PorkChop wrote:may as well try to make a positive difference.
I don't deny this, but before you can really remedy the suffering of others you need to be a qualified physician. That means you're not in much of a position to help others be liberated unless you yourself are liberated.
Few might achieve this in our present day, but that should be the goal of institutions (which entails some members of the community abandoning society altogether) rather than trying to fix saṃsāra.
My first post on this thread addresses this directly, specifically the quote on how if we don't develop the proper wisdom of emptiness, our compassion is inconsistent.
I've been thinking about this thread a lot.
I don't deny that there's wisdom that needs to be developed before I can hope to liberate others and that I'm nowhere near that yet.
I will say that my biggest "illness" of the mind is anger.
From what I've heard on teachings of the Lam Rim & Lam Rim Chen Mo, the remedy targeted for the illness of anger is loving compassion.
So for me, I think if I can develop more loving compassion, I can directly counter my biggest affliction of the mind.
On other threads, there have been questions on whether or not Westerners can really follow the Dharma, or if any of us truly think we can reach enlightenment in this lifetime.
My opinion on this is changing daily, because I'm still new.
I agree renunciation is required for higher attainments.
But there are a lot of teachings of the Buddha that can be applied by householders in their daily lives to address the causes & conditions of their suffering; hopefully setting up the causes & conditions for attainments later on and make a life of renunciation more possible.
I don't thing the situation of householders should be minimized or dismissed, instead merely seen as stages in the path.
In his talks on the mythologies of the East, Joseph Campbell talks about how in India, men of a certain age when their responsibilities as householders were finished, would renounce, go off into the forest, and seek moksha. The implication was that a life of renunciation was something more common among men over a certain age and not so common among the young - even though there are plenty of examples of young renunciates throughout the history of India (in the Pali scriptures as well as people like Adi Shankara).
The point for mentioning this being that until one can renounce, that they should use their position in society as householders in order to help others, especially those who are capable of renunciation.
I can understand the argument that if one is renouncing, then engaging society is probably not ideal.
However, for those practitioners still engaged with society, helping others should be encouraged.
Institutions tend to be led and/or supported by those still engaged with society.
People in the US have done great evil, but others have also done a lot of good. The monk at my temple (an expatriot from Vietnam) seems to think Americans have it so good because they have embraced the ideals of service to others and charity. Americans who are out there trying to make a difference in the world for the better are not trying to perpetuate evil. They are trying their best to not let themselves and their culture be defined by those who do great evil. People who do great evil tend to be ambitious and will further their own ends by any means necessary. Any call to people to provide a counter to that should be encouraged.
I keep thinking of the example of Richard Gere. Say what you want about him being the face of "pop culture Buddhism", the guy has done a lot of good for the refuges from Tibet. If he'd given up his acting career to go off into the mountains, who would've helped raise so much money for those refuges?
On top of that, how many people have gained an interest in Buddhism from the projects he's been involved with? ie films like Little Buddha, the documentary on the life of the Buddha, and the Discovering Buddhism videos from the FPMT. I, for one, can definitely say that his work has influenced me and helped me start out on the path.
Societies are a mess, no disagreement there. The history of the US is not a rosy picture, I do not deny this. If Kshitigarbha can journey into the hells to try to make a difference there, then how can we not try to live up to his example in this Saha world?