Knowing that we have this great potential, we naturally aspire to freedom. But freedom comes with responsibilities. Many people in the West are very proud to say: We live in a free world, we are free! whereas in fact – from my point of view – they are not. It is true that they are given permission to think, speak and act as they wish, but when such freedom is not supported by wisdom, human beings can behave worse than animals. Although human beings are unique and intelligent, when they lack wisdom, they often misuse their so-called freedom for the wrong purpose. They abuse their mind, their speech and their capacity to act. For me, giving such so-called freedom to people who don’t have the right knowledge and the right training is like giving sharp knives to children. What can a child do with a sharp knife? He will either hurt himself or hurt others. According to my view, such freedom doesn’t really mean too much. You are legally empowered to be free, but within yourself, you are not free at all.
Most people want to be free but don’t want to take responsibilities. But freedom is inseparable from responsibility! If I have the freedom to think, it is my responsibility to think positively. If I have the freedom to speak, it is my responsibility to speak properly and meaningfully. If I have the freedom to act, it is my responsibility to act correctly. Nobody else can take that decision for me. If every human being could feel responsible in that way, the world would be a better place. But most of us do not take any responsibility for what we say, think and do. We always find excuses for ourselves and put the blame on others or on circumstances. It is, of course, easier to blame others but, according to the Buddha’s teachings, this will not work, we are at least as responsible as the person we blame.
In Buddhism, we talk about karma. Some people do not want to hear that word and say they do not believe in karma. But instead of calling it karma, we can just call it cause and effect and the meaning becomes very simple. If I punch somebody, he will punch me back. If I say bad things about other people, they will say bad things about me. Everything we think, everything we say, everything we do, has consequences. It means we know that whatever we do will produce effects that we will experience. It is like cultivating a field. If we plant pure seeds, we will have a pure crop, but if we sow weeds, we will produce weeds, not a pure crop. We can only clean a field by going into it and picking up the weeds one by one. We can only weed out our mind by meditating and facing our negative emotions, no matter how painful the process may be.
When I look at what is happening these days throughout the world, I wonder how people can ever trust and believe someone else when they don’t even trust themselves, when they don’t even know what’s going on in their own minds? They don’t know themselves well enough. Many people who are mentally not doing very well the only talk about their problems and pains, but the minute they get proper help and feel better, they are afraid. Even when they could experience some happiness, they reject it because they think they do not deserve it. Their ego pushes them in the wrong direction. If one really thinks one doesn’t deserve happiness, why then worry so much about what happens, why complain and why not allow oneself some happiness? Some people are completely wrapped up in pain and suffering, but actually, they don’t want to let go of that pain. They identify with the suffering. Most people are afraid of introspection because they feel they have so much unwanted information in their heads, so much unhappiness, that they don’t want to deal with it.
In this way, people project everything onto others and never accept anything as their own responsibility. They always find ways and means to put the blame on everybody else. But practicing Buddhism means taking responsibility for ourselves, which means we cannot blame someone else. And if we follow the Buddhist path for a while, we may come to see that there isn’t even any me in the first place to experience such a pain. We solidify the I, and this I then comes with pleasure and pain. How can we blame others if there is no me? It is me, this big ego, who are making judgments. Other people are like mirrors. If we have no mirror, how can we see our reflection? We cannot put the blame on others or on circumstances and take no responsibility for ourselves. This is very easy to understand and it helps us to see the necessity of practice and meditation, of learning to think, speak and act positively and meaningfully, of developing our potential properly. Otherwise, we become a crazy and harmful race.
Looking back in history, Buddha, Christ, and all the great teachers recognized their potential and used it. They took full responsibility for perfecting their potential and now, 2500 years later, we are still benefiting from their taking this responsibility. Other human beings had exactly the same potential but used it the wrong way. It has recently caused two World Wars, cost millions of lives and brought misery to many more. We can clearly see the difference. The formerly brought benefit, happiness and everlasting knowledge to their fellow human beings. The latter, misguided, ignorant and lacking wisdom, used their potential to destroy life and we don’t even want to remember their names. In order to take full responsibility for our actions, our speech and our thoughts, it is essential to see that it’s time for all of us to tame and train our body, speech, and mind.