David Loy, Buddhist scholar and author of The Great Awakening: A Buddhist Social Theory and other books, has some interesting things to say about President Obama, the military escalation in Afghanistan, and politics in general in a post over on the Shambhala Sun website. An excerpt:
The lesson to be learned from the Obama campaign is that it’s a big mistake to expect the political/economic system to reform itself. People must demand the changes that are needed, a demand that assumes greater awareness of what is actually happening, and greater awareness is where Buddhism comes in. Buddhism is about dispelling delusions and seeing things as they really are, which means that Buddhism may have an important role to play in the great transformations that are needed if humanity and the biosphere are to survive and thrive in the future — a future that looks pretty grim right now.
A few themes in David’s post and the comments that follow it include:
- The role of a leader, of lobbyists, and of citizens themselves in effecting “radical reformation” in militarism, economics, and other areas;
- What role did delusion play in our expectations about Obama as a candidate for president?
- What does it mean for Buddhism and Buddhists to be ‘politically engaged,’ not merely ‘engaged’?
The comment I contributed: “As to politically engaged Buddhism, my sense is that many people (particularly Buddhists) get all weird and phobic about the notion of ‘politics’ when really all it means, in its simplest form, is the use of power. Power itself, just like emotions, is neutral. It is how we work with it that makes it positive or negative, that creates beneficial actions or harmful ones. Power is everywhere, including in Buddhist centers. So to take part mindfully and skillfully in politics can be a practice, just like anything else.”
There’s certainly more to be said about all that, but I’ll leave that for another time.