The BBC aired an excellent six part series on India recently. The other night we watched part two, The story of India (part 2). The first half hour retells the life of Buddha. Incorporating present day video footage of India with the story makes this telling especially good. The end of the segment stood out to me. To quote:
Buddha (around the age of 80, 486bc) felt his time nearing the end, traveled North towards the land of his childhood. The Buddha reached a little town on the edge of the Ganges plane where he fell ill.
His disciples could not bear to let him go. Buddha replied, “What more do you want of me? Ask no more of me. I have made known the teaching. You are the community now. I’ve reached the end of my journey”. His last words then, before he passed, “All created things must pass, strive on diligently”.
“All created things must pass, strive on diligently” parallels chapter 33…
Buddha’s last words also reflect sentiments voiced in the Bhagavad Gita, “Offer to me all thy works and rest thy mind on the Supreme. Be free from vain hopes and selfish thoughts, and with inner peace fight thou thy fight.”
In my view, the actual intention of both Buddha and Jesus was to help people refocus on their culture’s universal spiritual core, not to become as ‘gods’ themselves. The Buddha’s teaching, expresses the core teaching of the Bhagavad Gita, albeit more succinctly and rationally I suppose. The same with the Old Testament and Jesus. You could say Buddha and Jesus updated and consolidated those ancient messages to fit the times. Alas, their simple and straight-forward re-teachings were soon dogmatized, watered down, homogenized to the lowest common denominator. And naturally so… such is entropy, you know!
It may be hard to appreciate how profoundly the times were a-changing back then. Looking back, it all can blend together as ‘ancient history’. Living through the times would have been otherwise. Notably, the introduction of efficient iron smelting and iron fabrication into tools of agriculture and war had a revolutionary impact on daily life. Curiously, I sense the harnessing of electricity, begun a century ago and continuing through computers and such today, is having a similar world-shattering impact on humanity’s ‘way of life’. And, I imagine we’ve seen only the beginning of the ‘electric age’.
If you doubt the impact, just imagine your life today without the use of electricity: no cars, no planes, none of the monumental advancements in sciences or medicine, no electricity based media. Also, think of all the things electric motors do for us. In a fundamental way, electricity has become a modern version of ‘slave labor’. You’re hot and sweaty; turn on a fan or air conditioner. Now there’s no need for a slave or a servant to wield a fan. The consequences of this: having such power at our finger tips makes us all as rich as kings (in many respects)… and the consequence of this, as Jesus put it, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” No wonder Buddha left his kingdom and wealth behind.
It is hard to fully realize the long term impact of all this while living through it. Lives are short; memories are shorter. Out there, somewhere, sooner or later, newer updates and consolidations of the ‘eternal message’ are coming to pass to fit the times. It is an awesome time to be alive. Spiritual grounding, by whatever definition (‘enlightenment’, or ‘entering the kingdom of God’) is the first casualty of ‘progress’ whether wrought by the dawning of the ‘agriculture age’, ‘bronze age’, ‘iron age’, and now the ‘electric age’. What to do? What to do?
As Buddha suggested, “All created things must pass, strive on diligently”.