This week’s blog was written by Gareth Conlon. Gareth has been involved with Development Perspectives since 2008. Gareth has a Masters degree in Development from Kimmage Development Studies Centre and is a practicing Buddhist.
Craving is a human condition. In today’s world our craving is encouraged countless times a day. This is done through advertisements for products, or through newspapers and magazines for a particular body image. We are made to believe that happiness comes from money or a certain type of success, in business, being rich or becoming a celebrity.
Modernisation theory is often assumed to be the only type development, that if a country should modernise like the West, in a capitalist way – It will be “developed”. Countries that don’t expand in this way, are considered to be only “developing” or “undeveloped”. The way western countries have developed however is completely unsustainable. It has created issues such as climate change, growing inequality, massive mental health issues and high suicide rates.
The Buddha said 2,500 years ago that we create our own suffering through craving. In many ways our current way of developing promotes this craving. This leads to all and more of the issues above and very little satisfaction. So essentially we have created and bought into a situation or a system that is compromising the health of the planet, eradicating species, creating massive gaps between the rich and the poor, creating a situation were depression and anxiety are ripe and with all our modernisation, happiness still eludes us.
The Buddha also said that happiness can only really come from within. He showed a path on how to achieve this. In schools we teach our children subjects that will help them get a job and serve the economy but not subjects that help them figure out how to be happy in the world. I am reminded of a quote by John Lennon “When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.”. Surely the economy should serve the people and not the people serve the economy, which is the current situation. If everybody were a Buddhist then climate change wouldn’t be happening.
We do everything because we want to be happy but we need to figure out what it is that brings us happiness because our current Western view clearly doesn’t work.