How Would the Buddha Deal with Living in Trump's America?

    Jeevan Sivasubramaniam Posted by Jeevan Sivasubramaniam, Managing Director, Editorial, Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc.

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    How Would the Buddha Deal with Living in Trump's America?

    Franz Metcalf is not just a bestselling author but a Buddhist scholar and professor. One of Franz's great gifts is applying Buddhist teachings to modern-day challenges (just as he did in his book for us). We asked him how he thought the Buddha would deal with living in Trump's America. This is his response:

    "The Buddha focused on bringing wisdom to life and doing so now. In our sloth (okay, mine), I tend to object that “ now is not a good time. Can I do it later?” Answer: no, precisely because “now is not a good time.” In fact, now is a terribly bad time in America, a time when we need a large vision to provide us enough perspective to see and enough courage to act in ways that help, not harm, the world. Choose any wisdom vision; the Buddha and I don’t care which, so long as it moves you to action. Here’s one I’ve been working on.

    An ancient seeker, Dharmakāra, vowed he would not become a Buddha until a list of wonderful things happened. Pure Land Buddhists believe he has become a Buddha in a Pure Land, thus those things have been realized. Like the Buddha, I neither separate now from the past, nor this world from the Pure Land. That means I see our job as being Dharmakāra and creating the Pure Land right here, right now. Talk about making America great again!

    We start by fulfilling Dharmakāra’s first two vows, which belong together. Simplified and put positively, they say:


    Animal, hungry ghost, and hell realms do not exist in my land.

    Humans and the like in my land never fall into those three realms.


    Animals you know; hell you can imagine. Hungry ghosts are beings never able to satisfy their hunger or thirst. You may not have seen hell or hungry ghosts, but I know you’ve seen animals here. So, how do we fulfill the vows? We see those three realms as negative human roles and experiences and we vow not to let our fellow beings fall into them. We vow not to treat people as if they were animals. Perhaps we even vow not to treat animals as if they were animals, that is, as if they had no rights. We vow not to let people turn into hungry ghosts (for example, to fall into homelessness or addiction). We vow not to create hell on earth through violence or the torment of oppression—neither in America, nor in other lands. We vow to resist oppressive governments. We vow neither to invest in nor purchase from oppressive corporations that create hellish conditions. We renounce harm, even if it appears to help. Through these vows, we transform hatred into compassion, suffering into ease, and delusion into wisdom. This is the work of the Buddha and ourselves. It’s not complex, only hard, but we need a vision to guide us in it.

    No, now is not a good time for America, but it is the best time for us to act. The Buddha has his vision. Find your own and start creating a pure land for everyone."


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