Politics in Buddhism


While there really are no politics in Buddhism, we each still have a responsibility and a blessing to be able to vote for the best candidates. So how does one determine which one to vote for, Republican or Democrat. And this is not to minimize the independent parties, but realistically it will likely come down to a decision between those two political parties.

So are Buddhists Republican or Democrat?
I say the answer is both and neither. The answer is both, because Buddhism does not have a political affiliation or agenda. And I am quite certain that there are many loving and wonderful Buddhists who support both parties and neither party. But keep in mind, that at the same time, our practice is about inclusiveness and not separation or division. There is no such thing as “I am right and you are wrong” in the teachings or the practice. We are all human beings, and deserving of loving kindness and compassion. And in that vein, could we say that Mitt Romney or Barack Obama are more or less deserving of that? Of course not!

I think it is safe to say that we all want what is best for our Families and our country. And part of accomplishing this is through our right to vote for the people that we feel will best serve that interest.
And as Buddhists, I feel that peace must be at the forefront of our choices. Peace combined with genuine compassion for all beings is the most wholesome way to bring harmony to our World.
And I think it’s extremely important that each of us is mindful of this during these politically charged times. We all have an opportunity to lead by example in how we communicate and associate with our friends, coworkers, social media, and Family members. And this does not mean that we cannot advocate for our choice of candidate, but we must be extremely mindful of how we go about this. With the same compassion and acceptance that we try to make a part of our daily lives.

Admittedly, this can be a slippery slope, and one that I have fallen victim to myself many times. Compassion in action does not mean forcing my thoughts or beliefs on anyone else. And I see this as easily put in motion when there is even a momentary lapse of mindfulness, mindfulness with complete comprehension (sati-sampajañña) that is.

While I think that activism can be a good thing, each of us needs to be aware of how beneficial this is to ourselves and all other beings. For example, the Tibetans who are self-immolating in protest of the Chinese regime. I cannot judge their actions, but have to wonder if this is the most mindful and compassionate way to take action. But I think I do understand their feelings of helplessness and the compulsion to do something that will inspire a change.
To an immensely smaller degree, I think many of us feel compelled to incite changes in our government and political system. But hopefully the teachings have taught us a more loving and gentle way to take action.
I say this as a reminder to myself, and encouragement to each of you.
Perhaps today, each of us can take a few moments to open our hearts and offer some deep and sincere loving-friendliness to the candidate that we are opposed to. Offering them a smile and gentleness, and understanding that they are a human being, just like you. Remembering that peace in this World begins with you.

May you be well, happy and peaceful.