September 30, 2008

Spirituality & Politics, & never the Twain Shall Meet! [Trungpa, Shambhala, Thich Nhat Hanh, McCain Obama Palin!]

This was just posted to my Buddhist community’s e-announcement board: 

“The Buddha’s teaching is used merely for political purposes and to draw people together socially.  As a result, the blessings of spiritual energy are being lost.”  ~  Chogyam Trungpa’s Sadhana of Mahamudra

Hearing about the recent posts [by Shambhala Buddhists re: the coming election] makes me wonder how your Shambhala Buddhism headed by a young married couple is any different than the PTL Evangelist group of some years past that was headed by Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker?  Of course, theirs was a Christian religion espousing right wing politics – but other than that I mean.

“Do not force others to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda or even education.”  ~  Thich Nhat Hanh – teachings on Engaged Buddhism.

My response:
This is the kind of navel-gazing that prevents the yoga and Buddhist communites from engaging in their world, as a community. Individually, many of us get involved in our communities, vote, run businesses, volunteer, raise families–do our part to create enlightened society. But as a community, I can’t remember an instance when my Shambhala community engaged en masse to effect change politically, environmentally or otherwise. 

You’re correct—there’s a huge danger in subverting the Buddhadharma for personal gain, socializing, ego or political gain. That said, if we care about our environment and the next seven generations, it would seem to be a good thing to get involved in politics with the same prajna/intelligence and thoughtfulness as one does in buying the right dishwash detergent.

Only 55% of Americans vote–if non-new-agey, compassion- and peace-focused spiritual and religious communities got involved from coast-to-coast, we will have a real effect for peace—just as Thich Nhat Hanh did, bravely, in Vietnam. Bonus: we wouldn’t have to hear folks harping about fleeing to Canada every four years!

Trungpa Rinpoche might have written that quote you mention–but it’s you, Ralph, who’s using the Dharma to back up your argument. Trungpa Rinpoche also encouraged—pleaded with—us as Shambhala Buddhist ‘warriors’ to build a real, better enlightened society, to get involved in our communities, even to run for political office.

So it’s a koan, perhaps. Is Dharma informing our involvement in our community, and nation? Or, as you point out, are politics too often merely fueling hatred, discursiveness, petty infighting—with us looking to Dharma to back up our point of view?

The answer is to be found on my meditation cushion, I’m sure!

Bonus: some great spiritually-minded folks devoted to their communities:


Read 14 Comments and Reply

Read 14 comments and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Waylon Lewis  |  Contribution: 1,510,860