Religion, Politics, Hope and a Prayer: Happy 2018, Good Riddance 2017…

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The Golden Spires of Shwedagon Pagoda

If you’re American, and you’re reading this, then 2017 has probably been a very tough year for you, as it has been for me, for this is the year in which we’ve seen our beloved country rocked to its foundations, for no particular reason, other than the general hatred, prejudice, rudeness, crudeness and bad judgment of our barely-elected President, by a distinct minority, due to the anomalies of our Electoral College system, in which our state lines themselves represent a form of gerrymandering that makes a mockery of democracy…

But that’s not the real problem. The real problem is that as our world grows more crowded, our sensibilities seem to be growing harder and colder, with people feeling less and less toward each other, and governments even worse. The Fall of the (Berlin) Wall in 1989, and USSR in 1991 was supposed to usher in a new era of freedom and responsibility, and instead it has ushered in an era of unparalleled greed and hatred…

As I have said many times since then: with Communism no longer around to keep Capitalism honest, then Capitalism no longer is (honest), and that’s sad. The no-growth and slow-growth philosophies so popular in the 70’s have long ago been forgotten, lost in the heady rush of the 80’s ‘Reaganomics’ era of ‘financial services’, as opposed to manufacturing, basically creating money out of nothing, and then using national resources to secure the investment, they now too big to fail…

And even liberals seem as tied to the old capitalist system as conservatives with their outdated union-style politics, and all of Europe not much better, in which capitalism is free to run wild as long as they feel the noblesse oblige to keep their workers in good health to keep the entire system running for another generation, while global warming continues to make the rest of our efforts futile…

We need to be talking about communes and collectives, and population control, NOT more economic growth. And with the Democrats seemingly unable to respond to the challenge, the outlook is not good. No Democrat will seriously consider an alternative to Capitalism, as though that concept is sacred and we are forever destined to be under the sacred spell of dirty money, the ‘root of all evil’, remember. The history of capitalism began the first time that someone lent money at interest, and the rest is history…

Fast forward to the future and it’s only gotten worse. Rich people no longer even feel the noblesse oblige to care for their ‘lessers’ and so thousands of Americans, British and Europeans live on the streets and in the woods, far from anything even remotely resembling a home, and even farther from what we used to call the ‘American dream’. Donald Trump makes Ronald Reagan look like a phila-, uh, philan-, uh, good-deed-doer, and his insulting behavior only makes his greed and hatred all the worse…

I never even really liked politics very much, and now less than ever, but passive acceptance is even worse. My new project is Buddhism, and it’s not just a place to meditate, and even less a place to vegetate, not for me, at least. We need solutions for upgrading the status of our species, and we need them fast. The future is now, and I see Buddhism at the heart of it, first in our hearts, and then in our lives, and finally in our societies…

Whether Buddhism can rise to the challenge is an open question, but if it can’t, then something else will need to. That means shedding the excess baggage of the past, and contemplating our societies as well as our proverbial navels. Theravada and Mahayana need to make common cause for the transformation of society into something that will ensure mutual survival for itself and the species and ourselves…

…notwithstanding the impermanence of all forms, the absence of self, and the prevalence of suffering in our realm of existence, all at the heart of Buddhism. So what is Buddhism really, and how is it equipped to be a universal belief system, so necessary for human well-being? Well, for all the dubious crap written about Buddhism, this little quote from the annals probably describes it as well or better than any other:

In the Vinaya – Culavagga. 10:5; Anguttara-nikāya 8:53 p. 107-108, (answering to Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī,) Buddha said: “…those things of which you know: ‘These things lead to dispassion, not to passion; to detachment, not to attachment; to dispersal, not to amassing; to modesty, not to ambition; to content(ment), not to discontent; to seclusion, not to association; to energy, not to idleness; to frugality, not to luxury; of them you can quite certainly decide: ‘This is the Dhamma, this is the Discipline, this is the Master’s Teaching’.”

And with a few tweaks and flourish, especially with regard to ‘associations’, I heartily agree. No, this ain’t no party, and it ain’t no disco, but life on Planet Earth can be a happy experience, or at least not unhappy, and a common belief system to unite societies would seem to be the way to go. Buddhism is the best thing I’ve found, and in that context Donald Trump is just another challenge to overcome on the path to Enlightenment…

To carry the analogy one step further: We should be less concerned about ‘feeling the Bern’, and more concerned about NOT feeling the Donald, haha. One day we’ll look back on this, and it will all seem funny, yeah right. I persevere, and I hope that you will, too. Happy New Year 2018!!!