by Stefan Schindler
The failure of Judaism, Christianity and Islam to embody their ownmost message of peace partly contributes to the increasing appeal of Buddhism in today’s postmodern war-torn world. Also, there is something absurd – counterproductive, self-defeating, and morally obscene – about the profit motive that is the engine of war. We must put a stop to that engine, before it puts a catastrophic stop to us all.
Transforming swords into plowshares, peace is the fertile soil for the world our children deserve; where schools are gardens of learning and the streets are daily bedecked with festivals, fairs, and creative arts; where cooperation has primacy over competition; where truth and goodness combine to produce beauty for both young and old.
Such is the Buddhist social democratic vision for a peaceable kingdom, offered to the world in what the Dalai Lama calls “a common religion of kindness.” Practical; peaceful; communal. Guided by Socratic dialogue and debate; where “virtue is pursuit of virtue.” Guided by what Thomas Paine called “common sense” and “the rights of man.”
To recall what Chogyam Trungpa calls “the sanity we were born with,” is to embrace voluntary simplicity, lifelong learning, and compassionate service.
It is to take the heart of the Torah – the Golden Rule – and make it the guiding light of an awakening culture: a culture committed to an ethic of universal brother-sisterhood.
It is to recognize that to be is to interbe. That individual authenticity is a function of learning, self-discovery, creative evolution, and service to community.
The word “Buddha” means “awake.” James Joyce daily prayed that he “awaken from the nightmare of history.” Social democratic Buddhism – also called Engaged Buddhism – shows a path out of Plato’s cave.
Buddha’s “Eightfold Path” includes “right vocation.” Right vocation exhibits right thinking, right speaking, right intention, right action – for all of which, the guiding maxim is: “Do no harm.” Buddhism is therapeutic; and the world is much in need of healing.
Was it merely coincidence that the Spirit of The Sixties combined with the introduction of Buddhism to the West to plant the seeds of peace and love which still remain our best hope for a global civilization rooted in creative evolution?
Echoing the saints and sages of the ages, and their mythic tales of archetypes, Jean Houston forty years ago invited us to embrace the Aquarian challenge of “the possible human.” She invoked William Blake; and she embodied the pioneering spirit of Joseph Campbell, Buckminster Fuller, and Teilhard de Chardin.
Today, Richard Oxenberg invokes the spirit of John Lennon when he asks us to imagine “meanings beyond words to speak … where divinity graces humanity … agapic God of a thousand names and no adequate name … where the holy is healing and wholeness.”
Freedom from is freedom for. The enlightenment journey begins with disengagement from society’s Weapons of Mass Dysfunction, resounding through the land in what Howard Zinn called “declarations of independence.”
The enlightenment journey proceeds along what Carlos Castaneda calls “a path with heart.”
The enlightenment journey opens to the realization that the meaning of life is learning and service.
The two wings of Buddhism are wisdom and compassion. Wisdom and compassion are the twin roots of the tree of life of a culture that is civil, civilized, and awake.
Co-founder of The National Registry for Conscientious Objection, a Woodrow Wilson Fellow, a recipient of The Boston Baha’i Peace Award, and a Trustee of The Life Experience School and Peace Abbey Foundation, Dr. Stefan Schindler received his Ph.D. in Philosophy from Boston College, worked one summer in a nature preserve, lived in a Zen temple for a year, did the pilot’s voice in a claymation video of St. Exupery’s The Little Prince, acted in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,” and performed as a musical poet in Philadelphia, Boston, and New York City. He also wrote The Peace Abbey Courage of Conscience Awards for Howard Zinn and John Lennon. He is now semi-retired and living in Salem, Massachusetts. His books include The Tao of Socrates, America’s Indochina Holocaust, Discoursing with the Gods, and Space is Grace; his forthcoming book is Buddha’s Political Philosophy.