October 22, 2010

This and that

There are a number of Buddhist ideas that I think are useful for people interested in social justice. Earlier this week, I wrote about the big three, also known as the three signs of being: suffering, impermanence and insubstantiality (dukkha, anicca and anatta).

Another one is related to all three but especially the latter. It's the basic idea of dependent origination, also sometimes called dependent co-arising. This basically means that nothing really exists in itself or is as solid as it seems. Rather, all things are dependent on a long series of causes and conditions and come into being and pass away according to those conditions.

As the Buddha put it,

When this exists, that comes to be. With the arising of this, that arises. When this does not exist, that does not come to be. With the cessation of this, that ceases.

The take home message I get from that is that the conditions that shape our world and social institutions constantly change. If we pay attention and act skillfully in accordance with conditions (or refrain from acting when conditions are inappropriate) then there is a better chance at attaining a positive outcome. Acting unskillfully or disregarding conditions is like someone trying to cross a busy street without looking at the traffic.

LIVE LONG AND PROSPER? Here's a snapshot about the effects of income on lifespan.

SIGN ON. The National Unemployment Law Project has set up a website to petition Congress to extend unemployment benefits, which are set to run out at the end of November.


LOCKED UP SYNDROME. This Gazette editorial looks at the American tendency to warehouse way more people than most other countries.


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