The oldest Buddhist monument was discovered in 2021 in the ancient Pakistani city of Barikot in the Swat Valley. Stefano Bettera discusses how this finding is part of an ever growing body of evidence that the development of Buddhism has been profoundly shaped by its encounter with various cultures.
Stefano Bettera offers a spiritual perspective on social reconstruction – Dharma EconomiX – that goes beyond the anthropocentric model and focuses, instead, on practices, languages and imagery capable of healing the social and ecological wounds that we face today. Such a perspective provides us with an opportunity for a revalorisation of the individual and of the community.
We must rediscover a view of the other that is not dominated by fear, but courageously puts friendship back at the centre, as a sincere opportunity to get to know each other, to compare notes, to build an identity that is the beginning of a process of imagining a new collective identity.
The historical Buddha, Gotama, is not properly characterized as either an atheist or agnostic. He does not deny or affirm, but chooses silence, a ’strategic‘ silence which affirms a precise idea: any discourse on the absolute is inadequate. It is not a question of arguing that this dimension is unthinkable or unrealizable. It is about rejecting any attempt by language to establish a definitive truth in one sense or another.
The lightness of laughter can help us to break the connected dualisms of right/wrong, true/false, internal/external, and us/the others. These standards ways of viewing the world keep us hooked to our ego and hold us back from the freedom to experiment, to be open, to enjoy the time we have and all our experiences, including the negative ones.
We have to choose between the freedom that is the condition of an open, awakened mind or to defend any kind of orthodoxy, traditional or not. If we choose the former, we need a wisdom that is capable of capturing every moment of wonder and in the next instant letting it go without any sense of regret or bewilderment.
Whether we like it or not, to reduce Buddhism to a detached and repetitive liturgical religiosity, means to keep our heads turned towards the past and also means losing the potential for a sensitive engagement with tradition. A vibrant and living spirituality must be known, lived, and experienced in our bodies, our practices, and our way of being.
Several contributors to the Secular Buddhist Network website offer their insights on how we can best respond to the coronavirus pandemic. The common theme is that by fully understanding core Buddhist insights regarding impermanence, suffering, and interconnection, as well as cultivating an ethical stance of care and compassion, we can skillfully respond to this current crisis.
The coronavirus emergency is a great opportunity to cultivate patience, care and integrity and rediscover what is truly ‘urgent’. When it is fragility that becomes the predominant characteristic in our lives, the superfluous becomes less urgent and the need to rediscover a more authentic, more intimate dimension becomes apparent.
Counter to the stereotype that sees East and West as two distant worlds, with entirely different cultures and value systems, the Buddha and the ancient Greeks spoke a very similar language and provided us with wise insights that we can rediscover today for our secular practice.