Dharma Talk: Responding to the Election

How can we respond to recent political events with compassion and integrity? 

Given by Ejo McMullen-Osho November 13, 2016. 

Buddha Eye Temple will host an initial gathering to start collectively considering how to face the outcome of the presidential election and how we might respond as individuals and as a community. The gathering will be Sunday, December 18 from 3 to 5 PM at the temple. To listen to a talk given the Sunday following the election, click above. Below are some of my (Ejo's) more recent reflections. I hope to see many of you for this important discussion. 

   Xuefeng said to the assembly, “All the buddhas of the three worlds turn the great dharma wheel in the flames of fire.”

   Xuansha said, “The flames of fire expound dharma for all the buddhas of the three worlds, all the buddhas stand on the earth and listen.”

Where does the great wheel of dharma turn, if not in flame? We are completely free and luminous, dancing oranges and reds. Flickering in and out of view, we are the fleeting beings that spread out as the world. This transience is not our burden or tragedy, it is the very basis of life. It is how we can see and how we can attend to each other. It is how we can truly stand on the earth and listen.

The fire can also find fear in itself. This problem didn’t start on November 8th, nor will it start on January 20th. This fear has its roots in how we have been living for a very long time. Setting the vibrant fire of life against itself, our collective living is rooted in a bargain. This bargain asks us to tolerate the destruction of some for the betterment of others. It insists that the right way to cultivate a flame is to protect it from, and fuel it with, things outside. This bargain requires us to make “others.” In actuality, this leads to everyone getting burnt.

People have every reason to be upset and afraid. The rhetoric from President Elect Trump has been a consistent stream of divisiveness. He is the type of leader who creates power from fear and fear from stoking suspicion and hate. It is important to thoroughly recognize and cherish how we experience and feel this rhetoric. This isn’t “whining about losing” or self-indulgent pouting. Our feelings are desperately important because they are a gateway to recognizing our shared life, the one in which your and my welfare are intimately intertwined, the one where soil and root are hard to divide, the one where flames illuminate. The fire is our essential nature. It is powerful because it can only be lived, not trapped in a word or idea.

We long to find a way, a practice, a process, a relationship … a political candidate or cause … that will heal and transform. While the inspiration is noble, how often this leads to disappointment when our hope is rooted in the bargain of inside and out. Thinking there will be something that is right to oppose all the wrong in the world, the “wrong” continues to hold court. Leveraging one thing over others, the great wheel cannot be heard and an appropriate response to the suffering of the world remains elusive.

Because the fire is the mind of all beings, Buddha dharma asks us to approach medicine in a different way. The fire can be our guiding light more profoundly than it can be our sword and shield. There is a necessary movement that only you and I can bring about. It is fearless and alive. It is the fire burning bright as each individual’s intention and as the luminosity of our shared world. It takes deep and sustained listening to center in this light. The mudra of this listening is found as zazen, found as community, found as right speech and action, found as generosity.

These are all ways that we center in the boundlessness of life rather than the power that comes from division. The medicine is not one hope, one solution, one really good plan. It is ceaseless life. It is the activity of the wheel in each place and each moment. It is the bodhisattvas that fill the world responding to causes and conditions with the one intention of awakening. We must listen very carefully to the great vehicle, the wheel on which all beings turn, to join in as the medicine. This is our charge as bodhisattvas and it is our charge as a community of Buddhists.

It is time for us to openly speak about how to respond to the divisive spirit that has been publicly championed and has resonated with so many of our fellow countrymen. We need to approach with care and with the intention of hearing more fully. This is how we can transform the trapped voices, how we can stand with our sisters and brothers and be a clear voice for the inclusion of all beings in our vision of this jeweled world. It is time for us to consider our place in the community and how we will respond to this clear call to awaken.

- Ejo