The End of the World
Americans in general, and Christians in particular, appear to have an extraordinary interest in predictions about the end of the world. Some fundamentalist, or evangelical, Christians seem actually to anticipate what they term the “end times” with some degree of enthusiasm. Presumably, this attitude stems from the expectation they will be “raptured” to paradise before the adherents of other religions, agnostics, and atheists are consigned for all eternity to the Pit.
Everything changes; everything passes away. Astronomers think that earth will end when the sun exhausts all its helium and expands into the orbits of the inner planets, or that it will end when the approaching Andromeda galaxy collides with our own Milky Way. Indeed, astrophysicists believe the universe itself is dying.
Parenthetically, Hindu scripture speaks of Shiva destroying the universe at the end of every time cycle, measured in “myriads of kotis of kalpas” — an inconceivable length of time — and of Brahma repeatedly creating new universes. This cyclical understanding of time is reiterated in Vajrayana Buddhism’s Kalachakra Tantra.
But, few are they who are troubled by events which may (or may not) occur millions or even billions of years in the future. Of far greater concern to most is the prospect of a Third World War in this very century. U.S. demonization of every nation reluctant to surrender its independence to Washington’s nightmare vision of a New World Order is the more troubling as the economy begins to crumble. Those who know history understand that politicians under severe stress sometimes commit the most appalling errors of judgment, and that there are many devious roads to war.
The world situation is deeply disturbing, but not yet without hope that we may find the narrow, overgrown path which leads to peace. For, the earliest Buddhist scriptures tell of another Buddha called Metteyya (The Benevolent One) in the original Pali — Maitreya in Sanskrit, or Miroku in Japanese — who, according to some calculations, will come 4,500 years after Sakyamuni’s parinirvana, i.e., about 4015 C.E. [Other sources give 30,000 or 5.67 billion years in the future as the time of Miroku’s birth.]
Clearly, we have at least two millennia to complete the Ten Perfections. In far less time than that, the war-mongers in Tel Aviv and Washington will have gone to their meagre rewards. But, whatever happens in causality, it is imperative to remember that — in the Mahayana tradition — individual liberation is impossible. This means that there is no end to samsara until even the monsters among us are liberated.
Toshiyori Hodo san.