The BBC aired an excellent six part series on India. The other night we watched Part 2. (See, BBC 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 before he passed were, “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 3:30 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. The same is true of 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 straightforward teachings were soon dogmatized, watered down, and homogenized to the lowest common denominator. That sounds a lot like entropy at work — or is it entropy at rest? Anyway, it is naturally so! (buddha on his death bed)
It may be hard to appreciate how profoundly the times were a-changing back then. Looking back, it all can blur 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. Interestingly, I sense the harnessing of electricity, beginning in the 19th Century and continuing through computers today, is having a similar world-shattering impact on humanity’s way of life. In addition, I imagine we’ve entered only the beginning stages of the Electric Age!
It is an awesome time to be alive if you can glimpse the ‘big picture’. Even so, it is hard to fully realize the long-term impact of all this while living through it. Lives are short; memories are shorter. If you doubt the impact of the Electric Age, just imagine your life today without the use of electricity: no cars, no planes, none of the monumental advancements in science or medicine, no electricity-based media. What’s more, think of all the things electric motors do for us.
In a fundamental way, electricity is a modern form of slave labor. We’re hot so we turn on our fan or air conditioner. We don’t need slave or servant to wield a fan. The consequences of having such power is that it makes us all as rich as kings in many respects. Jesus saw downside consequences of such power when he said, “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.
Somewhere, sooner or later, newer updates and consolidations of ‘the eternal spiritual message’ will come about to fit the times. Spiritual grounding by whatever definition, Enlightenment, Entering the Kingdom of God, or whatever, is the first casualty of progress and power whether wrought by the dawning of ‘the agriculture age’, ‘the bronze age’, ‘the iron age’, or ‘the electric age’. What to do? What to do? As Buddha suggested, “All created things must pass, strive on diligently”.