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What, from the Buddhist perspective, is wrong with Republicans? Can we help them? What are they doing wrong, and what motivates them to do so? And what should we be doing in response? It is not enough to be anti-Republican. It is not enough to hold Democratic, or Liberal, or Progressive views on the issues. What should we do if we are Buddhists and Progressives?

I trust that you will agree with me, as Kossacks whether or not you are Buddhists, that we should do something, and then we can discuss how much and what.

This is the start of a series on Buddhism in politics, economics, and so forth. In the Noble Eightfold Path, Right Action connects with Right Thought, Right Livelihood, and the rest in a virtuous circle that includes Right Understanding, commonly called Enlightenment, in which one discards selfishness. Right Action is in general that which reduces suffering in the world, with emphasis on one's own suffering first. Without that, you cannot even begin to understand the sufferings of others and the actions needed. If you understand in part, then you are undoubtedly doing something right. If you do not understand completely, then there is clearly more that is worth doing.

We don't have to stick with politics. This is an open thread, and you should feel free to ask me about applying any aspect of Buddhist practice to real life.

There are many paths through the world that one can take while following the Eightfold Path. I am not going to tell you that you have to do what I do, or what specifically to do at all. I am going to give you tools and explain their use, and let you decide what to use them on. I am going to tell you how you can investigate what to do, and how to decide what you can best do next.

To do something yourself, without copying others, is to become an example to the world.
Dogen Zenji

Although Buddhist scriptures often say that we should train ourselves with the same urgency as if our hair was on fire, considering that for many people around the world the problems are precisely that urgent, we cannot simply say

When in trouble, when in doubt,
Run in circles, scream and shout.
We must, with great urgency, but no panic, understand what we are doing as much as we can at the time. And what the other side thinks it is doing.

The first question I posed above is, I repeat, what's wrong with Republicans?

This is not a trick question, nor a very difficult one, on the surface. Self-awareness, that is, the awareness of the identity of one's own Buddha Nature with the same Buddha Nature in everybody else, is the key insight that so many of them lack. Along with any sense of irony.

Racism, bigotry, misogyny, More Guns More!!!, and Mammonism sum up the creed and platform of the Party and of the Christian Right since the laying of the foundations of their Southern Strategy. (We can trace much of it back to the vehemently pro-slavery theology of the Southern Baptist Church, and even before, but I will leave that for now.) Southern segregationists began to leave the Democratic Party in reaction to Truman desegregating the military starting in 1948. The trend accelerated with Brown v. Board of Education and Eisenhower sending in Federal troops to desegregate schools in the South in 1954, the resulting flowering of the already-existing Civil Rights Movement, and especially the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts of 1964 and Johnson's Great Society. Other contributing factors were later Supreme Court decisions on contraception (1965), interracial marriage (1967), Creationism in education (1968), and abortion (1973).

All of this comes down to attachment to desire, as we understand it in Buddhism, or equivalently to the three poisons of greed, hatred, and delusion. Buddhism was quite explicit in rejecting the racist and classist foundations of the Hindu caste system of the Buddha's time, and of all other hatred, oppression, class warfare, and so on.

But all of that, though true, is much too simple. The real question is, Why are they stuck in ideas that are so harmful not only to their victims but to themselves? And what do we do about it?

Well, as to why, that will take us a while to explore in future Diaries in this series. The delusion of self has very strong attractions to the selfish, and it is not hard to get most human children to become quite extraordinarily selfish if you work at it. Unselfishness and other politically and religiously valuable virtues can also readily be taught to young children under favorable circumstances.

As to what to do in addition to education, let us start by not hating the haters. Then we can discuss how to counter their efforts across the full range of human rights, the environment, and pseudo-religion effectively, efficiently, and without miring ourselves in delusion and multiplying our own or anybody else's sufferings more than they do to themselves.

We had that problem of hating the haters with President Richard Nixon when Shasta Abbey was just getting going, way up north in the mountains of California. Some of the lay members objected to offering merit to the President, in the traditional way. (This has its roots in gratitude to any monarch who would allow Buddhism to be practiced in his kingdom at all. In the US, it is gratitude to Presidents who take an oath to enforce the First Amendment, among many other things, even if they are not all that happy about it.) Our Abbess, Rev. Master Jiyu Kennett, asked the objectors who needed merit more than Nixon, and that was the end of the matter.

Similarly, another Buddhist prayer, the Four Divine Abodes, lets us address any particular case, such as Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia today, in the following manner, easily adapted to particular personal quirks.

  • I wish that Scalia would be happy, and not angry at everything and everybody.
  • I wish that Scalia would be freed from his suffering.
  • I rejoice in anything Scalia does right. (It does happen.)
  • I recognize the Buddha Nature in Scalia. I, and also Scalia, should train ourselves not to distinguish between friend, enemy or stranger, but regard every sentient being as equal. It is a clear-minded tranquil state of mind—not being overpowered by delusions, mental dullness, or agitation, or Scalia's own legalistic argle-bargle.

Try it whenever you hear one of the usual suspects going off the rails and over the cliff again. I cannot tell you how much I wish McCain would be happy and freed from his suffering over the US losing the Vietnam War. Or Romney over money and other issues. Or McConnell, Graham, Sessions, Inhofe, Cruz, Boehner, Cantor, Bachmann, King, Broun, Gohmert, Perry, Walker, the Koch brothers, Adelson, Santorum, Gingrich, Cain, Palin, Pat Robertson, Ralph Reed, Bryan Fischer…

Next week: My version of the Bodhisattva vow

Originally posted to DKos Sangha on Tue Jul 02, 2013 at 08:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Street Prophets .

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