Trump and Buddhism.
Are Buddhist Teachers too nice for Politics?
I do love Buddhist meditation teachers. Honestly.
I fully support the wonderful work they do for the welfare of people. Buddhist teachers work tirelessly to dissolve their suffering and develop clarity of heart and mind for those who attend their programmes.
They offer retreats, workshops, classes, public talks and meet with individuals. Some write books, essays and articles on aspects of the teachings and Dharma practices. The teachers worldwide give their love, time and energy in a diversity of environments.
People love the practical steps for inner change, the spiritual sensitivities in Dharma teachings and the pointer to deep realisations.
The teachings and practices in meditation, mindfulness and loving kindness have entered clinics, hospitals, prisons, schools and businesses. It is just the beginning. Millions have wet their toes in the Dharma in recent years and a small number slowly move towards the deep end of the Dharma ocean.
Millions daily worldwide google such words as ‘Buddha,’ ‘insight meditation,’ ‘Dharma,’ ‘mindfulness,’ ‘Vipassana, ’Zen,’ ‘meditation,’ ‘Theravada Buddhism,’ ‘Buddhist retreats,’ and ‘Buddhist practices’ every month. Between 50,000 – 100,000 in the UK google the word ‘mindfulness’ every month.
The Buddha’s teachings on non-violence, ethics, enquiry, mindfulness, meditation, compassion, wisdom, awakening and liberation have much street credibility. Many appreciate the religious aspects of Buddhism with its monasteries, chanting and devotion. While others appreciate the strictly secular approach without intimations from a religious perspective.
Some of us endeavour to find a middle way between religious and secular Buddhism embracing the best of both perspectives while endorsing a deep sense of spiritual awareness and offering teachings directly on wisdom, emptiness and liberation.
The clear majority of Buddhist teachers that I know show no interest to convert people to Buddhism. Out of the body of the teachings, the Sangha of practitioners find their way into the Dharma of liberation with the freedom to explore other approaches, traditional and contemporary, from yoga to psychotherapy.
Waking up and liberation matter far more to many teachers than persuading their practitioners to take up a new identity as a ‘Buddhist.’ Practitioners can feel free to view themselves as ‘Buddhists’ or not.
Here comes the ‘But….’
I know quite a lot of Buddhist teachers. They might be a bit upset with me about this blog. It will be a temporary feeling. They are a genuinely very forgiving.
Yes, the teachers share differences on the teachings about the path and goal and other issues from diet to belief or not in rebirth. Dharma students need to question their teachers on a whole range of issues. These questions can encourage us, the teachers, to examine our assumptions, beliefs and views. We can develop them further or change them.
I had concerns after reading a question by Lion’s Roar to Buddhist (Dharma) teachers this month (November 2016). Lion’s Roar is an online US publication which asked Buddhist teachers in the USA their responses to the election of Donald Trump. Eminent teachers offered their views including Adyashanti on his website. The word ‘anaemic’ came to mind from one person in an online comment on one teacher’s response.
I do apologise but it seemed to me that Buddhist teachers should stick to teaching meditation and consider keeping their nose out of their dirty trough of politics. One must be emotionally and mentally suited to offer a vigorous and non-violent critique of politicians.
Generally, Buddhist teachers are far too nice to engage directly in the world of politics. Far too many teachers seem rather cut off from the reality of political engagement. Some contributions about Trump left me shaking my head. Woolly, vague and saccharin.
I cannot imagine that activists working daily to challenge the status quo of the US political/corporate/military complex will get much inspiration from many Buddhist leaders.
Donald Trump and those who he appoints would benefit immensely from a weeklong retreat with any of these teachers. Dream on, Christopher.
Buddhist teachers can also offer far too much in the vein of romantic idealism, such as self-compassion, kindness to others and positive views about the future.
Readers can state that I took sentences out of context in the short reflections of Dharma teachers of varying traditions in their response to the Trump election. Surely, we could not disagree with any of the sentiments various teachers expressed but I am not sure of the relevance of such sweet platitudes to the disunited state of America.
Perhaps Buddhist teachers should stick to their day job of offering teachings and practices on ethics, mindfulness/meditation/kindness/insights for individuals and groups.
Here are some quotes from Dharma teachers on the Trump election.
“I feel this is the time when we who seek to be more conscious, loving and wise to see how deep our wisdom and love really are.”
“The most important thing is our love for each other”
“Bodhisattvas play the long game. They have confidence in the power of goodness over time.”
“Please remember it is OK to feel exactly what you feel.”
“Take time to slow down and care for yourself.”
“We met the enemy and he is us. We met the friend and he is us. That is the secret that will win the ultimate victory.”
The Buddha directly challenged the attitudes and power of the authorities, rulers and kings.
He questioned the power and beliefs of the Brahmins, who claimed they were born from Brahma (God). He challenged the caste system, animal sacrifice, pursuit of wealth, attachment to views, wars, violence and corruption.
Contemporary Dharma teachers could draw inspiration from our primary teacher, the Buddha, who pressed for radical change, personal, social and political.
The Buddha’s teachings and capitalism/nationalism remain incompatible.
The vast majority of Democrats and Republicans are not fit for purpose.
We must find ways quickly to end Trump’s occupation of the White House.