Friday, August 17, 2007

Correct Politics


One year, there was an election in Rhode Island. At the time I was living at a Zen Center and I extended an offer of a ride to any of the monks who wanted to go to the polls and vote.

I soon learned that the Zen Master, a monk himself, actually discouraged his monks from voting. I asked him why and he said something about the monks not taking part in worldly affairs. At this, instinctively, I leapt.

"Sir, I will not try to change your mind, but I do not understand your reasoning. You drive a car. You buy fuel for that car. You buy insurance for that car. I also know, from sorting your mail, that you have an I.R.A. and other investment accounts - which means you are directly involved in the economy. You are involved in worldly affairs. You live within the economic arrangements of society, and within the resources of our planet. You are involved."

At best, we can only pretend we are not involved. Our involvement is not in question (unless you truly follow the vinaya by never touching money and subsisting by begging. Even then, you are surviving on the scraps of a society).

Since involvement is not in question, what is left is responsibility. What is correct politics? How do you use the involvement skillfully? What is a citizen's correct function? What do we owe our neighborhood?

It might be more helpful, and more beneficial to others, to look at it that way.

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