Alternative Searches

spring-2017coverThe auto-complete function on a Google search is a reliable mirror for our times. Typing ‘when will’ into the search box a short time ago returned a top-five set of shortcuts that included ‘When will I die?’, ‘When will it snow?’ and ‘When will I ovulate?’ Updates to Apple’s operating systems are anxiously awaited: number three on the ‘should I’ list is ‘Should I upgrade to iOS10?’ The searches may change with the times – as I write this in November 2016, ‘When will Trump take office?’ has shot right to the top of the ‘when will’ charts – but certain themes persist. Many are related to pregnancy, elections and their results, technology and life expectancy (while the poignant duo, ‘How long will I live?’ and ‘How long will it take me to get home?’ seems to cover most of our existential worries). The modern mind is preoccupied with birth, politics, gadgetry and death.

And the modern mind has an immensely powerful tool – the web – to go after what it feels it needs. But what do we really need? The sweep of history does not necessarily tell us. Britain felt it needed to leave the EU, the USA to elect Donald Trump. And there’s a loud voice telling us that, yes, we really should upgrade to iOS10. But history has needed alternatives, too. In this new issue of the London Buddhist, Singhamanas shows us the delicate web of historical conditions which, some fifty years ago, made the creation of a new western Buddhist movement possible. Times have changed since then of course, so Vidyasakhi brings us up to date with what life for four members of the Triratna Buddhist Order looks like today, in a series of short and moving interviews.

Those stories give us glimpses of people touched by an ideal, but with their feet firmly on planet Earth. We can’t avoid the world and its creations, says Becky Pate – so what to do about the technology-glut of our lives? So much for the personal sphere; what if we want to engage in the public one as well, but still exemplify a new kind of consciousness? Vishvapani gives some steers to politically-minded Buddhists.

The Buddha was said to have transcended this world, but he was born a human being. Trying to live according to this paradox does away with the distinction between helping ourselves and helping others. The world badly needs emotional positivity, contentment, and wisdom, so practising the Buddha’s teaching with sincerity does both these things. All the activities listed in the back half of this booklet are aimed at exactly that.

There is a Tibetan tradition of thanking people for going on retreat, because the person coming back has not been getting a spa treatment – they’ve been trying to change the world by transforming their mind. In that spirit, thank you for everything that you come to at the London Buddhist Centre.

– Ollie Brock

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