In my last post, I argued that candidate Donald Trump was unfit to be president of the United States for a multitude of reasons, not the least of which were his manifest shortcomings in two of the most essential Buddhist virtues – the practice of skillful speech, and the cultivation of the three interrelated habits of generosity, compassion, and wisdom. I supported my argument with examples of how this candidate has demonstrated throughout the entirety of his public career the very opposites of these virtues – wildly unskillful speech, and shockingly unabashed displays of greed, hatred, and delusion.
I posed two rhetorical questions, which I fervently hoped we would never find it necessary to answer:
What would be the effect on our country, and on the world, of having such unskillful speech spouting from the mouth of the United States president for the next four years? And, consider what the effect would be to have all that greed, hatred, and delusion as the guiding forces on the person occupying the Oval Office for the next four years.
Well, the candidate is now the president. Those of us who viewed his candidacy with such trepidation are already glimpsing the shadowy outlines of an emergent demagogic administration that is the antithesis of everything that has historically – forgive the phrase – “made America great”, in the truest sense of that word.
And so, what now? Those of us who are so very alarmed by the ascendancy of this paragon of greed, hatred, and delusion to the most powerful governmental office on the planet – what do we do now?
This question has preoccupied me every day since the election, and I’m still wrestling with its enormity. I’ll be returning to this topic in future posts.
But in the meantime, here are the two firm guidelines upon which I’m basing my inquiry, as I continue to seek a meaningful course of action for myself:
- Be more continuously mindful. One of my teachers, in a recent dharma talk, said that now more than ever we all need to be “strong practitioners”. I could not agree more. It is only by keeping a consistent focus on the turbulent internal feelings arising in reaction to the extraordinary external events of recent days that we can hope to …
- Become more effectively engaged. Already we are witnessing an unprecedented wave of public demonstrations of disapproval for the misogynist and xenophobic tenor of much of the discourse being put forth by the new president and his nascent administration. More than ever, now is a time to temper our understandable passions – be they fear, anger, anxiety, outrage – with the wisdom to see things as they are, and to act in response to the situation rather than in reaction to our feelings.
In closing, and in support of these two proposed guidelines, let me offer these inspiring words from Buddhist scholar and teacher Andrew Olendzki, taken from his introduction to his book Unlimiting Mind:
As we come to better understand consciousness, we cannot help but become better people in the process. And it may even be that we can realistically aspire to extinguishing the fires of greed, hatred, and delusion that are ravaging the world we inhabit. This is the work that will decide whether we are entering the worst of times or the best of times.