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Mahayana Ethics in the Age of Globalization

During the last few decades there have been enormous de- velopments in science and technology which have practically changed the face of the earth. But in spite of the great achievements in science and technology, we find that there prevails a certain chaos or confusion at all levels - Individual, Social, Moral, Religious, Political, National and International.  We find people going from bad to worse everyday. There is confusion and anarchy at all levels of human existence. Hypocrisy dominates the present day world.

Every great world leader talks of peace but, behind this talk, there is preparation for war. Sometime before his death Gandhiji enumerated the seven social sins of our age :
(a) politics without principles ; (b) wealth without work ; (c) pleasure without conscience ; (d) knowledge without character ; (e) commerce without morality ; (f) science without humanity ; and (g) worship without sacrifice. The human outlook itself must change. I would like to plead for the integral education of man. My concept of education is that of the total man. The Buddha's message is specially suited for the purpose.

The doctrine of anitya(the doctrine of momentariness) and an anatman (the doctrine of the No-Atman) mean the impermanence of everything of the world. There is no changeless entity behind the material and the spiritual world. Everything is continually changing, nothing exists even for a moment. When everything is momentary, the ego is also momentary and therefore relative. On proper analysis the  atman shows itself not as a distinct entity, but as an aggregate of five aggregates(skandhas). If we analyse ourselves, we find only these five aggreates,  and we do not find anything beyond them that can be called the atman. Each part of the aggregation is only a momentary existence. Nirvana lies in going beyond this momentariness. Any eternal being was impossible according to the doctrine of momentariness. So the Buddhists denied completely any reality of the atman.
 
The greatness of the Mahayana lies in its spirits of selfless service of humanity, its accommodating spirit and its missionary zeal. The Mahayanists are reasonably proud of their faith as a progressive and dynamic religion which throbs with vitality because it has the capacity to adapt itself with the changing environmental conditions, preserving its essentials intact.

Mahayana believes that Nirvana is not a negative cessation of misery but a positive state of bliss. Its ideal saint is Bodhisattva who defers his own salvation in order to work for the salvation of others. Buddha is identified with transcendental reality and is said to possess the power of reincarnation.
 
The Buddha is the Absolute Self running through all the so-called individual selves. He is the Noumenon behind all phenomena. The Bodhisattva is he who attains perfect wisdom, ever dwells in it, and inspired by the love of all beings, ceaselessly works for their salvation which is to be obtained here in this world. He is ready to suffer gladly so that he may liberate others. He is guided by the spirit of the Buddha who said : Let all the sins and miseries of the world fall upon my shoulders, so that all the beings may be liberated from them.  This idea of universal salvation is the influence of Mahayana Buddhism.  It is further asserted that the spiritually realized souls do not continue to be immersed in their own bliss. They seek to work out their ideal through service to humanity. The stress is on universal salvation and not on individual liberation. Thus Mahayana Buddhism paved the way for the message of an universal  religion which knows no distinction of nation or race and which unites all 'under heaven in one family' and brings peace and goodwill on earth. The message of the unity of mankind enshrimed in the Mahayana Buddhism "all men are brothers"?inspire us. The totalistic principle of universal salvation is further based on the theory of selfless(anatman), on the causation theory by pure ideation, and on the belief in the existence of Buddhanature dormant in every being.

As we have seen briefly sketched above, our present lives now are a repetition of confusion caused by our lack of clear values. In order to overcome our false ideas, we may look into the lives of Bodhisattvas in Mahayana Buddhism for guiding principles. We must possess the ideals of Bodhisattva as the paradigm of our lives. Each man is the maker of his own destiny.

The writer is a professor in the Dept. of Indian Philosophy at DU.

Kim Sun-keun  leesj117@dongguk.edu

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