Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Does Buddhism Have a Liberal Bias?


Kyle blogged: I think I missed the introduction seminar where the ultra progressive liberal, sometimes Marxists membership cards are given out to new Buddhists.

That's because there is no such seminar, or shouldn't be.

In 2003, when I was Abbot of Dharma Zen Center, I helped organize an interfaith peace vigil in anticipation of our invasion of Iraq. When I contacted the leader of one Zen Center in Southern California, he declared in unambiguous terms that he would not be participating in any protest and that he supported our military objective there.

Okay then.

Buddhist practice invites us to investigate our beliefs and their source. The second noble truth of Buddhism is that our suffering is created by various kinds of craving, one of which is called bhava tanha in Pali, the craving for "becoming." We want our identity to be substantial, weighty, impressive. Defending our opinions, seeing our ideas vindicated, is one way we do this.

I remember a pretty impressive talk on this topic by Zen Master Dae Kwang shortly after the events of 11 September 2001. It was transcribed and is available to peruse here. It's short.

Germane to Kyle's question is Dae Kwang Sunim's classical hint about "no point of view." We examine our minds and our own conditioning, which is where our divisive views are inspired and nurtured.

In the process of doing this practice, we will likely reconsider many things we take for granted. Letting our opinions alone, they may stay around or they may change. Over the years, my understanding of relationships between human beings and the uses of power have changed, and some of what I "understand" puts me in the left-wing box, according to some.

On the other hand, I like to say I don't have wings; but I hope to have a heart.

So no, Buddhism does not require you to believe in certain political ideas; it does not require that you be a vegetarian or be soft or loving or generous. Some or all of those things might happen all by themselves, if you practice a while. But they might not. It happens the way it happens.

1 comment:

Kyle Lovett said...

Yes, great post. "no point of view." I'm sure you realize my post was somewhat exaggerated for a reason.

Left wing, right wing, zen has no wings.

Oh, I have a personal question for you if you have sometime, btw.

my email is krlovett@gmail.com

Take Care!