‘Since no single philosophy, religion, or culture has a monopoly on wisdom and truth, it will be incumbent on all participants to join together… Pooling the world’s cultural resources and wisdom and working through them towards higher ideals, we commit ourselves to the practice of learning what we can from wherever we can – globally – and putting this learning to use on behalf of everyone. The renewed, regenerated ideals that would arise from this effort and become obvious to new generations born onto this planet will each embody in some way this profound sense of world unity.
Success in this global venture is far from inevitable, however. Our human historical record is uneven at best. Indeed, success in this effort will call on us to practice generosity, morality, tolerance, energy, mindfulness, and wisdom beyond the extent ever demonstrated in any previous culture. It will call on top rise to levels of maturity and wisdom previously imagined but never actualized in practice. But since pulling back to conserve the past or the present is clearly the path of global failure, we must accept the challenge of change and rise to this occasion by taking responsibility for the emergence of ethical ideals suitable for our unprecedented moment in history. As far as I can see, only a well-grounded, critically honed effort to renew human ideals will put us in a position to actualize the very real possibilities for global enlightenment already there, visible on our horizons.’ (The Six Perfections)
These closing paragraphs to this wonderful book are incredibly stirring, especially when read aloud, as we did recently in my student group. At the same time, as he acknowledges, and we acknowledged, and as I discussed with another student recently, human beings have a pretty poor track record in terms of wisdom, perhaps excelling only at short-termism and unintended consequences. Nevertheless, as I like to reiterate, it is only a hundred or so years since the West was really exposed to Buddhism and its way of thinking, so there is a chance that good things will happen as it starts to spread more widely. That remains one of my sole remaining points of optimism these days.