On the Uses of Buddhism for Collective Evolution. Following my participation with the NonBuddhist Posse, and reading The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin (anarchist book club), the questions that emerge for me now are these: can Buddhism help us to survive as a species?
The critical issue for me is not whether Buddhism is true, in the religious, philosophical, or scientific sense; and not whether it leads to optimal well-being (eudaimonia) in the personal, psychological sense; but does it help us to survive as a species? Does it gives us a common framework of values that helps us to cooperate as a civilization and ensure our mutual survival? The people of Anarres (The Dispossessed) had a common religion called Odonianism, after its founder, Odo. The purpose of this religion was social cohesion, to create a common framework of values and cooperative behaviors that ensured mutual survival under difficult conditions. So my question is, does Buddhism help us to do that, and how? Does it enforce social cohesion from the top-down as a form of feudalism, or fascism, aristocracy or meritocracy? Or does it generate a voluntary desire to cooperate, to provide mutual aid and protection? Does it respect the individual? or does it require the threat of peer pressure, shaming and exclusion, and the sublimation of the individual in order to work? Does it require a hierarchy? or can it succeed without needing or creating patterns of social domination, control and subservience? Can Buddhism help us to resolve intergroup conflict, whether ethnic, religious or class-based? Can Buddhism help us resolve conflicts over scarce resources? Does it respect all species and all life in the planetary ecosystem? or does it promote human privilege and ‘transcendence’ over the living ecosystem? Can Buddhism help us cope, collectively, with difficult and even catastrophic global conditions, such as we are facing now with climate change and its ensuing social conflicts? Can Buddhism help us as a civilization and a species to adapt to and survive catastrophic climate conditions? I believe it’s possible for Buddhism to provide the kind of social cohesion we want, but only if we design it that way. And I believe we can intentionally design Buddhism to meet our needs and expectations. These are questions I will be exploring in future editions of ‘Buddhist Futures’.