What are the roots of all this madness, not only in Iraq, but also in Congo, Afghanistan, in China, Korea, and all over the world? What is the reason for constantly harming our beautiful planet and ourselves?
The root cause of all suffering is ignorance. Ignorance gives rise to fear, greed, and aggression in the human psyche. All the horrors we see in the world today stem from ignorance giving rise to selfishness, which appears as fear, greed, and aggression.
Ignorance is ignoring the truth of the situation. When things are ignored they tend to run sub-consciously, or just below the surface.
Let us examine what is being ignored. The human animal is anatomically a flesh-eating primate. As with many primates at the top of the feeding chain there is a deep-seated drive for territoriality as a survival mechanism. Aggression and dominance are successful survival strategies for many species at a certain stage of evolution. We see some species where the male marks its territory by urinating on it. Unfortunately, the homo sapien at this stage is not acting that differently.
As long as mankind has not evolved to the next stage, we will act out our animal drives, often under the subterfuge of noble ideas. All animals are driven by the biological imperative to perpetuate the DNA. Survival of the individual is only useful as long as it furthers the gene pool. Family relationships, love relationships, work relationships, feelings of nationalism and patriotism are all running in ignorance, supporting the survival of the DNA. In the distant past, survival demanded aggression, violence, and living in groups for protection from danger. Predatory behavior and banding together in larger and larger units for territorial survival was an important survival strategy for the human family. Our deep-seated biological wiring has not yet received the signal that what was once functional is now dangerously dysfunctional.
If we look at our closest relatives we see that each band of primates is ruled by a dominant male. The silver-backed gorilla in human form is the chief warlord, the head of the mafia family and the tyrant of nations.
As an ape, the alpha male gets to breed with a larger number of the females, increasing the survival of his genes; he gets the best food and first place in line. In return he is the chief protector of the band. In many countries where the rule of law is not operative, such as in North Korea, the warlords of Afghanistan, and many tribal cultures like Serbia and Iraq, we find societies ruled by the cult of the silver back.
At a relatively recent stage in human evolution the divine imperative broke through. In making sense of our world we gave divine attributes to the weather and forces beyond our control. We tried to control these elements through worship and supplication. For bettering the odds of survival we made blood sacrifices for the pacification of the gods.
Eventually it became clear that if you believed there was a god looking out for you and that if you died he took care of you in the afterlife, you would be a better fighter for the tribe than those heathens who had no god. When this filtered through the gene pool, pretty soon everyone had a god, thus eliminating the survival advantage of having one. Until the ancient Hebrews trumped the world by declaring that there is only ONE God and the Hebrew tribes are his chosen people! Thus started another round of escalation in the survival wars of primates until most of the world claimed that there is only one God and he protects us against them.
It is amazing that in our time most of the world still believes in the primitive view of God as an entity somewhere that is on their side and cares about the outcome of battles. This fundamentalist view of religious cults, whether Jewish, Christian, or Muslim, obviously is the cause of great suffering.
In the present context, fundamentalist terrorists have taken over the government of the Untied States. They fervently believe that God is on their side, as George Bush called for a new crusade after the tragedy of September 11th. They believe that they are the good fighting evil. Just as the fundamentalist terrorists and mad dictators that they oppose are certain that God is on their side.
The ego, which is selfish, greedy, needy, fearful, and aggressive, justifies itself with religious conviction, thus sealing itself off from honest self-examination. Every leader of every war and every environmental degradation is certain that they are right. This is the disease of the human family
What is our part in this, and what are our possibilities?
Since in truth there is only one mind, we are all guilty of the sin of human ignorance. We all share the burden of being born into a world of ignorance and suffering. To open our eyes and our hearts to feel the horror of what we as humans have done seems so overwhelming that most would rather live with their eyes shut.
But each one of us has a great responsibility and a great opportunity. We, each and every human, have the same mind and the same heart as the Buddha, as Christ, as all the saints and enlightened beings that have appeared in this life stream of the human family.
The only way that I can see for the madness to end is for each of us to refuse to participate. In the deepest sense, this means to face the horror inside of each of us. Each of us needs to experience the ignorance, to find the place of fundamentalist certainty, fear, aggression, and animal territoriality and to discover what is deeper. What is deeper is the next stage in the evolution of the human. It is the transcendental realization that you are not limited to human animalness. I do not mean merely to understand this, or to believe this, or to figure this out, but to directly realize it for yourself. This requires the willingness to turn your back on your personal identity as a male or female human animal. It seems like death, and you must be willing to face death, to lose everything that you thought you were. In your willingness to go beyond personal identity, the human takes an evolutionary leap.
When you know who you are, you are not trapped in the identity as a limited entity that can be coerced by the ideas of religion, state, family, or friends. You stand alone, and paradoxically discover that you are one with everything. In this you do no harm. You are the living possibility for all humans. Your awakening is the redemption of all that came before.