Before I begin, we’re still taking people for Saturday’s micro-retreat at the Hill Street Center. I think we have four people signed up so far. So there’s plenty of room for more. See the link to your right for details. Onto today’s rant:

The elections are over and the Good Guys won. Hoo-ray for our side!

Or not…

Just a couple days after the re-election of George Bush I got an e-mail from a friend of mine who said he’d been contacted by a certain editor at a Buddhist publishing house who told him he wanted submissions for a book about the Buddhist reaction to the re-election. My friend forwarded me the pitch. God it was sooooo dire. I wish I’d saved it. It was all soft and sweet and smooshy like a rotten banana, asking contributors to talk about how Buddhists deal with anger, depression, fear, anxiety and feelings of helplessness, and how we can learn to cultivate compassion for those souls so deep in delusion they could support the Bush administration and its policies of evil. My friend was all hot and bothered to contribute. He even sent me his proposed piece. I couldn’t get through it, though. It felt too much like wading in a pool of putrefying marshmallow sauce. There was a tremendous urgency to the editor’s pitch and writers were asked to contribute as quickly as they could so the finished book could hit the stands as soon as possible. The editor in question never sent that pitch to me, though we are accquainted. Guess he knew better. In any case, the book never came out.

Now, of course, the tables are turned. At least a little. The Democrats have won a slight victory and maybe President Bush’s supposed dreams of dictatorship are in danger. I’m sure the folks behind that book are dizzy with elation. But if Dick Chaney beats Hillary in 2008 they can always dust off those old essays, use MS Word’s® “replace” function to substitute Chaney’s name where it says Bush and get the book out lickity-split.

Out here on the Left Coast, the mood is positively giddy. I saw an interview with Trey Parker, creator of South Park, a year or so ago where he said that the most punk rock thing you could do in LA was to say you think George Bush is awesome. It’s actually dangerous in terms of career mobility in the West Coast entertainment biz to question liberal politics in any way. No doubt about it.

When those guys in Saint Paul were briefly considering hiring me on as their new master, I took a look around their place. I saw some fliers pinned to their notice board related to various left wing political causes. And I thought, if they do ask me to do this thing and I accept, all those are gonna have to come down. And they’re not gonna like me a whole lot when I do that.

There’s a tendency within American Buddhism to equate Buddhism with left-wing politics. It is almost unquestioned that all Buddhists accept pretty much every trendy lefty political idea on the market. The very idea that a Buddhist might be politically conservative seems absurd. But Buddhism is not left-wing politics. It’s not right-wing politics either. But that seems to be well understood and as such doesn’t need further comment.

In our usual way of thinking there is success and there is failure. When your candidate wins, that’s success and you can rejoice. When she loses that’s failure and it’s time for depression and feelings of helplessness.

Buddhism has nothing at all to do with success or failure.

Enlightenment is not the ultimate success and lack of enlightenment is not evidence of failure.

There is no success or failure in reality. Success and failure are judgments about reality based entirely — entirely — upon what your tiny ego thinks is good for it or bad for it. This is not reality at all. What you call failure may be exactly what you really need while what you call success may be a slippery slide into delusion and darkness. The world out there is not something apart from you. When it changes in ways you don’t like, who is responsible? Someone else? Not you? Yeah, right. And when things go the way you want, watch out. See what your own reactions really are. See what they are not.

How come nobody’s proposing a book about the Buddhist reaction to the Democratic wins of 2006? How come nobody put out a book about the Buddhist reaction to Clinton’s two wins? Elation over success is a much bigger problem in Buddhism than depression over failure. Bad teachers can make you do anything they want by keeping you hungry for success and afraid of failure. Suckers will fall for that every single time. To follow the Buddhist way is to avoid both extremes.

Get that through your skull or you won’t get anything.

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51 Responses

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  1. Anonymous
    Anonymous December 22, 2006 at 11:30 am |

    Whenever I hear the term “engaged Buddhism” I reach for my cushion.

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