Whilst I couldn’t join them in person I’d like to support them by investing a few hours in writing this blog. This is an acknowledgement of the impact they, and others of the same faith, different faiths or no faith at all are having beyond their own immediate community.
In many religions there is a common idea that when the world falls into decline through the worst manifestations of man’s greed, anger and stupidity a saviour will appear. They will lead us away from disasters such as war, poverty and the exodus of peoples from their homelands. A leader will show us the way; move us from the darkness into the light. They will be an example to all and an inspiration for future generations.
In the Buddhist tradition this position of saviour, guide and helper is not put on the shoulders of one particular charismatic leader. Although they have a place. But it is the followers of the leader that bring about change, not the leader. They are ordinary men and women, like my friend, who understand what needs to be done and just get on and do it. They are known as ‘the bodhisattvas of the earth’. An individual who delays their own enlightenment as they want to help and support those on earth. We all need a bodhisattva in our lives. The same is true in society and organisations.
It is the people inspired by the example of another that make real and sustained change. This is just a practical necessity. No leader however inspirational, insightful and engaging can shift the mindset of others to be more than they currently are. Their example, writings and teachings can be an inspiration to future generations but this runs the risk of misunderstandings and deliberate manipulation of their insights by other, less enlightened, individuals. Given the lack of capacity for the ‘chosen few’ of the past to connect with others it is inevitable that the purity of their message gets confused or lost over time.
The time has changed and, for better or worse, we have a growing capacity to connect instantly and share our thoughts, comments and images with the rest of the world. And this is why we no longer need to pin our hopes on that one individual to lead us to better times and places.
For the first time in our history we have the technology to connect not only with our ‘friends’ but others different from ourselves. If we chose to. We can bare witness to the compassion, effort, wisdom and bravery of others who, whilst not having our shared cultural heritage, share our same desire for a more mature, rational and compassionate world.
Now, I know that sounds a little be idealistic, and maybe it is. But I am more pragmatic in my proposals for peace. The logic behind this is that if each person challenges their own greed, anger and ignorance and seeks, on a daily basis, to make one shift in their own thinking and action then, overtime this becomes the norm. But that means we might have to stop waiting for the people who are going to change the world to arrive. We need to accept that they are already here:
We are the people we have been waiting for.
We can chose to bring greater meaning to our lives and the lives of others by our acts of compassion and courage. We do not have to share the same Prophet or Saviour as we share the same desire for things to be better, different, more humane and safer.
We do not need to let dogma get in the way of our humanity as my Muslim brothers and sisters in Oldham are doing shoulder to shoulder with many others...