Is this blog showing anger because it is political?

Posted: 09/09/2011 by zandtao in Insight, War
Tags: , , , ,

(Added to Insight and Religion page)

A friend asked me yesterday why my blog has gone political, why have I become angry and is that right for a Buddhist? This question contains many good points to answer.

In my retirement I have chosen to live in a smallish community far from the rat-race where people live modestly amidst some signs of gross opulence. Life is pleasant here. The cost of living is low – £400 a month usually, £6000 a year with major items. The school I mentioned at the end of this blog is in this community. For myself my consumption is mindful in that I choose healthy eating and minimise other expenditure except for the computers. In general my life is sufficient and comfortable. The person asking me was born in this community. The politics of this blog passes her by, she cares for her family and for her that is sufficient, and the community as you can judge by the costs I have noted is not part of NATO.

I am British and have chosen for a long time to live outside of the UK, so I have abrogated my responsibilities as a British citizen. Yet Britain is part of NATO so I have more responsibility than my friend for the deaths in Iraq and elsewhere. This responsibility is weighing on me a little at the moment as for 20 years it was not to the forefront of my thinking. When I left the UK there was a great relief, a burden was lifted in part to escape the repressive society that is now far worse – see the affects of Tony Blair in Taking Liberties, and also to escape the burden of community responsibility for the actions of my government – there were personal reasons as well. I know that at present I am redressing a balance.

But am I angry? I am angry at myself for going to sleep for nearly 20 years – allowing my awareness not to include political reality and so not accepting my responsibility, but because I am now writing about politics does not mean that I am angry. It means that I am showing my compassion. But at the same time it means more in terms of Buddhism.

For this I need to consider Buddhism and how I learnt about it. The main source of Buddhism is in monasteries, the preservers of the tradition. Let us consider this source. These monks have chosen to take orders, to withdraw from the world, to study the dharma and meditate – and also to teach the dhamma. Whilst some have done this after almost a lifetime in the world of political reality, many more have spent their lives there. So I as a lay person learnt Buddhism from people who in general have not been active in the world of work nor in the world of political reality. Significant to Buddhists are the notions of insight and mindfulness, and it is important to understand how this insight and mindfulness might work for cloistered monks. Through Vipassana meditation directly or through other forms of meditation monks gain insight, but this insight tends to focus on insights into the dhamma – in a sense how the mind works. From this insight mindfulness and awareness follow, how is an individual matter. In the cloisters this is unlikely to develop into political awareness, and very unlikely to develop into the level of awareness that is gained through insight into the corporatocracy, one main reason for this is that monks tend not to believe that there are people who can behave as inhumanely as these corporatocrats. Lay people learn their Buddhism from these monks, and lay Buddhists are expected to, and do have, reverence for these monks. Whilst the key factor in living is to understand the mind, in a lesser sense in Buddhism there is a situation of the blind leading the blind, monks who are by intention politically unaware (because they choose cloisters) are teaching the world of Buddhists, and Buddhist writing and activity reflects this teaching.

At the same time we must understand the institutional restrictions that are placed on Buddhist monasteries. They require money, and these donations are provided by their lay community. Amongst the lay Buddhists are the rich and powerful, and if such monasteries were to begin to discuss the influence and implications of the corporatocracy such poweful people might withdraw donations. There becomes a tacit acceptance that mindfulness stays within the necessary understanding of mind, and that insight does not move into the world of politics. Whilst the Buddhist institution as a totality does not see this this tacit acceptance becomes a tacit acceptance of war; yet surely our humane compassion needs to address the issue of war. One of the Noble Truths says that suffering exists, war does. The Noble Truths suggest that we must not become attached to emotions connected with compassion and war, this detachment is important for peace of mind, but the Noble Truths do not say that we should ignore our compassion for those dying in war.

All Buddhists abhor war, peace being a key platform of Buddhism and compassion. Some Buddhists will then become activists fighting for peace, but how many of these Buddhists see war as a consequence of the financial imperative of the corporatocracy? How many draw the conclusion that the more than a million deaths in Iraq:-

Iraq Deaths Estimator

bring the profits back to the home communities, and these profits pay for the salaries directly and indirectly within the communities that good western people live in. It is not by intention that good western people do this, such people will often voice opposition to the war, but by practice their democratic rights are misused by the government and media wing of the corporatocracy to facilitate these wars. Insight, mindfulness and awareness makes this obvious. When lay Buddhists seek advice from their monks, are they told of the corporatocracy? The soldeir asks their monk “should I sign up?”, and the monk says that if you believe in democracy to that extent then the logical conclusion is that you defend it. This is sound advice if these wars were defending democracy, but if the monk asks “Do you believe that you should fight in order to increase the profits of the corporatocracy?” this advice is clearly not acceptable to any Buddhist or religious doctrine. As a Buddhist I am asking that people extend their insight into the reality of daily life, our meditation is there to help us in daily life. For some this help is needed simply to cope with daily life, and for them I do not wish to add such a burdensome realisation as to the relationship between war, corporatocracy, and the foundations of western daily life. But for others including renunciates I am asking that they take their insight beyond the confines of their monasteries and make a decision for themselves as to the importance of insight into the corporatocracy and struggle.

There is an interesting consideration of the observation by my friend that I was angry. Yes, my compassion produces anger but is that anger controlling me? Am I attached to that anger? At the moment I know that I am to a certain extent, because for a long time this political awareness was not in the forefront of my mind. This does not invalidate what I am saying. Examine this blog with the same insight that you might examine any Buddhist blog. Does insight tell you that what is written is wrong? Do NOT use intellect but examine this with insight. At the same time do not examine it with emotion. Throughout our lives we have to come to terms with our emotions about war, for many their compassion dictates that they turn off their minds to the horrors of war. For most people war cannot be part of their awareness. But what happens when someone writes about the corporatocracy, and explains that profits from war are paying their salaries. This brings war home to them and they respond emotionally. But these people still need to keep these emotions at a distance so rather than examining such political analyses with insight they use their intellect to reject them by saying that these analyses are emotional. I have previously said that the struggle for me is now a recognition that in my limited activism there is a state of calm, the calm that comes from being aware more completely and accepting that awareness. I feel less held by the dogma and more by my compassion, is that not Buddhism?

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