I’ve been a little praised and much reviled for a blog post I wrote a week after the election, and I’ve appreciated both (though the former is considerably easier to swallow than the latter). The piece has become a foil for some Zen people and communities – a contrast they can use to emphasize how they (unlike that hater Jiryu!) are welcoming to all, of all political beliefs. (And also to those who want to show that their Buddhism has no room for politics, which are inherently divisive and deluded.)
Some of those reactions are here, and here, and here. Even San Francisco Zen Center has taken the opportunity to reassert that people all of all political stripes are welcome, writing in a recent mailing:
2016 has been marked by political divisiveness and uncertainty. We would like to remind you that all are welcome at San Francisco Zen Center. We do not discriminate based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, immigration status, religion, disability, or political beliefs. We, at San Francisco ZenCenter, are resolved to act based on the 16 Bodhisattva Precepts to work for the benefit of all beings and to care for the planet and its inhabitants.
I’ve plugged away here and there defending my old post, but I’m not so interested anymore – I’m not sure I even agree with myself. (I’ve said so elsewhere when pressed, but of course once writing is out there you’re held to it no matter how you move on from it. That’s why it’s best to never publish anything.) It’s clear to me now that the piece was too raw and too angry. There’s a much better tone that can be struck, like Hondo’s. Or like Spirit Rock’s, or even, more strongly but without the mean edge of my own post, Brooklyn Zen Center.
Rereading my post, I see that it did in fact reach for some nuance, but that my nuance was lost in my outrage, so people understandably read right by it. The most jarring part of my post – which is what people are mostly reacting to – is my statement that supporting Trump is a racist, homophobic, ecocidal act. In that supporting Trump has consequences for race relations, people’s sexual expression, and the planet, the statement doesn’t seem controversial, but putting it so bluntly was clearly not skilfull. It was so loud on the page that people blew by everything else. I don’t blame them – it’s hard for me to listen too when I’m being shouted at. My larger point there was the suggestion that people supporting Trump and his plans (think: wall, think: registry, think: Paris agreement) don’t really seem to be so interested in interdependence, or in living a Bodhisattva life based on interdependence, and that insofar as that’s true we don’t need to “bend over backwards” to make them feel welcome. My point was that of course anyone is welcome at San Francisco Zen Center, but we aren’t going to moderate our teaching of interdependence, or on the active precepts (speak honestly, support life, etc.), in order to keep everyone feeling comfortable. You can come to Zen Center with the idea, for example, that the earth is God’s gift to humans for us to extract resources from – that’s fine. And when you arrive, along with a whole bunch of teachings and practices, you will likely hear some teachings about our understanding of interdependence, including that the earth nourishes us and that our practice is as best as we can to nourish the earth and all beings. Etc.
In my post I had a foil too – I was pushing back against some of the more wishy-washy-lovey post-election statements that were coming from the Buddhist community. I heard and appreciated the backlash some of those toothless statements were getting – “are you standing with the people Trump has targeted, or not?!” “you can’t be neutral on a moving train!” – and I thought I’d jump in with something more toothy to get the ball rolling. I am not San Francisco Zen Center, and I did not at all think or expect that San Francisco Zen Center was going to adopt my statement. If I were truly in the position to write the San Francisco Zen Center statement, and not just speaking as one voice in a conversation, of course I wouldn’t have written what I suggested (and I said as much in the post). I wanted to encourage and even push a more fierce conversation about how we will or will not stand as Bodhisattvas. About how we will or will not use the power of our practice and institutions to enact Bodhisattva values in this place and time.
And whatever I said or didn’t say, whatever hatred or clarity you want to hold me to or let me free of, what’s important to me now isn’t “Trump supporters” or even “Trump.” What’s important to me now is how we will stand up for people and planet who are – or seem at least, and I will be delighted to be proven wrong! – threatened by the incoming administration and the nationalism it is fanning. Bodhisattva practice is not (just) about sitting in your room with warm feelings in your heart, and Bodhisattva communities can and should of course stand up when the time is right and clear.
So my question, my challenge now isn’t to figure out the right statement (anyway, clearly I failed at that), it’s to figure out the right action. That’s the next thing to fail at.
Is it time yet to stand up? What’s happening in your neighborhood, in your city, in your county, in your state? And what can you and your congregation do to help?
Will you as a Bodhisattva and a Bodhisattva community resist the plans for a wall, for a registry, for a return to climate apathy? Is it really “too early” to see if that’s needed? Will we really “wait and see,” or is there a Bodhisattvic response already to what’s right here now?
11 thoughts on “Jiryu Hates People! Don’t Be Like Jiryu!”
Pingback: All Are Welcome At San Francisco Zen Center! (…to join us in resisting Trump) | No Zen in the West
Great title, and I hope it’s been good practice for you.
This one I can actually agree with fully. Thank you for your ongoing practice, including right speech.
You passed the Koan! Bravo!
I appreciate your comments, then and now.
“Truth has drawn me into the field of politics; and I can say without the slightest hesitation, and yet in all humility, that those who say that religion has nothing to do with politics do not know what religion means.” Mahatma Gandhi
Could it actually be that as Buddhists practicing in the US in this day and age, the election of Donald Trump is helping us wake up to this teaching of Gandhi?
Thank you Jiryu, Hondo, and all for the conversation regarding politics and Dharma over the last few blogposts. It’s an important one to be having, and although triggered by the election, ought not to be limited to this particular current situation.
Yes, let’s spend time talking about what we can do to avoid being coerced by people who seem so blatently intent on pursuing their self interest at the expense of others. Frankly I see President Obama’s responses as an encouragement as to how to act, when what one cares deeply about, is assaulted. I like to think some kind of aikido moves might work here if we can stand aside and allow the misguided to figuratively “shoot themselves in the foot. “. Hopefully right action will make itself known. I try to remember that a lot of this happened because people are in fear of the unknown in general. Maybe if I can come from a place of feeling into that, right action might arise. I would like to hear what actions others are taking. Personally I’m having a hard time believing that just sitting is enough, which some people imply. Thus I chose to go to the women’s march on the 21st rather than go to my regular Saturday program at Zen Heart Sangha.
Love YA mate! Thus have I read… Let them without sin cast the first stone, Trump is a symptom not the problem. I’ve also recently heard that a santuary can arise anywhere. My problem with this at this time, lies in Money. As it seems those who control the money are only interested in making more for themselves, I have an urge to slow down and listen to everything. Tis very hard not to see this as being a collaborator. This struggle to be with each moment takes great enthusiasm who knows where we will arrive, Finally in this tiny ramble I hear that Trump will be removed from power shortly. Funnily enough I find that even more disturbing. I guess pigs will be pigs for a while longer! Hater Hahahaha Listening is not fitting what we hear to our agenda, ( Yet another judgement).
I think it”s a brave thing to write publicly, even more so to allow people to comment on that writing. I also think you’ve always done so with dignity and with humility. I very clearly see your points and I happen to agree with most or all of them. It’s a very nice thing to agree with someone who seems to embody a lot of what they seem to practice. I find your actions empowering and inspiring; after all the flack you’ve received for your words your response is beautiful. I appreciate and am exceedingly grateful for the privilege to read some of your thoughts. Thank you for sharing, for your vulnerability in sharing!
Jiryu — Bodhisattvas, even “baby” Bodhisattvas like us, are committed to wise and compassionate action in the world. That means affirming and living out our principles of non-greed, non-hatred, and care and concern for all beings and the planet. We do that, not out of anger or hate, not against any person or persons, but in promoting what we think is skillful and helpful. You ask what others are doing in this regard. I have asked my town council where I live to issue a proclamation affirming the Town’s commitment to non-discrimination, protection of all ethnic, religious, and gender groups, protection of civil liberties, rights, and due process, and protection of the environment. They vote on it next week, and it looks as if it will pass. We live in a country where states, counties, and towns can limit and impede the worst possible excesses of a new federal administration through active non-cooperation. I will be meeting this week with the Town’s police chief and Human Rights Advisory Committee to discuss protection of the Town’s immigrant community if the new federal administration should move to enact mass deportations. As a Zen priest, I have organized together with area ministers and rabbis and imams to stand united against hate, a message everyone takes back to their congregations and zendos. None of this requires that we show contempt or hatred or condescension to those who believe differently than we do. It doesn’t mean we have to believe our own worst fantasies about the future. But we do have to be open to all the possible outcomes of each moment and be prepared to respond full-heartedly.
It is clear that most people commenting and the author of this have no real concept of what a true conservative is, (and, no Trump really isn’t a true conservative). For starters real conservatives support gay marriage. Real conservatives are against our involvement in any foreign wars. Real conservatives believe that the LAW should not be broken. Real conservatives are not racist and how DARE you imply that we are. You insult us sir! The first precept is do not take life. Yet many dems are support abortion at the taxpayers expense. That, is not conservative. A true conservative believes that if you want to commit murder, do as thou wilt, but do not do it with my tax dollars. How about a speech by a woman who survived being aborted. That’s right. Survived being aborted in third trimester saline abortion. What were her rights? Precept one. Do not take life. Precept two. No Stealing. True conservatives are against being taxed, under threat of incarceration by armed agents of the government, (that’s theft folks) and our money then used to record every conversation, email, etc. to the tune of billions of dollars! Our money stolen to kill people with in the Middle East. Our money stolen for bullet trains, when dams are about to burst and wipe out a city but no one wants to do that! Real conservatives are against this. Real conservatives are for legalization of marijuana, because the war on drugs is a wasteful farce. Incarceration of people who struggle with addiction is not the answer. Real conservatives believe in freedom of Religion, including Buddhism, AND SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE, which if you believe is a good idea, then you should recognize that the pendulum swings both ways and you shouldn’t drag politics into a religious institution either! Why? Because if you really have a Buddhist practice, you understand that all things and people are interconnected. That to insult and alienate conservatives is karmicly speaking to insult and alienate yourself. Oh, and yes, there actually are conservative Buddhists. But they live in secrecy for fear of being bullied. You also need to be cognizant of the fact that must people who voted for Trump, were NOT supporters. They voted for Jeb, Ted, Rand, Ben Carson etc. and lost. So they got stuck with Trump. So did you. We can only change ourselves. Can we go back to that now? Did you hug a conservative today? Try it! We are just like you. We are you. Empty.
We need to stop shaming people for supporting Trump. This is especially true for Buddhists. American Buddhism tends to be dominated by left-wing types, the same way American Christianity tends to be dominated by right-wingers. There is a strong tendency in both groups to equate their political biases with some kind of Higher Truth. Both groups are equally blind to the idea that this might not be the case.
I used to think that right wing Christian nut-cases like Pat Robertson and the late Jerry Falwell were being insincere when they claimed Jesus supported their views. But I’ve watched the exact same thing play out among very sincere left wing Buddhists who truly believe that the tenets of Buddhism and the platform of whatever party they support are identical.
Buddha didn’t want you to vote for Hillary (or Jill or even Bernie) any more than Jesus wanted you to vote for The Donald.