Every once in a while I like to sit and reflect on Man’s cruelty to not only other organisms and animals but to their own species. Not because I am masochist or that I enjoy the idea, but rather it is because it is important not to turn your eyes away from the ugly things which is part of our make up. If we look at only beauty we will only have a distorted view of the world.
Today is the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade. While this day is to reflect on the past we should remember that slavery still exists today. Once in a while you read a story about women sold or kidnapped into prostitution, or the slave labour in sweats shops in a developing country. Add this all up and you have a lot of people.
Fear is always the basis of slavery, or the control of others. We’d rather be on this side rather than that side of the fence. But why can we not be on the same side, the good side, of the fence? If you are a pessimistic Buddhist (which I am NOT) then all Man are slaves, are already on the bad side of the fence. Pessimists (Buddhist or not) will tell that we are enslaved by being not enlightened, etcetera etcetera. That is wrong thinking. It is not even Buddhist thinking.
The point of The Buddha’s teaching is to seek freedom from any kind of slavery, physical or mental. Stress is placed on mental because there is a limitation to the physical from which there is no freedom from. To accept this is the first step to true understanding of our nature.
This is why meditation plays such an important role in his teaching. Not only is meditation physical training but also a mental one. Training here means understanding the nature of your body and mind and therefore being in more control of your faculties.
If one understands and has control of her or his faculties then they will also understand the nature (of the cruelty and problems) of the past, present and future. They will understand that the slavery of other people is finally the slavery of the master to the system. It is one which is difficult to escape from but one from which we must try to free ourselves. That kind of thinking or fear – to want to enslave other people – is in reality the Slavery of Man