Thursday, January 19, 2012

Bodhisattvas in an election year

                                                  Bodhisattvas in an election year.
                                                      by Elihu Genmyo Smith

In a Presidential election year such as 2012, it is easy to get caught up in liking and not liking particular candidates - even for those of us not usually politically inclined.

Do we strongly identify with a candidate? Do we react  viscerally to those who voice positions we like, or do we despise and get angry about those whose positions we disagree with or fear? When we hear the name of a candidate, or a statement they make, how quickly do we add on liking or disliking - and do we get caught up and reactive in the midst of the arising judgment?

If we notice agreements or disagreements, thoughts and feelings, do we also see a sense of self being activated with these, "that is me," "that is not me?" Often we do not see beyond our "story" about a particular politician or political event; it does not matter if it is Obama or Boehner, Romney or Paul, Gingrich or....

That we can  apply the above questions to all sorts of public officials and candidates is evidence of being a political citizen of the US (or of the world). But this is not the boundary of our practice life, of the Bodhisattva life. If we do not see the politician also as a Bodhisattva-to-be, as a Bodhisattva right now - even if they do not see it, even if they do not act it as far as we are concerned - than that much we can not be who we truly are. Instead, we are caught in the particulars of our self-centered judgments. More important in terms of the creating and maintaining of stress, suffering and even harmful actions, we might nurture and be entangled in all sorts of reactive emotion thought and action growing from these judgments.

Yes, it is difficult to see and go beyond our likes and dislikes, beyond those ideas and judgments of praise or put downs that arise; to see what we are holding to, to be present as this body-mind-moment. But that effort is needed to manifest who we are. Our disagreements and choices arise in the "bigger" container of not-praising, not-putting down, in the container of seeing beyond our stories of self and other. If we are present as this moment, rather than caught up in self-centeredness, then we can manifest the Bodhisattva way as political speech and action, even political disagreements and debates. We can see the Bodhisattvas-to-be in all their many forms. We can be the Bodhisattva we are in many forms.

(c) 2012 Elihu Genmyo Smith