Buddhism: Salvation Nirvana Love Magic…

Revenge is never sweet. Find a way to accept your enemy as your brother, and the world will be a better place. This is the social and societal side of Buddhism, which is seldom talked about, but which is fundamental to its value, with accent on the fun. Because, while much of Buddhism has to do with personal satisfaction and peace of mind, there is a tendency to overlook the underlying social function which makes it indispensable to cultures and countries the world over. This is its ‘First do no harm’ function of ahimsa, non-violence, that makes it so attractive across the broad board, beyond the mostly petty distinctions that divide Buddhism, and all religions, for that matter.

So, when the Buddha on his death bed told his disciple to ‘be a light unto yourself,’ and Saint Paul said to be a light unto the world, the essential message is the same: do the right thing. But Buddha was playing a clever little word game in his message, since the Pali word dipa can mean both ‘light’ and ‘island,’ as in Dipavali, the festival of lights, and Lankadeepa, the island of Sri Lanka. And the light that the Buddha wants is one that is self-contained, like an island, while the light that Saint Paul wants to be shined upon the world is the word of God, received and transmitted.

But this distinction, which is really and truly only a small distinction, also defines the difference between Theravada Buddhism and Mahayana Buddhism, with its Buddha-nature, Bodhisattvas, and shunyata, or Emptiness. This is the message to forego Nirvana until all of us are ready, and so project that Buddha-nature on to the world. Is that nature not a light to be shined? And that zero that defines emptiness also defines a center. Is that not the same distinction between us and the world, and so really a non-distinction? Of course it is, and it isn’t, so the only thing left to do is save yourself, and then save the world, simple if not easy.