold Path is a set of aspects that defines the ‘right’ behaviour of mankind. It includes The Right View, The Right Intention, The Right Speech, The Right Action, The Right Livelihood, The Right Effort, The Right Mindfulness and The Right Concentration. These aspects are further explained in detail in various scriptures written by the Buddha.
Apart from the central theory, you must have frequently heard about the interconnection between Buddhism and Meditation. Meditation is nothing but a practice that paves way for self-awareness, clarity of the mind, concentration and compassion for the living things around you. In Buddhist terms, Meditation is one of the methods that allow you to practice the system of the Eight-Fold Path.
In this modern world where people are annoyed because of the economy or the lack of opportunity, Buddhism paves a path in such a way that it makes you realise that the ultimate cause of the problem is within you. Not the economy, not the lack of opportunity. The first step in solving any problem is the identification that a problem truly exists. And according to Buddhism, it’s within you. The solution, the ideas of Buddhism suggests, is also within you. With introspection and achieving clarity of the mind through Meditation, it is possible to identify problems and the respective solutions.
The practices and principles of Buddhism also greatly deal with how emotions and perceptions work and delve deep into the area of logic. This would be favourable to the modern world because, with respect to the current political framework, it greatly helps us in deconstructing fantasies from reality. With a spike in the number of politicians with a malevolent agenda which ultimately leads to the dissolution of the principles democracies are built upon, it is vital that we know how to separate right from wrong and show strong resistance to attempts of brainwashing. We have a huge problem of information asymmetry and bias in the world we live in, the mainstream media does not inform with a critical viewpoint and hence the people don’t formulate opinions with information from different standpoints. We need to have a clear outlook of this world that lets us take note of what is important and form opinions with the respective data. This ‘clear outlook’ of life and the surroundings we live in, is what Buddhism desperately tries to achieve.
The strong interconnection between Science and Buddhism is commonly discussed, since it encourages the impartial investigation of Nature (which is essentially the role of science), while the principle object of study is oneself. More than scientific observations, Buddhism concentrates on the connection between you and Nature, with many scientists going to the extents of stating that Buddhism is a ‘Scientific Philosophy’. The ideas take us to areas that science is unable to explore.
‘Buddhism is a combination of both speculative and scientific philosophy. It advocates the scientific method and pursues that to a finality that may be called Rationalistic. In it are to be found answers to such questions of interest as: ‘What is mind and matter? Of them, which is of greater importance? Is the universe moving towards a goal? What is man’s position? Is there living that is noble?’ It takes up where science cannot lead because of the limitations of the latter’s instruments. Its conquests are those of the mind.’
-The Nobel Prize winning philosopher Bertrand Russel
In the world we currently live in, where various irrational suggestions such as Creationism and the ideas of Islamic Science are put up against the obvious Scientific facts, Buddhism offers an alternative route. It encourages you to make ‘impartial’ investigations of the things around you while embarking on the pursuit of understanding the connection between You and the Nature you have been gifted with.
We are also in an age pervaded by technological innovations which have fuelled the growth of insecurity and impatience. An average teenager is more attentive to gaining social approval than ever, leading to insecurity and lower self-esteem. With the abundance of services available to simplify life, impatience has also become an unwanted byproduct. Understanding one’s self, which is one of Buddhism’s major objectives, makes one realise of the root causes of his/her insecurity and impatience. Questions then arise after this realisation and answers are sought out for.
As time passes and composite problems arise, we need to address these problems with great care and bring about solutions that are effective. We are now heading to a world with an abundance of evil intents, increasing intolerance and insecurity. How we tackle these problems determines the fate of all mankind and we have to do so with Mindfulness, thorough introspection of who we are and the role we need to play for the well-being of the society. Buddhism is just a way of life that offers the methods and principles we need to make the current world a better place to live in, for you, the society, and for the generations to come.