Moving Forward in Trying Political Times

Even as President-Elect, Donald Trump has no hesitation in making policy pronouncements (via tweet, which his team must interpret and translate) as if he were already in the White House. Today came his tweet that the US must expand its nuclear arsenal.  In response to a question by a radio host, he added that if it’s an arms race, we’ll win.  For 40 years each American President has worked to reduce the US stockpile of weapons in conjunction with other countries. In a tweet, Trump cavalierly appears to abandon that perspective.

Eagle Peak Quarterly cover for December 2016In the December 2016 Eagle Peak Quarterly, we featured an excellent piece by retired diplomat Bob Tansey. In it, he expounded on the words of Nichiren Daishonin, 13th century Buddhist. To read the entire piece, please go here.

Nichiren states, “If you care anything about your personal security, you should first of all pray for order and tranquility throughout the four quarters of the land, should you not?”

That certainly seems like an appropriate response to Trump’s most recent unthinking outburst. Here’s a little more from Tansey’s article:

In his 1260 treatise, written in the form of a dialogue between a host and a guest, Nichiren recounts the many disasters confronting medieval Japan, such as famine, internal strife and foreign invasion. . . . He also brings up the challenge of “reforming the tenets in our hearts.” That means to examine our basic beliefs (which are mixed with emotion as well) and seek to perceive our own enlightened potential and perspective—strengths arguably much in need at this moment in our own United States of America.

Reflecting on these two key phrases from Nichiren’s rather lengthy treatise led me back to an earlier writing of his, “On Attaining Buddhahood in this Lifetime.”  From all of Shakyamuni’s teachings and all that flowed from over those two thousand years, Nichiren adopted the tradition of the Lotus Sutra. I’ve been practicing Buddhism for going on five decades but am not a Buddhist scholar. Nonetheless, I like to say that to me “On Attaining Buddhahood…” (which is notably brief) summarizes the key principles of the Lotus Sutra:

  •  The idea that everyone has the potential to reveal their inherent “Buddha Nature,” which seems to me to be a statement of ultimate equality. Nichiren Buddhism sees the Buddha nature as the inherent potential within each human being to attain Buddhahood, the state of enlightenment and the goal of Buddhist practice. It’s also the tenth or highest of the “Ten Worlds” (states or conditions of existence).

  • Interconnectedness, aka “dependent origination,” i.e. though we may believe we’re separate from others our lives and fortunes are intertwined. “On Attaining Buddhahood…” states in part, “It is called the Mystic Law because it reveals the principle of the mutually inclusive relationship of a single moment of life and all phenomena.”

  • Causality, i.e. ultimately what we think, say and do is determinative rather than external factors. Nichiren states, “Whether you chant the Buddha’s name, recite the sutra, or merely offer flowers and incense, all your virtuous acts will implant benefit and good fortune in your life.” He urged his followers to strive with this conviction, while fully cognizant that the society of his time was besieged by seemingly overwhelming negative forces. Nonetheless, he constantly emphasized the power of a single individual and of individuals working together to make a difference.

Bob spent decades around the world–China, Israel, Central America, Africa and more countries in Asia. He speaks five languages. Since retiring from the Foreign Service he has been working at high level position within the Nature Conservancy. So what is he doing to move forward? He’s working to create a community association in the multiracial neighborhood where he lives in Washington, DC.

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2 thoughts on “Moving Forward in Trying Political Times”

  1. John, thank you for this insightful and most timely post. Appreciated your sharing Bob Tansey’s article. It seemed to me most timely to include Daisaku Ikeda’s comment here:
    “Buddhism identifies ignorance as the cause of suffering, conflict and war. This fundamental inability or unwillingness to recognize the inherent value of life, called fundamental darkness, leads people to disregard the suffering of others and conclude that there are things more important than human life and dignity. It creates the willingness to sacrifice others (and our environment) for selfish gains…. True and lasting peace will only be realized by forging life-to-life bonds of trust and friendship among the world’s people. Human solidarity is built by opening our hearts to each other. This is the power of dialogue.”

    So I thank you for this dialogue, your post !

    Nicki

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