Good morning! Welcome to the DKos Sangha weekly open thread.
This is an open thread for members of the DKos Sangha and others who are interested in discussions concerning how we integrate our progressive political activism into our spiritual practice. If you have observations about the political discourse of the week, or about practice, or about anything else related to walking a spiritual path through the political world, if you wish to share, or if you seek support, or if you simply want to say hello, please do; this space is for you.
If you would like to host a weekly open thread, please let me know.
If you care nothing for spiritual practice and only wish to denigrate and disparage, please do so elsewhere, and respect that this is a community diary for the DKos Sangha.
In looking around for something to write about this morning, I came across an article written back in 2007 (during the Bush administration) by Ethan Nichtern titled The Dharma Is Always Political; a rather intriguing title. Nichtern's is an interesting approach to the issue of spiritual practice and political engagement. Nichtern is writing within a Buddhist context, but what he writes applies to spiritual paths broadly. The entire article is worth a read, but here are the lines that first really grabbed my attention ...
One could argue that the moral imperatives arising from the truth of interdependence - that nothing happens in a vacuum - will necessarily lead us as meditators to certain stances on social issues. One could argue that a growing awareness of oneself as part of a much larger network of sentiency would automatically lead to a deep concern about the climate crisis and lack of universal healthcare. One could argue that Buddhism’s unequivocal instructions on the destructiveness of violence would lead us to constantly challenge the ever-expanding military industrial complex and a heroin-like addiction to war without end. One could argue that the inner meditative work we do - consistently noticing our own internal biases - leads one to a particular perspective over racial, gender, and lifestyle biases in our economic and judicial systems. One could even directly quote Buddhist scripture, like the Kutadanta Sutta, in which a king is instructed that the solution to a crime epidemic in his country is not further incarceration, but a radical redistribution of wealth and opportunity. This piece of Buddhist scripture might lead one to be deeply disturbed by our prison-industrial complex, as well as the insanities of wealth inequality on Planet Earth. One could argue that these various insights and instructions knit together to form a political platform (Call us the "Interdependence" Party), and that we as meditators and citizens of representative democracy should choose representative leaders whose actions best embody this platform.Again, he's writing in 2007 during Bush's war for the oilfields in Iraq. Those lines got my attention, but here's his main point ...
It’s not enough to talk about compassion as care and nurturing for the suffering of other individual beings. For ours to be a meaningful discussion of compassion, we must discuss structural suffering caused by systems of collective karma, because the suffering of individuals can never be untangled from the system in which individuals participate. In democratic society, this examination of systems means we have an inescapable responsibility to participate politically, and therefore an inescapable responsibility to enter political discourse. If we aren’t willing to talk about our meditation practice as it connects to the systems we all co-create and live within, then what are we even talking about? Not much at all.One's spiritual practice, the experience of the interdependence of all things, the interconnectedness and co-arising of all things, leads to an inescapable responsibility to participate politically. His closing paragraph includes these lines ...
Beyond a participation in the formal political process or engagement in any particular issue, our meditation practice leads us to a much deeper and more pervasive definition of what it means to vote. As meditators, we become intimately and systematically aware of the link between our mental conditioning and the actions that bloom from our state of mind. We also become aware of the complex and subtle effects of those actions on ourselves and the collective communities in which we live.It's an interesting article, and an interesting approach to the questions that arise when considering how we integrate political engagement within our spiritual practice. Nichtern sees political engagement as an imperative that must arise as a result of the spiritual realization, the present-awareness experience, of the interconnectedness of all beings, and the selfless compassion that arises out of that realization.
The article has certainly given me much to think about, and I could write further on the thoughts that are arising in response to what I've read here. But I think these passages I've quoted are enough to leave you with for the moment; and are in themselves an interesting contribution to the work we do here on Daily Kos.
Enjoy your Sunday!