I’ve been appreciated and reviled of late for insisting on what Buddhists should think and do about… umm… current events. And I get that it’s always thorny on the road of “what real Buddhists (or Christians, or whatever else) should do,” and especially when that should is tied to some specific political aim or outcome. That’s gone well sometimes (say, civil rights), and not so well sometimes (say… um… current events).
So, with a special shout-out to the haters, here’s a slightly more nuanced rendition, a few months out from the body-blow and just a few sad hours from the Paris withdrawl. You might think of it as my version of the second travel ban. Let’s call it the beta version of what I think real Buddhists need to do and believe, one that gives a little more breathing room for those out there who still want to defend or bypass… umm… current events.
Let’s try it like this: I don’t care what your politics are. But if you don’t get interdependence, and if you don’t hear the call to enact, live out, and DO interdependence in some real way in your actual life and your actual world, then you’re not practicing Buddhism.
Enact interdependence – that’s what a Buddhist does. That’s Buddhist practice, Buddhist life. We can “know” interdependence (more or less, depending on… you know… the conditions upon which the knowing depends). We maybe even “see” interdependence, or in some direct ways appreciate it. Or even penetrate it or master it or whatnot. But beyond that Buddhism calls us to the practice, not just to the seeing of interdependence but to the living of interdependence. To bring it, enact it, embody it, perform it, make it real.
This framework isn’t about telling someone what to do or think. It’s demanding from each of us some reflection through the lens of this practice and in this most basic term of the practice – interdependence. This interdependence is emptiness and compassion both, it’s total freedom and total engagement both (and more on that later if it’s not clear – the freedom of emptiness is exactly the call to connection). Furthermore, as practice, it’s not a static or “merely true” interdependence but a lived, enacted, “made true” interdependence.
So if you want to go to rallies and scream and shout or sit or whatever as a Buddhist, fine – show us how that’s an attempt to live out, express, and make real the truth of interdependence.
If you’re big into beautiful walls keeping Them out and want to be a Buddhist, fine – show us how that’s living out, expressing interdependence.
If you want to ignore the red dust of the world completely and sit or chant in your cave or your car or your storefront or your temple or wherever and call that Buddhism, fine – show us how that’s living out, enacting interdependence.
Whatever it is, show us how that enacts interdependence.
“Show us” doesn’t mean prove that you’re “nailing it.” It means I’m willing to understand and assess my views and activities and expression along these lines, and to draw myself back to it as I waver. It means: “I get it that the bottom line of my life is to enact interdependence, so I’m trying this – how does that sound?”
If we can’t show that, if we can’t demonstrate to ourselves and to each other and to the Buddha that enacting interdependence is our effort and intention right now, and that this or that act or expression (large or small, political or not) emerges from and aims at that enactment of interdependence, then forget it – it’s not Buddhism, it’s not Buddhist practice.