underthetree wrote:But it's a good point. How many realized beings are there in the world? Who is becoming realized in the West? How many have become enlightened in the last ten years? Twenty years? Fifty? The last century?
It gave me pause to read the recent thread on Buddhist saints. Every candidate was from the Middle Ages at the very latest.
I think in many ways modern industrial lifestyles and even values are counter-productive to liberation.
For example, when I was in Ladakh I was living in rather simple circumstances. Electricity for a few hours in the evening. No internet, TV or phone. Just my books and meditation cushion, and the great Himalayas to look out towards. I had the good fortune to drop my mp3 player in a wash bucket, too.
In such surroundings I was easily able to sit and read terse Buddhist texts in Classical Chinese for hours upon hours on end without taking a break. I found meditation a lot more efficacious and enjoyable as well. Living in Tokyo or Taipei I find I don't have the same level of mental stamina to read for extended periods or even meditation like I did in Ladakh.
Our modern industrial education system instils values that are quite contrary to the path. For instance, we are educated in such a way as to produce obedient workers that serve the system. Our lives revolve around economic output and consumption. We think of securing ourselves financially before engaging in serious practice for fear that we'll go hungry if we don't. We think in terms of money, nor merit. If we're emotionally invested in "careers" it is all the more difficult to detach from the mainstream and go live a solitary life away from the system.
So in the end the teachings are there and some teachers are available, but so few of us (myself included) really do what needs to be done.