Can Buddhists Thrive in the Modern World?

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It’s a fact of life that we are all physically and mentally working harder in today’s global economy. Populations continue to rise along with new technology advancements every day. Information now literally travels at the speed of light. Unlike Buddhism monks, us lay practitioners have a different range of concerns and influences in our daily life: trying to maintain an income, living with a family, trying to find time for meditation, etc.

While science has taught us to build better cities, highways, factories, and farms, it has not taught us to build better people. Therefore people in the modern world are increasingly turning to Buddhism, an ancient philosophy that has many features in common with the western scientific tradition but that goes beyond the material of the West, beyond the limits of practical science as we have known it thus far.

Undoubted, without hard work there is no place for people to survive, let along thrive in modern society as competition continues to increase everywhere.  As we discussed in Can Buddhists Acquire Wealth and Material Possessions?, Buddha expressly encouraged hard work but it must be done with mindfulness and little attachment to the material possessions.

How do most people deal with the stress of modern life?

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When there is no real peace and rest in the mind, people suffer. To cope with this suffering, people naturally self-medicate their miseries by pleasing the senses: they drink, gamble, party and engage in promiscuous behaviors.

All the while, people are under the illusion that they are enjoying the real happiness of life.  Self-medicating in this manner is like walking into pharmacy and taking prescription medications without the advice of a doctor or pharmacist – you are only going to make your problems worse. Sense stipulation is not the real way to relaxation or peace.

Ironically, the more we try to please the senses through sense pleasures, the more we become slaves to the senses. There will be no end to our craving for satisfaction. The real way to relax is to calm the sense by controlling the mind. How do we control the mind?  By following the path to inner peace, which includes meditating.

How can we find peace in the hustle and bustle of modern life?

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Meditation is of the utmost importance to help a person live peacefully despite the numerous disturbances and distractions that are so prevalent in this modern world. We must learn to find time and a place to meditate – we cannot expect to move to a forest to live far from the madding crowds of society.

By practicing meditation, we can create our own private sanctuary or abode that can train us to face, understand and conquer this world in which we live. Meditation teaches us to adjust and adapt ourselves to bear with the numerous obstacles of life in the modern world.

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Our minds can be compared to a jet engine. Just as an engine gets overheated and damaged when it is run for prolonged periods without any time to cool down, so also the mind gets overtaxed when we subject it to sustained mental effort or taxation. It is only through meditation that relaxation or cooling can be achieved

Meditation strengthens our minds so that we can control our emotions when we are disturbed by negative thoughts and feelings such as greed, jealousy, anger and pride.

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If you successfully practice meditation, you can learn how to relax the body, calm the mind and find peace even when there are disturbances around you. Meditation helps us to let go and get a much need reprieve from life daily grind and pressures.

Buddha also teaches that we must take ownership of our salvation and our own happiness instead of making excuses that we are too busy.  Only we can help ourselves. See Step 8: Meditation and Are you Ready to Meditate for the First Time? to start meditating today.

Does Buddhism have a place in a global economy?

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Unlike certain religions such as Judaism, Buddhism is not culture bound. This means that Buddhism is not bound to any particular society, race or ethic group.  Until about a hundred years ago, Buddhism was mostly an Asian religion but it is gaining more and more followers in Europe,Australia and the American. For example, there are now Chinese Buddhists, American Buddhists, French Buddhists, etc.

Rather, Buddhism’s emphasis is on the way you develop your mind rather than the way you dress, the food you eat or how you wear your hair. Since the emphasis in Buddhism is on the internal practice rather than the external, it moves easily from one culture to another. This makes it ideal for a world where technology is making the world smaller and borders less relevant.

Does Buddhism conflict with modern scientific advancements?

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Arguably better than any other religion, Buddhism supports the advancement of knowledge and progress of mankind.

Even though Buddhism began over 2,500 years ago, there is nothing in the teachings that has had to be retracted or revised in the face of modern scientific inventions and knowledge. In fact, the more discoveries that are made, the closer they come to Buddha’s explanation of the universe and how it operates.

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Albert Einstein famously wrote in his autobiography that if he were religious, he would be a Buddhist. He also said, “If there is any religion that would cope with modern scientific needs, it would be Buddhism.” Buddhism is timeless because it requires no revisions to keep it up-to-date with new scientific findings.