Saturday, 31 August 2019

Do You Have to be Leftist (to be a Progressive Buddhist)?

One of the teachings of the Dharma is that our tendency to attach names to forms, and with those names, meanings. That’s very handy—we’d all be walking in front of busses, and not even knowing what hit us without that habit. The problem arises when we start to think the bus has some “bus-ness” to it, and that the name “bus” and the “bus-ness” actual means something more than that thing with four wheels and people inside it is a mode of transportation. 

“Mass transit is Good!” “Those people in that bus must have lost their drivers licenses, they must all be drunks...or poor.” Neither of these statements is true or false. Taking a bus instead of a car may be a responsible choice environmentally, or it may be the only choice if you happen to be an unlicensed poor drunk. Making these value judgments and assigning good and bad qualities only mires us further into this Sahā World that we must endure. 

And so it is with “IdPol,” Identity Politics. Both “Progressive” and “Buddhism” can be (and often are), loaded with stereotypes, and heavily-dosed with “meaning” and expectations. “Progressive” at its most literal is defined as growing, developing, moving forward. “Buddhism” is simply a follower of the Buddha and one who lives according to these teachings. We’re not all vegans or vegetarians, we’re not all members of the Comintern. “Conservative” Buddhists May be those who want to stay close to the Buddha’s teachings, eschewing the new-agey aspects some have pinned on by or about Buddhists. 

In all likelihood, there are combinations of identifications we or others attach to us. It is said that when asked about “Engaged” Buddhism, Thich Nhat Hann replied, “Is there any other kind?” And that’s a telling statement. Being engaged is just seeing the interdependence of all dharmas. In realizing this “interbeing,” as TNH would call it, we embody compassion by our involvement in the world, Sahā world though it may be. Embodying compassion is being progressive. We want to move forward toward a world where compassion is the norm. We move this along by being compassionate ourselves. For those of us who have taken the Bodhisattva Vows, we try to “save all beings” through our compassion. 

“IdPol” may as well be eliminated from being a progressive Buddhist, because we do our best for everyone and everything, in order to enable them to realize their innate Buddha. Hating does nothing to liberate either ourselves or others. Isn’t that reason we all practice?