Dear Rev. Asahi,
Your criticism that the “lost utopia,” to which I alluded in Leaf 38 of the ORGAN, would never have been anything more than a materialist paradise is absolutely correct. In the dismal science of economics, it is taught that “Man’s desires are unlimited.” Every millionaire aspires to become a multi-millionaire; every multi-millionaire strives to become a billionaire. Ergo, following the path of materialism, “utopia” can never be realized.
But my little story was meant only to argue that a world at peace is preferable to a world at war. For everyone who has actually experienced war, this is obvious. It seems, in some ways, unfortunate that relatively few Westerners today have any first-hand knowledge of warfare. The media and government have substantially “shielded” us from the sight, not only of our own war dead, but even that of the countless civilians – men, women, and children – our forces have slaughtered in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Pakistan. Consequently, the overwhelming majority of Americans appear so absorbed with their own difficulties (e.g., job loss, homelessness, poverty, and hunger) as to be indifferent to the far greater suffering which the so-called “military-industrial complex” has imposed on foreign “rag-heads.”
During the Second World War, America’s media and government frequently reminded the “home front” of the glittering utopia which lay ahead in the post-war world, purged of “Japs” and “Nazis.” The fact is that Americans are intensely materialistic. Consequently, I sought to remind them that tax dollars spent on health care, education, housing, and infrastructure tend to benefit more people than tax dollars spent on nuclear weapons, missiles, warplanes, submarines, etc.
No doubt, Buddhism can be taught as well in war as during peace time. But I wonder how many Western Dharma students may possess so little aptitude for the subject as to have scant likelihood of attaining enlightenment outside the Pure Land? America is (I believe), a materialist culture to its very core. Thus, Americans may never completely abandon their search for utopia, even though it be called Sukhavati or Shambha-La. Which is to say, perhaps it might prove beneficial to appeal to people at their own level