Fear, Escapism and the Nature of the Times

Does anybody feel, like me, that it is odd that in a world that seems poised for a cycle of accelerating violence, a thickening parade of militarist bosses and thugs, more frequent climate disasters and resource struggles, and growing ethic strife and hatred, discourse on this site appears to have degenerated into mindless “How many Buddhas can dance on the head of a pin” scholasticism, and an intensified preference for rambling pseudo-science?

Or maybe it’s not odd. Maybe when things can get really bad, all people can think about are escapist diversions, like their possible next lives.

Even santi and metta no longer seem to be major topics of discussion, so important it has become to investigate whether the Buddha possessed cosmic x-ray vision capable of espying nymphs and serpents in the Andromeda galaxy.


It is a site about the EBTs which of course contain devas, nagas, and the like. I think assuming that all concern with the worldview of the EBTs is based on some escapist diversion goes too far. I mean, you would at least want to provide scientific studies showing that people turn to religious beliefs during troubled times, AND that those religious beliefs prevent people from taking action to remedy the maladies of the world. You’d also probably want to show that there has been a significant uptick in concern with such beliefs and that we are living in particularly troubling times.

But anyway,

Personally, veganism and effective altruism seem like the best things one can do for the world aside from standard buddhist ethics. That and reducing waste, consumption, etc. Also, voting for representatives who believe in non-violence, the welfare of all humans and animals, as well as voting for propositions that are of benefit to the citizenry, farm animals, and wildlife is good too. If one is not in a position of power, I don’t think there is much else to do.

How do you practice santi and metta and how do you think buddhists should use these qualities for the welfare and happiness of the entire biosphere?


There are many reasons to study the EBTs, and scholars have been studying them for a long time. It’s certainly true that all of those scholars have therefore had some concern with the worldview of the EBTs.

I can’t speak to what has been going on throughout the whole religious world, only what has been going on here.

and vote for the party promote good qualities.
Refrain from wrong lively hood is another factor.
Do not accept employment in industries who deals with unwholesome activities.

1 Like

I live in the United States, which is a highly militaristic great power, and in which everyday life, politics and culture are permeated by violence and violent imagery and themes. So, sadly, that is not an option for me.

I live in California. I voted for Jill Stein during the presidential election, and typically vote Green whenever possible, although I’m registered as No Party Preference. They explicitly advocate non-violence.


With a bit of research I’m sure you can do some minimal politicking towards the end of creating a better world. Even if that is just signing petitions from your computer and telling your congress-persons what you think, every little bit helps, or at least doesn’t hurt.

Yes I do that stuff.

I’m not interested in talking about my political activity. I’m talking about Buddhist discourse here, not just American progressives and their flailing resistance against the empire.

That’s fair.

I am sincerely interested in your answer to my earlier questions though, which I think fall under proper buddhist discourse:

How do you practice and cultivate santi and metta? And how do you think buddhists should use these qualities for the welfare and happiness of the entire biosphere?

If you are reticent to answer the first question, the second one should be perfectly adequate for discussion.

1 Like

With all respect, you seem to want to change the topic of discussion to something other than the questions I posed. But I do not wish to follow you in that direction. :slight_smile:

I do agree with you that the more… hmm, “esoteric” subjects aren’t very interesting or helpful. The world is a scary place, but I don’t discussing politics is helpful to our practice. If anything I’ve seen that the modern approach to politics and dhamma do not blend well at all especially on internet forums.
I too would rather talk metta and santi and focus on practice rather than aliens, nagas, drugs, nymphs, etc.


Yes, I tend to agree with that.

I brought up the issue of scary world events not to provoke a discussion of engaged Buddhist activism, but just because I was wondering whether the veer away from the core spiritual ideals and practices of the Buddha’s path into more esoteric subjects and debates about cosmology and textual literalism might not reflect a kind of spiritual despair. If people start to feel that the liberation in this very life that the Buddha helped so many achieve has become a remote and nearly impossible personal goal, perhaps they are drawn into these other matters?

1 Like

Hey @DKervick,

I totally get you. Perhaps that’s why I’ve posted less on here over the last few months. I’ve been grieving. Feeling a bit helpless.

On the other hand, I truly believe we need to ‘be the change we want to see in the world’. Don’t wait around for someone else to post about what you think is important. Start a meaningful, positive post yourself. Make peace, be kind, be gentle in your posts. Raise the bar.

I had this sort of ‘revelation’ last year when certain events occurred that rocked my faith. I’m always waiting for someone else to show up and lead the way, when in fact it’s me.

It’s like in Harry Potter when he realizes it was actually his future self who saved him from the dementors, not the miraculous vision of his dead father he had believed it was (lol, apologies if you have no idea what I’m talking about). Sometimes it takes a crisis at the 11th hour to realize we are the ones who could save ourselves all along.

Just to switch into mod mode for a second: please remember that we recently introduced a new guideline that the Watercooler is a chilled out place for friendly discussion, related to Buddhism. Not the place to discuss politics or point fingers, so thanks for keeping to that :pray:


I also think its interesting how many alt-right Buddhists one can find online nowadays! But yes, I agree - these are troubling times, and we should perhaps be focusing more on those aspects of the Dhamma that can bring us together, and which will facilitate a healthy response to the world’s troubles.

I think a lot of the discussions about cosmology have been reactions to the secular Buddhist project of distilling Buddhism down to only those tenets and interpretations that agree with preconceived notions/ a materialist worldview. I’m not trying to blame anyone, or start back up the debates - we all have have different views and all of our views change over time - I’m just making an observation about why I think these kinds of discussions have proliferated as of late.

1 Like

Thanks Cara,

I’ve been so conflicted about posting. In some sense I feel like I’ve been backed into a corner with nothing permissible left to say. I think others have also been reduced to silence by similar constraints. When I say what I think, I worry it tends to offend people or hurt their feelings. It’s also hard for me to navigate all of the different cultural traditions, educational levels and presuppositions. I know I can sound really arrogant sometimes.

But on the other hand, I devoted my life to seeking an education guided by reason and a respect for evidence and the truth, and so I sometimes get so exasperated. In my country, I see so much backwardness and irrationality, in some cases promoted by religious denominations, but not just the religious. It has led us to a very bad place. I hate to think of Buddhism becoming “part of the problem” by clinging to backward and reactionary textual conservatism and pseudo-science - especially when those aspects of the tradition seem so much less important to me then the central path toward liberation. What next? Are we to assume that because the Buddha didn’t talk about the climate changing, that can’t happen? Or that because he described far-off futures with elephants in them, elephants can’t go extinct? Once people start believing they are in possession of some mysterious “higher science” based on ancient texts and lore, hope for sensible approaches to worldly problems and suffering becomes more difficult.


Just be honest to yourself and do not mince words. A knife can only be sharpened thru hard contact with rough surface. The odds of survival in combat is directly proportional to the ability to handle the nastiest insults from your drill sergeant. Mara can kill you because he minces words all the time.

1 Like

Hi @DKervick

I’m assuming you’re referring to this sort of topic: Past Buddhas, where in time and space do we place them?

I think one of the ways that we become part of the problem is when we demonstrate our irritation at others for talking about things that they see truth in, have belief in or enjoy discussing. Sometimes being part of the solution might mean having this sort of self-talk:

“Hmmm…isn’t it nice that there’s a safe place in this crazy dangerous world where people can discuss things like this. It’s not for me and I don’t really get it or think it’s clever, but these folks aren’t harming anyone. May they be well and happy. May I not want to take their simple escapism away from them. May I remember that they might be contributing in many diverse ways, that I have no idea about, towards making this terrible world a happy one, and this type of innocent diversion is their down time.”

Difficult for whom?

Why would it be difficult for you? Let people be. Why become another person telling others how they should perceive or interpret.

Argue but why do so angrily? State your case without trying to put others’ views down, if you must; but if you see that a group or a topic is based on a particular assumption that you don’t gel with…start another one that is more in line with your views and also in line with this forum’s guidelines and the EBTs (because that’s what we’re mostly about)

…but don’t put people down or their beliefs down because you’re frustrated with how you perceive them or how you perceive their beliefs or what you think their reasons are for believing whatever it is they believe.

I’m sure everyone on this planet has at some point felt some anxiety about what is commonly reported in the media these days. It’s an unpleasant feeling and it’s an awful state of affairs. But getting frustrated by what people discuss on this forum is, forgive me, actually mimicking some of the bad behaviours of those attention seeking tyrants who are also seeking to control how their people think.

We can’t take out our anger about the state of the world on each other. And getting angry about each other’s beliefs and putting them down, makes us no better than those who are using ideology/religion to cause strife on a larger scale.

May you be happy and find some peace in your heart. I’m sorry if I’ve been too blunt. I really do wish you well.


Kay, I think the worry I have about that kind of attitude is that we live in a world in which the well-being of others often depends on what beliefs we ourselves have, and also what procedures we rely on to form those beliefs. Fundamentalist belief-forming attitudes relying on the supposed inerrancy and supernormality of ancient texts and teachers are not just a personal choice. They will guide one’s actions in the world, and the the way people receive and process scientific information.

I think it is especially incumbent on those who are in a position to exercise intellectual leadership over large belief communities to educate responsibly, and to avoid promoting and empowering ignorance and backwardness.

It is concerning the search for solutions to the problems of the world hasn’t happened in this little forum so far. Shutting the computer and going out of one’s headspace more, might actually help the world more than getting heated. There are current affairs forums more suited for this endeavour than DD. In case Buddhist practice is important, consider the suffering that arises from attachment to ‘the way I want things to be’. I might add that having to associate with ‘those I find unpleasant’ is one of those types of sufferings the Buddha said we will all encounter. In any case I’m sure discussions of the metaphysical type cannot last much longer as most of it has been covered! We are more likely to have other EBT related topics to come (apart from yet another jhana thread, please).

with metta


I quite agree.

It’s particularly harmful when we take up arms against each other because of our views; even verbally.

Yes, up to a point. For example, if we believe that it is important to speak from loving kindness, we will do so and will therefore definitely be promoting…

…through creating a sense of safety and relief for them to make their own personal decisions about their faith.

The beauty of the Buddha’s teaching is that it is not a central tennant of the faith that we force others to believe what we believe. In that, it is subtly but markedly different.

I’m certainly not a believer in the promotion of anxiety, because people have different views about truth and what is reasonable. Let people say what they want. You say what you want; as long as, on this forum, you do so with general courtesy. Promote your views. But don’t seek to censor others for their views because of some perception about the value of your own.

Wishing you well, with peace :upside_down_face: :heartpulse:


Let’s take a concrete example Kay. Suppose some group of religious believers has the view, based on text and tradition, that praying to a certain diety over a vessel of water has the effect of purifying that water of all harmful and disease-causing defilements. So, following a monsoon storm, their practice in collecting water for drinking and bathing is to collect up the muddy water from puddles in large vessels, and then to pray over that water - rather than, for example, boiling it.

This practice is likely to kill people. And so a tolerant attitude of “to each, his own” in matters of belief and belief-formation might in this case be utterly irresponsible, and an enabler of unintentional homicide.