A process of personal and social responsibility
In today's modern world there is a continuous argument going on about what it means or what is to be healthy and what constitutes a healthy lifestyle.
For the sake of this argument, health is the absence of suffering which includes the absence of disease and social disharmony. In other words, the bodies and minds of every individual in society need to be healthy and able to function as they were designed.
Unfortunately we are living in an age where suffering is rampant and ignorance rules. The idea of democracy was that we would all become sufficiently enlightened to a happy, healthy and peaceful world. Unfortunately that has not happened because the population has been too poorly educated to make sound value judgements which has resulted in a corruption of the political process.
Many believe that this corruption and misery being heaped on the world is unresolvable and it doesn't take much to realise that this round of human civilisation is unlikely to last another hundred years and those who survive will return to a subsistence living as peasant farmers.
As an individual, it is not possible to change the world. But as an individual you have the capacity to become more awake to life and more responsible for your own actions. You can look at the evidence that says that a vegetarian diet is better suited for the human body and heat accordingly.
As an individual, you can look at the world and no it's not right and why you cannot change the world, you can change yourself so that you remain less influenced by what is going on around you. In other words you take care of your mental health and take on the stance towards life that it is not going to destroy you.
Individualism requires a degree of isolation and if you have the wealth or resourcefulness, you can live in magnificent isolation and be completely happy. There are also some individuals who through the practice of meditation and spiritual discipline are able to retain their sensibility amid the chaos of modern life.
The Buddha famously taught that ignorance is the cause of all suffering yet what is less known is that there are perhaps tens of thousands of men and women who have achieved Buddhahood or complete liberation from suffering over the course of the evolution of our civilisation.
What are the criteria for a healthy lifestyle?
- It is necessary to develop a sense of self existing in a symbiotic relationship with all of life.
- It is necessary to create social harmony.
- It is necessary to produce or procure adequate nutrition.
- It is necessary to have a clear reason for being.
Just think for a moment, this human body that you have has many aspects which are governed by the sympathetic nervous system and that all the cells in your body are in communication with each other. Yet unless something is seriously wrong, we rarely have any perception of what's going on inside our bodies.
We are social beings and without social harmony we must exist in relative isolation from other people. But if we can develop an appreciation for life, then other people become less important. But just shutting oneself away often creates other miseries and is not a solution.
Our bodies and minds need food or nutrition in order to function, but if that food is going to be nutritious we must take some responsibility as to the nature of the food we eat. In fact diet is one of our most serious problems because much of our food is produced with the help of massive amounts of toxic chemicals which are responsible for a great deal of suffering in the world today. Therefore, if we are going to be healthy, we need to eat chemical free foods.
In relation to the planets and many other life forms, our life span is relatively short. The main thrust of modern civilisation is pushing people to believe that they need to acquire stuff and find happiness outside of themselves. Unfortunately this happiness is short lived and completely illusory.
So, what to do?
Let's take Lisa as an example, as a teenager like her brother Terry, she is still at school acquiring the knowledge to get a job in an unstable marketplace that may or may not exist by the time she leaves school. There are social pressures from all directions: her mother wants her to get married and have kids what her father thinks that she would be better off finishing school and making a career. Her friends at school and to know her opinion on everything but also expect her to behave according to their rules.
Back then in 1995, Lisa realised that she had many choices, one of the ideals of democratic civilisation. If she pursued a career, she would be working in industrial machine that is destroying the planet that we require for life. If she bent to her mother's wil and her boyfriends demands, she would likely end up in a similar place as her mother whose lifestyle she despised.
So stop for a moment and look at this modern civilisation. Currently we have near to 7 billion people on this planet living with a level of technological comfort that has never been seen on this planet at any other time. Yet within another 30 years our population will be 9 billion. Can you imagine what that might be like? Our planet is already running out of resources to feed everyone and maintain our technology. In another 30 years we will all have to learn to live with 30% less of everything including the oxygen we breathe.
Human civilisation and its current shape is completely unsustainable and unless something drastic happens it must crash and die. Many scientists are actually saying that we are entering into another age of mass extinction, but the worst affected will be human beings.
A great many ideas have been proposed to return civilisation to a sustainable existence and lifestyle, but unfortunately the people who run the world are not interested. The powers that be seem intent on driving us into extinction and therefore our elected officials and those in power cannot be relied on.
However there are systems in place and we all have certain rights and freedoms. We are all free to sit down and meditate, and it is through meditation that we can touch more deeply into the nature of life.
Coming back to Lisa. Like so many young people distraught by the pressure of life she found a temporary escape through smoking pot and having sex, but she was frustrated that even that was only a temporary relief for her suffering and the world seemed a very daunting place.
In the community and people were committing suicide and they weren't the only ones. Others were taking to crime and looking for gratification anyway they could which somehow seemed so opposed to life, but then realised that the whole thrust of civilisation was antilife and what could she do?
Like so many others before her, she finished her school term and went on holiday with some friends. Even on holiday she felt like she was being exploited, but getting stoned offered a temporary relief. She was amazed one day to see some people charting Hare Krishna in the street and that they seemed to be genuinely happy.
That tweaked her curiosity and over the following year she met more people who talked about love and freedom as an alternative to a life of slavery. She went to a few yoga classes and learned how to meditate, she explored concepts like organic farming and permaculture that gave her a little hope that the world wasn't completely lost.
The family became concerned at the change in her behaviour and her declining interest in the national culture. Lisa developed a new circle of acquaintances, she heard stories about India as being home to the world's first civilisation from where all language, maths and sciences began.
At the end of the school year and she had turned 18, Lisa made her first trip to India which completely blew her mind. She checked out quite a few gurus, some just wanted to take her to bed but others helped her to expand her mind. Although she had only intended to stay for three weeks, it was over a year before she returned home.
Her parents were angry and confused, friends were curious. Lisa wasn't quite sure what she was going to do, but she took a job and saved every cent that she could with the idea of buying a property. She maintained her peace of mind through doing yoga and meditation and she began to gather a circle of friends and acquaintances who shared some of her ideas.
She came to realise that her biggest problem was the economics of living, even after saving for two years there was no way she could buy any property, society required that she work for another five years for a deposit and then sign her life away with a 30 year mortgage.
One day by chance she read an obscure article on forming companies and cooperatives. She realised the only way to own land and property was to gather together people of like minds who could pool their financial resources and worked toward a shared dream.
In fact there are thousands of cooperatives the world over where people have come together to create sustainable lifestyles based on natural farming and the appreciation of life. Some of these communities exist in urban areas where members of the group are able to buy homes near to each other to create urban communities.
It's a strange twist of fate that as India is being torn apart by its own internal politics as well as external pressures, the Hindu lifestyle is taking root and flourishing all around the world.