Last night sangha, family and friends met in Nashville to attend a free lecture at Vanderbilt University by Buddhist teacher David Loy. The talk was entitled Healing Ecology: A New Spiritual Perspective on the Challenge of Consumerism. Although he has traveled throughout the world, this was his first trip to Tennessee. A podcast of the talk is available here. Some of David's articles and books, such as the excellent Buddhist History of the West, can be a challenge to read but last night, his personal sense of ease, a long familiarity with western culture and study of esoteric dharma combined in a very easy, clear explanation of complex ideas. Loy builds modern bridges, so sorely needed at present, revealing important seeds of buddhist wisdom and offering ground for the process of insight into causal forces. A comprehensive understanding of the mind behind the rising tide of sociological and ecological crises is where transformation begins.
Here is an excerpt from an article written a decade ago but more relevant than ever;
According to Buddhism the three roots of evil are lobha greed, dosa ill-will, and moha delusion. Traditionally these are personal problems, but today they must be understood more structurally, as institutionalized.
Our economic system promotes and even requires greed in at least two ways: desire for continuous profit is necessary to fuel the engine of economic growth, and consumers must be insatiable in order to maintain markets for what can be produced. Although justified as raising standards of living worldwide, economic globalization is actually leading to increasing unemployment and environmental degradation. The U.N. Development Report for 1997 pointed out that 1.3 billion people now live on less than one dollar a day, and estimated that there are 93 countries which have a per capita income below what they had a few decades ago.
Long after the end of the cold war, the U.S. federal government continues to devote about half its resources to maintaining an enormously expensive war machine. Most other countries also continue to spend much more on arms than social services. There is no sign that the military-industrial complex, or the lucrative international market in arms sales, will be diverted into plowshares anytime in the forseeable future.
The media that might inform us about these problems distract us with "infotainment" and sports spectacles to promote their real function, advertising. Universities traditionally encourage the critical thinking necessary to reflect on these developments, but in the midst of the greatest economic expansion in history we are told that budget cutbacks are necessary because there is less money available for education. Increasingly, the need to become more market-oriented is diverting academia into corporate research and advanced job training for those eager to join what I will argue is a morally questionable world order.
In short, our global economy is institutionalized greed; our military-industrial complex is institutionalized aggression; our media and even our universities promote institutionalized ignorance of what is actually happening.
THE SPIRITUAL ROOTS OF MODERNITY
Buddhist Reflections on the Idolatry of the
Nation-State, Corporate Capitalism and Mechanistic Science
David's latest book is Money Sex War Karma Notes for a Buddhist Revolution