In my interpretation, the Sangha is the community of people who help you towards Enlightenment, the Dharma are the natural laws of the universe that you need to abide by and pay attention to in order to achieve Enlightenment, and the Buddha is the ultimate model of the Enlightened individual living in the context of Samsara. All three are needed in order to achieve Enlightenment in any realm, form, or time. Once Enlightenment has been achieved by an individual, the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth ceases for that individual. There is no further need, reason, cause, or ability for that individual to suffer any further in Samsara. What remains from that individual is their Buddha essence, which continues to be present and pervade the entirety of the universe, known, unknown, knowable, and unknowable. In this sense, the Buddha has never left our existence, even though Siddharta has ceased to be reborn. We are Buddhas are underneath the filth of suffering. Greed (attachment), ignorance (willful or otherwise), and carelessness (lack of compassion) are intrinsic in Samsara. Yet beneath that is a wondrous presence that is common to us all. We can either acknowledge our own faults, peel away at the interstellar gunk that clouds our minds and hearts, and become that which we are, or we can be lazy, indoctrinated into one of the causes of suffering, and ultimately fail to realize a lasting bliss which characterizes peace of mind, wisdom, awareness, and compassion.
It should be noted that Buddhism is the one way that I can think of that enables one to achieve Buddhahood conscientiously and deliberately. All other religions, philosophies, and ways of life either will get you to better rebirths or to Enlightenment through happenstance and the accumulation of past deeds from many many many different lifetimes. This is similar to how the scientific method is the one way to understand and comprehend the universe beyond the thoughts in your head, which enables one to achieve real results for better or for worse on this plane of existence. All other methods with working with the world may only make you and others feel temporarily better without actually making you better or may allow you to succeed by chance and chance alone. It is the difference between self-medication and substance abuse and taking substances with a medicinal purpose, intent, and under verification from well-versed and knowledgeable clinicians who have made a correct diagnosis of the causes of your suffering. One may help. But it will only help by chance, be not as effective as other methods, or else, do more harm to your well-being than good. The other may likewise have mistakes inflicted upon you. You can still suffer at the hands of even a competent doctor, just as you can suffer at your own hands or an incompetent doctor. But, this other way is what will more likely lead you to being cured of what’s actually afflicting you. The choice is up to you, especially when it comes to you making a choice to put a deliberate, consistent, and sustained effort into making it work.
Only you can liberate yourself from Samsara or make a way out of the suffering that you may presently be in. The essence of the Buddhas, the laws and conditions of the Dharma, and the presence of the Sangha, regardless of the forms or ways that you perceive them are always going to be there to help and will always be present as soon as you think about them. That is the power of Buddhism and the essence of Buddhist philosophy. It is not the gods or even God who will save us and yourself. It is always ultimately going to be up to you to make the world and yourself better. It is you who ultimately fails to accomplish this goal when you neglect the natural laws and conditions of the universe. It is you who ultimately fails when you lack the care, compassion, or wisdom to make things be better for yourself.
I’m sorry that I don’t have happier news to give you. I wish that I could have a magical being to enable us to all be Enlightened and cease to be reborn permanently in this universe. I wish I had such a being for myself, actually, to make it so I would never ever have to come back to Samsara again. But, unfortunately, that is not the case. I am here with you because I made a choice to be here, even in the most subconscious of senses. I came here because I either did something inanely stupid and wrong, or was motivated by an honest, if foolish choice to help all other beings achieve Enlightenment before myself, not realizing that the only way I can be of help to others is to help myself and, paradoxically, let them go and enable them to figure it out for themselves in their own right and in their own ways. I’m not sure whether my exhaustion is from being too old of a soul, being too immature of a soul, or simply being not entirely healthy on what ultimately is a physical level. In any case, I’ll simply abide until my time is come. What else is there to do?
The American governments at all levels and in all places are going to have to come to terms with a few things. The first set of things are their own anti-social, repressive, oppressive, and anti-democratic tactics and methods and policies that they have enacted towards the general public. The American people cannot and will not voluntarily be marched into a neo-feudal serfdom without some form of resistance springing forth. Worse still, the people who will be behind such a resistance will also be the least qualified, least able, and least willing to establish a functional and effective new order from the ashes of the old. The second set are the anti-social, anti-progress, moronic, baboon-like group of radical right wing personalities and people whose anti-social, anti-progress, and anti-democratic tactics are what have brought us to the point where one is dead at NSA headquarters. These are the fat cat millionaires and radical right wingers who are sitting in our Congressional delegations, posing as bankers and businesspeople, making a mockery of the American spirit and the nature of Americans throughout all levels of society. We can either be cleansed of these people by ignoring them, voting against them, and by defending ourselves with lethal force if necessary. Or we can continue to sit around and do nothing while they dismantle our entire society and environment in the name of profit, control, and some abstract notion of liberty that they’ve never questioned or seriously examined.
I’ve always suggested that we turn our attention towards ridding our human societies of these conservative elements and the more pragmatic economic elite who fund them. The shooting at the NSA should be taken as a wake-up call for all Americans to unite against the growing right wing despotism that is threatening to erode our nation’s core integrity and to disband the dysfunctional and ineffective establishment “left” in favor of a new progressive state in America that relies on science, evidence, and the well-being of all people, not just the rich, as the benchmarks for good policy and good policy-making. Financial wealth for wealth’s sake should not be the end all of a society’s goal, nor should we condone or accept those who can’t get that through their heads.
A government and its members are never self-sustaining entities. A government and their members rely on the legitimacy, acceptance, and authority that is granted to them. These are things which can be revoked with disastrous consequences to follow for all people, including for the governments’ members, when and if they are revoked. Governments can fail; their existence is not guaranteed. Best to continue working with the general public in a dialogue for the sake of improving the quality of life for people rather than act as if there are no consequences for your actions. The sooner our governments in the United States and throughout human society get this through their heads, the sooner we’ll all be better off. We need to eliminate the right wing by allowing them to eliminate themselves, and the world will be that much closer to being reasonably settled, even though it will never truly be settled in the long term or short term. This will never be a utopian world; some problems will continue, old ones fade away, and new ones will rise. What we can change is how we live, interact with, and respond to the changes and common reality, first, by acknowledging that there is a common reality where all opinions, hypotheses, and perceptions are not equal and should not be given an equal light if they prove to be unfounded and without evidence to support them. The second thing we need to do is learn about this universe as thouroughly, deliberately, and accurately, specifically with regards to ourselves and to our own place within it relative to all other things on the individual and collective level. The third thing is to apply the lessons in our daily lives, policies, laws, programs, and actions, such that we can live healthier, happier, and more sustainable lives as individuals within the context of our environment and our societies. We can follow these three steps and all the subsequent steps and implications, or we can all collapse as a civilization and ruin ourselves and the world around us in the name of senseless greed and baseless ideology. These are the options. What side will you be on?
Think about it.