A roundup of thoughtful responses gleaned from Facebook, Twitter, and elsewhere. See also: “Buddhist teachers respond to Trump’s presidential win,” for which several teachers provided statements upon Lion’s Roar’s request, and our roundup of helpful “After the Election” coverage and teachings.
Brooklyn Zen Center
[On November 18th, the leadership of Brooklyn Zen Center issued a “Post Election Statement.” It reads, in part:]
Though the reasons for last week’s election results are certainly complex, there is one thing that in our estimation is clear and distressing – nearly half of its participants either willingly ignored or cast a vote in support of months of hateful rhetoric. We do not believe it wise or in support of ending suffering to ignore this.
[…] We are already familiar with some of the results of this firing up of hate – increased harassment of women and girls is being reported; teenagers are showing up to school swearing white power shirts and chanting “build a wall”; mosques and Muslims have been attacked; and images associating the President-elect’s name with the Nazi iron cross are being scrubbed off of walls. We are grateful that the President-elect has mentioned he would like an end to this violence and pray his current words outweigh past ones in their effect. We also urge that a much stronger response is required as it is not so easy to put hatred back in a box. Some who have voted for Trump have also been attacked as well. Our Buddhist communities must publicly name and stand up to this hatred and violence that is not in alignment with our values of love, compassion and wisdom.
Thich Nhat Hanh
[Though no reference to the election was made in this Facebook post issued on November 11, it’s not a stretch to see it as a response to the current news and climate.]
After 9/11 I was in California with many of my students. We knew we needed to balance the collective energy of anger, fear, and discrimination with a collective energy of mindfulness and compassion. It is very important to counterbalance fear with calm and peace. I reminded everyone that responding to hatred with hatred will only cause hatred to multiply a thousandfold, and that only with compassion can we transform hatred and anger. I invited them to go home to themselves and practice mindful breathing and mindful walking, to calm down their strong emotions and to allow lucidity to prevail. Only when we understand, can compassion arise. When the drop of compassion begins to form in our hearts and minds, we can begin to develop concrete responses to a situation.
[Zen Peacemakers’ statement, released on November 11, read, in part:]
The recent election in the United States has had a deep impact, not just on Americans but on many around the world. It has stoked shock, fear, upset, and anger in many, and relief, hope, and gladness in others. The big differences in how we feel reflect the diversity of people, their karmas, values and vision. That difference is no problem; honoring those differences while seeking common ground and taking action is the challenge facing us now. [Read the whole statement here.]
Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche
[As post on his Facebook page] While Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche does not take a political position on the recent events in the U.S., he wishes to offer the following guidance and support at this time.
Whoever you supported during the recent presidential election here in the United States, it has been an emotional year. We have so many hopes, dreams and fears — some beautiful and some scary, whereas others are a little painful. I think we don’t need to really worry about or give a lot of weight to the ever-turning wheel of thoughts. It’s time to find a spot to relax and be kind and open to all beings.
As you consider and reflect upon the recent presidential election year in the U.S., wherever you are across the spectrum of opinion, I have some thoughts to offer that might be helpful:
1. It is important to see the fact that such difficult experiences pervade our samsaric lives. We go through them on an individual level in everyday life. But on a larger scale, going through this kind of experience together can make it feel much more emotionally intense.
Buddha taught the experience of individual and group karma. He taught that individual karma is easier to transform through one’s own practice, whereas group karma can only be changed by individuals working together with the skillful means of compassionate action in a group. Therefore, we must not be discouraged or bogged down by a divisive state of mind. Instead, we must be more vigilant, compassionate, and skillful in order to help lead others with awareness towards a unified group-mind of love, wisdom, and peace — without letting our negative emotional habits get in the way. This is the only way to make this world a better, kinder, and more peaceful place for all beings. We must not give up our loving kindness and compassion!
2. It is also important for us to notice our deep-rooted tendencies to want to control whatever is happening in our world. Our inner control freak is always watching to see if things are going our way. When they don’t, or when things are feeling unpredictable, strong emotions can come up — fear, anxiety, anger. There’s a fear of the unknown, and not knowing can be a dark and scary place. It can be uncomfortable to realize that our belief in having control is just that — a thought or desire — which is not the same as knowing exactly how things will turn out.
There are two elements to consider here: our internal thoughts and emotions and the external actions and realities of the world outside. It is important for us to realize that the world inside our mind plays as important a role as the world outside, in terms of shaping what we experience.
On another note, we have seen clearly and definitively that the projections about the U.S. election were neither true nor close to the truth. Similarly, our own thought projections about “good guys” and “bad guys” need to be reevaluated with the eyes of non-dual wisdom and loving kindness.
3. From time to time, it’s helpful for all of us, especially spiritual practitioners, to do a reality check. It feels like the experiences so many of us are going through now are exceptionally intense, polarized, and emotional. Nevertheless, every time a big change lies ahead of us, there will always be strong reactions. People have gone through similar experiences in the past and felt and expressed similar reactions. The reality is, we are still in samsara, and samsara by definition is imperfect. We are communities and countries populated by samsaric beings, and samsaric beings don’t always understand what they are doing. Samsara, as we learn from the dharma, means being ignorant, ego-centered, and full of negative emotions.
The divided state of our nation here in the U.S. is a wide and clear mirror for us, a powerful reflection of our own dualistic state of mind. It’s time for practitioners to bring this situation home to the path, along with all of the dharma, mindfulness and awareness we have learned and practiced. This is how to transform our own thoughts of duality and shine the light of compassion wherever it is needed.
If we can engage with our dharma practice, with our mindfulness and awareness, the situation we are in now can be an extremely powerful and transformative tool for the path of awakening. It can help us bring great benefit to all beings: starting with Americans and extending to all citizens of the world. The eyes of our nation and of the world are on us. As dharma practitioners and as people committed to working with our emotions, we must be the anchor of calmness, compassion, and sanity in these uncertain times.
All in all, in this Fire Monkey year we have been given many powerful opportunities that are not usually available. It’s been such a direct experience of Buddha’s teaching on mind!
Once again, please don’t worry too much. After all, the Monkey year is going to end soon, and I think at this point we’ve realized what the “fire” is. Please try to relax and connect with the dharma and our path of freedom from this type of samsara.
one step, one breath
another day, another dharma
give no fear
— Joan Halifax (@jhalifax) November 9, 2016
San Francisco Zen Center
SFZC on Thursday, November 9 released “A Post-Election Statement from the Abbatial Leadership,” which reads, in part: “Today our country feels divided into red and blue, success and failure, and we wait with hope or dread for what will unfold. Yet, in the midst of division, we can pause and realize the undivided US and let it instruct us on how to move forward together. How often powerful moments are a mix of opportunity and danger.” Read the whole statement here.
People are suffering today. I think my job is to be a bodhisattva. #practicing
— Kenley Neufeld (@kenleyneufeld) November 9, 2016
For My Grandmother, on November 9: https://t.co/EqpUOkTRA9 In which I gather strength from my ancestors.
— Rebecca Hartman (@pleasantbitter) November 11, 2016
On this sad morning, let your despair be transformed into empowerment. As the darkness rises, look to the light inside you. We truly are stronger together.
Letting the heart be tender, the tears flow and supporting the vision of love and compassion.
Yes a powerful night and morning. To feel the shock and sorrow, and yet and yet.
For me, the work is to dig into our practice and live by vow and not feeding our habits of distraction and contraction. How do we practice with wisdom and compassion and love for all beings—not excluding a single being.
The practice of justice is moment by moment and requires our full participation—especially in moments of feelings of discouragement, disbelief and fear. We need each other—everyone. Let’s practice together with everything we have and are.
May compassion, wisdom and love be the ground of being for our thoughts, words and actions.
Blessings and love
Dear Buddhist Friends,
The unthinkable has come to pass and we now find ourselves living in a country led by a person many have assessed as deeply harmful. His actions will be enabled by a Republican Senate and House, and in time, conservative Supreme Court. For many of us, this is a terrifying moment, as we consider the potential destructiveness of such a government both domestically and internationally.
The 2016 election has brought out the ugliest and most painful part of the American psyche, and for now, that fearful and hateful aspect of our culture is in control. The forces of reactivity, strengthened by the pace of demographic and social change that is so hard for humans to adapt to, roar and overtake reasonable discourse.
Although the American Dharma community is not politically homogeneous, those who take up the Buddhist path tend to envision a compassionate world based in racial equity, social justice, environmental healing, respect for women, inclusion, tolerance, and more. These values seem to be the opposite of those shortly assuming power in our government. It is hard to know, at times, how to love the haters, find tolerance for the intolerant. It tests our values of compassion to the very ends of it. But here is where we may find the potential for real practice, real spiritual challenge and depth. Though we don’t know what lies ahead for our country, let us count on these values and amplify them in our spiritual friendship with each other and our communities.
Over the next few days, some of you may experience many of the same feelings that one feels with despair and grief. At times, numb. Other times, angry. The mind will seek out whom to blame, including oneself. Fear, anxiety, and catastrophizing may all be states of mind that immobilize and even crush the will to do even the simplest things, like eat and shower.
Give yourself a huge amount of room to experience all of this, and take care not to get swept away by it. Know what you are feeling, and hold that with tenderness. And in the meantime, eat, go to work, carry on with your routines. It is in this time that being with friends physically, with ample of social interaction, can be soothing. Do not go online too much — it just uselessly whips up the energy and will leave you feeling drained. Go outside, get fresh air.
And perhaps the very best way to combat the intensity of dread is to help others. Do something for someone less fortunate. Giving and caring is truly the best way to relieve anxiety. Hug the people who are distraught. Reach gently for the hand of a targeted “out-group” person — a person of color, immigrant, disabled person, person of a non-Christian religion, assaulted person — and let that person know you stand by them and will do everything you can to work toward a society that is safe, caring, and kind for all its citizens and guests.
A historic moment like this can shake us from complacency and cause us to awaken to the interconnection of our lives with all life. This is the potential. For now, take some time to get your bearings, while keeping the longterm vision in mind.
With much love and kindness,
Rev. Sumi Loundon Kim
Minister, Buddhist Families of Durham
Watch Sharon Salzberg’s post-election meditation healing, compassion, and unity:
A little later today we’ll post a meditation I recorded a week or so ago for this post election time (thanks to our friends at Happify). A lot of people have reached out to me today so I wanted to say something now.
Buddhist teaching makes a distinction between reasonable (even useful) fear and unreasonable or chronic fear. There are things a person can reasonably be afraid of in this world..any given day, and I would say, now in an intense way for a lot of people in this country. If we can acknowledge that then we can do the best we can to mitigate it, to keep perspective, to form community instead of bearing things in isolation, to work to ease our own suffering and the suffering of others.
My favorite new sage is LA Laker Metta World Peace. Metta is the Pali word for Lovingkindness. He says, ” Everyone talking about they leaving America, so that means you leaving people that need you here.” And so cutely, he lives up to his name by adding, “I love you from the bottom of my heart. The pointy part.”
Zen teacher Brad Warner addressed the Trump election with a post on his website titled “The KKK Took My Country Away…. Or Did It?” In the piece, Warner notes his anger about the election news, but also faces down those who criticize him for that anger: “The general message is that it is not properly ‘Buddhist’ or ‘Buddhist Master-ly’ to express anger at a moment like this one. Which is an interesting question to me. Is it? I ask that very sincerely. Here is my tentative answer.” Read the whole post.
Charles Lief, President, Naropa University
I spent 12 hours as an election observer yesterday at the Boulder County Clerk and Recorder’s Office in Longmont. My job was somewhat partisan, looking for intentional or unintended erroneous actions which might suppress a person’s right to vote. I couldn’t be completely partisan since I didn’t have any way of really knowing who a voter, having trouble with proper identification or the like, wanted to vote for. I could only point out the problem to an election official and hope for the best.
Around my neck I wore a plastic badge simply stating “Watcher”. That turned out to frame the day as one of deep contemplative practice. The lawyer in me knew that being a Watcher was a solid concept. That was true for the voters who saw me and assumed I had the ability and obligation to help address their questions, something I was specifically not allowed to do. Getting that message across to people exasperated by long lines, failed computer systems (4 times) and other obstacles, while honoring my commitment to “not communicate with the voters”, was good practice.
The Buddhist in me spent all day touching into Trungpa Rinpoche’s teaching that meditation practice supports the dissolving or falling away of the Watcher, which is the relative center of our universe. When the center becomes less fixed, we can experience whatever we encounter in the world vividly, and without the familiar pattern of bias we are so used to. Thus I was in the room, labeled as a “Watcher”, and internally inviting that Watcher to dissolve. This was a meditation in action moment I was grateful to explore.
I believe that in the face of the invitation (from others or from ourselves) to dwell in heightened experiences of passion, aggression and ignorance in this immediate post-election time, we might use our contemplative tools to transmute those energies into the fuel to engage a divided country, filled with people of fixed mind. And to do that in ways that are compassionate, with a genuine openness to be loving, willing to experience the discomfort and uncertainty of others and to redouble a commitment to heal a world in pain. It is impossible to project what will happen in the coming days, weeks and decades; but I do believe that Naropa’s work, which of course can only be impactful through the wisdom and exertion of all who share in community here, was of great service during the turmoil arising from warfare and political corruption in 1974 and remains a place of service today.
I feel fortunate to share the uncertainty, chaos and inspiration with so many open-hearted and dedicated contemplative practitioners, and I thank you for the commitment to yourselves and our world.
Zen Master Soeng Hyang — Bobby Rhodes
I encourage all of our Sangha to chant Kwan Se Um Bosal for President Elect Donald Trump. May we never forget that he is our brother. He especially needs our love and encouragement now, after taking on this huge responsibility. He has Buddha’s eyes, Buddha’s ears, Buddha’s mind. May he realize his true self and strive to see and hear all things clearly and may he always act out of love.