Monday, December 01, 2008

POLITICS

Before going on I want to mention the new link I put up about Zen books that don't suck. People keep asking me about this. So here you go.

While I was up north for Thanksgiving I stopped by the Berkeley Zen Center where my friend Greg Fain, who kindly let me stay in his pad while I was up there, was giving the weekly Dharma talk. His talk was, among other things, about the issue of speaking about politics from the "pulpit" -- if we can use that word to describe the seat from which Buddhist teachers deliver their talks.

I was a little worried because I knew that Greg had spent some time in Nevada getting out the vote on behalf of a certain candidate I won't name here. And this was, after all, the People's Republic of Berkeley. As some of you must have noticed by now I'm pretty down on the idea of Buddhism being used as a pretext for pushing liberal politics and on the widespread assumption that anyone who is a Buddhist must, of course, be at the very least a Democrat if not someone of a much more left-leaning political mindset. While I didn't really imagine Greg would use his Dharma talk as a campaign platform, especially after the election was finished, I did fear for the worst.

I should have had more faith! Greg's talk was a very good one about how a Dharma talk should never be a platform for political campaigning. He related a story about how he was giving a talk in Nevada (I think). Before he went on, the head of the temple warned him, "Don't talk about politics here! This group is evenly divided between 'red state' people and 'blue state' people." Greg said he hadn't planned to get political but that he appreciated the advice. He said he thought we as Buddhist teachers should always assume our audience is half 'red state' (conservatives, for those of you reading this outside the USA) and half 'blue state' (liberals). I'd take that further myself. I don't even assume my audience cares about or even knows much about America's politics. A decade in Japan taught me a lot about just how trivial American politics really are to people who don't live here.

Back on October 25th, my hero, Gene Simmons, bassist of the rock band KISS, posted this on his website:

Ok, folks. Everyone is so touchy about the forthcoming election. And for the record, I don't believe any celebrity should be using their bully pulpit to coerce their fans to vote either way. I refuse to tell anyone what my political leanings are. I agree with both parties on certain issues and strongly disagree with both candidates on other issues. VOTE FOR EITHER CANDIDATE, but vote.

Yet around the same time someone sent me a video of some Zen teacher giving his Dharma talk in an Obama T-shirt. It's truly pathetic when Zen teachers aren't even as enlightened as Gene Simmons on such matters. I don't pay enough attention to the Zen scene to know whether there are more teachers like Greg or more teachers like that guy who thought his Dharma talk was an appropriate place to plug his favorite candidate.

We Buddhist teachers must never assume that our political views are one and the same as the Dharma, nor should we try and influence the people who listen to us on how to vote.

Greg talked about social justice, about the recently passed California Proposition 9 (not 8!) and how it affected the inmates he teaches at San Quentin prison. He talked about the uncomfortable mood at a post election party he attended and how it was all "We won and they lost!" I could certainly feel that myself driving through Los Angeles on the night of November 4th. There was such a tremendous buzz of negative energy in the air that I wanted to get off the road as quickly as possible. Ironically most of those responsible for that nearly palpable wave of horrible negativity almost certainly believed it was nothing but positivity (actually the two are the same, ultimately) (and just by the way, I don't mean that I somehow psychically sensed this stuff. There was all kinds of shouting and hooting and horns honking and vehicles swerving like the drivers were drunk) .

Greg also talked about engaged Buddhism. All Buddhism, he said (quoting someone I can't remember), is "engaged Buddhism." I think this is important. How do you work most effectively for social justice? You do zazen practice every day. You. Not someone else. Every day. Not just when your sitting group meets. This is where the real work for social justice happens. Without it you're just making noise.

85 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great Songs! I really like the second.

Where does charity for others come in to play?

Fill

Bija Andrew Wright said...

I was a little tempted, in giving a late-October talk at Still Point in Detroit, to go a little political. I'd been thinking about some of the political tactics used, and I wanted to talk about how to respond to the misinformation and xenophobia with equanimity, keeping Upright View in this world. But I realized that, even if I explicitly denied that the Buddhist institution was endorsing Obama, it's likely people would interpret it that way.

So instead, I just talked about the sound of one hand, and inserted a brief aside that the sound of one hand is like the sound of one vote, and encouraged people to hear that sound.

Bambam said...

Great points, Brad. It would have been totally inappropriate for any buddhist teacher to take sides or speak out when the government of Japan chose to wage war on their neighbors and bomb Pearl Harbour. Or to speak out when the Communist party took over China.

Buddhist monks and nuns should've just stayed neutral when Tibet fell to the Chinese army. And to take sides when the National Socialists were running for office in Germany would definitely have offended all those nice nazi party members.

That Thich Nhat guy was so whack protesting that Vietnam disagreement too. Both sides are always equal, no right or wrong. Just sit down and shut up while the world turns to ash.

Blake said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dallas said...

"someone sent me a video of some Zen teacher giving his Dharma talk in an Obama T-shirt. It's truly pathetic when Zen teachers aren't even as enlightened as Gene Simmons on such matters."

Brad, Everyone knows who you are talking about. You are truly the king of childish passive-aggression. Why let bad feelings drop when you can torment your enemies infinitum? And don't claim he is not your enemy. You love to point out his flaws too much. Talk about pitiful..

Blake said...

Bambam, there is a difference between individuals speaking out against something they believe to be an injustice and a leader of a institution telling people that they should believe an injustice has occurred. People can make that decision for themselves. People can protest all they want. But no leader should usurp that personal responsibility by telling or appearing to tell people what they should or shouldn't believe or how they should or shouldn't react to a situation.

Blake said...

Dallas, off the top of my head, I can think of at least three Zen teachers who actively push liberal agendas.

Dallas said...

Blake, I can think of only one teacher who videotaped himself giving a dharma talk wearing an Obama t-shirt.

Naturally, That was all I needed to make up my mind to vote for Obama. The issues didn't matter to me after seeing that..

Moon Face Buddha said...

Why does Brad assume that the people listening to the dharma talk are going to be influenced by a t-shirt?

The astute zen practitioner will not be influenced by a t-shirt any more than they are influenced by monks robes and a kesa.

Surely it is more honest for the teacher to lay his cards on the table (or on the t-shirt).

TNH makes no secret of his 'engaged buddhism' teaching, and people make an informed decision to go and see him talk, buy his books, and take a trip to his sangha.

Blake said...

I actually have not seen the video.

I follow several blogs and have been quite surprised to find zen teachers with decent followings expressing political views. I find it to be in bad taste.

But then again, if I had a following, I would probably do some nutty shit to see if the sheep followed suit. Wearing an Obama t-shirt doesn't seem edgy enough. Maybe I'd just wear my robes 24/7. Yeah... that's what I'D do!

dallas said...

"Why does Brad assume that the people listening to the dharma talk are going to be influenced by a t-shirt?"

Brad just threw the t-shirt comment in as a personal attack. There was nothing high minded about it..

dallas said...

Brad wrote that political elation and hopelessness ripple outward like a wave.

So does vindictiveness and hatred.

Kamaljit said...

Are all these personal attacks a form of enlightenment-inducing koans?

If they are, gosh darnit they're not working.

Wolf said...

This time I disagree.

There is nothing wrong with a Buddhist teacher speaking out his opinions or political beliefs.
Even in a Dharma talk.
As you, Brad, yourself preach so often: Why should people believe anything that a teacher says? They need not see it as an absolute truth, so what's wrong with it? If one hypotethical candidate in an election would advocate abstaining from violence and peaceful means to resolve conflicts, what's wrong with speaking out for him and saying that this is more in line with Buddhist philosophy than war mongering?

Take the war in Iraq. The US attacked that country, based on false information, with good intentions probably. And brought about great suffering on all sides. One shouldn't use such an example in a Dharma talk, because it might offend some of the reds in the audience?
Isn't it you who says, that a good teaching is always like something is being forced upon you?

True, this might have nothing to do with your daily dishwashing. Or your daily sitting. And yet, your decisions, opinions, your philosphy and your vote have an influence on things. On wether war is waged or not, wether people die and the spiral of hate spins further.

The world is not a simple place. It's not that a Buddhist worldview has to be a Leftist worldview.
Yet we have to do all we can in order to lessen the suffering in the world as far as I have understood it. If a Buddhist teacher thinks, that casting the ballott for someome might help, doesn't he have a right to say so?

PhilBob-SquareHead said...

Bambam said:

"Just sit down and shut up while the world turns to ash."

You've got it! Now you're officially ENLIGHTEND!!!!

PhilBob-SquareHead said...

Wolf said:

"Yet we have to do all we can in order to lessen the suffering in the world as far as I have understood it."

Why? And where did you get this "WE" shit?

Matt said...

I want to step in here and say that this is Brad's teaching here. Surely we can see the value of not endorsing a political view on behalf of an institutions so oriented towards personal practice?

Is it not no longer personal when one brings in politics?

All education is political, but if we're talking about practice, that shouldn't be political. Our politics are an expression of ourselves, don't you think?

I think there is a difference between rooting for a candidate and trying to get your person to win, and totally co-opting a position of authority to push your own agenda.

I can see that guy wearing the Obama shirt (no idea who it is) totally alienating someone like my Dad, who occasionally is curious about my "being into that Buddhism stuff" but is a dyed in the wool Republican.

I don't think that's a good representation of the Dharma, especially where personal practice is involved.

In short, that's just not in the job description to me.

Stuart said...

Lots of people begin meditation practice with a cultish mind. That is: they meet a Teacher who moves them in some way, and elevate him/her to a position of absolute authority. They give up a bit of their critical, independent thinking for the sake of believing in the authorities (the teacher, scriptures, or concepts held unquestioningly by the group).

There are plenty of Zen teachers who clearly DON'T present themselves as infallible authorities, but rather as people who point to truths and encourage practices for students to examine for themselves. Still, since so many of us seek parent-figures, Zen groups aren't immune this cultish following. At best, the practice of zazen itself eventually leads the student to question everything, including all outside authorities. It's not for nothing that it's said, "When you meet the Buddha, kill the Buddha. When you meet an eminent teacher, kill the eminent teacher."

Folks with lots of Zen practice under their belt may well have detached from following "spiritual" authorities. And that can easily be displaced to following "political" authorities or groups or ideas in a similar cultish way.

It's a type of laziness. It's hard work to examine each life situation, moment to moment, to decide for myself what the correct action is. How much easier to just accept an Authority, and then work backwards to justify whatever the Authority claims.

Isn't it similar in the political realm? It takes effort and attention to examine each issue in the political world, finding a point of clarity from which to decide how we can engage with it. How much easier to just follow a Leader, or an ideology, or a political party... and work backwards to justify whatever the group and Authority tell us is the True Way.

Stuart
http://stuart-randomthoughts.blogspot.com/
http://home.comcast.net/~sresnick2/booboo.htm

Jules said...

Brad wrote: There was such a tremendous buzz of negative energy in the air that I wanted to get off the road as quickly as possible. Ironically most of those responsible for that nearly palpable wave of horrible negativity almost certainly believed it was nothing but positivity.

I remember feeling very positive on Election night. It had nothing to do with "we won, they lost." Maybe there were a few people with that attitude, but if you think that's what the majority of Obama supporters' attitude was, then I feel sorry for you, Brad.

Stuart said...

Jules said...
I remember feeling very positive on Election night. It had nothing to do with "we won, they lost." Maybe there were a few people with that attitude, but if you think that's what the majority of Obama supporters' attitude was, then I feel sorry for you, Brad.

I'd agree with the speculation that most Americans followed the election with an attitude of wanting what's best for the country and the world. Yet can you honestly doubt that there were also people at the extremes that viewed the campaign through an us-vs-them lens?

It's these people at the extremes who make the most noise. The intensity of us-vs-them believers can make it seem more representative than they actually are.

We can only speculate about who's in "the majority." But since voices of conflict ("What's good for My Party and My Ideology?") speak so loudly, maybe it's useful to counter-balance them with voices less based in conflict ("What's good for all beings?").

Keeping some separation between "religion" and "politics" does have merit. If my direction as a Buddhist is to help all beings, maybe I should take some care about mixing political view with Zen teaching.

The simple point has been made by Brad and some commenters... maybe there are people who can be helped by hearing the Dharma, and mixing in a particular political viewpoint will unnecessarily hinder them from hearing the teaching.

Stuart
http://stuart-randomthoughts.blogspot.com/
http://home.comcast.net/~sresnick2/booboo.htm

Anonymous said...

I can see what your saying about not pushing a political agenda on people but what can be equally annoying is say this MUST NEVER be done.

Everybody is supposedly mature enough to decide for themselves and if there is a liberal enclave of buddhists somewhere that want to put a picture Obama next to the Dalai Llama on the wall, then that is their perogative.

Also it is funny how Gene says don't ask me who to vote for but vote! Why does one have to vote at all.

Anya said...

Gene Simmons, like the Gene Simmons who publicly announced that he would'nt support the career of any artist who didn't support Bush on Iraq? Well, thank god he's above politics.

-anya_baranova@hotmail.com

Villa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rick said...

One reason doing zazen helps improve the world is that if we're sitting there on a cushion, we can't be out and about screwing anything else up!

Anonymous said...

"All Buddhism is engaged buddhism"

this is a disturbing totality.

Greg can keep these sort of labels to himself, i won't be throwing grenades or voting liberal or doing anything that has to-do with interpreted Buddhist liturgy or the ideals of justice from "politically enlightened/socially engaged/militarily just" people.

Such ideals are bound to be subjective and fail, spectacularly. Good-luck with that.

I do agree with Brad about more zazen, just don't lump that in with being a citizen of a certain society or think you can somehow magically help aids victims by beaming pleasant thoughts(or whatever) to them from your cushion. It is hard work to cut away the crap.

Stephanie said...

It's important if you believe in peace and practice compassion to be willing to listen and engage in a spirit of fellowship with people who have different opinions than you do. I think it's a mark of a more "Buddhist" point of view to be able to enjoy a good debate with a friend of a completely different political opinion without losing feelings of goodwill, friendship, or fun.

That said, I don't see there being any value or truth to refusing to take a stand, especially on significant matters. I know plenty of Republicans who are good folks, but I haven't yet met a Republican who had reasons to believe what he or she did that weren't ignorant. Most Democrats I've met are similarly ignorant, but the ratio is less dire.

I say this as a left-leaning Democrat who yet is a daughter of the South and therefore holds some more red-tinged political views. For one, I wholeheartedly believe in gun rights, and value personal freedom over the neutering of that freedom for the sake of the easily offended and weak of heart. I *get*, in a personal way, the views of a lot of folks who fill in the picture of their political views with a red crayon.

But while most Republicans I know or have known are motivated somewhat by a commitment to the same personal freedom to which I am committed, they also are largely motivated by xenophobia, self-contradictory desires to limit the freedoms of others to make significant personal choices, and a hateful, iron will to dominate anyone with a view that is any different than theirs. I don't see how it is at all non-Buddhist to challenge this sort of hatred and ignorance.

I think the distinction is to be willing to share and challenge political views while also making it clear that dismissing a political view is not the same as dismissing a human being as a whole. We are not our opinions. I've loudly and passionately disagreed with many of the people I most dearly love in this world, and it hasn't rendered me unable to share a drink and a good laugh with them. If I had to choose whether to pronounce my political opinions or keep the friendship of some folks with whom I passionately politically disagree, the choice would be easy. But the good news is that I'm not forced to make that choice. I don't have to compromise my integrity to maintain my friendships with these fine folks, because we hold our political opinions in less esteem than we hold our shared human bond.

Anonymous said...

I've always liked Brad's writing.. Got interested in buddhism because of it. Now I'm wondering if zazen doesn't completely fuck a person up. Brad can come off like such a petty dick.

Anonymous said...

Jundo, alias "the guy in the Obama t-shirt" posted this today. Emptyzen asked him about politics and Buddhism and I like Jundo's answer

Hi Guys,

Thank you all for your opinions on having and not having opinions. Let me add my opinion! :D It is really very simple.

In Buddhism, we drop all opinions, all view of "us" and "them", "right" vs. "left" ... even ""right" vs. "wrong". That is the "absolute". As Krishnamurti said, whatever happens, we " don't mind what happens". We must absolutely drop all views and opinions (including the view that there is "someone" to hold an "opinion")

But that is on on one "level" (for want of a better term). Today, I was reading for our upcoming Retreat the chant known as the Sandokai, "The Identity of Relative and Absolute" (By the way, Will ... thank you for some nice echoes on that this week) ...

The dark makes all words one;

The brightness distinguishes good and bad phrases.

...

Each independent of the other

Like leaves that come from the same root.

And though leaves and root must go back to the Source

Both root and leaves have their own uses.

Light is also darkness,

But do not think of it as darkness.

Darkness is light;

Do not see it as light.

Light and darkness are not one, not two




So, in Buddhsm, we also live in this world ... and to live, we need opinions and views. Otherwise, we could not even choose to get out of bed in the morning! We live in a world where there is a you and a society, war, peace, pollution and other social ills.

Thus, even as (on one level) we drop all that, all resistance to that ... (on another level) we can choose to make this world, our home, a better place.

One way to do that is through so-called "Engaged Buddhism" (for example, as advocated by folks like Thich Naht Hanh, Aitken Roshi, many others). For many of us, the Precepts guide us to oppose violence, to oppose (as much as we can) war, to wish to defend the environment.

Now, that being said ... a couple of cautions. This is where I agree with Brad:

Even as we can be Buddhists and have opinions on politics and society, we should cling to our opinions lightly, without attachment to them. It is not a view of "I'm right and you are dead wrong", but more "this is what I believe is perhaps best". If we hold opinions, we must simultaneously hold that view by which all opinions, all "you vs. I", is dropped.

Second, the Precepts do not tell us whom to vote for, or exactly how to feel about all social issues. In Asia and in the West, there are conservative Buddhists, liberal Buddhists and radical Buddhists. Since the Precepts fundamentally guide us to seek to avoid harm, and to act in ways healthful and helpful to ourselves and others (not two, by the way), different folks will see the best course differently. In America, I have Democrat Buddhist friends, Green Buddhist Friends, apolitical Buddhist friends and (although admittedly a much smaller number) Republican Buddhist friends, each of whom is acting from what they believe to be the best course for society.

If they legitimately believe in their hearts that they are voting, not voting or acting from what they see as the best course to prevent harm and increase benefit, then I believe that each is abiding by the Precepts.

The only political views not compatible with Buddhism? Perhaps Nazism, Stalinism, militant forms of Anarchism, religious terrorism and the like, clearly based on hate and violence.

Third, yes, a Sangha is a place for practice. It is not a place for foisting one's political views on people. Politics can be discussed, of course, and positions presented ... but lightly. And only as a side issue before returning to our True Pursuit.

That is my opinion.

Gassho, Jundo

Anonymous said...

I prefer 'going steady' buddhism to 'engaged buddhism.'

wise old fool OSHO says.... said...

POLITICS

Do you recognize this man? All but the most innocent and sincere of us have a politician lurking somewhere in our minds. In fact, the mind is political. Its very nature is to plan and scheme and try to manipulate situations and people so that it can get what it wants. Here, the mind is represented by the snake, covered with clouds and 'speaking with a forked tongue'. But the important thing to realize about this card is that both faces are false. The sweet, innocent, 'trust me' face is a mask, and the evil, toxic, 'I'll have my way with you' face is a mask, too. Politicians don't have real faces. The whole game is a lie.
Take a good look at yourself to see if you have been playing this game. What you see might be painful, but not as painful as continuing to play. It doesn't serve anybody's interest in the end, least of all yours. Whatever you might achieve in this way will just turn to dust in you hands.

Anybody who can be a good pretender, a hypocrite, will become your leader politically, will become your priest religiously. All that he needs is cunningness, all that he needs is a facade to hide behind. Your politicians live double lives, your priests live double lives - one from the front door, the from the back door. And the back-door life is their real life. Those front-door smiles are just false, those faces looking so innocent are just cultivated.
If you want to see the reality of the politician you will have to see him from his back door. There he is in his nudity, as he is, and so it the priest. These two kinds of cunning people have dominated humanity. And they found out very early on that if you want to dominate humanity, make it weak, make it feel guilty, make it feel unworthy. Destroy its dignity, take all glory away from it, humiliate it. And they have found such subtle ways of humiliation that they don't come in the picture at all; they leave it to you to humiliate yourself, to destroy yourself. They have taught you a kind of slow suicide.

holy shit said...

...be the wood burning in the fire and the fire feeding off the wood all at once....

anony"strikes again"mous(e) said...

ahhh...yeah... this must be what Enlightenment feels like....ahh...Damn, that feels good,yeeaah....

Anonymous said...

..or maybe not....

diarmuid said...

'He talked about the uncomfortable mood at a post election party he attended and how it was all "We won and they lost!" I could certainly feel that myself driving through Los Angeles on the night of November 4th. There was such a tremendous buzz of negative energy in the air that I wanted to get off the road as quickly as possible. Ironically most of those responsible for that nearly palpable wave of horrible negativity almost certainly believed it was nothing but positivity.'

While as a reader I appreciate the opinion baiting, and thankfully there have been some well-balanced and informed opinions in response, it's hard not to interpret your sense of "negative energy" as an endorsement in itself.

I agree that Buddhism should be non-partisan, though I enjoy a good debate, but I have to wonder if you perceive any form of post-election jubilation as a negative force. Perhaps you voted for an unnamed third party, in which case any celebration whatsoever would beset you with "bad vibes," or you are admitting your personal dissatisfaction with the outcome of the election.

In any case, Obama is proving himself to be something of a centrist, and a shrewd one at that, and I doubt that he will make decisions greatly upsetting the center-right. He is a married Catholic and a Midwesterner, a former professor and a man who has traveled the world. He knows what it feels like to drive a beat-up car and it seems that, somewhat reluctantly on his part, his mother-in-law will be moving into the White House with him. He has retained Defense Secretary Gates from the Bush administration and welcomed the endorsement of Gen. Powell. He appointed the well-received Timothy Geithner for Secretary of the Treasury. For many on the right, the fears leading up to Nov. 4th have given way to something more ambiguous--and for some, even acquiescence. So where are the bad vibes now?

I can certainly understand the sense of liberal negativity that may have attached itself to this election the way people attach themselves to rival football teams, but I think that it in no way reflects the honor of the candidates or their motives.

An aside: that thing you felt? That's how everyone else has been feeling for the past eight years. But that doesn't mean the teacher should wear the opposition's t-shirt. That's just being cheap. Ya heard.

Justin said...

Brad is very attached to his opinions on politics. He is very partisan and is always strongly expressing his 'us vs them' opinions about politics. He should just be neutral and dispassionate.

Kamaljit said...

Brad I have a question!?!?

Aren't you taking an opinionated stance to rile against opinion?

It seems like a snake that chases after its own tail.

Yerp yerp.

proulx michel said...

Brad wrote:
A decade in Japan taught me a lot about just how trivial American politics really are to people who don't live here.
From a European point of view, Obama is not even center right.
What is sometimes puzzling from this side of the ocean, is the fuss Americans make over a political division ranging from the extreme right to the right of the center-right...

Justin said...

Jundo is wise

elmo said...

Very true Proulx


No they can't.

:(

Anonymous said...

politics is pragmatics

actions to accomplish specific ends

eddies and flows of popular opinion gathering to form a mighty river, and some swaps, trades and compromise to leverage and broker deals

buddhism is goal-less, it is guile-less, buddhism has no opinions because there is 'no one' to have them.

Yes, there are politics found in buddhist places, but the politics you find there aren't being practiced
by buddhists:
some buddhists do use their buddism to 'make a point,' but buddhism doesn't make anything: there is nothing to make and no one to make it.

As soon as you hitch buddhism up to a band wagon, it's not buddhism any more--
just like 'buddhist psychology' isn't buddhism any more, it's been what we in the 60's called 'co opted'

to coerce buddhism to do/be anything is to immediately lose it--like trying to grasp smoke--it's your own grabbing you end up feeling in your hand.

buddhism is fluid: it's like a wild bird: it freely flies across red, blue, pink, green, and purple states it knows no international borders. It carries no passport, no ID card and doesn't need to get searched before take off. It eats and mates and nests, In other words it follows laws, but the laws it follows are universal in nature and not arbitrary ones 'on the books,'

politics is making laws, changing laws, interpreting laws

PA said...

I think the point is not whether we should hold politcal views but rather whether as a teacher we should associate ourselves with those political views. I see the point.

Empty said...

Brad's usual tripe

Gogol Bordello said...

Something you should know about Illumination Lyrics

Title: Gogol Bordello - Illumination lyrics

Artist: Gogol Bordello Lyrics
Don't believe them for a moment
For a second, do not believe, my friend
When you are down, them are not coming
With a helping hand
Of course there is no us and them
But them they do not think the same
It's them who do not think
They never step on spiritual path
They paint their faces so differently from ours
And if you listen closely
That war it never stops
Be them new Romans
Don't envy them my friend
Be their lives longer
Their longer lives are spent
Without a love or faithful friend
All those things they have to rent
But we who see our destiny
In sound of this same old punk song
Let rest originality for sake of passing it around
Illuminating realization number one:
You are the only light there is
For yourself my friend
There'll be no saviors any soon coming down
And anyway illuminations
Never come from the crowned
Illuminating realization number one:
You are the only light there is
For yourself my friend

andro said...

Justin, I would say Brad seems pretty much disgusted by political thinking. He comes off as neutral politically. He Can become passionate when talking about music or Buddhism.

You, on the other hand, seem very politically partisan and are always strongly expressing your 'us vs them' opinions. You should just be neutral and dispassionate and not so political with your Brad is this, Jundo is that talk..

Jules said...

I wouldn't assume Brad was anti-Obama. It's just that my experience of the celebrations on Election night was much deeper than "we won; they lost," it was relief that someone with real leadership skills, who has the power to inspire people and get things done, will be taking the reins in January.

Brad obviously sees through the hype, and it is indeed hype. But I love the hype, I am grateful for it, and I believe our country will be far better off having someone running the show who knows how to motivate people. Martin Luther King was another great hype artist. Congratulations, Brad. You have achieved an immunity to inspiration and faith.

Justin said...

Certainly there have been Buddhist teachers who have suggested not to get too caught up in worldly events. But no one asked Brad for his advice. He rants and sermonises about this (among other things) so often and with such passion, that it's very clear that he is caught up in it himself. Buddhism isn't a political dogma, but it isn't an anti-political dogma either.

Brad is against taking sides - ah the irony!

Jules said...

I almost forgot where I was posting. In a preemptive response to the inevitable, "You know who else had good leadership skills: HITLER!!!"

I'll ask you to also mention whether you voted for Droopy Dog or Eeyore as your write-in candidate for President.

jamal said...

Jules, I understand your point. But I'm not sure it would be correct to call MLK a great hype artist. His message was much more than hype.

Anonymous said...

What happened to the gay vampire?

Jinzang said...

Politics is important like taking care of your car is important. Having good government is a precondition for getting most other stuff done. I wouldn't expect a Buddhist teacher to give a talk on who has a good car repair shop, or on politics for the same reason. Though they might express an opinion if asked.

Seems to me that everyone is huffing and puffing about relatively minor stuff. Which is expected on the internet, but still ... Maybe more Zen and less about what isn't Zen, which is just chasing shadows.

And I like the new banner. I assume the new picture on going to be the cover of the next Brad book.

Anonymous said...

"it was relief that someone with real leadership skills, who has the power to inspire people and get things done, will be taking the reins in January."

How would many of us feel if the U.S. were (democratically) taken over by islamic extremists for 8 years and then they were defeated? That is how I felt on election night.

Anonymous said...

I feel like that on my husband's bowling night.

Jules said...

jamal wrote: Jules, I understand your point. But I'm not sure it would be correct to call MLK a great hype artist. His message was much more than hype.

Of course his message was much more than hype. That's my whole point. Just because there was a great deal of substance beneath the hype in MLK's case doesn't mean there was no hype. And, Brad, just because there is hype doesn't mean there's no substance beneath it.

ug krishnamurti said...

"Traditional values and the military might of America cannot save anyone. You have grown up with the sense that America is the center of the world. You were better at everything. Today the glory is gone; you are an also-ran. You are another England! This is a blot to your national image. You are being overtaken by others. I am as terrified if the U.S. gets dumped from its throne as you will be; what you would do is anybody's guess.... The Russian revolution is a total failure. That revolution is only a revaluation of a value system. They replaced one system with another system of values. Which system will blow up the world? It matters not virtually who is going to blow up the world. The solutions to the world problems do not rest with your bureaucrats or the big boys. They are muddle-headed and low-grade morons; so are the other leaders of mankind. You can't get rid of them. You have delegated your power to them, placed them in the seats of power, and handed over the most destructive weapons to them. They are the defense that turned against you."

Anonymous said...

"Seems to me that everyone is huffing and puffing about relatively minor stuff. Which is expected on the internet, but still..."

Yeah.
Especially Brad.

Stuart said...

Anonymous said...
"All Buddhism is engaged buddhism" this is a disturbing totality.

It doesn't disturb me. The point I see is that we're always connected to the whole world. Each of us was born into a family, each of us has made relationships of some sort during our lives.

Everything we do radiates out to affect these relationships, rippling in concentric circles to more and more beings. If I decide to spend a year meditating as a hermit in the woods, people who know me will wonder about it, question why I'm devoting this effort to attending to my own thinking. Even then, I'm "engaged" with the world.

If everyone in the market is already selling apples, it makes sense for me to offer oranges. The world has no shortage of people debating how to gain and use power, how to control what other people do (i.e., "politics"). It's not wrong, but it's not everything. It's fine to balance out all those voices by suggesting that we can also "engage" with the world by attending to our own moment-to-moment thinking and actions.

Stuart
http://stuart-randomthoughts.blogspot.com/
http://home.comcast.net/~sresnick2/booboo.htm

Alan A said...

Blake wrote:

"Bambam, there is a difference between individuals speaking out against something they believe to be an injustice and a leader of a institution telling people that they should believe an injustice has occurred. People can make that decision for themselves. People can protest all they want. But no leader should usurp that personal responsibility by telling or appearing to tell people what they should or shouldn't believe or how they should or shouldn't react to a situation."

So Dr. King was in the wrong?

Harry said...

Sure, all things are connected.

Maybe church and state shouldn't be so connected... Any church.

Look what happened to Tibet under Buddhist rule.

I'll see you all in sombody's hell for entertaining the mere thought that I'm a monkeyboy!

Regards,

Harry.

Harry said...

As soon as you're born they make you feel small
By giving you no time instead of it all
Till the pain is so big you feel nothing at all
A working class Buddhist is something to be
A working class Buddhist is something to be

They hurt you at home and they hit you at school
They hate you if you're clever and they despise a fool
Till you're so fucking crazy you can't follow their rules
A working class Buddhist is something to be
A working class Buddhist is something to be

When they've tortured and scared you for twenty odd years
Then they expect you to pick a career
When you can't really function you're so full of fear
A working class Buddhist is something to be
A working class Buddhist is something to be

Keep you doped with religion and sex and TV
And you think you're so clever and classless and free
But you're still fucking peasants as far as I can see
A working class Buddhist is something to be
A working class Buddhist is something to be

There's room at the top they are telling you still
But first you must learn how to smile as you kill
If you want to be like the folks on the hill
A working class Buddhist is something to be
A working class Buddhist is something to be

If you want to be a hero well just follow me
If you want to be a hero well just follow me

Wolf said...

Jundo says pretty much I actually wanted to say. He just does it much better and to the point. At a certain level we can drop it all, but in order to live we can't escape having opinions.

I'd even add a little (even if I should repeat myself). Since politics are as much part of our lives as our daily dishwashing, one should be able to talk about them (even in a Dharma talk). They shouldn't take the center in practice sessions, I absolutley agree.
But if one is totally fixed on one kind of political ideology and does take any kind of comment on that one as offensive, it might be reasonable to slightly prod that spot (possibly better in private than at a dharma talk, but if half the audience has that problem... well...). That goes in both directions.

And one more thing. If we should be totally aware, while washing our dishes, shouldn't we also take the same care, when choosing our opinions and our worldview?
So if a Buddhist should preach about what is right and wrong Buddhism, right and wrong practice (yes Brad, you do that ;)), he should also be able to talk about political opinions of his and their relationship to Buddhist teachings, since he should devote the same care to choosing them, as he does to his daily practice. If he doesn't he's a dipshit (yes, I stole that one....)

Most of the Lefties have good reasons for the connection between left and Buddhism. And be it only that most of them are not (I hope) of the opinion that they posess the absolute and last truth in what they say and believe.
On the political right it is very often different. But the newborn christian right only turns to Buddhism in very small numbers anyway...

Anonymous said...

jules said "And, Brad, just because there is hype doesn't mean there's no substance beneath it."

nor does it mean there is substance

Anonymous said...

by the way, i was talking about brad's lack of substance in the last post, not MLK

pebbles said...

False pretenses are just that, false petenses. U.S invaded Iraq for resources and massive middle-class taxpayer funded construction projects resulting from massive middle-class taxpayer funded bombing, for various corporations. The president-elect never confronted that and will insure it's continuance.There's really not that much to teach anyway. Engagement is non-engagement. BTW, has anyone seen Gene Simmons' investment portfolios?

Anonymous said...

seems a lot of folks practice boo-hoo dism.
I carry extra kleenex

nyah! said...

i'm more buddhist than thou

Dharma Kombat said...

BRUTAL FATALITY!

Anonymous said...

You stayed in a pad in Berkely? I haven't done that since I was a teenager. Far-out man.

Traci S. said...

Totally off the topic of politics, but rather on the topic of "Zen Books that Don't Suck" (thanks for posting that by the way):

What about adding Steve Hagen's book, "Buddhism Plain and Simple", to your list? I read his book and your first book back-to-back and they really seemed to come from the same place. (i.e. they made tons of sense!)

Mumon said...

Brad,

Are you familiar with the concepts of "concern trolls" and "purity trolls?"

What Bambam said.

Seriously, the idea that "good people can disagree" about policies that will or will not impoverish, poison, cripple, maim and kill millions and will see other millions uselessly suffer is abominable itself.

You can't remain neutral when the stakes are so stark, and it's immature to pretend otherwise.

oxeye said...

I don't think Brad is talking about remaining neutral. I think he is talking about the way in which we act.

Good people Can disagree about causes, and solutions can be reached from different directions if people don't become polarized and locked into their beliefs and if they really want to help each other.

Problems get solved when folks don't become too attached to what they believe is the Only solution.

Mumon said...

oxeye:

This is where the self-referentiality argument gets invoked. ;-)

solutions can be reached from different directions if people don't become polarized...

Look, one side had a candidate which, uh, was involved with folks doing exorcisms, who'd think people like you are demonic, and that's the nice stuff.

I.e., the other direction was already polarized, and to the degree that a straw-man invocation of Godwin's law was moot.

I was remarking with a colleague last night how while we used to say Bush was the worst president of our lifetime, we used to say that before the current financial crisis and the scandals of the financial bailout became known (Start here if you've got 8 hours or more).

With the recent financial crisis though, it seems Bush= worst(Harding, Coolidge, Hoover, Buchanan, McKinley, ...) and is on track to be not only the worst president of the past 110 years, but is perhaps really, really, objectively the worst president in history, and if not, well, he's up there with Buchanan, and to say he's better than the guy who saw the Union dissolve over slavery ain't saying a whole lot.

It's objectively that bad, and no, there's no non-dual way of conjuring it away.

Steve said...

What is a political view? If the teacher encourages people to be compassionate, to give to the needy and poor, to give to charities, is that not political? Is that Buddhist? If so, then why rule out encouraging you to write your congress person to support a bill for welfare, workfare, health care, extending unemployment benefits? Isn't that compassionate? (Maybe it isn't).

Do we draw the line at endorsing particular candidates? What if one candidate intends to take a strict interpretation of the US Constitution as favoring freedom of Christian religion, then it'll be okay? What if an ordinance seeks to keep "cults" from getting tax exempt status ("cults" being non-Christian religions)?

Let's go the other way. If a Zen master "blesses" a gay "marriage", is that political? Hell, in the mostly Christian US, zazen is a political statement.

In Buddhism in general, I see two kinds of responses to these kinds of things. First, a sort of karmic fatalism. "He's poor. That's his karma. Not my problem." Conservatives really like this.

In the West, there is a strong sense of idiot compassion, "He's poor. Here, take $20 and my sandals." Liberals really like this.

We need to steer a course between karmic fatalism and idiot compassion. This is only to say, we, students and teachers, need to exercise good judgment....but especially students. As far as I know, there is no concept of "papal infallibility" with respect to Zen teachers. (I leave the reader to consider whether such a thing applies to the Vajrayana tradition).

Finally, I take issue with Gene's statement. His statement is not neutral. He says, "vote for either candidate but vote." First, this implies that voting does make a difference. There are those who believe that we have one party with two heads in this country and so, Gene is making a political statement, he's saying "give credibility to a system where the president can be elected without getting more votes than his opponent." or "give credibility to a system where you are continually picking from the wrost of two evils but the rich always get richer."

Second, Gene is saying "vote for *either* candidate". What about the Libertarian, Constitution or Green parties? Oh, don't vote for them, "you'll waste your vote."

So in truth, although Gene may not have thought so, Gene had an agenda...and that's okay.

Of course, we have to give a slight tip of the hat to Gene's entry into a Stephen Baldwin-type logical paradox, namely, "don't listen to celebrities when it comes to politics". I wonder if Gene knows any Cretians.

diarmuid said...

Vegans for Gun Rights

Anonymous said...

poli ticks
Aren't these the vermin that get under the skin and into the cracks of the seats of power

poli ticks are blood suckers alright, they can exist in relative peace in symbiotic relationships
like intestional flora; they are a boon for getting things done; but when out of balance--whoa!
Solids become liquids and the emission of hot air is pretty noxious

Mysterion said...

Politics, like Zen is not about what you SAY, it's about what you DO.

Brad:
I'm happy to hear you invaded Nevada as part of Team Obama. Sad that so many Obama voters drank the homophobic Kool-Aid.

An Obama T at a dharma talk? At one level, it just doesn't matter. I wore my McCain/Moses 2008BC shirts all week.

Mysterion said...

BTW Pearl Harbor was a military target while the two A-Bombs were (shall we say) somewhat less selective.

Also, I am of a somewhat Germanic origin and lost no one in the holocaust. All war is bad war.

His Excellency Benito Mussolini, Head of Government, Duce of Fascism, and Founder of the Empire was with Adolf Hitler at the beach one day and all the girls crowded around il Duce.

Hitler said: "I don't get it."

Mussolini said: "Adolf, tomorrow, put a potato in your pants."

Next day at the beach, all the girls again crowded around il Duce.

Hitler said: "I STILL don't get it."

Mussolini said: "Adolf, tomorrow, put the potato in FRONT."

Anonymous said...

mysterion, no more potato jokes.

grisom said...

Hey, dig the new layout! Is that the cover of your new book I see there? Nice!

PhilBob-SquareHead said...

Hitler, Gene Simmons, B. Obama, Jesus of Nazareth, B. Warner, the Buddha, Yosemite Sam, Mr. Potato Head ......all the same to me.

Just another image on whom you are turning your life/personal responsibility over to.

Anonymous said...

Please Phil.. No more potato head references.. My younger brother is a potato head and we don't think it is funny.

clever play on words said...

politricks and politricksters

Anonymous said...

mebbe bedda title for your 3rd:

In Hot Pursuit Until the Trail's Gone Cold:

or peters create desire until desire peter's out

Anonymous said...

what about

coming and going

impermanence as experienced from the bathroom to the bedroom and back again

Anonymous said...

Stuart,
I think a more inclusive look at what engaged Buddhism means is necessary. Of course we're engaged in the actual sense, everybody is, your clutch is out and the car is moving so to speak.
But "Engaged" Buddhism is more about letting out the clutch and driving your car into a group of John McCain supporters, because they're evil. This is the same as doing something else that is perceived as socially just, take your chances because times change. This "Engaged" Buddhism is just another way to say political activism. Nationalism. Fascism. whatever.

All Buddhism is not "Engaged".

Hope I communicated to you what I was trying to say originally.

Anonymous said...

Coming late to the debate, but how about this: "Vote for the guy against torture?" 'Nuff said?