UNIVERSAL DHARMA

This Too, Will Pass ~ WHO ARE YOU?

MANY PROBLEMS stem from the fact that we do not know who we really are; we have an identity problem, and it is the greatest of them all, as it causes us to feel lost, confused, alone and alienated from the rest of existence, and in turn leads to fear, tension, irritability, aggression and violence.

The problems we face today are not accidental; like everything else, they come from causes, which can be traced, and solutions to them found, though this, of course, might not be easy. It's easier to say: "It's not my problem; it's the responsibility of the authorities, of the government. I don't care!" And this apathy, indifference and thoughtlessness are responsible for the continuation and growth of the problems. If we say or think: "This is not my country; I wasn't born here, and I'm not going to stay here forever, therefore I have no responsibility towards it," we’re only expressing small-mindedness and ignorance. Yes, maybe we were not born here—wherever here might be—you and I, and it is sure we're not going to stay here forever, because we're going to die—and probably sooner than we expect!—but we are living here now, as members of the community, are we not? Ponder on this for a moment, and see what it means. Action should be undertaken through understanding, not through greed, fear, or compulsion by others.

Today, it is possible, through the wonderful technology we have developed (and, hopefully, will learn to control), to eliminate most of the problems facing us. Many diseases have been defeated, and we shall, in time, find cures for others, including the scourges of cancer and AIDS. Education is now within the reach of most people. We have the technical means to transform deserts into farmlands, to farm and harvest the sea much more systematically and viably than at present, and on a renewable basis, and so banish the spectre of famine. By cloud-seeding—which, granted, is still in its experimental stage —we can bring rain to drought-stricken areas. The population-explosion and the problems that arise from it, are not without solutions. With foresight and careful management, there would be enough of the world's bounty for everyone. Actually, what is lacking is not food, money, fuel, housing, etc., but Wisdom. It has been cast out, rejected, shunted aside and overwhelmed by Egoism, that part of our mind which makes us cry so loudly: "I, Me, Mine", and brings us into conflict with other fragments of life that think and feel the same way, and makes us try to dominate others, not seeing that, while we do have an individual self to take care of, it is part of the greater self, or the communal WE. Had it not been for our blindness and egoism, which caused countless mass-murders and destruction known as war (and there are always numerous such gross stupidities raging in different parts of the world, with some ending and others starting all the time), we would have reached the stars long ago. However, it is not outer-space we need to conquer and control, but inner-space: ignorance, selfishness, egoism.

There is little possibility of you and I leaving our Earth and going into Space in this lifetime, and we may not be among the ranks of scientists, technicians, writers, statesmen, philanthropists and philosophers striving to improve things, but we need not feel left out of their efforts and advances, for we are of the same society, the same world. The dangers we face are surely very great, and we shouldn't pretend otherwise, even though the threat of Communism has disappeared and become a spent force. We are still living on the edge of a volcano that may erupt anytime, and this one—Religious Fundamentalism and Fanaticism—is potentially far more dangerous than the Communist threat ever was, for Communists had a vital interest in avoiding all-out war, by reason of their materialistic philosophy and belief in this world only; were they to lose 'this world', they would lose everything. Religious nuts, on the contrary, are quite willing to sacrifice 'this world'—which they consider 'unreal'—in hope of the 'next world', where they believe they will go if they die for their religion; so they have little to lose and everything to gain. However, although this danger is increasing, we should not let it paralyse us with fear; the future is not completely black, by any means, and it is heart-warming to see that, in spite of the disagreements and antagonisms between the great powers, there is still exchange of vital medical, scientific and cultural information, and hope of further improved relations; we are not completely isolated from each other, and the more contact we have, the less prejudice and intolerance there will be.

The world-wide response to disasters in various parts of the world will hopefully result in people becoming less suspicious and hostile, and realize that we cannot live shut off in isolation. The Buddha's Teachings on hate only being overcome by love, are still valid today, although its results might not be immediately apparent. Many intractable cases would respond more to understanding and love than to force.

To experience the joys of crossing barriers we must first remember the wonders that human-beings have achieved throughout the ages, and things that, only 50 years ago or less, people might have scoffed at if someone had told them of, but which we now accept and take for granted as everyday facts. Secondly, we must see the need for improvement, and not wish things to remain as they are, which would mean stagnation. Thirdly, with our feet firmly on the ground in the present, we must have a vision of how things might be in the future, and of the part we could play in bringing them into being.

It is imperative to see ourselves as part of the community; if we do not, cannot or will not, we shall continue to feel cut off, isolated, and left behind, like fish stranded on the beach by the ebbing tide. We can all see the disasters that have ensued by the division of humanity into ever-smaller groups; but now that improved communications have made the world more open, let us see what will happen if we scrap some of our mental barriers and identify with Humanity as a whole. Actually, we already do this, and far more than we realize, as it is mostly done unconsciously. By means of things we use daily, we are in contact with people all over the world; our lives overflow with things made by people of other nations and races. It would be foolish to say: "I will not use this-or-that because it was made by people of another race or nationality", wouldn’t it?

We all have names, but who are our names for? They are like fashion-clothes, which people wear more for others—so others may see them wearing them and be impressed—than for themselves; women use make-up for the same reason. If we lived all alone, like Robinson Crusoe on his desert island, we would not worry about the latest fashions, being content to clothe ourselves in the most-practical way possible. Likewise, what need would there be for names if there was nobody to use them? We would think of ourselves as "I," "me," or maybe "you"—as when I sometimes say to myself: "Oh, you silly man!" So, our names are more for others than for ourselves, which means that there is, in everyone, at least a recognition of the existence of others, that we do not live alone in this world; and this belies the antisocial attitude of many of us. Man is a gregarious animal by nature, and there are very few of us who would like to live—or who could live—alone for long. We need others. Isn't this worthy of some thought and consideration?

If called upon to tell your life-story without mentioning anyone else, you would be able to say almost nothing, for your life is made up—like a tapestry—of innumerable threads that are 'not-you'; our lives are not simply 'ours', but in fact, mostly 'not-ours'. Anyone—and anything—that we meet, who crosses our path, or impinges upon us in any way, becomes part of our experience, or what we think of as 'our life'. In reality, therefore, there is no such thing as 'my life', but an extremely rich and varied composition of so many things. Look how it happens: just by reading or hearing these words I am writing, people are taking me into their lives and adopting me; I become part of them, and they, in an equally subtle way, become part of me. There is very little about us that is really ‘us.’

Even our minds—the innermost part of us—are not ours, as we think other people’s thoughts, and are swayed, influenced, and controlled by others. You don’t believe this? You think your mind is yours, and that you are in control? Well, let’s try a little experiment. I will say—or write—one word, but before I say it, I want you to get ready—with your finger on the button, so to speak—and try to prevent the image of the thing I mention from coming into your mind. Are you ready? The word—it can be anything at all—is: banana. Did you succeed in blocking a picture of a yellow fruit from coming into your mind? Of course you didn’t; it is an automatic response, isn’t it?

Our identity is intimately bound up with and inseparable from the rest of Existence; it is impossible to conceive of a separate, independent existence. Consequently, we can understand ourselves only in context, only in relation to other aspects of Life. Only by seeing ourselves as part of things might we discover who we are:

Not Me, not You, but

WE!

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