Saving the world starts with yourself
Many of us have had thoughts at one time or another about righting a wrong, eliminating injustice, or perhaps bringing world peace into existence. The idea that Buddhists are to stand there passively, and watch beings suffer ignores one of the teachings of the Buddha. Buddhists as well as Christians, Muslims, and all world religions have a moral obligation to alleviate suffering. As a Buddhist I need to be deeply and actively showing compassion to all beings I encounter. This attitude is what lead Thich Nhat Hanh to coin the term engaged Buddhism.
The Buddha taught one lesson many times using different situations, and different ways to say the same message. Many pay attention to only half the message though, focusing on the idea of when you suffer I also suffer. The other part which those rushing to save the world, forget is when I suffer, so do the rest of those whom I encounter. You may say but it’s minor, or I don’t complain about it. It does not matter, for when we fail to take care of our own needs, to reduce suffering in our own lives, we can’t be fully effective in helping others to find freedom from suffering. Imagine you are the horse that a healer needs to ride to save a life, however because of neglect, you have a splinter in your hoof. This causes you to be slower, less sure footed, making the journey longer. It is the same with ourselves, when we are suffering it hampers our ability to do what needs to be done. We have all had a disagreement with someone important to us, think back to the last major one, you had with someone. For how long afterwards, was your mind going over, and over the argument. Our mind naturally focuses on our pain, so if there is something that is bothering us, we need to address it. Not just for ourselves, but so that when we are interacting with others, we are fully in the moment.
If you are the victim of ongoing pain inflicted by another, through words or actions, how can you help someone else. If you suffer injustice willingly, how much does this lower the standard you pass along to others. Take the time to take off superman’s cape, and be Clark Kent for a while. Once you have a handle on the story you are writing of your life, you will be able to reach that many more people effectively. When you live the ideals you expect of others, your life is the message, which is more effective than just words alone. Children are perfect mimics, they learn from watching and listening. If there is an inconsistency between seeing and hearing, the old adage of actions are louder than words is proven true, time after time. Children are not born sexist, or racist or judging someone by their wealth or status. It is the parents who teach them these standards of judgement Notice I say standards not values, for these have no value, rather they pass along a heavy cost.