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As we saw when we looked at engaged Buddhism, Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese Zen monk with whom we typically associate the idea, admonished us to avoid attachment to any idea or set of ideas, including Buddhist ideas.

Politics invites or even demands attachment to ideas. Politics is mostly about trying to convince other people to agree with you and do what you want them to do. That is easier when one is genuinely attached to one’s program.

Buddhists do not even proselytize. You do you, and everyone is different, but it is a bit hard to imagine how or why anyone would be on the Buddhist path absent some degree of conviction that the Buddha was right. But Buddhists prefer to persuade by example rather than exhortation. Hang out with some Buddhists and see what you think.

The Center where I started practicing as a Buddhist had sign on the wall consisting of a statement, with the signature of the leader of the lineage, explicitly committing the Center not to engage in any form of invidious discrimination. It included the usual list of categories of people who have suffered such discrimination in our history, as we do. I found this both obvious and encouraging.

I have no desire to participate in any organization that tolerates any form of invidious discrimination.

Saying that Black Lives Matter and calling for the end of killing Black people should be easy for Buddhists. To avoid harming other beings is the first precept. To avoid harming other people who belong to a group that has a unique history of discrimination and prejudice should be even more obvious.

The Buddha was not one to stir up controversy, but he also did not hesitate to explain and defend his own teachings from misrepresentation. He would likely try to convince all parties in our current imbroglios to cooperate peacefully.

But if the goal is peaceful cooperation, as a practical matter, the people who are killing other people are the problem.

As several observers have noted, being awakened or enlightened is not so much a state of being that one achieves and stays in as a way of being in the world. It is more a verb than a noun. A fully awakened person should be able to remain calm and compassionate in the face of any provocation.

The more awakened people we have, the more calm and compassion will characterize all of our debates, especially our political debates.

And we’ll have fewer people killing other people.

Please help spread the word.

Written by

Uppity gay, Buddhist, author, historian.

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