Conclusion: Living in Challenging Times
The Buddha’s narrative and teaching have been transmitted across many cultures over the centuries and are always – in effect – in translation. The generic idea of the ‘buddha’ incorporates awakening and teaching for a given time or era. In our own times, our conditions of life are giving rise to a sense of exhaustion that is both external (in terms of ecological stress, pollution, and our alienation from nature) and internal (in terms of the ‘social recession’ or pathologies associated with inequality and the colonization of the life world by commercial and neoliberal logic). Out of this exhaustion – compounded by the onslaught of corporate-sponsored demands on our attention, there is a palpable demand for new forms of intimacy: The Sanskrit word for yoga is ‘intimacy’. Yoga and mindfulness can be described as practices of intimacy, practices of becoming more intimately connected with our moment to moment physical experience, a radical act of paying attention.
For the Buddhist, living simply is simply living out a radical form of non-violence, a radical act of taking responsibility, for the moment-to-moment arising of all conditions, or worlding. Caring for the self and caring for the world go hand in hand because, for the Buddhist practitioner, the quality and compassionate content of relationships (including our relations with the ‘self’, ‘others’, and the ‘world’) are always prior to the conditions and ‘things’ to which they give rise. Simple living can be an act of radical responsibility.