Keeping An Even Head When The World Is On Fire

It’s hard to avoid lingering sense of dread, sadness, or fear of the future these days. Of all the problems in the world, climate change is the one that truly worries me the most. I really can’t help but wonder what kind of world I’ll be leaving my kids and (possible) grandkids someday. 😔

We live in a dangerous world, one that basically owes us nothing. Our lives are contingent on those things around us that help support and sustain us, even if they aren’t necessarily good things. Similarly, by our actions and our choices we sustain and help others too. It’s a contingent existence, but we sustain one another in the process.

All of this can be swept aside, though, in a moment of warfare, disease or natural disasters. The human race has done much to overcome the challenges that earlier generations faced, but we are still one species on this planet, and if things turn against us (or we shoot ourselves in the foot), well, that’s it folks. But that’s not necessarily the end, either. If life can survive something like the Permian-Triassic event, it can survive just about anything.

I guess what I am trying to say is that shit happens, but also life goes on.

As a thinking human being on this world, a homo sapiens, there’s very little that you have personal, direct control over. Many other things can be influenced by you, while still others are simply outside your control. And yet, in spite of this, those things which you can control or influence are important and worthy of attention.

In the 16th chapter of the Lotus Sutra the Buddha says in verse:

My pure land is not destroyed,
yet the multitude see it as consumed in fire,
with anxiety, fear and other sufferings
filling it everywhere.
These living beings with their various offenses,
through causes arising from their evil actions,
spend asamkhya kalpas [vast eons]
without hearing the name of the Three Treasures [the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha].
But those who practice meritorious ways,
who are gentle, peaceful, honest and upright,
all of them will see me
here in person, preaching the Law [the Dharma].

— Translation by Burton Watson

Here, the Buddha of the Lotus Sutra is preaching that regardless of the state of the world, the Dharma is still the Dharma, and so the Buddha is always here. It may be obscured, or forgotten by some, but it never truly goes away. Even when the world is in a state of calamity, things like wisdom, goodwill towards others, a cool head, and an upright life still matter.

As I said earlier, while our existence is contingent on external causes and conditions, it is also true that through our own actions and conduct we sustain others. This latter point is important. Every little thing we do to light one corner of the world, from recycling that plastic container, to helping refugees or the homeless in your community, matters to others, including people we may never meet. The Four Bodhisattva Vows are a lofty reminder not to give up.

Even as I worry for the future of my kids, who knows what my great, great, great grandchildren will look like, or what circumstances they will live in. Hopefully some of the joy and love I have tried to share with my kids will find its way to my descendants into the far future as well.

Lastly, be kind to yourself. If need be, turn the world off and take time for a retreat even if it is just a few hours or half a day. Recharge, and stop to look at the world around you and what you can do to make it a better place, a little bit at a time. ☺️

Namu Amida Butsu

Published by Doug

🎵Toss a coin to your Buddhist-Philhellenic-D&D-playing-Japanese-studying-dad-joke-telling-Trekker, O Valley of Plentyyy!🎵He/him

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