Should Buddhists even care about "engaging" social politics?

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Should Buddhists even care about "engaging" social politics?

Postby zsc » Thu Mar 20, 2014 10:14 pm

From the last discussion that I participated in (viewtopic.php?f=42&t=11898), something came up that I think deserves its own thread, which is the question of how involved Buddhists should be in politics, or if they even should be involved at all. My position is that I don't think it would be detrimental to our practice if we were politically involved.

Related to this, I find it pretty troubling when other Buddhists take positions that basically say that our current social position is the result of our karma from a previous life only. It implies that our social advantages are "rightfully ours" because they have been "earned" in some way, so there is little need to address inequality, making social politics irrelevant to practice. Remove the teaching of rebirth, and this is basically the assumption that props up elitism, as well as the myth of the true meritocracy and the "self-made man". These are the mechanisms that have made imperialism, colonialism, racism, and other forms of bigotry possible, and have kept these forms of bigotry institutionalized and powerful. Moreover, white mainstream Buddhism's major players have been taking similar philosophical positions, and everyone is just locking in step with them behind that notion. I'm not exaggerating when I say I find this trend alarming -- it is almost as if we are being lulled into a dull sleep by our spiritual materialist comforts, playing our fiddles while the world burns.

Where is the room for conventional reality to be addressed? "No independent identity" should not be taken to mean "irrelevant", especially from Mahayanists, who affirm the non-dualistic nature of reality.

Often, people who disagree with me bring up scriptures in which Shakyamuni asserts that political concerns are not appropriate for Buddhists to concern themselves with. First, I will say often I'm taking their word on this, I admit. If the actual passage gets posted at all, it's usually an exchange between Shakyamuni and a particular person that is posted out-of-context. But more importantly, I disagree on their interpretation because I think they are making a hermeneutical error. They are usually coming to their conclusions based on modern premises.

Nowadays, especially in western culture, we operate on the assumption that there is a separation of the spiritual and the secular. "Separation of Church and State" either as an official government policy or a philosophical assumption is a very new idea. It's easy to forget that for the great majority of human history, such a separation didn't exist. Around the time of Shakyamuni's human birth, your everyday life was "spiritual" in a way we probably cannot even fully comprehend now.

It's hard for me to believe that Shakyamuni's message actually was that it is harmful to be politically involved as a householder, considering the way of thinking that would have this make sense wasn't there. For householders, there was no separate spiritual life from the civil life. The Hindu caste system had spiritual leaders at the top, implying a hierarchy of spiritual maturity, which also resulted in a social hierarchy as well because both the social and the spiritual was one in the same. Even when I say "spiritual leaders" here, I also mean that they were superior in education and social status as well. Your access to all advantages and opportunities was determined by your caste. This is why I see Shakyamuni's condemnation of the caste system as so significant; not only did he say that birth alone doesn't determine spiritual potential in any fundamental way, but this determinism did not extend to any other facet of life either. To put it another way, there seems like there is nothing inherent in a particular class that makes a person inferior or superior, but the stress that a birth brings is due to the ripening of all karma, just like any other phenomena. Here, "good" and "bad" karma is relative, since even "good" karma can lead to stress, because everything is unsatisfactory.

I think how we were taught to understand karma matters here. I was never taught that karma was only in relation to accumulation from a past life, but also the causes and conditions that each of us bring about through our thoughts and actions, and doesn't just affect you, because there is not a separate "you" to begin with. This is why the practice of accumulating merit make sense, for instance. You accumulate good merit from wholesome deeds, and others also accumulate merit through, among other ways, rejoicing in the wholesomeness of your meritous act when you tell them that you did it. Pretty much the opposite of the Christian understanding that you are suppose to do good deeds in secret.

So as it relates to social politics, there is nothing inherently disadvantageous about being born black, for example. However, the disadvantages in being born black are the result of the ripening of the causes and conditions that are responsible for the continuing perpetuation of racism. Had history gone differently, different circumstances would affect the current experience of being a black person. But since it is what it is, where black people and other marginalized groups are suffering due to today's circumstances, this should be engaged.

So to bring it all back, this is why I don't think that political activism is inappropriate behavior for a Buddhist, since I do not think that it is unwholesome for a Buddhist to engage conventional reality as long as he or she remembers it is ultimately empty. I have more to say but I'll stop before I write a novel.
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Re: Should Buddhists even care about "engaging" social polit

Postby Kim O'Hara » Thu Mar 20, 2014 10:27 pm

Hi, zsc,
The issues you raise have been talked through at some length in this recent (ongoing?) thread http://www.dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.php?f=111&t=15677.
The short-short summary of the discussion is that most of us agree with you, saying that we should indeed engage with politics.

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Re: Should Buddhists even care about "engaging" social polit

Postby Adi » Thu Mar 20, 2014 10:32 pm

zsc wrote:From the last discussion that I participated in..., something came up that I think deserves its own thread, which is the question of how involved Buddhists should be in politics, or if they even should be involved at all. My position is that I don't think it would be detrimental to our practice if we were politically involved….


I think it depends on each individual practitioner rather than there being a general prescription or proscription for all Buddhists. For some it may be a great aid in understanding others, developing compassion and being of great help to other sentient beings. And for some it may be a terrible distraction, something that causes them to accumulate black karma, and that ultimately does not help anyone. I can certainly see such involvement being most helpful or detrimental, depending on one's motivation and corresponding causes and conditions.

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Re: Should Buddhists even care about "engaging" social polit

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Thu Mar 20, 2014 10:36 pm

I don't think political activism is inappropriate at all, it can be a necessity depending on one's circumstances, and i'm guessing the right kind can can conceivably create merit.. but it isn't usually dharma practice, the more central it becomes, the more you believe you can "fix" a reified world outside yourself, the further away that gets from Dharma practice IMO. For some people it doesn't matter at all, obviously..

I am and have been involved in politics, anti-war marches, union organizing, and other stuff...but I make no bones as to the significance of it, it can be supportive of Dharma practice in the right circumstances (especially dealing with "professional activists" lol, talk about an exercise in patience), but it isn't Dharma.

As to Karma, I have been taught that "who" we are, all our circumstances are in fact the result of our Karma, this is actually a pretty basic Buddhist teaching, politically correct or not, and often it's not. Growing up with a disability, I understand how hard it is to accept, and how easy it is to confuse it with some sense of blame. I don't know where I stand personally at this point, but I do believe that this is correct in terms of basic doctrine. However, we can find the Buddha mentioning in Sutta that one of the imponderables are the fruits of Karma. So,there is also no place for blame or praise in terms of Karma, as we have all been where others are now, and vice versa. One's karma is one's own though, in this sense I believe you are misinterpreting interdependence - we can't purify others, and others cannot purify us - this is a basic teaching of Karma from the Pali Canon on up. At least in the Mahayana we have some control over how it plays out. We experience our Karma - in our own aggregrates, that's where it ripens, and it ours alone not anyone elses, nor can it ripen anywhere else, nor did it come from anywhere else, by my understanding, than our own actions of body, speech, and mind.

I think how we were taught to understand karma matters here. I was never taught that karma was only in relation to accumulation from a past life, but also the causes and conditions that each of us bring about through our thoughts and actions, and doesn't just affect you, because there is not a separate "you" to begin with. This is why the practice of accumulating merit make sense, for instance. You accumulate good merit from wholesome deeds, and others also accumulate merit through, among other ways, rejoicing in the wholesomeness of your meritous act when you tell them that you did it. Pretty much the opposite of the Christian understanding that you are suppose to do good deeds in secret.


Who teaches this notion of karma, where your Karma "bleeds out" into others, and on what do they base the teaching?


Nowadays, especially in western culture, we operate on the assumption that there is a separation of the spiritual and the secular. "Separation of Church and State" either as an official government policy or a philosophical assumption is a very new idea. It's easy to forget that for the great majority of human history, such a separation didn't exist. Around the time of Shakyamuni's human birth, your everyday life was "spiritual" in a way we probably cannot even fully comprehend now.


I think you are misunderstanding what some people were saying in the other thread about politics not being Dharma practice, it has nothing to do with separation of spiritual and secular, you can take a dump and make it a "spiritual" experience, it simply has to do with not acting under the inspiration of the eight worldly Dharmas:

http://www.rigpawiki.org/index.php?titl ... ccupations

These types of motivations do not lead to the same place as Dharma practice, I believe that's what some were getting at in other thread. Anyway if you want to go back to the historical Buddha, he was anti-political in some ways in the extreme, just take a quick read of the Dhammapada as a simple example, worldy concerns go in one direction, Nirvana in another. There is a lot of mention in Pali sources where some things are "worldy" and others aren't, I understand it to be a conventional way of simply saying some things lead in the same direction as liberation, and others go in the opposite direction.

As a Buddhist layperson, I figure participation in political activism should be treated like other activities, do my best to make sure they are meritorious, and check my motivations for them to make sure i'm not getting wrapped up in something that leads to suffering, and it's causes.

Just read the words of a typical political activist of any stripe, then read the words of someone like TNH on his participation in the civil rights movement etc...the motivation is completely different, the tone is as different as night and day.
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Re: Should Buddhists even care about "engaging" social polit

Postby Malcolm » Fri Mar 21, 2014 1:05 am

zsc wrote:From the last discussion that I participated in (viewtopic.php?f=42&t=11898), something came up that I think deserves its own thread, which is the question of how involved Buddhists should be in politics, or if they even should be involved at all. My position is that I don't think it would be detrimental to our practice if we were politically involved.


That depends very much on how. If your politics cultivates the three poisons, then it is probably better you are not involved in politics.

Related to this, I find it pretty troubling when other Buddhists take positions that basically say that our current social position is the result of our karma from a previous life only. It implies that our social advantages are "rightfully ours" because they have been "earned" in some way, so there is little need to address inequality, making social politics irrelevant to practice. Remove the teaching of rebirth,


But we don't remove rebirth.


and this is basically the assumption that props up elitism, as well as the myth of the true meritocracy and the "self-made man".


But of course Buddhist social theory maintains that one's rebirth is based on one's virtuous deeds. So if you are born into an "elite" and behave non-virtuously, you will lose that position in your next life.


These are the mechanisms that have made imperialism, colonialism, racism, and other forms of bigotry possible, and have kept these forms of bigotry institutionalized and powerful.


None of this applies to Buddhist social theory.

Moreover, white mainstream Buddhism's major players have been taking similar philosophical positions...


We are just following the lead of our non-white teachers.

Where is the room for conventional reality to be addressed? "No independent identity" should not be taken to mean "irrelevant", especially from Mahayanists, who affirm the non-dualistic nature of reality.


If you wish to be take seriously on this score you will have to abandon your rhetoric of white/non-white, etc.

Often, people who disagree with me bring up scriptures in which Shakyamuni asserts that political concerns are not appropriate for Buddhists to concern themselves with


The Buddha never said that we should not engage in political life.


The Hindu caste system had spiritual leaders at the top, implying a hierarchy of spiritual maturity...


When the Buddha was alive, as he very clearly says in many texts, the warrior class was more respected than the priestly class.


I think how we were taught to understand karma matters here. I was never taught that karma was only in relation to accumulation from a past life, but also the causes and conditions that each of us bring about through our thoughts and actions, and doesn't just affect you, because there is not a separate "you" to begin with. This is why the practice of accumulating merit make sense, for instance. You accumulate good merit from wholesome deeds, and others also accumulate merit through, among other ways, rejoicing in the wholesomeness of your meritous act when you tell them that you did it. Pretty much the opposite of the Christian understanding that you are suppose to do good deeds in secret.


You are conflating action (karma) with the ripening of action (karma vipaka). Action, as defined by the Buddha, is intention and what proceeds from intention. "You" are indeed a separate continuum, but that continuum simply isn't a self.

So as it relates to social politics, there is nothing inherently disadvantageous about being born black, for example.


Nope, not intrinsically; nothing intrinsically disadvantageous about being a woman either. But in this present epoch they seem to be both.

But since it is what it is, where black people and other marginalized groups are suffering due to today's circumstances, this should be engaged.


Sure, Buddhists who feel that they should do something should do something.

So to bring it all back, this is why I don't think that political activism is inappropriate behavior for a Buddhist, since I do not think that it is unwholesome for a Buddhist to engage conventional reality as long as he or she remembers it is ultimately empty.


As I said at the beginning, what matters is "the how." But there are a number of people you can learn from such as Bernie Glassman, a prominent example of an engaged Buddhist political activist and there are many others
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Re: Should Buddhists even care about "engaging" social polit

Postby rory » Fri Mar 21, 2014 2:57 am

Karma is deeply complex; there is personal karma and then group karma; family karma, national karma, etc. There is no problem with being African-American in America the problem is the bad karma produced by those who treat you unequally. I think one of the reasons I keep to Nichiren Buddhism is it's dynamic attitude to karma; you are in charge of your personal karma and you can change it.

The problem comes when people mix social and cultural attitudes with their Buddhism and think the former is Buddhism. I left my previous sensei a middle-aged Japanese man as he (thought kindly) told a gay man that in his next life he would be reborn as a women. I privately wrote to my sensei that this was a mistaken notion, that gay people were happy to be gay,I in fact was a lesbian and enjoyed my female body and had absolutely no desire to be reborn as a male! He didn't understand and didn't want to try. In his Confucian mindset, males are at the top of the pyramid and the ideal is a married male-female couple with a son. That's not Buddhism that's his Confucian background. Additionally Buddhism is all about change not reifying conservative values. I certianly don't buy into that.

Jamyang Tashi in the previous thread posted this link to a truly inspiring African-American Theravada Buddhist nun Ven. Pannavati who is very socially engaged http://pannavati.org/?page_id=14 Ven. Indrajala told me that in places like India karma is used to infuse people with a sense of apathy or even in Japan, when someone is down on his luck people will say 'he has bad karma.' That's not the point of karma, to justify the existing social system. (though it is used that way). Remember the 1960's movement, that proclaimed "Black is Beautiful." I thought that was a very dynamic idea of changing your karma. Refuting mistaken social ideas and ideals and taking charge of your own self-image.

So many people here reiterate the idea that since everything is empty there are no differences: no black and white, no male female, no straight and gay. That's true about buddhanature but it isn't true about conventional reality. I belong to the Tiantai school which asserts that while things are inherently empty it also reifies conventional reality. So while my buddhanature is the same I live in conventional reality with a female lesbian body and have to deal with that.

Anyway as I keep repeating in these forums, the first lesson of Buddhism is that everything is changing. It's perfectly natural, it's perfectly Buddhist to want to better your karma and work for society to treat you better.
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Re: Should Buddhists even care about "engaging" social polit

Postby JKhedrup » Fri Mar 21, 2014 12:03 pm

Addressing social inequality helps to reduce suffering and exploitation. Reducing suffering of sentient beings is very relevant especially in the Mahayana context. Also, if social inequalities are reduced there are less negativities accumulated by the benefactors of the oppressive structures.

My opinion is that working on the ground is the best way to reduce these inequalities. Here in India I see that it is direct znti poverty and hunger initiatives, as well as education, that really transform things.

I have little faith I the paradigm of identity politics, formed in the elite universities and using a jargon that locks out the co mon person. I feel funds for that would bemuch better diverted to equality initiatives onthe ground and practical education that ensures upward mobility of the oppressed classes.
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Re: Should Buddhists even care about "engaging" social polit

Postby Nemo » Fri Mar 21, 2014 12:22 pm

The Buddha rejected the caste system. He was a bit of a social activist himself.
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Re: Should Buddhists even care about "engaging" social polit

Postby Indrajala » Fri Mar 21, 2014 12:23 pm

JKhedrup wrote:I have little faith I the paradigm of identity politics, formed in the elite universities and using a jargon that locks out the co mon person. I feel funds for that would bemuch better diverted to equality initiatives onthe ground and practical education that ensures upward mobility of the oppressed classes.


Before anything actually works at the ground level there needs to be rule of law in the streets otherwise the funds get misappropriated, stolen, misused, etc.

I've seen professional beggars in Kathmandu exploit western charities, meanwhile the real destitute go empty handed.

However, this raises an ethical question for Buddhists. If rule of law requires the application of high levels of violence (and in some countries it is required) and perhaps even a secret police to monitor government officials and employees, then how far will you as a Buddhist support those measures?
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Re: Should Buddhists even care about "engaging" social polit

Postby Konch » Fri Mar 21, 2014 12:50 pm

Indrajala wrote:
However, this raises an ethical question for Buddhists. If rule of law requires the application of high levels of violence (and in some countries it is required) and perhaps even a secret police to monitor government officials and employees, then how far will you as a Buddhist support those measures?



At what point compassion becomes activism?
Reading this thread, and the other related, ive over the last few days bounced between different camps on this topics, and many people have good arguments on both sides. Though at the moment the question that appears to me really is - thats all very good, to be wanting to help and reduce other's suffering. But isnt the goal of compassion to really free others from samsara? I know that from the Mahayana point of view that could entail many different kinds of activity, but I also think that a variety of activity in this context would be always with a clear goal in mind - liberation, not a better samsaric life, or end of world poverty. So from a purely Buddhist point of view - at what point compassion becomes activism and drifts away from the path by becoming too onesided? (meaning neglecting wisdom)
Maybe in the end this is always a personal thing, that can only be seen within a specific context and time and there is no general rule.
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Re: Should Buddhists even care about "engaging" social polit

Postby Wayfarer » Fri Mar 21, 2014 12:55 pm

There has to be a mode of political engagement for those with Buddhist convictions. And, after all, the Buddha played a role in the politics of his day, insofar as many rulers sought out his advice on all kinds of matters. Furthermore the sangha was dependent on charitable donations, which were only possible if there was an organized society with some kind of surplus. Could Buddhism have arisen in a hunter-gatherer or subsistence society? I doubt it. And political patronage was a consideration from the outset, for better or worse.

There are various forms of Buddhist philosophy that lend themselves to a range of political views across the spectrum. However I think the cardinal virtue, if you like, ought to be disinterestedness, in other words, pursuit of equity, justice, progress, and other social virtues, for the greater good rather than for selfish interests. And I'm sure there are politicians and entreprenuers and so on, with Buddhist inclinations, who do pursue those virtues. I would say, obviously, that as soon as it becomes pursuit of power for its own sake, then a conflict with the basic Buddhist attitude is inevitable. But living in the world requires politics and the exercise of power.
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Re: Should Buddhists even care about "engaging" social polit

Postby Indrajala » Fri Mar 21, 2014 1:00 pm

Konch wrote: So from a purely Buddhist point of view - at what point compassion becomes activism and drifts away from the path by becoming too onesided? (meaning neglecting wisdom)


I think it needs to be calculated. If you spend yourself trying to make the world a better place without being realistic about your own capacities and spiritual practice, you'll inevitably be disappointed. You can't fix saṃsāra. However, that being said, you can still generate merit and benefit others -- both of which are necessary for Buddhahood -- by being engaged in the world.
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Re: Should Buddhists even care about "engaging" social polit

Postby Indrajala » Fri Mar 21, 2014 1:04 pm

jeeprs wrote:But living in the world requires politics and the exercise of power.


Somebody in the Buddhist world has to get involved lest Buddhism becomes defenseless and irrelevant. It has always been this way. Buddhist masters are often friends with the upper echelons of society and direct energies and resources to Buddhist activities and institutions. Ideally the king is Buddhist or at least a supporter of Buddhism. You need to court favor in order to do this however, which requires people adept in politics while equally charismatic and sociable. In this respect, the Dalai Lama is a living success story.

However such tasks are not for the faint of heart.
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Re: Should Buddhists even care about "engaging" social polit

Postby Konch » Fri Mar 21, 2014 1:22 pm

Indrajala wrote:
Konch wrote: So from a purely Buddhist point of view - at what point compassion becomes activism and drifts away from the path by becoming too onesided? (meaning neglecting wisdom)


I think it needs to be calculated. If you spend yourself trying to make the world a better place without being realistic about your own capacities and spiritual practice, you'll inevitably be disappointed. You can't fix saṃsāra. However, that being said, you can still generate merit and benefit others -- both of which are necessary for Buddhahood -- by being engaged in the world.



:good:
Thats what I meant. There are no rules I think. Each one must see in each situation - and always checking closely to one's motivations and objectives in regards to such activities.
The Dalai Lama as you said is a good example, especially in regards to the scope and type of activities, aligned towards the principles of peace, non-violence, compassion etc. Its very different from the average type of political activism as such.
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Re: Should Buddhists even care about "engaging" social polit

Postby Indrajala » Fri Mar 21, 2014 1:27 pm

Konch wrote:The Dalai Lama as you said is a good example, especially in regards to the scope and type of activities, aligned towards the principles of peace, non-violence, compassion etc. Its very different from the average type of political activism as such.


I think it needs to be recognized, too, that some political activism might actually result in more harm than good.

Yesterday I met a monk who is going to Ukraine to do a peace march there against Russia. He tried to paint Russia as the big bad wolf, and refused to hear anything else. In the end he might end up helping the wrong people secure power in Ukraine.
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Re: Should Buddhists even care about "engaging" social polit

Postby zsc » Fri Mar 21, 2014 5:32 pm

Konch wrote:
Indrajala wrote:
However, this raises an ethical question for Buddhists. If rule of law requires the application of high levels of violence (and in some countries it is required) and perhaps even a secret police to monitor government officials and employees, then how far will you as a Buddhist support those measures?



At what point compassion becomes activism?
Reading this thread, and the other related, ive over the last few days bounced between different camps on this topics, and many people have good arguments on both sides. Though at the moment the question that appears to me really is - thats all very good, to be wanting to help and reduce other's suffering. But isnt the goal of compassion to really free others from samsara? I know that from the Mahayana point of view that could entail many different kinds of activity, but I also think that a variety of activity in this context would be always with a clear goal in mind - liberation, not a better samsaric life, or end of world poverty. So from a purely Buddhist point of view - at what point compassion becomes activism and drifts away from the path by becoming too onesided? (meaning neglecting wisdom)
Maybe in the end this is always a personal thing, that can only be seen within a specific context and time and there is no general rule.


I think this point is a completely fair one.

I would say that since practice leads to the goal for liberation, more people would be able to practice if they weren't overburdened with concerns like not having enough to eat, not having adequate shelter, not having access to clean water, not having access to education, not having access to educational and employment opportunities, etc. These factors often depend on present social and political structures. Ultimately, I do not see social activism as an attempt to change the samsaric reality, but to remove as many samsaric obstructions as possible so that the Buddhist path can be open to more people. This is why I disagree with points like that reiterated by Johnny Dangerous, et all. I don't perceive any social resolution as an "end", but the means to liberation in a fuller sense.
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Re: Should Buddhists even care about "engaging" social polit

Postby Malcolm » Fri Mar 21, 2014 5:53 pm

zsc wrote:
I would say that since practice leads to the goal for liberation, more people would be able to practice if they weren't overburdened with concerns like not having enough to eat, not having adequate shelter, not having access to clean water, not having access to education, not having access to educational and employment opportunities, etc. These factors often depend on present social and political structures.


And all of these are covered in the teaching of the eight freedoms and ten endowments that define a precious human birth:

Freedom from being born in:

1. in the Hell realms
2. as a hungry ghost
3. as an animal
4. in a place where teachings are unavailable
5. as a long-life god (always content and therefore has no motivation for progress)
6. with wrong view (no understanding of karma, and no understanding of past and future lives)
7. where no Buddha has appeared
8. deaf, dumb, blind or mentally deficient

If one is born in any of the above realms, there is no chance of studying and practicing the teachings. What is therefore necessary are the Ten Endowments which consists of Five Inherent Endowments and Five Karma Provisions. The Five Inherent Endowments are one is born

1. as a human being
2. where there are teachings
3. possessing five senses
4. not having committed heavy negative karmas
5. having confidence in and devotion to the Triple Gem

The Five Karma Provisions are one is born

1. where a Buddha has appeared
2. where a Buddha has taught
3. where the Dharma teachings flourish
4. where there are followers who enter the pure path of Dharma
5. where there is support from the kindness of others, including the spiritual master.

Ultimately, I do not see social activism as an attempt to change the samsaric reality, but to remove as many samsaric obstructions as possible so that the Buddhist path can be open to more people. This is why I disagree with points like that reiterated by Johnny Dangerous, et all. I don't perceive any social resolution as an "end", but the means to liberation in a fuller sense.


The Buddhist path is open to anyone who takes refuge in the Three Jewels.
http://www.bhaisajya.net
http://www.bhaisajya.guru
http://atikosha.org
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

Though there are infinite liberating gateways of Dharma,
there are none not included in the dimension of the knowledge of the Great Perfection.

-- Buddha Samantabhadri
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Re: Should Buddhists even care about "engaging" social polit

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Fri Mar 21, 2014 7:26 pm

Jkhedrup wrote:I have little faith I the paradigm of identity politics, formed in the elite universities and using a jargon that locks out the co mon person. I feel funds for that would bemuch better diverted to equality initiatives on the ground and practical education that ensures upward mobility of the oppressed classes.


I agree 100% with this. Identity politics circles also has killed real political action IME, things like organizing anti war marches for instance turns into a drawn out battle for "consensus" among different groups that are too wrapped up in their chosen groups interests and representation to bother working together. I believe that such concepts make a point, but translating them into action is usually a losing proposition because (all IME of course) the concepts come from an insular, academic environment, and the pre occupation with identity and it's preservation above all else can often (though not always of course) preclude working together with others in a meaningful way, which is necessary for nearly any kind of positive change.


zsc wrote:
I would say that since practice leads to the goal for liberation, more people would be able to practice if they weren't overburdened with concerns like not having enough to eat, not having adequate shelter, not having access to clean water, not having access to education, not having access to educational and employment opportunities, etc. These factors often depend on present social and political structures. Ultimately, I do not see social activism as an attempt to change the samsaric reality, but to remove as many samsaric obstructions as possible so that the Buddhist path can be open to more people. This is why I disagree with points like that reiterated by Johnny Dangerous, et all. I don't perceive any social resolution as an "end", but the means to liberation in a fuller sense.




My understanding is that you cannot remove the karmic obstructions of others.

You can help with external circumstances, and help relieve suffering as much as you can (and we all should), but ultimately our own Karma brings us to the teachings or not, that is my understanding.

I don't disagree with being politically active at all, I participate in such activities myself, it just seems like you are playing an awfully circuitous game with the concept of Karma to justify your political beliefs, and fold them into Dharma. You do not have the realization (unless there's something you aren't telling us) to go alter the world and alter others for their own benefit according the Mahayana notion of Karma. So it's not that i'm saying Buddhists shouldn't be political by any means, i'm saying that if the motivation itself is mainly political, via the eight worldy Dharmas, then it could possibly move in a direction contrary to Dharma practice, even if it accomplishes some "good" in a conventional sense, which plenty of things do.

Maybe it's that some kind of balance is required for most of us, focusing mostly on external circumstances, for many people could lead them to focus mostly on the poisons of others, which only makes our own grow, we neglect our own Karma under the mistaken notion that we can enact some kind of fundamental change in someone else. In that case, obviously political activism is a Pyrrhic victory at best. In other cases, it may be that people use Buddhism to hide from things they should face, things that are part of their own journey that too could lead to a worse place I imagine.
"Just as a lotus does not grow out of a well-levelled soil but from the mire, in the same way the awakening mind
is not born in the hearts of disciples in whom the moisture of attachment has dried up. It grows instead in the hearts of ordinary sentient beings who possess in full the fetters of bondage." -Se Chilbu Choki Gyaltsen
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Re: Should Buddhists even care about "engaging" social polit

Postby rory » Fri Mar 21, 2014 8:41 pm

Malcolm:
8. deaf, dumb, blind or mentally deficient


This is a very good example of re-iterating something that is outdated. Times have changed a current priest in Honmon Butsuryu Shu is deaf and signs the Odaimoku, he enthusiastically wants to bring Buddhism to deaf people with sign language, as opposed to the times he was told in SGI to sit and be silent. Blind people can read braille and study just like anyone else. Even those who are developmentally disabled have levels of ability, it is up to them how much and how far they can learn. Let's not perpetrate these backward attitudes.

As to social activism, I was deeply affected by reading some years ago about Dalit women who'd converted to Buddhism and how empowered they felt to change their karma! In my philosophical school conventional reality is not scorned. Nichiren quotes the great Zhiyi the founder of the Lotus School Tiantai school (Jp. Tendai)

"samsara is nirvana"

Ven. Indrajala kindly translated this from Zhiyi:
《妙法蓮華經玄義》卷5:「凡夫一念。皆有十界識名色等。苦道性相。迷此苦道生死浩然。此是迷法身為苦道。不離苦道別有法身。如迷南為北無別南也。若悟生死即是法身。故云苦道性相即是法身性相也。」(CBETA, T33, no. 1716, p. 744, a3-7)

A single moment of thought of an ordinary being always possesses the consciousnesses, names and forms of the ten realms. The nature and characteristics of the path of suffering – they misunderstand this path of suffering, and saṃsāra remains expansive. This is misunderstanding the dharmakāya as the path of suffering. There is no separate dharmakāya apart from the path of suffering, like mistaking south as north, there is no separate south. If one realizes saṃsāra, then it is the dharmakāya. Thus it is said the nature and characteristics of the path of suffering are the nature and characteristics of the dharmakāya.


gassho
Rory
Dharani of Amoghapasa Avalokitesvara:

Om amogha-padma-pasa-krodhakarsaya praveshaya maha-pashupati-yama-varuna-kuvera
brahma-vesa-dhara padma-kula-samayan hum hum

heart mantra: Om amogha vijaya hum phat
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Re: Should Buddhists even care about "engaging" social polit

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Fri Mar 21, 2014 8:47 pm

Many Mahayana schools explicitly or implicitly teach that Samsara and Nirvana are one, not really sure how that bares on the discussion though, it's not exactly a unique position, and I don't see how it refutes anything being brought up, people still have to decide what is activity leading to liberation, and what is not.

So Samsara and Nirvana being one can't mean you are supposed to do whatever, then say it's okay..this seems similar to the mistaken notion that Tantra's way of treating transformation of poisons means you should just go out and get super drunk, and climb up on every person you see, or that the Kalama Sutta means you can just ignore anything that doesn't fit your own biases.

As to the blind/deaf thing..I would think that now that it is possible for blind and deaf people to learn the Dharma as well as those with full sense faculties can, the definition of what can constitute a precious human birth is widened..though i'm sure that's not always the reality, sadly.
"Just as a lotus does not grow out of a well-levelled soil but from the mire, in the same way the awakening mind
is not born in the hearts of disciples in whom the moisture of attachment has dried up. It grows instead in the hearts of ordinary sentient beings who possess in full the fetters of bondage." -Se Chilbu Choki Gyaltsen
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