The Truth of Humans Revealed (Part 1)

Over the years when I watched the news I was always surprised when some event of misfortune would strike someplace. However the more I have learned the Buddhist philosophy of life, the more my mind has changed and my reactions to such events. There is probably no better way to explain this change in understanding than by the following poem by a notorious thief of old Japan.

“Stony river!

The sands of the shore may run out But the seeds that make men thieves Will never be exhausted.”

Life will change from era to era, the nature of the land will change over time, but human beings will never change no matter how much time passes. The word “thieves” can be replaced with “the human potential to do evil”. The human potential to do evil will never be exhausted. Understanding this reality is why I am saddened when some bad event happens, (recently such as the Boston marathon bombings), but no longer shocked. All in all, it’s only a matter of time before the next act of terrorism or some act of criminality of some sort is broadcasted on the news. All over the world, in all times, such destructive events happen and continue to happen by people who are no different from everyone else on this planet. While writing this, news of shootings at Santa Monica College has come over the air. This college is my alma mater, and the first school I attended in the USA, so it has a close place in my heart. I spent many hours in the library where the gunman was shot and killed and where he tried to shoot and kill others, so I know it well. Never would one expect there to be such an outburst of crime on a campus that feels so peaceful. No matter how much such similar crimes have been condemned in the past year especially (such as Aurora, Connecticut, Boston), the seeds within people that have the potential to commit such crimes continue to germinate and bring forth their results. And forever they will continue to do so.

When I was younger I enjoyed watching history documentaries. I especially enjoyed learning about World War II, and the German dominance. Seeing actual footage of the war was fascinating and I found the power of the German army intriguing. From school history class and books, I had built up an image of the German soldiers as being a kind of inhuman superpower. I looked at the TV footage closely looking at the German soldiers to see what they were like. I had this image that they were monsters, but when I would look at the footage I was surprised to see that they were very ordinary looking people (dressed in a war uniform). It was disappointing. I expected to see something different, something that made them different from everyone else, that enabled them do the horrible acts of war that was reported. They were an army that was fierce and driven no doubt, but at the bottom of it all they were just like everyone else. They all had mothers. Some had wives, sisters, brothers who were probably very worried about them, but yet I had pictured them as something inhuman. What made me see them in this way I came to realize was not what they looked like, but the reputation they had gained from their actions. Their actions were both deft (the swiftness, drive and discipline) and monstrous. They were “regular” people, but what made them stand out was what they did (just like solders in every other army in that war, and every other war before and after).

According to the teachings of Buddha, human beings are a mass of worldly passions. In other words we humans are made entirely of worldly passion. Just as a snowman is made of snow, if the snow is removed, the snowman no longer exists. If worldly desires are taken from a human being, the person would no longer exist. This is the meaning of human beings made of worldly passions.

It is our worldly passions that make us do the criminal acts. Although most do not break the law with words or actions, what goes on inside our minds is another issue altogether.

Frank Costelloe, USA

(To be continued...)

Source: The Buddhist Village Times #29 | 2013, The Truth of Humans Revealed (Part 1)

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