Lord Buddha had given his teaching 2600 years ago, yet his teaching holds good for us today, and will hold good for ever. That is because the circumstances have not changed and will remain the same. The world will never change (like the curly tail of a dog!), only the individuals have a chance to learn, to change and to become better.
In the past man was in delusion, had wrong views about life, was a slave to lust, greed and anger, and in consequence suffered. The same things prevail today. So long as we remain in delusion, so
long as we do not learn wisdom we too are bound to suffer.
Let us look at this: we pride ourselves that we are making progress, yet more than 100 million people died and countless numbers of people suffered due to two world wars. Even today civil wars, mass murders, oppression, terrorism, suicide bombing etc, are still going on unabated. We do not believe they are going to come to an end any time soon, and we still do not see any solution (even though the solution is there) to these problems. The latest science report says that we need two earths to support our present life style.
As a result of our present life-style, born of ignorance and delusion, there is a tremendous increase in mental illness. We can gauge this by the increase of mental hospitals and psychiatric
practices. Let us consider these statistics (from the internet): Mental illness is common and increasing in all countries. An estimated 26.2 percent of Americans aged 18 and older - about one in four
adults - suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year. When applied to the 2004 U.S. Census residential population estimate for ages 18 and older, this figure translates to 57.7 million
people. In a study of 27 countries it is felt that the United States is poised to rank No. 1 globally for mental illness, researchers say.
Not so good, is it? When “progress” is supposed to resultin greater health and happiness!! Mental illness is on the increase in every country because all of us follow the same style of life based on wrong views.
Now what is progress? And how do we judge it? There is, perhaps, a simple way. Let us ask ourselves, “Are we are growing in goodness, wisdom and happiness (Sat, Chit and Ananda)?” If the answer is
yes, if we are growing in happiness, wisdom and happiness, we are, undoubtedly, making progress in life. If not, there is, definitely, something wrong, an issue that needs. addressing.
Buddha’s analysis of life is right because he is an enlightened soul. He said life is full of suffering, and suffering arises from Tanha, i.e. thirst, desire or craving for pleasure. Buddha was certainly not a pessimist, he was a realist! Let us note he did not say life is full of suffering only, he did not say one should kill all desires. Life can be joyful if we know about it, if we can desire rightly and live rightly, though many of us choose not to have a right view of life and suffer greatly as a result.
At the moment there is an economic depression. Millions have lost jobs and see no good prospect in the near future. Increasingly companies are trying to cut costs by reducing the number of their employees and increasing their work leading to stress, pressure in family relationships, etc. Even the journalists had the good sense to identify the present economic chaos as being solely due to the greed of, not merely a few clever individuals, but of all of us.
Lust, greed, violence and hatred are manifestly visible in every part of the world. We suffer from the disease of kama- kanchana i.e., lust and greed, as Sri Ramakrishna, so aptly termed it.
To summarise the foregoing discussion: The belief that mankind is progressing is a myth. Suffering is on the increase both physically and mentally. The cause of this suffering is due to wrong desires arising from delusion. Delusion springs from a wrong view of life which gives birth to pain-producing feelings of lust, anger, greed, hatred, jealousy, etc. These feelings result in wrong actions like violence, wars, oppression, cruelty etc.
The solution to overcome suffering and become joyful is given by the Buddha. The solution is to have the Right View of life. It is far easier to understand the ‘Right Way of Life’ intellectually but much harder to practise it.
We will discuss what the Right-View is and the way to practise it in the next issue.
To be continued) Swami Dayatmananda
Editorial from Vedanta Magazine
Nov - Dec 2010