… Or The Question Whether We Can Be Better Than The System We’Re Living In
This morning I woke up with music on the plaza in front of my terrace here in a small town close to Barcelona where I’m living and working in these days. It’s some kind of recurrent event with stands full of stuff to sell, and the whole town passing by with kids and grandparents. People are happy with these events, they set them off their daily habits.
I’m currently directing, among other things, the dubbing of a series of the life of Buddha. The interesting part is that Buddha, as well as another historical series that I’m directing, is made in Bollywood.
Although these series show all the typical exaggerations for Western taste which are so characteristic for Bollywood, I have to say that I was still surprised about the quality. Without getting into any of these professional considerations, the most interesting part for me is to see the life of Buddha reconstructed by filmmakers of his own country. The oriental way of thinking, their time which is just endless compared to ours, their concepts, their still present values of faith, truthfulness, honor and loyalty, are surprisingly enriching my life and showing me what our Western societies have lost on the road. The impact with the contrasting daily life of consumerism of our world of today is interesting, too.
Siddarth Gauthama – later Buddha – was born into a world where wars were as imminent as today and the highest value was to become a good and successful warrior. He was raised in a society where everybody’s inherent value was fixed by a merciless caste system. Ancient wisdom dominated the spiritual level through the caste of Brahmins, who were the purporters of that caste system and never questioned its legality. Buddha was a prince and grew up in a world where money already money was power, and most of the money belonged to the royal family. Taxes were taken from people and poverty was part of their life, and they were displaced at will of the king in case it was needed, regardless of their legal properties. Buddha’s world was, that’s for sure, not much better than ours. And although the series and certain historical details are heavily criticized by some Buddhist scholars (http://buddhaserial.blogspot.com.es/), the basic facts I just mentioned don’t change.
The only difference is a different kind of love
So, why was Buddha so different?
Like Jesus, Buddha was born with a different kind of love. He loved the world, all people and all animals and plants. Exactly like Jesus, he didn’t make any difference between people and suffered terribly seeing them in pain and poverty. This love he felt was special already in his times. His world, like ours, turned around power and wealth. His heart felt love and pain beyond any material issue, and broke when witnessing the pain that is inherent to the life in the material world.
This morning, I read that an 8 years old girl in Yemen was recently married to an older man and died through bleeding provoked by sexual activity. Then, her death was denied. Whether she died or not, whether she exists at all or not – it is a fact that 8 years old girls in Islam are being married, and sexually exploited, by older men. This is the system they’re living in, and some men take their chance. Others don’t.
In our society, sex with children is forbidden and considered perverse. However, sex tourism has been going on in Thailand for ages. Western men have been traveling there with the only purpose to consume sex with a girl under 10. Or a boy.
Do these things happen only because of poverty? Is the bad really only fruit of a world of injustice, of too much wealth on one side and poverty on the other?
Most things are done in the name of money. Would it eradicate the evil if everybody had the same wealth at hand? The situation in former communist countries would suggest that this isn’t the case (which doesn’t mean that exploitation is justified, but that’s another subject).
Many terrifying things are being done, and have been done, in the name of God. One of the first elements Buddha felt he should eliminate for his teachings was the existence of one ruling god figure or a ruling class of deities. His teachings are a path, and actually not a religion. But his path still considers and uses sacredness in its purest form – the love for everything that is.
The Opposite of Love isn’t Hate
Would it help to eliminate religion? Or would this even more favor the lower instincts in human beings of they had no spiritual system at hand which regulates their drives?
In today’s world, and right in these times, we’re dealing again, and still, with the worst expressions of human inadequacy: exploitation, greed, corruption, power, religious fanaticism, it all resulting in manipulation, war, injustice and pain. We look at ourselves as the poor manipulated and raped normal people who wood be good “if only”. We blame it all on Rockefeller & Co., on the secret services, on Obama, on Putin, on whoever.
But the young men from an Amazonian town who two years ago skinned cats and other animals alive and filmed it and put this on the Internet, were they just victims of poverty?
Are the vets who work with animal testing are victims of any of this?
Is the sex tourist a victim of the system he lives in?
Are the guys in Morocco in the desert who caused the slow death of a stray dog by passing over it several times with a car, victims of their society?
Is the father who stones his daughter to death, a victim of his belief system?
Are we all victims, or offenders?
When I was a child, I had a clear answer for this.
I was a child that suffered all the time seeing pain and injustice. I suffered terribly. I was yet a healthy and happy child with a very happy childhood. My childhood wasn’t happy because we were rich. We weren’t. My parents are musicians. But I grew up in an environment of love. I was a loved child. And I had it in me, from day one. Both probably go together. Already in my childhood, I had no excuse for cruel behavior, and I have grown up to be a person who loves particular people, but who is still unable to love mankind as a whole, seeing what they’re doing. This, unfortunately, distinguishes me a lot from Buddha.
And so this morning I woke up, directing Buddha during the week, seeing the market on the place under my terrace, and reading about and 8 years old child being married, and ultimately, raped by her own husband.
And my question arose. Victims of a system? Or deliberate offenders?
The Western world has forgotten what education should be like. The above mentioned values I find in the oriental concepts, have been lost. Our education sets us on a path without much responsibility, with the only purpose to make us functioning tax-paying members of society. But the oriental world isn’t a bit better. The repellent poverty in India isn’t caused by Western greed. It’s part of their belief system.
What is really missing, is love. Love could overcome it all. But love can’t be taught. Love and compassion have to be felt. They’re inherent to a person’s individual psychological structure. When did it get lost? Did it ever exist for all of us? Or was the opposite always prevalent?
The opposite of love isn’t hate. This is the huge misunderstanding. The opposite of love is egoism, selfishness.
Man is a being between shadow and light, and in my opinion, mankind has always been much more driven by the first one. No Buddha, no Jesus could get them out there. We have it both in us, and not like animals: animals are clear in their feelings. People are not. Seemingly, Man tends to choose the shadow more than the light.
Victims or offenders?
Who are we?