Books and oral traditions give us an abundance of information on world affairs of the past. You might know much about the life of your great-grandmother simply by listening to your mother talk about her at the dinner table. Even though none of us lived during the 17th or 18th centuries, from reading history books and the biographies of individuals, we can often gain quite clear insights into the nature of events, even though there is a great gulf of time between now and then. Unlike the past, what occurs in the world from now on will be known in detail to people of the future because of our ability to record archive events using modern technology.
The world has around 5,000 years of written history. It gets less clear as we trace it further back. For a very long time, many cultures didn’t develop a written language and their history remains an unsolvable mystery. There are some famous events or stories of the distant past that are known to us: Alexander of Macedonia became of one of first great emperors; wealthy Roman elites indulged in feasts by lying on their bellies and vomiting between courses; there was a love affair between Julius Caesar and Cleopatra; the Mongol invasions of other countries was accompanied by brutality; the plague known as the Black Death wiped out almost half the population of Europe; and so on. Yet so much of our history is shrouded in the unknown due to a lack of thorough records.
As a species, we’re curious about both the past and future, but our curiosity over the latter often comes with anticipation and anxiety. There is ample logic behind this fact. The past has already happened and there is not so much we can do about it. Whereas there is a lot at stake in the future for an Individual, a nation, and the world. The future cannot be fully foreseen by our ordinary minds. At the same time, many events that will take place in the future can be predicted quite accurately. This is a blessing. Because of this, we can prepare to face hardships or take actions to change the course of the future. Just think about how useful we find the weather report feature in our smartphones. If it predicts heavy precipitation for the next few days, you can cancel your preplanned weekend beach trip and go somewhere else, or read a book, listen to music, and cook a new recipe at home. This simple technology saves us from all the little disappointments that can easily happen when things don’t go as planned.
As everyone knows, we are living through one of the most volatile times in recorded history. There are countless factors for this: natural disasters, political instability, cultural wars, economic uncertainty, and the pandemic. Many people are fearful for the future as well as curious about it, not out of some sort of cerebral amusement, but for their well-being and for the survival of the next generation—for their daughters and sons and for their children. These days, people sometimes approach me and want to discuss Buddhist predictions for the future. Some people don’t even realize that such a thing exists.
There are quite lot of predictions of the future in the Mahayana sutras and the Vajrayana scriptures. I’ve had the opportunity to read some of them, although I don’t know so much about it. There were some wise Tibetan lamas who made predictions about the future, such as the Second Dodrupchen Rinpoche (1745–1821). Many in Tibet agree that his predictions withstand the test of time for their validity. It’s safe to say that all these lamas predicted both internal and external mayhem in the future. In 2021, it seems that their predictions are coming true. I don’t think that there are too many people out there who are going to disagree with this. It’s almost as if there is no external sanctuary to which we can escape to feel undisturbed peace. We’re all part of this collective chaos. Of course, peace can always be discovered within, in the face of all circumstances.
The good news is that these ancient Buddhist predictions come with suggestions for remedies that can change the course of the future for the better. They remind us that the future is not an unchangeable fate. Also, their recommended remedies don’t involve political and socio-structural changes but instead involve spiritual practice. This has to do with the fact that external changes not only have limitations but also create new problems while attempting to resolve old problems. Spiritual practice helps us to rise above the old consciousness that is not only lacking in solutions but that serves as the genesis of all the woes in the world.
If we take the right action for the greater benefit of all, we might be able to prevent catastrophic events and move together to a higher level of evolution. This requires us to go within and change our consciousness, moving from being self-centered to being altruistic, from greed to contentment, from division to unity, from ignorance to intelligence, from hatred to compassion. As Albert Einstein said: “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” It’s time for us to realize that our only hope is to let go of the old consciousness and enter a new one that sees everything in a new light.
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