Buddhism at the Crossroads of Politics and Religion…

Your worst enemy can be your best friend, maybe save your life in the end, if you avoid harsh words, and show him some kindness. And this is especially true in a time of political disruption, when all norms of decency have been cast to the winds of fate, in favor of the expediency of racial familiarity.

For this is the great advantage of religion, if not the sole purpose, i.e. to provide the comfort of familiarity beyond mere racial and tribal identities. After all, most religions have similar, if not identical, goals. The problem, of course, is spreading that umbrella of familiarity wide enough to include everyone, so as to avoid merely extending tribal associations into the realm of religion.

For religion has no intrinsic connection to any nation or race, but that which the paths of culture provide. Culture can change, though, and sometimes immediately. There is nothing that necessitates that a European be Christian or an Asian be Buddhist, except that that is the path that the various cultures adopted in adaptation to the stimuli that occurred, whether natural or intentional.

In fact, the genetic dispositions of the founders of Eastern and Western philosophy are quite similar, probably more similar than the right and left sides of any individual brain. But many, if not most, circumstances are largely random, as best described by the ‘Butterfly Effect’ of Chaos Theory, in which the mere fact that a butterfly might flutter by changes the course of history.

So we are left to make sense of what seem to be random occurrences as best we can. But they are not all random, and that is the point of science, to find the order in the universe. That is NOT the point of religion, though, which is to find our place in that universe. At one time, in the not-so-distant past, the two endeavors were one and the same thing, not surprising in a human culture that has barely outgrown its diapers.

That does not imply any false duality, though, merely a hierarchy of necessity in a world grown more complex with the passage of time and the increasing specialization of the species homo sapiens. And if I once thought that we as a species might not survive, given our many sins, of commission and omission, then today I am gratified to find that Nature will likely have an important role in that final determination.

After all, natural selection is always right. But it is rarely predictive. Hindsight is 2020. Until then, we are best served by a gentleness in our approach to all matters of politics and religion. Buddhism is a good paradigm for that, arguably the best. Purify your heart. Fortify your mind. Lead the world by example…