003. One Family; Religion meets Interior Design.
Updated: Oct 22
It is only a few decades since genetic science established that we all belong to the same family, thus turning on their heads many age-long views. Views about master races and racial supremacy.
Recognition of our oneness opened the doors for the greatest ever family reunion. But that reunion seems to be a long time coming. So have we drawn any closer to each other since learning that? What have we learned about that solitary symbolic woman from whom we are all descended?
Biblical accounts call her Eve. Maori call her Papa. Her full name is Papatuanuku, mother of the earth and all things. Both stories show what an influential role this woman had. So how did that work out for her?
Necessity meant that somewhere along the way, Eve's and Papa's female descendants got relegated mostly to the home and child rearing whilst men went out with their bows, arrows, and tiaha to kill the enemy.
This recent genetic understanding establishes that we are all approximately little more than 50th cousins of one another. Meaning that those 'enemies' we had been killing were our own distant cousins.
After all the generations that mankind has spent in conquering threats to our existence, surely educating and shaping the lives of the next generation has to be the most important thing we could be doing. It would be nice to think that there was lots of support for shaping and educating, and a diminishing need for conquering these days. But no.
Our screens show a never-ending procession of soldiers in places as varied as Yemen, Syria, Korea, Somalia... still, the list goes on. Men never suffer from a want of employment when there's a good war to carry on, and it does great things for many economies.
The real-life picture captured on camera is truly appalling as we are gripped by footage of exhausted Rohingya trudging ankle deep through mud and driving rain, carrying frail elderly relatives strapped to their own emaciated bodies as they abandon a country established in the spirit of the Buddha.
Restrictions placed on freedom of movement, and limitations on access to state education and civil service jobs, have ensured that the legal conditions faced by the majority Muslim Rohingya in Myanmar can be compared with those of the former apartheid.
Ironically - almost simultaneously - the image of the Buddha became widely celebrated in the Western world. Suddenly the visage of He of the golden head, seated in cross-legged contemplation at the edge of designer pools, became a well loved symbol in exclusive interior fashion, to appear in countless glamorous interiors and designer courtyards, exuding the elusive peace and tranquillity so absent in the reality of the western world.
Buddhism was pictured as possessing a comforting ease and unattainability, requiring little personal change or effort.
Many people in today's world long to find a way back to the true spirit of the Buddhist Eightfold Path and its practices of right view, right resolve, right speech, conduct, livelihood, effort, mindfulness, and right "samadhi" or meditative absorption. But that requires education about the true spirit of Buddhist teachings. It requires regular pursuit of new practices, instigating genuine meditation into western lifestyles where such practices are largely foreign.
Every one of the world's great religions has come with new spiritual observances for the age in which they appeared, with social and spiritual practices which, if rightfully carried out, were capable of resolving the pressing needs of that time, of enabling people to build a just, unified and peaceful society. The reality that each eventually failed to accomplish those ideals in their entirety does not mean that the ideals themselves were faulty, only that they were never wholeheartedly adopted by all. It would require a subsequent age to renew and restore spiritual practices, in ways more appropriate to the needs of a new time.
To recall that song that spoke of our world as a 'great big melting pot', it's time for a new 'recipe', teachings that will suit the special needs of this unique age. Past practices that served the needs of their time now need to be reinvigorated, and hollow forms discarded.
Today Buddhists await the coming of the future Buddha named Maitreya. Baha'is recognise His return in Baha'u'llah, and the practices of His path are leading the world to the promised peace on Earth. All this rests upon the acceptance of one central truth.
The generations that followed Eve and Papatuanuku now face their greatest challenge:
'The most momentous question of this day is international peace and arbitration, and universal peace is impossible without universal suffrage. Children are educated by the women. The mother bears the troubles and anxieties of rearing the child, undergoes the ordeal of its birth and training. Therefore, it is most difficult for mothers to send to the battlefield those upon whom they have lavished such love and care. Consider a son reared and trained twenty years by a devoted mother. What sleepless nights and restless, anxious days she has spent! Having brought him through dangers and difficulties to the age of maturity, how agonizing then to sacrifice him upon the battlefield! Therefore, the mothers will not sanction war nor be satisfied with it. So it will come to pass that when women participate fully and equally in the affairs of the world, when they enter confidently and capably the great arena of laws and politics, war will cease; for woman will be the obstacle and hindrance to it. This is true and without doubt.'
---'Abdu'l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace 51.