Globalization is the latest expression of a long-standing strategy of development based on economic growth and liberalization of trade and finance. Globalization leads to the globalization of economy and the homogenization of culture. It can undermine local cultures and disrupt traditional relationships in a society with the assumption that free trade will also to lead to a more democratic society.
Modern Buddhism has become an intrinsic part of a globalized world. With its philosophy of the way of life, it takes special place in human and cultural identity. Buddhism in modern times had already incorporated either other genuine Asian traditions or Western traditions and merged with the socio-cultural backgrounds of many countries across the world. Buddhism stresses the principle of interdependence which is also the foundation of globalization in economic interest.
The issue of globalization is directly or indirectly affecting all our lives. Globalization leads to the globalization of economy and the homogenization of culture. It can undermine local cultures and disrupt traditional relationships in a society with the assumption that free trade will also lead to the formation of a more democratic society. Unfortunately, the effects of the globalization of business and trade are often disastrous for underdeveloped nations. These nations provide the raw materials and cheap labor which are necessary to make globalization prosperous for the more developed nations. Though there are successes in the process of globalization, there is much unrest in the poor and underdeveloped nations which are deep in debt and suffer internal conflict, poverty, droughts and famines.
The concept of globalization is important for Buddhism because Buddhism is a global, world faith. Buddhism in modern times had already incorporated either other genuine Asian traditions or Western traditions and merged with the socio-cultural backgrounds of many countries across the world. Buddhism stresses the principle of interdependence which is also the foundation of globalization in economic interest.
A Buddhist Perception of Globalization
The Buddha emphasized that we all have both unwholesome and unwholesome traits (kusala / akusalamula). The important issue is the practical matter of how to reduce our unwholesome characteristics and develop the more wholesome ones. This process is symbolized by the lotus flower. Although rooted in the mud and muck at the bottom of a pond, the lotus grows upwards to bloom on the surface, thus representing our potential to purify ourselves. Our unwholesome characteristics are usually summarized as the three poisons or three roots of evil: lobha – greed, dosa – anger and moha – delusion. The goal of the Buddhist way of life is to eliminate these roots by transforming them into their positive counterparts: greed into generosity (D?na), anger into loving-kindness (metta), and delusion into wisdom (prajna).
Globalization is the latest expression of a long-standing strategy of development based on economic growth and liberalization of trade and finance. This results in the progressive integration of economies of nations across the world through the unrestricted flow of global trade and investment. The mainstream approach is generally rooted in the underlying assumption that globalization brings jobs, technology, income and wealth to societies. In order to make this strategy of globalization successful, all the societies must be willing to submit to the principles of the free market—limiting public spending, privatizing public services, removing barriers to foreign investment, strengthening export production and controlling inflation. However, this is very difficult task to achieve within a short span of time. As a result, most often, globalized production has led to a litany of social and ecological crises: poverty and powerlessness of the majority of people, destruction of community, depletion of natural resources and unendurable pollution.
Our obsession with economic growth seems natural to us because we have forgotten the hierarchy of needs that we often take for granted. We project our own values when we assume that a person must be unhappy by presuming that the only way to become happy is to start on the treadmill of a lifestyle increasingly preoccupied with consumption. However, the importance of self-limitation, which requires some degree of non-attachment, is an essential human attribute to remain happy according to Buddhism. This is expressed better in a Tibetan Buddhist analogy. The world is full of thorns and sharp stones (and now broken glass too). What should we do about this? One solution is to pave over the entire earth, but a simpler alternative is to wear shoes. Paving the whole planet is a good metaphor for how our collective technological and economic project is attempting to make us happy. Without the wisdom of self-limitation, we will not be satisfied even when we have used up all the earth’s resources. The other solution is for our minds to learn how to wear shoes, so that our collective ends become an expression of the renewable means that the biosphere provides.
From a religious perspective, when things become treated as commodities they lose their spiritual dimension. The commoditized understanding induces a sharp duality between humans and the rest of the world. All value is created by our goals and desires. The rest of the world has no meaning or value except when it serves our purposes. This now seems quite natural to us, because we have been conditioned to think and live this way. For Buddhism, however, such a dualistic understanding is delusive. The world is a web; nothing has any reality of its own apart from that web, because everything is dependent on everything else. The concept of interdependence challenges our usual sense of separation from the world. The feeling that ‘I am here and the world is out there’, is at the root of our Dukkha and it alienates us from the world where we live. This non-dual interdependence of things was experienced by the Buddha when he became enlightened.The Buddhist path works by helping us to realize our interdependence and non-duality with the world and to live in harmony with it.
Modern Buddhism has become an intrinsic part of a globalized world. With its philosophy of the way of life, it takes special place in human and cultural identity. Some scholars recommend ‘Post-Buddhism’ as a proper term for the new infusion of ideas and practices in an increasingly globalized world. However, modern Buddhism has showed its potential to transcend the crucial problems of modernity.
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