Monday, December 22, 2014

Work: Life in Hell (cartoon)

Ashley Wells, Dhr. Seven, Seth Auberon, Wisdom Quarterly; Matt Groening (
Before fame found creative genius Matt Groening -- creator of "Life in Hell" and "The Simpsons" -- he had to work a 9-to-5 grind job, whittling away the better part of his life to fulfill obligations, cultivate addictions, and be as submissive as a consumer capitalist society demands one to be while kowtowing to the vision of there being no alternative.

Special Xmas episode with the Dalai Lama
We have to live like this. Everyone lives like this. And everyone has always lived like this. There's no other way. So drink, worry, and obey. But a subversive element sometimes gets through on a large scale. "The Simpsons" were that. On a much smaller scale was the delightful "Life in Hell," thrilling audiences in cosmopolitan markets with large free press publications like the LA Weekly, the Reader, and other grand alternatives elsewhere.

What do people want? More particularly, what do workers want? The Buddha once answered that framed in ancient Indus Valley Civilization and subsequently Indian Vedic terms: There are four kinds of people (social categories), and they aspire to different things. Not so paradoxically The goal of the worker is to be done with work.

Social and Economic Aspects
R. Bogoda Buddhist Publication Society (via edited by Wisdom Quarterly
The Buddha was a rebel. He rebelled against the way of thought and the way of life of his age.
To the philosophical concept of life as dynamic change (impermanence) -- of there being no being (no ego) but only constant becoming, no thinker but thinking, no doer but doing and the accruing of impersonal karma -- he added its social equivalent: the doctrine of social fluidity and equality based on nobility of conduct. He famously stated:

"Not by birth is one an outcast
Not by birth is one a Brahmin.
By deeds is one an outcast,
By deeds is one a Brahmin.

"A birth no Brahmin nor any non-Brahmin makes;
It is life and doing that mold the Brahmin state.
Lives mold farmers, traders, merchants, serfs;
Mold robbers, soldiers, counsellors, rulers. 
What matters then is not the womb from which one came into the world nor the societal class (economic caste) into which one was born but the moral quality of one's actions.

As a tree is judged by its fruit, so shall a person be judged by deeds -- choices, motives, thoughts, words, and other actions, that is, by one's karma.
In this way, the doors of the deathless and of the unconditioned freedom beyond beyond (nirvana), and of social freedom here on Earth, were thrown open to all, regardless of caste, color, or class.

In the Buddha's teaching all humans and devas unite, lose identity, even as do the waters of rivers that flow into the sea. No caste, class, or race privileges existed among his lay followers or in the Monastic Order he founded -- a fitting complement to the unique doctrine of no-self (anatta).
For the Buddha, all people are one in that they belong to one plane of existence. Social classes and castes are nothing but functional or occupational groupings, neither fixed nor inevitable. They are artificial divisions of society, human-made, subject to change, and resulting from social and historical factors.

Any social doctrine based on the alleged superiority of any caste, class, or race, and advocating to keep it dominant by the use of force, must necessarily lead to the perpetuation of social tensions and conflict. It will never bring about harmony, egalitarian or fraternal relations.

The Buddha's doctrine of equality does not, however, imply that all people are alike physically or mentally. (Or even socially, where the differences are attributed to karma of the past and present; karma does not mean they are fair or inevitable but gives the hope that they are changeable and not emerging by chance). That would be identity. It does mean that each one should be treated equally with human dignity and given an equal chance to develop the faculties latent in each, as all are capable of progress in virtue and spirituality, of human perfection, in view of the common capacity and capability of humanity.

The Buddha's teaching of a classless society requires the progressive refinement of human nature, as shown by our actions, and the development of our character.
The Buddha was not only the first thinker in known history to teach the doctrine of human equality, but he was also the first humanist who attempted to abolish slavery. This included the trafficking and sale of females for commercial purposes. In fact, this is a prohibited trade (and may well include pimping and prostitution) for his followers.
The character of a society depends on the beliefs and practices of its people as well as on its economy. An economic system based on Buddhist ethics and principles, therefore, is an alternative. The true nature of humans is that we are not only thinking and feeling creatures but also one who strives with higher aspirations and ideals.

If we are aggressive and destructive, we are also cooperative and creative. We are forever making not only things but ourselves as well. The making and remaking of oneself by perfecting the art of living is the noblest of all creative aspirations, yielding the highest happiness and satisfaction in life. More 

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