The BBC aired an excellent six part series on India. The other night we watched Part 2. (Google: 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 effective. The end of the segment stood out to me. To quote:
Buddha (around the age of 80, 486 BCE) 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“.
For me, “All created things must pass, strive on diligently” is a most undeniable and profound observation of life—it’s survivals bottom line. This is a subtle way of saying that life’s striving confers life meaning, not life’s accomplishments. The more one can emotionally embrace that, the less success and failure matter. You are free to be in the eternal moment. As chapter 33 says, He who perseveres is a man of purpose, or the Bhagavad Gita 3:30 Be free from vain hopes and selfish thoughts, and with inner peace fight thou thy fight.
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!
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, from the first electric motor in 1837 to the computerized everything of today, will have a similar world-shattering impact on humanity’s way of life. I mean, 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 slaves or servants 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” (1).
(1) Another source has this as, “All things are impermanent. Work out your own salvation with diligence”. I like fewer words generally, but the suggestion to work out our own salvation with diligence is telling. I feel “strive on diligently” applies well to other animals, while this applies well to humans who, unlike other animals, are concerned with their salvation.