‘Oh my friends why do you…care so much about laying up wealth, and honour and reputation and know so little about wisdom and truth and the improvement of the soul..Are you not ashamed?’ Socrates 470BC-399BC
Ever wondered why things repeat themselves? Why do we move seemingly two steps forward and then one or three steps back. Some of us must be thinking this at the moment. With the world-wide rise in extremism in all its forms. The eternal dance between the power of the people and the power of the state.
Why in over two thousand years do we still obsess with as Socrates said ‘laying up wealth’ and not developing wisdom and the mind? Karma and negative ego are what a buddhist might answer to that. A psychologist might answer the reason is cognitive, behavioural patterns from childhood and early social influence. A psychoanalyst would say, perhaps, the unconscious is the largest influence on stubborn repetitive patterns. A physicist might say it the law of cause and effect. What ever action/energy we expend influences a web of interdependent causes which continue to exert influence. Beyond the time and place they started.
Buddhism cites karma as the ‘infallible law of cause and effect’, tempered and flavoured by our good, mixed or bad intentions and our perceptions. The karma of countries is much the same. They swing between themes such as protectionism, xenophobia, fascism, to outward looking liberalism and decadence and every decade or even 80 years or so the same theme(s) re-emerge. These themes emerge as a consequence of preceding events set in action. This is country and world karma in operation. The rise of fascism in the 1930’s seems to resonate with current political changes. Let’s hope not!
One trouble is few live really long enough to reflect on those long cycles and remember them. Or if we do, the elders are farmed off to a care home, sitting silently in ‘God’s waiting room’. Their wisdom is not treasured enough. If we listened to the wisdom of the elders, where ever they are, we might get an idea of the continuity of these patterns first hand. Such that the young could do something wise about it.
Of course there’s the internet to research such patterns and reading about history, instead, of looking at someone’s new breast implant photos or disastrous ‘lip-job’.
If you are thinking by now, we are doomed to repeat these patterns for ever. This is not always true. Karma: cause and effect can change in the present, by doing good actions with good intention. This is called building a wealth of virtue. Taking detailed account of our personal actions and motivations and amending our behaviour is enough to make positive changes in the world around us. We can move from a self-centred way to a more selfless life. Ok, no one expects you to be a Mother Theresa or a Saint. But think this. Do I even care about my good actions and their effects. Do I even know what influence past good deeds have had already on the world? Do I think how my choices might influence my life and those of others? Reflection and awareness are the first part of making change.
As many great spiritual masters have shown. They have a view of the world that is spacious, wise, generous, impartial, compassionate and vast. However, at the same time an awareness of their every day actions in body, speech, and mind which is as ‘fine as a grain of sand’.
What do you choose today?