The beliefs we hold about what should be the case exert profound effects regarding our own suffering. I admit to being one of those who held the view that human-kind should be smarter and wiser for most of my life. Working in social and humanitarian areas, I often witnessed the worst of human behaviours, and was constantly disappointed and disillusioned, if we were smarter we could avoid this needless suffering… I became extremely depressed.
It has taken a long time, and lots of work to understand the Buddhas position that these ‘depressing’ traits of humans are neither good nor bad - they are simply characteristics of the species. To wish and hope that they were otherwise is not a wise or beneficial path. One is then destined to be endlessly disappointed with Samsara.
The nature of Samsara, however is not only suffering, it also has happiness, and I’m talking in a mundane fashion here!! But this is an important point, because the vast majority of people on our planet live this ‘mundane’ existence. To take away the balancing happiness and hope from the sadness and suffering in this life, is neither wise nor compassionate in my opinion.
It is important to keep the goals and means between these two paths seperate. The psychology of the confirmed renunciant is completely different to that of an ordinary person in our society - so much so that the same things elicit opposite psychological responses eg the thought of death
In the current situation, the lack of control over the future is a major issue and source of fear and humanity in general is being forced to confront its own limits. So it is to be expected that there will be a bumpy ride in our futures. Interestingly though, during challenging times we typically see both the worst as well as the best in humans
From my perspective, the most important thing is to maintain balance of perspective. This means not focusing on the doom and gloom to the exclusion of the many positive things that we can see. As practicing Buddhists this situation is one that can assist on the path, it is hard not to develop Nibbida towards humanity and Samsara at the moment.
However, for those not aiming for personal liberation, there is a need to find ways to maintain balance and right effort! When a situation is hopeless and people feel they have nothing to loose, a complete lack of restraint of the baser nature can be the result… This is a situation to try to avoid. Therefore it is necessary to maintain hope, to articulate the reasons for it and to develop pathways where ordinary individuals and groups can feel like they are making a positive contribution.
I was pleasantly surprised to see an advertisement for an upcomming movie “2040” which is all about the many different positive things that are being done to mitigate climate change etc. This is what we need more of.
Yes the climate will change, Yes the Earth will’eventually ‘cease’ supporting life, but humans are brilliant at adapting! There will be suffering, there has always been suffering. But there will also be happiness - Samsara will continue. The way that this will ultimately shape up is unknown - Good? Bad? Who knows?
In the meantime, we continue. As practicing Buddhists (at least in my opinion) this situation makes no difference to the path! We still have only this life in which to practice With regards to the rest of the world, it will bumble along in its chaotic way. But as Buddhists we can continue to show compassion and to demonstrate how one can live a good and moral life with good individual contributions, in the face of an unknown, and uncontrollable future.
Metta to all beings