Saturday, May 24, 2008

Walking The Middle Path - Bridging The Gap Of East And West

I came across an article recently, when I conducted an internet seach for 'Lotus Sutra'.

It was a contributive analysis between the thousand years' old sutra, preached by Shakyamuni, and the modern-day President of Soka Gakkai International. One is able to read the full text here.

The gist of the article made comparisons and drew similarities between the sutra and the man, focusing on the expounded philosophies in the book and the conducted actions of the human, and the manifesting results that illuminate from the every change and progress brought forth by the two vehicles of philosophy and compassion.

If one is to take an extended long perspective into human history, one would be able to see that it was chaos first all around, and then dust settling and finally systems generated, either by nature or by intervened construction. This applies to both the natural and human worlds, where long before our ancestors of Homo Sapiens and/ or Erectus roamed the surface of this planet, meteorites and planetoids were bombarding the face of the Earth. It was believed that after all impacts and instability had receded the Earth began to form the inner core, then proceeding the outer. From there, oceans were formed and lands were gathered. Molecules started their own lives and replicating, evolving, magnifying and multiplying.

Human lives were as such. Long before there were civilisations, our ancestors fought with one another to keep oneself alive. Then was certainly a jungle-warfare, and a survivor to each his own. When the period of civilisations settled in, nations were built, boundaries marked and armies thus maintained. Still, wars rose from the four corners of the world, and occupations, invasions and intrusions kept human lives under an umbrella of constant chaotic sufferings. It was in the midst of this entire set of commotions that humans embarked on the journey of pondering over the most fundamental of their existence: what is one's happiness in this lifetime, and how should one obtain it?

From this primal point of human consciousness, the East and the West thus began a journey of spiritual exploration. While the history of the West was mainly represented by Judaism and Christianity, the East adopted an approach totally different from their monotheistic counterparts - they looked inward and internal, posing questions and seeking answers from where they believe is the origination of everything: their own lives. From Buddhism to Confucianism to Taoism, all are but inward-looking yet far-reaching, peace-promoting yet thought-provocating, material-sanctioning yet all-embracing.

It was against this background that the West came to develop much stronger and of a hastier pace. It was this nature - the hunger for material success and greed for wealth - that they began to build all-invading colonizing power that swept across the Southern hemisphere with ease. With the rise of the West came the humbling of the East at their mercenary mercies. It was then a development of two contrasting routes of human spiritual evolutions - the West began their immersion into the vast accumulation of wealth and materials, and the enjoyment distilled from these sources, while the East silenced herself at the sight of the onslaught of her local people and lands. These expressions signified the totally different approaches of the Eastern and Western peoples to the unfolding, never-ending secular events, and both the outlook of their forward and inward-looking attitudes toward life respectively.

As the Chinese saying goes, "物极必反", all matters in this world will come to reverse once they have reached their ends. The same can certainly be told of these developments: the West came to be caught up with a downward spiral of unending hedonism, resulting a generation of moral decadence of what the world is witnessing now. On the contrary, the East has been tied up in its own invisible yet unbreaking web of theologies and principles, hardened logics and cold calculations, which is found in the detached stances generally displayed in the Eastern cultures and traditions of 'non-invasiveness' or '-intrusiveness'. Herein lies the true cultural and mental models between the Eastern and the Western peoples.

It is in this era, where the world came to witness two world wars, and ended with two activations of atomic bombs, that SGI President Daisaku Ikeda came to bear the brunt of bridging this widening gap. With no other purpose except to see no human to suffer under the spell of continuous merry-making or lifeless preaching, he began a worldwide journey of propagating the theory of 'The Middle Way'. Based on Nichiren's teaching on the Lotus Sutra of the 'Three Truths' - Ku (空 - voidness), Ke (假 - temporal forms) and Chu (中 - middle path), Daisaku Ikeda began to teach the world that there should be no absolute reliance on either on of the two elements - invisible concepts or tangible matters. If one is to attach heavily on either one of the two, he/ she begins to lose the true identity of a human being.

The end result is either one depending too much on the physical body, and all materials around it, to derive happiness and satisfaction, or swinging to the other end of the spectrum to rely solely on practicing and implementing rigid and dogmatic self-righteous theologies. Neither one will lead one out of misery and into the realm of absolute happiness, for these the first attachment drags one into short-lived but certainly empty fulfillment, while the latter pushes one deeper in the whirlpool of anger and dissatisfaction toward society and the world-at-large by discarding every mean and end to be enlightened to one's inner immovable life-condition.

Against all odds, Daisaku Ikeda began his journey of Middle Way forty-years ago. Visiting communist countries Russia and China while paying tribute to the capitalist America, praising the beauties of the East while engaging the virtues of the West, he has taught the world, through his actions and thoughts, that what humanity needs now is not an unrestrained rush into the garden of materialism; neither is humanity requiring a set of suffocating and unbending rules. Instead she must be guided to the enlightening pinnacle of detaching from these two elements, and coming to the rightful path of walking the centre of these forces, falling to neither one and focusing back on the most important yet long-forgotten single element - the human happiness.

Thus, as he has expounded, all worldly structures and institutions mankind has ever created, be it religion, principles, morals, theologies, sciences, finances and education, are to be regarded as "merely means to achieve and obtain human happiness". Any deviation from this path will lead humanity into misery and never-ending conflicts. True to these words, one is able to justifiably witness a disintegration of objectives humanity has set in the beginning, from religions to education, where inceptively noble visions were indeed beautifully and passionately penned down by their founders.

Conclusively humanity has certainly lost the ability to not only enlighten and edcuate herself, but the very instinct of realising her amnesic disorientation in the thick woods of human constructed world. She has forgotten the most basic purpose of arriving in this world: to be truly happy, and to make this world an unshakable eden of happiness. All other objectives would be, and should be, secondary.

In a nutshell, humanity's lives is likened to the lotus flower: to choose to be born in a muddy pond, but oneself be unstained by the surrounding dirt. How to be as simple yet profound as it is perhaps humanity's greatest challenge so far, yet.