Each Friday, we share three topical longreads in our Weekend Reader newsletter. This week, Lion’s Roar editor-in-chief Melvin McLeod looks at the Buddhist view of politics. Sign up here to receive the Weekend Reader in your inbox.
If the Buddha had a political platform, it might go something like this: “May all beings be free from suffering and the causes of suffering. May they all enjoy happiness and the fruits of happiness.”
This is not simply a spiritual aspiration. It is the ultimate goal of government. The debate over how to achieve it is called politics.
By the measure of suffering and happiness, this is the most important political moment of our lifetime. The very direction of democracy and society is in the balance, both in the U.S. and in countries around the world. We need every bit of strength, courage, skill, and compassion we can muster. We also need self-care, healing, and a sense of community and solidarity. Buddhism can help with all of these.
Buddhists’ first vow is to lessen suffering. In fact, it’s not really a Buddhist vow. It’s our basic vow, our deepest calling, as human beings.
While Buddhism has traditionally addressed suffering on a personal and mental level, modern insights into society, nature, and economics oblige us to also address systemic causes of suffering. That’s why we’ve added a new section to the Lion’s Roar homepage, called “Mindful Politics.” There, you’ll find a wealth of teachings, meditation techniques, news, and stories to inspire and inform your journey as a citizen of this world.
For your weekend reading, I’d like to suggest three important pieces that are particularly relevant in this fraught time.
In the statement “Stand Against Suffering: A Buddhist Call to Action,” more than a hundred Buddhist teachers lay out the case why Buddhists — and all spiritually inclined people — need to act now. “Buddhism does not align itself with any party or ideology,” they note, “but when great suffering is at stake, Buddhists must take a stand against it, with loving-kindness, wisdom, calm minds, and courage.”
In “Love Everyone,” Buddhist teachers Sharon Salzberg and Rev. angel Kyodo williams offer a guide for spiritual activists. Real political change, they say, must be spiritual, and real spiritual practice must be political. And it must be based on a love that does not deny the injustices people commit, even as you love them.
Naturally, the focus these days is on politics — the upcoming midterms and all the terrible things happening in Washington. We need to get through this crisis, but can’t forget the deeper, long-term changes we need to make. In “The Promise of Buddhist Economics,” I spoke to UC Berkeley economics professor Clair Brown about how we can create an economic system whose goal is less suffering, more happiness, and a sustainable future.
May all this benefit you, and may you benefit all.
—Melvin McLeod, editor-in-chief, Lion’s Roar, Buddhadharma, LionsRoar.com
Thirteen prominent teachers explain why Buddhists need to be be politically engaged at this crucial time in the country’s history, in this statement published in Lion’s Roar magazine and co-signed by more than 140 Buddhist leaders.
Religious leaders and practitioners have always played a vital role in movements for justice and social progress, contributing their wisdom, love, courage, and commitment to others. People of all faiths are needed on the front lines now, resisting policies that will cause harm and offering a new and positive vision for our country.
Real political change must be spiritual. Real spiritual practice has to be political. Buddhist teachers Sharon Salzberg and Rev. angel Kyodo williams on how we can bring the two worlds together to build a more just and compassionate society.
Sharon Salzberg: Equanimity doesn’t mean indifference. I think part of it is admitting how much we don’t know, because such a big part of the conditioning in this society is instant action. Then we look back and ask, “Who knew that this would actually lead to that?”
Things take time, and there’s so much that’s unknown, but I don’t feel despair. Maybe I should, but I think that there is significant movement happening, the beginning of many things.
UC Berkeley economist Clair Brown argues for an economic system based on altruism, sustainability, and a meaningful life. Because even economics is about more than money.
In Buddhist economics, happiness is defined by the concept of interconnectedness. All people, all beings, are interdependent with each other and with nature. Happiness comes from making sure people lead comfortable, dignified lives and interact with each other and nature in a meaningful, caring way.