"The emotions generated from writing on hard, sad topics are real and need tending to. I have multiple strategies for addressing them—stepping away from the computer, reaching out to friends and family, going for a run, focusing on positive things, reading poetry, finding music that feels right in the moment, turning to a ritual such as making a pot of homemade chai, reminding myself that what I feel is but a tiny fraction of the pain felt by the person who experienced it firsthand."
Carole McGranahan, "Writing About Bad, Sad, Hard Things"
What's a Buddha to do but cry? Is it any wonder that most religions offer consolation only in the afterlife?
Buddhism, like Christianity, is an otherworldly religion which promises salvation or enlightenment in the afterlife. This can have the effect of encouraging adherents to devalue this particular life that we are living while working towards their reward after death. The ethical principles that each religion promotes may be beneficial to other humans now, but the real test of their worth comes later. That Buddhism teaches rebirth and Christianity does not, is only a stylistic difference.
Buddhists are undoubtedly moved by the contemporary world of hurt described in the first paragraph. This arises from compassion for the suffering of others that a recognition of our own suffering can bring. Sickness and death are shared by all. The development of Engaged Buddhism, a this-worldly movement started by the Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hahn and Sulak Siviraksa, seeks to help others through Right Action in the world today. But Buddhism as a whole finds it difficult to avoid the charge of escapism. This life, and often this body, is considered an impediment to true knowledge, never to be valued in and for itself.
I went to the memorial service this week for an American who died of natural causes at the age of 39, leaving his elderly mother alone in Bangkok. We remembered the good things about his life. Later, his mother confided in me that she had to pay bribes in order to have him buried, and some of the money went to a church. This is suffering. I have no solution for it, but I would not counsel the mother to await her reward in heaven, or in a better rebirth.