Friday, December 15, 2006

Holy Wars & the End of the World

The Dhammapada says:

"Just as one would look upon a bubble,
Just as one would look upon a mirage;
If a person thus looks upon the world,
The Lord of Death sees him not."

All religions, especially monothestic ones like Islam & Christianity talk about Holy Wars & the End of the World. But what about Buddhism, which does not believe in violence or an Almighty God that creates & destroys the world? Surprisingly, there are such concepts in Buddhism, but they are nothing like what the other religions conceive them to be.

In Buddhism, the only "holy war" is the war with your own mental defilements like craving, hatred & ignorance. But unlike other wars, we do not seek to destroy these enemies, which are in reality part of ourselves. When we practice the Dharma, we seek to transform our defilements, not fight with them. Thus craving becomes contentment, hatred becomes compassion & ignorance becomes wisdom. In this way a sentient being is no different from the Buddha.

There is a also a concept of the end of the world, but the end is not really the end because all worlds go through the 4 stages of becoming & dissolving in an infinite cycle, in the same way as sentient beings live & die again & again in Samsara. However, the lifespan of our world is so long that the end is unimaginable to an unenlightened mind. Currently, we are in the Bhadda Kappa (Virtuous Aeon) and there would be 1000 Buddhas appearing in this aeon. From Kakusandha Buddha to our current Shakyamuni Buddha, only 4 Buddhas have appeared, and there are 996 more to come. From one Buddha to the next, there is an in-between period of around 5.76 billion yrs (according to the scriptures). Since no human can ever live to see the next Buddha - Maitreya, let alone all the other future Buddhas of the age, worrying about the end of the world is totally pointless.

What is really important is for us humans is to make the best use of our present existence to try to reach, or at least get as close as possible to Nibbana, the end of suffering; otherwise our time on earth would have been wasted. Once our fleeting lives come to an end at any time, we may no longer have a chance to hear & practice the Dharma in our next existence. Who knows how long do we have to suffer in the Samsaric cycle before we are reborn in favourable circumstances again?

No comments: