Behind The Mask ~ KALI YUGA

As an explanation for the condition of the world right now, many Buddhists are prone to saying: "Oh well, it’s the Kali Yuga now; what else can you expect?", and with this they comfort themselves and go back to sleep.

"KALI YUGA’ is a Sanskrit term meaning ‘Dark Age’, and signifies a period when Dharma, in the sense of righteousness, declines and all kinds of corruption flourish. Do we see such a state right now? It is a matter of opinion, of course, because while we cannot deny that corruption, terrorism and injustice are rampant now—maybe more than ever before, by reason of our vastly-increased capacity for more-or-less anything—at the same time, in some ways, the world is much better now than it was, and there are many people who live responsibly and caringly; if there were not such people, we would not have organizations like Amnesty International, Greenpeace, or the environmental movement—though these organizations exist and are necessary only because of the situation. The picture is not totally black, as some people appear to think. And who would return to ‘the good old days’, even supposing they could? They were not as good as we like to think they were; time has dulled the memories of the things from those days that were not good, and we tend to look back through rose-colored spectacles.

‘Kali Yuga’ is frequently translated as ‘The Dharma-Ending Age’, so it is necessary to point out the error of this, for the purpose of clarification. We must be careful what we say, lest in repeating things that we do not fully understand, we limit ourselves needlessly. I object to this translation because Dharma, in the sense of Reality—or how things are, which the Buddha perceived and understood beneath the Bodhi-tree, rather than invented or formulated Himself—has no beginning and therefore will not end. What will come to an end and disappear, because it did have a beginning, is Buddha-Dharma, or the Teachings of the Buddha—His attempt to point out what He had found. As time goes by, Buddha-Dharma becomes more and more obscured by interpretation, translation, misunderstanding and superstition. Nor is this surprising, but quite in accordance with what the Buddha said about the universal law of Impermanence: everything changes. So, the corruption and the decline itself, being part of reality, is also Dharma, is it not? This does not mean, however, that we should accept things complacently, and do nothing to try to change things. The Buddha’s Way is one of strenuous effort to overcome the negative things in our lives and to acquire and cultivate the good; it is not a way of saying: "Well, that’s just how things are; I can’t do anything to change it", for it is not true that we can do nothing to change things; in fact, it is just the opposite: that we cannot not change things, because all the time, moment by moment, merely by being alive, we are doing things—consciously or unconsciously—to change things, by adding drop after drop to the ocean of cause-and-effect that is our world. We are involved and responsible, whether we know it or not.

So, Kali Yuga is something that we are all responsible for, we are all creating it; it comes from our minds and appears in the world around us. And if we create it, we can, with a little thought and care, reverse the process—or at least, put the brakes on it somewhat.

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