Mindful Politics


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An essay on the Buddhist perspective on politics and how to make the world a better place.

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Mindful Politics

  1. 1. Mindful Politics: A Buddhist Guide To Making the World a Better Place by Melvin McLeod For those who are willing to consider Eastern Religious thought in their discussions, I found this book to be helpful. Just like the Jewish scholar, Paul Rogat Loeb in Soul of a Citizen who speaks to us about political activism, Melvin McLeod in this book provides a spiritual context from which to view how to create the change we want to see in this world. There are various forces at work in the world. Whatever spiritual path we follow we can realize these three qualities – mindfulness, compassion and wisdom – these do not belong to any one religion but are qualities in our own hearts and minds. Mindfulness is the quality of the mind that keeps us in touch and aware of the world around us. It is the quality that keeps us in touch with reality in the humblest of ways such as brushing our teeth or having a cup of tea. It is the connection to the people around us so that we are not just simply rushing by them in the busyness of our lives. I had always perceived Buddhists as fairly non political persons but I learned that is not always so.
  2. 2. I found this four point platform for political office delightful: 1) May all beings enjoy happiness and the root of happiness 2) May they be free from suffering and the root of suffering 3) May they not be separated from the great happiness devoid of suffering 4) May they dwell in the great equanimity free of passion, aggression and ignorance. In mindfulness meditation we start with the simple observation and feeling of each breath. Breathing in and breathing out. We need to each remember the sage advice of Mark Twain “Some of the worst things in my life never happened.” Slowly and calmly we train our minds, coming back again and again to the concentration on breathing in and out. Such a simple act can serve to concentrate our awareness on ourselves, who we are, what we want to be and where we want to go with our lives. Compassion comes on both a personal level and also on the global level of cultures and civilizations interacting with one another. When Thich Nhat Hanh addressed members of the US Congress he reminded them that mindfulness, deep listening, and loving speech can restore communication remove wrong perceptions that are the foundation of all violence and hatred. Whistleblowers struggle with the loss of hope. Why should I try to do anything if it won’t work? If there is no hope? Devoid of hope they plunge into depression. Hope never enters the room without fear at its side. What if we are truly powerless? I have given up trying to save the world, I gave it up to discover what I am supposed to be – how I myself can best help. This left me free to know how to retreat when necessary and I hope to act rightly – in the right time – with the right action – with the right mindset. Thomas Merton a Christian mystic said “Outcomes don’t matter people do.”
  3. 3. Thomas Merton advised a friend “Do not depend on hope of results …. You may have to face the fact that your work will apparently be worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results in the opposite of what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start to move and more not to concentrate on the results, but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself….. you gradually struggle less and less for an idea and more and more for specific people…. In the end, it is the reality of personal relationship that saves everything.” In the fifth chapter of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, he discusses the power-in-motion, where water, otherwise soft and harmless, can be amassed into a rushing force capable of tossing huge rocks about, next as a shape such as a steep mountain, evoking the power of troops taking the higher ground in a mountain ravine, and finally as an accumulation, the drawing back of a crossbow with the power released at the pulling of the trigger. “One who uses shih sets people to battle as if rolling trees and rocks. As for the nature of trees and rocks- When still, they are at rest. When agitated, they move. When square they stop. When round, they go. Thus the shih of one skilled at setting people to battle is like rolling round rocks from a mountain one thousand jen high.” Sun Tzu Shih does not rely on changing the world but instead on knowing how things are and how they work together, and on the right timing. Appreciating the nature of shih and employing it well will help us when we are faced with the need to apply force to move forward and when we want to attain our goal without engaging in a costly battle. We must as whistleblowers enlarge our perspective,
  4. 4. take a bigger view of the situation either in time or space. In this concept of Shih intelligence is not accomplished through the standard command and control with its sense of entitled authority and series of cascading events, but instead a concept of public intelligence brought from the consensus of the people – an intelligence grounded throughout the entire system and thus attainment of one’s goal is done by disturbing the system rather than directing it. While using this concept of shih to accomplish one’s objectives, one must loosen one’s grip on the smaller objectives, while at the same time opening up to the larger world view. Thus our goal is not to control but to influence. Skillful action comes from knowing, seeing, and catching the moment. Using this concept of shih can be the gateway on a deeper more personal level to magic in our ordinary day to day lives.
  5. 5. For Further Spiritual Support for Whistleblowers: Email or Write to Dr. Janet Parker DVM Executive Director Medical Whistleblower P.O. Box C Lawrence, KS 66044 MedicalWhistleblower@gmail.com Please indicate your faith so that we can tailor support services appropriate to your Faith belief. Medical Whistleblower provides advocacy, emotional, social and spiritual support to all regardless of religious faith, national origin, disability, sex, sexual orientation, race, creed, or color. Therefore we do not take a religious viewpoint but instead reach out in an interfaith non-creedal manner to everyone regardless of spiritual background or faith belief. Medical Whistleblower believes that inner spiritual strength and religious spiritual support is necessary for those who are courageous enough to “Tell Truth to Power.” We support you in whatever faith belief that you find meaningful.