“Samvega was what the young Prince Siddhartha felt on his first exposure to aging, illness, and death. It’s a hard word to translate because it covers such a complex range — at least three clusters of feelings at once: the oppressive sense of shock, dismay, and alienation that come with realizing the futility and meaninglessness of life as it’s normally lived; a chastening sense of our own complacency and foolishness in having let ourselves live so blindly; and an anxious sense of urgency in trying to find a way out of the meaningless cycle….In fact, early Buddhism is not only confident that it can handle feelings of samvega but it’s also one of the few religions that actively cultivates them to a radical extent. Its solution to the problems of life demand so much dedicated effort that only strong samvega will keep the practicing Buddhist from slipping back into his or her old ways.” Affirming the Truths of the Heart, The Buddhist Teachings on Samvega & Pasada, by Thanissaro Bhikkhu, on Access to Insight website http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/affirming.html
Part of what I appreciate about Buddhism is its honesty about just how we’ve been living our lives. Samvega says, “I’ve been doing what with my life? I’ve spent how many years on this stupid treadmill at work in the hopes of getting a promotion, all so I could do what exactly? What am I doing with my life? How is this helping to prevent the suffering of anyone at all?”
As a Christian, I found an alarming amount of complacency. It was as if, once you found Jesus, everything was fine and nothing more needed to be tended to because you had already achieved the number one goal of life: becoming a Christian. That kind of complacency is death to emotional, social, and intellectual growth. I’ve seen it most of my life and still see it in Christians I meet. Their days of intellectual inquiry are over. I have left such folks in the dust.
Never stop making the effort. Examine your life. Take nothing based on someone else’s word. Do something to make your corner of the world better, whether others understand or care or not. Never stop growing. So much needs to be done and so few people are awake enough to even realize it.