So advice about conduct in Dharma, any Dharma, is ultimately about becoming free from those eight worldly dharmas.
Here I am in agreement with you completely, down to the emphasis on "any Dharma." Earlier in this thread, someone posted a very fine quotation on this topic by Thinley Norbu Rinpoche; a nearly identical description of this is given in Peter Hershock's book Liberating Intimacy
, which uses a Ch'an vocabulary rather than a Dzogchen one.
I'm interested in the political in the etymological sense, of that which concerns the polis: that is, conduct which is oriented toward the public good. How to be of benefit to beings? I don't claim to know the answer to that, nor do I think that conventional politics of the kind Malcolm describes is the best or last answer.
And once again we need to take it back to the semantics! Jikan does a perfect simple job of taking the word to its greek root--concerning the town, the public. How you relate, act, engage in a public, in a community.
Or as I said in a recent post:
"To clarify, the SCOPE the range the extent of the OP was about: our personal politics as Buddhists; our lived-experience, our communities, our lives, our choices, our relationships with people abroad and at home. Our attempts or lack thereof to stand for justice, whatever that means."
It seems like the word "political" can only bring to mind two extremes here:
Either you're thinking of corrupt, narcissistic politicians who make Democratic change a very hopeless and difficult task.
Or you're thinking of radical activists like this lady who chained herself to a tree.
(Admittedly, at the beginning of the thread, I would have been interesting in talking about her. Now it seems I have a more modest task.)
Ben Yuan, I apologize for using you as a hypothetical example. Ben has expressed that it's important to abstain from the "political" as we've been calling it (even though I'm still not sure if we agree on what defines that). Nevertheless, let's go with my definition for a moment:
Let's say Ben never votes, never confronts his children's principal and school board about their experiences with a verbally-abusive teacher, and never helps organize with his neighbors to have a neighborhood block party. He has in all three of these examples made a political choice. This is my main argument and the one I'm begging you to focus on if you have something to say in response to this post: Our hypothetical Ben Yuan has possibly made those choices with a genuine motivation of bodhicitta (where in my opinion he's is then blameless as much as I may disagree with his means), however, he could as as easily have made completely engaged choices based on bodhicitta as well.
Abstention (can be) the 8 worldly dharmas as well. Specifically avoiding shame, pain, blame and seeking anonymity.
All mind training is a practice of turning the 8 worldly dharmas into the raw material of merit and wisdom--how then, can engagement with community be said to be an obstacle for the Bodhisattva? Sure there are pitfalls, the lure pride, the lure of fame, etc. But the pitfalls are in you, not the situation. Mara is in you, not the activity. He's waiting in the shrine room, he's sitting on your shoulder when you are in the presence of your Guru, he's omnipresent until enlightenment is reached. What matters is intent.
Also, the Thinley Norbu quote has a lot of really amazing implications that have gone undiscussed. I may have completely misunderstood it, but I posted it with you in mind, Malcolm.