15 December 2010

What's New? More No Comprendo Zone

There are times, I suppose, when it's tempting to think that in earlier ages, in pre-industrial societies, in a world where there was no instant communication, no indoor plumbing, and no heat beyond the fire in the hearth, it was infinitely easier to practice the Dharma.  When the ancients cautioned against retreating into quietism away from the hubbub of everyday life, they had no clue just how noisy and congested it was going to get: sports stadiums, traffic jams, airports, stereos and iPods, shopping malls and parking lots were as yet nowhere in sight. 

But the issue has never been about the surroundings.

Whether we flush or shovel, pickle or deep freeze, microwave or heat with a wood fire, fly or go by foot, whether news travels as fast as a man on a horse or as fast as a satellite signal, whether commerce is local or global, the basic facts of the matter remain the same: our suffering, its cause, its end, and the way to its end have not changed in the least.  The work remains the same, and the difficulty of the work remains the same, for now, just as when the Buddha first pointed it out, the arena of the work is not the surroundings but us: "within this body, mortal though it be, and only a fathom high, but conscious and endowed with mind is the world, its waxing, its waning, and the way that leads to its passing away." 

I hear talk of adapting the Dharma to modern, Western (read: affluent, comfortable) societies.  I have no clue what that could possibly mean.  I just don't understand.

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