Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Age of Materialism is Over

The Buddha taught that inner peace is a transformative power in the world.

Meditation has the power to solve all the problems of the world. Meditation has the power to bring personal happiness to the individual, and to achieve World Peace.

The human race is facing tremendous challenges unprecedented in the history of the world.

Young people worry about so many problems: Environmental devastation and global warming; extinction of species; population explosion; clash of civilizations with wars and genocides; globalization of militant-materialism and nihilistic hedonism; out-of-control technology; atomic weapons; fundamentalism; human trafficking and slavery. The list could go on.

We now live in the “Post-Modern” age, they say, the “New World Order.” It is the end of the world as we know it. Something new is coming. But what kind of world will the future bring?

What will be the character of the “New World Order?” Will it be the expansion and intensification of the present world order of greed, anger and hatred, and ignorance? Or will it be a time of peace, security, well being and sustainability? The choice is in our hands. If we keep going on the path we’re on, we’re going to end up where we’re headed. If we want to end up in a different place, then we have to go a different direction.

In meditation, we can have an inward transformation, an awakening, that will help us see new directions, an alternative future to the one we’re now facing. Meditators can help show the world a way to meet the challenges bearing down upon us with increasing urgency.

When the Buddha attained awakening under the Bodhi tree, he said he had a shattering realization that greed, hatred, and ignorance is the cause of all the suffering in the world, both personal and collective.

The Buddha said all the suffering of the world arises out of ignorance - not understanding the nature of reality - not seeing clearly. In our ignorance, we cultivate passions of greed and hatred. When greed and hatred are expressed in the organized social realm, greed is manifest as consumer culture. Hatred becomes manifest as militarism and war.

The more desire we have, the faster we will destroy the earth.

Globalization is the rapid and aggressive expansion and intensification of this militaristic consumer culture to every region of the globe. This process has been underway for a long time – the expansion of the “free market” of materialistic consumer culture.

Mahatma Gandhi, almost seventy years ago, pointed out the disaster that would ensue when heartless “modern civilization” was fully realized. “There is no end to the victims destroyed in the fire of civilization. Its deadly effect is that people come under its scorching flames believing it to be all good. They become utterly irreligious and, in reality, derive little advantage from [civilization]…When its full effect is realized, we shall see that religious superstition is harmless compared to that of modern civilization….”

We are living in the last days of modern materialism. But what will come next?

I heard a physicist on National Public Radio discussing Werner Heisenberg and quantum theory, and he said the real meaning of quantum theory is that “the age of materialism is over.”

The old Newtonian-scientific understanding of the world as a machine, or dead matter of natural resources available for our exploitation and consumption, is no longer workable. The earth is not a machine, it is alive. The earth, the universe, is alive and mysterious, and mind pervades the universe. There are many dimensions beyond what we can perceive with the senses.

The second lesson of quantum theory, he said, is that the human person is part of the universe; the human person is not a detached observer of the material universe. Consciousness and mind are interactive with the material phenomenal universe.

As the Buddha discovered a long time ago, “everything arises from an ocean of mind. All that we are arises from the mind. With the mind we create the world. If we think and act with unskillful mind – full of greed, hatred and ignorance – then suffering will arise in the world. If we think and act with skillful mind – generosity, compassion and understanding – then happiness will arise in the world.”

What kind of world will the future bring? It is up to us to create that world, and meditators can show the way. Inner peace is a transformative power in the world.

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