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Can Buddhism Survive and Thrive in a Consumerist, Materialist World?


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A presentation for a talk by Vidyamala given at the Manchester Buddhist Centre 28 May 2011 in the series 'Buddhism and the Big Questions'

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Can Buddhism Survive and Thrive in a Consumerist, Materialist World?

  1. 1. Can Buddhism Survive and Thrive in a Consumerist, Materialist World?
  2. 2. <ul>OVERVIEW </ul><ul><li>Look at state of modern world
  3. 3. What does Buddhism offer?
  4. 4. What did the Buddha see?
  5. 5. How to communicate this vision/perspective in modern world?
  6. 6. Opportunities of modern world
  7. 7. Need for living portals/exemplars </li></ul>
  9. 19. <ul>DOES IT MATTER? </ul><ul>YES! </ul>
  10. 20. <ul>RESOURCE LIMITATIONS </ul>
  11. 21. <ul>DIS-EASE </ul><ul><li>In 2002:
  12. 22. 154 million depression (4 TH most leading contributor to burden of disease worldwide. Predicted to be second most by 2020)
  13. 23. 25 million schizophrenia
  14. 24. 91 million alcohol abuse
  15. 25. 15 million drug abuse </li></ul>
  16. 26. <ul>DIS-EASE </ul><ul><li>Deep down all human beings want the same thing: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Freedom from suffering
  17. 27. To be happy, content, fulfilled </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Consumerism has the illusion of providing happiness – but never quite does it – shop some more! Going global – very problematic. </li></ul>
  19. 29. <ul>WHAT DOES BUDDHISM HAVE TO OFFER? </ul><ul><li>Vision and guidance on how to live in harmony with THE WAY THINGS ARE
  20. 30. Turn to root of dis-ease = the MIND
  21. 31. Buddha discovered this through direct experience 2500 years ago
  22. 32. Invented meditation as we know it </li></ul>
  23. 33. <ul>WHAT DOES BUDDHISM HAVE TO OFFER? </ul><ul><li>Gradually turned inwards, transformed his mind, aligned himself with truth and then taught it tirelessly
  24. 34. Untamed free spirit who roamed the plains
  25. 35. Pragmatic, empirical </li></ul>
  26. 36. <ul>WHAT DID THE BUDDHA SEE? </ul>
  27. 37. <ul>WHAT DID THE BUDDHA SEE? </ul><ul><li>Central = Impermanence & its implications:
  28. 38. Actions have consequences – can guide the direction of change in beneficial or harmful direction through our actions – rooted in mind
  29. 39. To do this need to be AWARE = MINDFUL . Central to Buddhism
  30. 40. Need to be KIND, EMOTIONALLY ENGAGED, WARM in our practice. </li></ul>
  31. 41. <ul>WHAT DID THE BUDDHA SEE? </ul><ul><li>Continually co-creating experience of world through how we are – if bring awareness and kindness will have huge effect on our impact on the world.
  32. 42. Interconnectedness
  33. 43. Everything matters!
  34. 44. Every action body, speech and mind has an effect so choose wisely how you live </li></ul>
  35. 45. <ul>PRIMARY ROLE OF MIND </ul><ul>What we are today comes from our thoughts of yesterday, and our present thoughts build our life of tomorrow: our life is the creation of our mind. 
 If a man speaks or acts with an impure mind, suffering follows him as the wheel of the cart follows the beast that draws the cart. 

  36. 46. <ul>PRIMARY ROLE OF MIND </ul><ul>What we are today comes from our thoughts of yesterday, and our present thoughts build our life of tomorrow: our life is the creation of our mind. 
 If a man speaks or acts with a pure mind, joy follows him as his own shadow. 


2 </ul>
  37. 47. <ul>PRIMARY ROLE OF MIND </ul><ul>The thought manifests as the word; The word manifests as the deed; The deed develops into habit; And habit hardens into character; So watch the thought and its ways with care, And let it spring from love Born out of concern for all beings… As the shadow follows the body, As we think, so we become 


 2 </ul>
  38. 48. <ul>WHAT DID THE BUDDHA SEE? </ul><ul><li>Also – Opening to more fluid, open way of being
  39. 49. Impermanence resolves into flow, process, spaciousness, vastness, luminous mind, the ‘open dimension of being’ </li></ul><ul><li>WONDER – ILLUMINED IMAGINATION </li></ul><ul><li>Direct experience lit by a light beyond egotism </li></ul>
  40. 50. <ul>WHAT DID THE BUDDHA SEE? </ul><ul><li>Using impermanence to allow growth to blossom – letting the light shine through
  41. 51. Meditate. Live purely. Be quiet. Do your work with mastery. Like the moon, come out from behind the clouds. Shine
  42. 52. Images of Buddha convey something of that </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Still
  43. 53. Calm
  44. 54. Mysterious
  45. 55. Unshakeable </li></ul></ul>
  46. 58. <ul>When you attain Enlightenment…you no longer have a will that is separate from that of others. It’s as though you utterly identify with others, and with what they are doing….You don’t experience another person as a sort of brick wall you are coming up against, and you no longer experience yourself as a separate and conflicting solid force. You experience others in a completely different way: they become diaphanous or transparent, because your will is not coming into collision with theirs. This completely different, more relaxed, lighter, freer attitude taken to the nth degree, is something of the nature of Enlightenment. The world is the same but you see it differently. Sangharakshita ‘Know Your Mind’ pg 53 </ul>
  48. 60. <ul>HOW TO GET FROM CONSUMERISM TO FREEDOM? </ul><ul>? </ul>
  49. 61. <ul>HOW TO COMMUNICATE IN MODERN WORLD? </ul><ul>CHALLENGE! </ul><ul><li>Anyone can ‘wake up’, yet how to make this known?
  50. 62. Cast very wide net – share Dharma in whatever way we can
  52. 64. 84,000 gateways to the Dharma
  53. 65. Buddha always taught appropriately </li></ul>
  54. 66. <ul>BUDDHA’S TEACHING OF TRUTH COMMUNICATED WITHIN POLES OF </ul><ul>Change world to fit Buddhism </ul><ul>Change Buddhism to fit world </ul>
  55. 67. <ul>MIDDLE WAY </ul><ul>BOTH APPROACHES </ul><ul><li>Maintain ‘right view’ Buddha taught in uncompromising way but continually adapt it to modern world.
  56. 68. Buddhism poor at adapting to modern world compared with other main religions
  57. 69. Has impact on a smaller proportion of world than any time in last 1000 years
  58. 70. Urgent to find ways to make it relevant </li></ul>
  59. 71. <ul>MIDDLE WAY </ul><ul>HOW? </ul><ul><li>Be clear what Buddhism is
  60. 72. Radical
  61. 73. Different to status quo
  62. 74. Offers real alternative
  63. 75. Keep teachings ‘pure’
  64. 76. Guardians of tradition
  65. 77. And yet… </li></ul>
  66. 78. <ul>MIDDLE WAY </ul><ul>HOW? </ul><ul><li>Creative
  67. 79. Adaptive (Innovate or die)
  68. 80. Work with prevailing cultural conditions directly
  69. 81. Go out into world in a range of different ways
  70. 82. Engage arts and culture to communicate higher values
  71. 83. Be fearless
  72. 84. Be bold </li></ul>
  73. 85. <ul>MIDDLE WAY </ul><ul>WHAT? </ul><ul><li>‘ Socially engaged’ Buddhism </li></ul><ul><ul><li>eg social change in India freeing people from oppression of caste
  74. 86. Environmentally aware Buddhism – deep ecology
  75. 87. Buddhist hospices, health centres etc
  76. 88. Get away from being solely based in Buddhist Centres </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Mindfulness-based approaches in health care (eg Breathworks) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Pain and illness
  77. 89. Mental health
  78. 90. Recovery etc </li></ul></ul>
  79. 91. <ul>MIDDLE WAY </ul><ul>WHAT? </ul><ul><li>Right Livelihood in ‘world’ in line with </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Ethics of ‘non-harm’
  80. 92. Generosity - Genuinely contribute to world
  81. 93. Creativity – fulfilling for those involved
  82. 94. Community – sharing common higher values
  83. 95. Spiritual practice </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Arena to practice Dharma, mindfulness, emotional positivity, inspiration, insight into nature of things </li></ul></ul></ul>
  84. 96. <ul>THREATS </ul><ul><li>Too conservative
  85. 97. Rigidity
  86. 98. Ossification (losing moisture of creativity)
  87. 99. Disconnected from people who need Dharma in prevailing cultural contexts
  88. 100. Aversive to life/dry idealism
  89. 101. Arrogance
  90. 102. dogmatism </li></ul>
  91. 103. <ul>THREATS </ul><ul><li>Water down Dharma to mere humanism
  92. 104. Just another psychological technique to feel better
  93. 105. Manipulate life to get on own terms rather than ‘see through’ fundamental delusion of clinging to illusion of permanence in self/other/world.
  94. 106. Lose radical vision
  95. 107. Forget to look up </li></ul>
  97. 109. Continual awareness and calibration
  98. 110. Mindfulness
  99. 111. Total commitment to making changes to self and world using example of Buddha as guide; truth and teachings as compass and map (Dharma); and supportive friends and inspirers around you (Sangha) </li></ul>
  101. 113. <ul>OPPORTUNITIES IN MODERN WORLD </ul><ul><li>Psychology and awareness of power of the mind (established 1879 as separate science)
  102. 114. Scientific culture provides a way in for teaching Dharma aligned with Buddhism in that we are used to analytical approaches to experience.
  103. 115. Getting some ‘proof’ that meditation changes the brain – can capitalise on this
  104. 116. Huge growth in neuroscience last 10 years </li></ul>
  105. 120. <ul>OPPORTUNITIES IN MODERN WORLD </ul><ul><li>Social freedom – eg new for women
  106. 121. Peaceful democracies allow religious freedom
  107. 122. Living through a revolution
  108. 123. First decade of 21 century massively influential decade in human history
  109. 124. Media
  110. 125. www
  111. 126. Dharma available very easily – at click of button </li></ul>
  112. 130. <ul>NEED FOR LIVING PORTALS </ul>
  113. 131. <ul>NEED FOR PORTALS </ul><ul><li>Living examples of followers of Buddhist path most powerful social tool for transformation </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Kindness
  114. 132. Mindfulness
  115. 133. Tread lightly
  116. 134. Go against materialism and consumerism
  117. 135. LIVE SIMPLY </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Much more widely established in west now that 30 years ago. Then few teachers, now many
  118. 136. Different personalities and temperaments </li></ul>
  119. 137. <ul>NEED FOR PORTALS </ul><ul><li>I am a Buddhist because of the people I met, not primarily because of the teachings.
  120. 138. People who are extraordinarily ordinary in a range of life-styles </li></ul>
  121. 139. <ul>SUMMARY </ul><ul><li>The world is in a state </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Consumerist/materialist economic model will not lead to happiness and fulfilment
  122. 140. Limited resources/ecological unsustainability
  123. 141. Dis-ease </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Buddhism offers radical alternative </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Look into MIND as source of dis-ease and become AWAKE and free
  124. 142. Cultivate values of awareness and kindness
  125. 143. Open up to wonder </li></ul></ul>
  126. 144. <ul>SUMMARY </ul><ul><li>How to communicate in modern world? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Middle way between conservatism and liberalism
  127. 145. Maintain core values and vision in uncompromising way and yet
  128. 146. Be creative, adaptive, responsive </li></ul></ul><ul><li>We can use aspects modern world to advantage </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Media and www
  129. 147. Awareness of working with mind in modern psychology etc </li></ul></ul>
  130. 148. <ul>SUMMARY </ul><ul><li>We need portals </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Living examples of the effects of practising according to Buddha’s teachings.
  131. 149. Individuals who can rise to challenge of facing their own mind/heart – tremendously difficult thing. Very inspiring when come into contact with that. </li></ul></ul>
  132. 150. <ul>SUMMARY </ul><ul><li>Buddhism CAN survive and thrive to the extent that it is LIVED AND COMMUNICATED in an accessible, inspiring and appealing way. </li></ul><ul><li>It WILL survive and thrive to the extent that this is done. </li></ul>
  133. 152. <ul>SUMMARY </ul><ul><li>A hunk in trunks may well give you temporary satisfaction.
  134. 153. But will it last?
  135. 154. You will get old, he will get old
  136. 155. Stuck in a cycle of desire and loss = dis-ease.
  137. 156. Buddha’s example and teaching is a more reliable refuge! </li></ul>