A couple of weeks ago I posted this inquiry. I wanted to know what others had to say about the nature of change and our ability to affect change in the world. I wanted someone to tell me how to be a Bodhisattva without feeling like a dictator or some egotistic authoritative person who "knows" what's best for people and tries to get them to live in line with that. Being that kind of person feels foriegn and strange to me for a lot of reasons. Mostly because I've tried it before and it didn't work.
I'm still trying to figure out how to carry the dharma into my daily life with consistency. I'm still trying to figure out how to bring my meditation off the cushion. Who am I to say what other people need to do when it is all I can do to stumble through my own attempts at right action? I've also been of the opinion that such attempts to consciously sway a person... to get them to do a certain thing or be a certain way... are often futile.
Wise people chimed in. They stated far better than I could the heart of my question and they gave me lots of food for thought.
Well, certainly trying to consciously sway a person to do something or be a certain way can be futile. We all have free will. That person has to be willing to come along for the ride. Here's an example... I want my brother to stop smoking. The reasons are obvious. I'm concerned for his health. I could spend a lot of time gathering books, materials, documentaries, studies, nicotine patches... I could ride him with the information like a man rides a horse. I could be dedicated. I could never let up. Would it make a difference? Tom made a point that spoke to this kind of effort. Tom says:
We change our entrenched habits when we are ripe for change. We overthrow our universe of thinking always for one reason [with respect to spirituality], because the ego-hold on us has lessened such that we've reached a tipping point where our old way of fitting in no longer feels right.
We can encourage and provide means such that people can exercise their muscles of compassion and wisdom. And then, we should stand back.
It's the "standing back" that I think we all have trouble with from time to time. Often, we don't see the strength and resolve in standing back. Especially if we have the activist's spirit. We think it is passive. We think we are giving up the fight. The opposite is really true. When you encourage. when you provide means... you are giving someone a hammer they can use to drive in (or pull out) that nail they are struggling with. You give them the tool, then you give them the space and the time to use it.
Nacho suggests that we (and everyone and everything) are always ripe for change because change is reality... it's not just part of reality:
[W]e always need to be one with change. Change (impermanence) is what constitutes us, what constitutes the world in every moment.
He, Zatoad, and Gareth also suggest in their own ways that while our more conscious efforts to affect change are one way to attemept to save the world, there are other ways.
I think Zatoad really clarified what I was thinking when I wrote the initial post when he said:
it really always comes down to the fact that we can only work on our own ignorance and development. Hopefully, if we are shining light on our own ignorance, we are also, slowly pulling a few other people along for the ride.
However clumsily, that's the point I was trying to make. What I seemed to forget was the point Gareth made:
I have seen people, including myself, change by merely being in the presence of a Dharma practioner.
Change is something that occurs with or without our help, I think the best thing we can do is take care of ourselves for now.
Nacho sort of "brings it home" when he says:
We work on our ignorance always as a result of being-in-the-world with others, in a symbiotic relationship.
The world is always ripe for change. The world is always responding to who we are and what we are doing. And so are people and everything else in the world. This is what Thich Nhat Hanh's word Interbeing is pointing to. Everything exists because of everything else. As subtle changes happen in one person, subtle changes happen everywhere. This may be hard to quantify. Everyone may not cause the global impact that Buddha, Ghandi, or Martin Luther King, Jr. did in the world... but everyone can have the same impact right where they live.
We do this by being steadfast dharma practitioners. Being steadfast dharma practitioners means that we do what is required moment to moment. That is th lesson of the Bodhicaryavatara (Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life). Like Will says:
We find ourselves called upon to respond to the unending sufferings of the world, and it is good to heed this call in one way or another; yet at the same time without the delusion that we can ourselves bring about the end of these sufferings.
I think if we set aside our egos... the parts of ourselves that think we know everything... and put forth our best effort in the face of everything... we are doing our part.