Seeing World Issues from a Buddhist View
Buddhist ethics course taught by Prof. Diane Denis has been a highlight for me this semester (Spring 2022). While choosing the subject, I did not know what to expect since it was a theme that I had not reflected much about before. This course turned out to be very informative and fun. The most interesting part was to look at world issues from a Buddhist ethics perspective. It comes as no surprise that the world currently is facing many complex issues. First things first, I realized it is actually crucial to acknowledge and to learn about them. I personally felt that because things did not affect me on a day-to-day basis, I did not even bother to know about it. Nevertheless, now I believe being a part of a society and the world, it is our responsibility and right to be aware of what it happening around. It is also important because our daily activities does have some consequences directly or indirectly that can have either positive or negative impact. From climate change to wars, animal abuse to euthanasia, gender inequality to the question of personhood, this course shed light in various ethical issues. They carry potential of suffering to oneself and others not just in present but also most likely in the future. In the class, all the students chose different topic, researched and presented them one after another. I was convinced that even though the issues are of modern times, Buddhist ethics has a lot to offer that can guide for resolving them.
In my view, the notions taught in Buddhism such as karma, compassion, impermanence, five precepts, ten virtuous and non-virtuous acts, eight-fold path, six paramitas etc. are relevant and are applicable even today to answer challenging ethical questions. The thing that struck me the most about Buddhist ethics is how it works in all the three levels of body, speech and mind. Motivation and intention plays a major role in every action. It seems to me that the root cause behind most of the world problems is somewhere within the three poisons (greed, ignorance and hatred). From a Buddhist perspective, they are unwholesome acts, which generate negative karma, which then lead to nothing but distress. When there is change in the mind of individuals, the world changes too. Whatever the world is facing has a lot to do with the way people think. It affects what they say and what they do. What we as an individual can do in order to contribute to the world is be aware of our intention and our conduct. When acts are based on loving-kindness and compassion and not on arrogance, hatred, greed or delusion, I strongly believe the world becomes a better place to live in. Therefore, Buddhism is not just useful for individual sanity but also that of the world.