Monday, 11 May 2020

Buddhism and the Apocalypse

This extract is from a New York Times article on the apocalypse

In Buddhism, time is cyclical, not linear, making apocalypse both an end and a beginning. “Apocalypse happens and then a new order starts, a new social order, new moral order,” said Vesna Wallace, professor of Buddhism at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “The story repeats itself.”

Apocalyptic stories in Buddhist scriptures share similar themes, often including an unjust ruler, social inequality, plagues and fruits that do not ripen, she explained, referring to texts from the fifth and 11th centuries A.D. Blades of grass become like swords — and even the sense of taste disappears (like a suspected symptom of the coronavirus infection). 

In Buddhist traditions, apocalypse comes as a result of collective karma — everyone’s actions toward one another and the world — which means its outcome can change, even in the present circumstance. “Now people are kinder to each other, they are spending more time with families,” Dr. Wallace said. “It’s like a warning to change the course of actions, to bring back compassion, empathy, develop social equality.”........................


A stark, binary structure — a clear good and evil, a clear before and after — appeals when society is fractured, said Dr. Hidalgo, the religion professor from Roger williams university. 

“Apocalypse is a flexible script,” she said. “A sense of shared external evil can really bring folks together.” 

It is also a reminder that across several traditions, the memory of past crises can offer hope — that human beings have survived such moments before, and that the truths being revealed can become a call to action.

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