Friday, April 13, 2012

Bodhisattvas in an Election Year - Case Six

When we hear political discourse and disagreement, do we truly see or hear those we disagree with, those who we believe are our opponents? Do we respond to them out of seeing them in terms of both our disagreements and our commonality?

In the Lotus Sutra there is a Bodhisattva who views everyone, including and especially those who oppose, criticize and attack him, as a Buddha-to-be. This is a very useful practice for all of us, and relevant to whatever faith tradition (or no-faith tradition) we resonate with. Can we see others, especially those with whom we have differences, very real differences, as at the same time being a Jesus with whom we have differences, a Muhammad with whom we have differences, as Allah with whom we have differences, as G-d right here before me with whom I, at the very same time, am still having differences?

To put it in non-religious terms, can we see them as a loved one with whom we are having differences, and respond to those differences from both the differences and the love?

The interpenetration of differences and sameness, forms and emptiness, differences with a backside of unity, or unity with a backside of differences, are an important aspect of a "deepening" of being who we truly are. This is difficult for even religious people to grasp since they often hold to their specific tradition, to the differences, and do not see the differences in the midst of the Oneness - to use an overly broad word to generalize about what is really beyond such a word, and yet we must use such a word.

How would responding out of this differences/oneness change the political discourse we are now having?

For instance, the Democratic Party adviser Hillary Rosen who criticized Ann Romney for not being a working woman, that she "never worked a day in her life," despite Romney's being a stay-at-whom mom raising five boys, how would she speak if she saw not just the differences between her ideas and the work that Ann Romney did, but also saw the shared Buddha-nature that they were, the Buddha-to-be of Ann Romney right now? Of course, after the public reaction to the Rosen comment there was retraction from her and her political allies, but my point is that if she really saw the other, the differences, as also the unity, saw the other with affection and connection, then she might not have said what she did in the first place, or at least not in the way she did.

Or those who criticize Obama for his perfidious actions towards allies such as Hosni Mubarak or Israel, or criticize Obama for his duplicity in the statement caught "off-mike" to the Russian President that, "this is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility." If, in the midst of disagreements and criticism of Obama's statements and policies, his critics also saw the Jesus in Obama, how would they speak of their differences? This of course applies to Obama himself, who one former aide says, "is putting the bully into bully pulpit" in his attacks on Romney. If Obama, in the midst of his disagreements with Romney, truly saw the Jesus Romney, the Buddha-to-be Romney, would he speak in the same way? If Romney saw Obama as a Prophet of the Latter Day Saints, how would he articulate differences with him?

So, please, be the Bodhisattva that does not abuse others, that sees all the Buddhas-to-be with whom you have real differences. Then, please respond skillfully and appropriately to these differences.

(c) 2012 Elihu Genmyo Smith