If asked to name your three favorite philosophers of the world would Buddha Shakyamuni be among them? Or any of the erudite masters the the Teachings of Light call Budddhadharma? How about Chief Seattle, Crazy Horse, Ahkenaten, Hildegard of Bingen, Yeshe Tsogyal, or Sojourner Truth?
Philo (love of) sophia (truth) is just that. This love is an exploration that has inspired, driven, and opened the minds of many people throughout human history. Yet a casual search of a Barnes and Noble philosophy section would probably not find the writings of The Tao te Ching, The Bhagavad Gita, or of Meister Eckhart. These texts would be in the religion or spirituality section, thus supporting a limited view of philosophy and the width of truth.
Philosophy did not start in Greece, although the word was coined there by Pythagoras. The inquiry of wide and profound truth or meditations upon, intuitions of, and deduced or recognized principles of existence significantly pre-date early Greece and the pre-socratic philosophers.
Philosophical principles of ethical responsibility, moral virtue and the sacredness of all existence are the underpinning of ancient Hinduism. These principles birthed the largest faith base on the planet – then and now. Shamanic, tribal principles of equanimity and the precious whole-life quality of our planet have been with us for tens of thousands of years and are still vibrant in New Zealand. There human beings are not more important than the island they live upon. The philosophy of the entire nation is one of harmlessness and respect.
Those who are heralded as the links in the chain of Western philosophy are largely those who pondered individuality in the context of their time, culture and personal preferences. We witness that even though pre-socratic thinkers paved the way for Pythagoras, Socrates, and Plato, these three maintained the view of whole-ism as the larger frame. The needs and desires of the individual were ever part of and subordinate to the larger whole, thus societal well-being would not be at the expense of any one person, one part of nature or the social fabric. Aristotle began the inversion of western thought and with that the fostering of separatism.
We are now at the predictable extreme that these narrow and ever narrower ponderings could bring us. In the USA the philosophy of capitalism has made its population into consumers. The power of words not being acknowledged, consuming is exactly what has happened. Now every state (that’s 50 of them) has a population this is at least 20% obese. We are informed that consuming goods and products are the only way to save the obese debt of the nation and so people are told to buy what no one needs. The results of the excess are staggering: overflowing landfills, trash bins, shipments of our waste and tossed away items overseas or dumped into the ocean. Storage cubicles are rented for stuff we don’t have room for, don’t want, but don’t get rid off. Obesity in many forms and the USA shares its arterial clog with the world.
The philosophy of have what you want instantaneously has bred entitlement, as well as a choking inability to make choices and decisions, and a lack of recognition of inter-connectedness. Fresh strawberries in every grocery store in every town in every state of this nation requires an amazing amount of pesticides to grow them, petrol to ship them, and plastic to contain them. All are poisons to every person and aspect of our planet, but we want our strawberries and that’s only one example of the extreme of where we are philsophically.
Philo-sophia is one of the most exalted uses of the heart-mind that a person can participate in. And to live according to the deeper truths, universal in their benefit and compassionate at their core is to live a principled life, a caring life, a good life and a life that is of benefit to all.
*Inspired by Invocation of the Seventeen Great Learned Nalanda Scholars by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama
** replayed from Nov 2011