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Our Buddhist President: Politics and Religion

Our Buddhist President: Politics and Religion

There’s no lesson today; I want YOU to teach ME about something I genuinely don’t follow much.

We’re less than two weeks away from the American Presidential election, and the polls seem to show the two candidates extremely close. For every poll that shows one candidate ahead, another shows the other guy winning. The closeness of this race, and the previous two as well, shows that we are deeply divided as to our opinions on how the country should be run. The rest of the world looks on with baited breath, the financial markets are uncertain, the partisans have pulled out all their dirty tricks, and some people just want the candidate’s signs out of their neighbor’s yard.

It’s a big one, and everyone who can vote, should.

I’m not going to tell you how to vote, but I want you guys to “advise” ME which way to go., taking your Buddhist thoughts into consideration. I really want your feedback on this one, as I am STILL undecided. Personally, I don’t believe anything I hear from either side any more as it’s all just campaign promises and what people want to hear, whether it’s true or not.

The Daily Buddhism is not a political platform; we’re here to discuss Buddhism. So let’s talk about Buddhism: Turn on your own mental or emotional ‚ÄúBuddhist Mode‚Äù and explain to me which candidate is better in that respect in your opinion. Neither of THEM is Buddhist, obviously, but which one seems to support Buddhist ideals and philosophy more? Which is closer to “our way” of thinking?

Post your comment in the blog below
Or phone in your thoughts at 937-660-4949 (might be a good time to try this!)
Or email

And I’m posting this one on a Friday to allow more time for you to send in Feedback. Depending on the number of responses, I may or may not spend a day next week discussing the results, but I don’t want to go into politics too heavily here.

As always, no registration is required to post on the blog, and you’re free to use an alias if you want, but all posts are approved or moderated before they become visible, and anything inappropriate will never see the light of day.

Would we even WANT a Buddhist President? It didn’t work out so well for Tibet.

9 comments to Our Buddhist President: Politics and Religion

  • Mike

    To me, Buddhism = compassion as a core teaching and philosophy. The only compassion I have heard has been from the ideals of Barack Obama and what he see's as injustices and inequality. Quite simply, any compassion I see from the GOP is for fiscal conservativeness and for increasing fear which goes against the idea and action of compassion. So, my vote with my buddhist ideals will be for Barack Obama – as I beleive he represents a positive change towards compassion for others, diplomacy, and exploring all options outside of war, and capitalism first.

  • Jason

    I had the pleasure seeing the Dalai Lama speak in Toronto last year and he talked about humanity from a 'secular' perspective. Meaning that he was speaking about the commonalities amongst ALL people, rather than divisions based on faith. In fact, he wouldn't speak about Buddhism at all when a question was posed along those lines. Is that why Tibet is now occupied? Who knows. Having spent some time in Thailand, where everyone from the King to the street meat vendor is a Buddhist I can say that the human condition is not a lot different there, but peoples attitudes towards it are. Now as a Canadian watching the US Presidential election from the sidelines, and as an incomplete and imperfect Buddhist, and as a compassionate human, I have to agree with 'Mike' here… Barack Obama appears to be the change I want to see in the world.

  • Grey

    Obama is the more compassionate of the two, I think. He is also much more peaceful. In any election there will be some negative talk about the other candidate, but McCain has gone overboard with it. Obama seems to keep his composure much better (even in the midst of being verbally attacked), and he does not display anywhere near the amount of anger that McCain does. That man is just plain angry. Granted, he has had a hard life, but who hasn't? Obama is definitely who I want in charge of things. He is the more “Buddha-like” candidate in my opinion. Peace.

  • AH

    An interesting comment section this will become… To simply address this election in terms of Buddhist views, I will look to see who speaks in terms of enabling others. Both mainstream candidates have failed that test. If you feel that these are the only two choices, then you are truly blinded by the misconceptions that the media owners want you be blinded to. Even if our actual voting process were not corrupted by the lazy and manipulated digital voting machines (the distance between you and your vote is what? Use a pencil and paper for proof of processing), we unfortunately vote in the modern world with our dollar, not the ballot. Which one is even worth anything now? Neither, really. The beauty of Buddhism is that this approach to life helps to enable us; it is a very personal approach that yields the improvement of the self, and thus, society. Where is the benevolence or substantiality in false words and actions? I am greatly saddened that many, many people approach the election from the perspective of reading People magazine and celebrity approval, and not looking beyond their immediate hot button issues. Neither of these mainstream candidates addresses the factors that are impacting us all. What “change” are we really talking about, when only spending increases are advocated? How can you believe the “maverick” persona when that persona has been voting in favor of the things that have put this country in the horrible shape that it is in now? I would like to think that, if you study Buddhism, you will have a propensity to study (even if on a superficial level), the basic concepts of liberty, sovereignty, freedom, tyranny, individual enablement, and other such aspects that impact our existence, and that have always been a part of living in an ‚Äòadvanced‚Äô society. I personally and humbly encourage any readers here to look beyond the commercialism and dig deeper into the causal relationships of the issues that are impacting us all. If you can do that, you will start to see the intricate web of deceit that is around us, and possibly a path to help change these circumstances for the better. Our presence on the Buddhist path helps to enable us, and only leaves room for tolerance and consideration. That, for me, is one of the beauties of Buddhism.

  • Bill Zerbe

    Lama Surya Das said that if Barack Obama were a Buddhist he would be known as Lama Obama. We need a little humor in this election.

  • The fact that TIbet had a political leader who was also a spiritual leader has nothing to do with the aggression of the Chinese Communist Party. How HHDL can maintain such compassionate acceptance just shows how committed to peace he truly is.

    In our own election, it is hard to believe that anyone who is thinks of himself or herself as a Buddhist can be undecided this late in the process. Ever since Gingritch and his compatriots were elected in 1982 (I think), the republicans have been a mean spirited, devisive force in our government. Their trickle down economic policies led to the dire financial conditions we currently find ourselves in. Republicans controlled the White house and Congress until last year, except for the time that Clinton was in office. And that was the only time we have had a balanced budget and paid down the national debt. Both Raygun and now Bush have preached that deregulation and a hands off policy would lead to riches for all of us. The only people who got rich are the people who were in power, their friends and cronies, the rest of us have gotten poorer during the time republicans controlled the White House and Congress.

    Plus, Bush got us into a war based on lies (the democrats were too wishy washy to call him on it then), and created an atmosphere where if you disagreed with his policies, you were called a liberal, leftist, socialist, Muslim, terrorist or supporter of terrorism. This country is more intolerant now than it was when I was growing up in in the late 50's and early 60's. The best thing about this country used to be the principled debates that took place in the senate and house. No more.

    McCain is just another extension of Bush. He has no policies that differ from Bush's, and yet he calls himself an agent of change. Right. Plus, he is the oldest person to run for president. Just look at how people who are the head of the only legitimate superpower age while they are in office. He is starting out old. And then he picks someone who is totally unprepared to hold the highest office in the land. She is even guilty of ethics violations in Alaska although she incorrectly claims that the commission did not find any problems with her actions, legally or ethically. Which is a lie, it did find that she had committed ethical violations. Didn't we have enough of that with Gonzales (the head of the Dept. of Justice)? She is incapable of answering a question honestly; always running away from reporters who want to ask her questions. All they can do is to attack Obama for sitting on a panel with a former SDS/Weatherman terrorist. Who cares if he knew Bill Ayers. He didn't hang out with him while he was making bombs in 1969/1970. The guy is an honored professor at a University in Illinois, he's not a terrorist now, if he was a terrorist then. Weatherman were mostly terrorists in their own mind. I can speak with some knowledge about that, having been associated with them myself.

    The republicans have convinced a large segment of the voting public that they should elect officials who look and act just like the average working Joe, even though, for the most part, the elected republicans are about as far from average working joes as you can get, but we don't need any more greedy people who are out to benefit themselves, nor do we need average joes as heads of our government. We need brilliant leaders who can inspire our nation, who have exceptional ablities, not just your average joe abilities. We don't need a hockey Mom as President or even VP, nor do we need someone who thinks that you aren't well off until you make 5 million dollars a year. Don't you remember when McCain said that? And he doesn't even know how many houses he owns. Come on, people.

    Right now we are studying a section in the Lamrin about how everybody is our mother and how to have compassion and develop Boddhichita. I have been working very hard to try to feel that way about Palin and McCain, but a picture of her sitting with a group of her friends with a wolf pelt draped over her shoulders that was shot from a helicopter makes it very hard for me to think of her in a loving, compassionate way. That is my problem. I have to try to understand that they are like they are because of misconceptions, and it is not really their faults, and I should be able to feel compassion for them. I am trying, as a Buddhist, to feel that way, but it is very difficult. I will keep trying, and hopefully, when they fade into the background after the loss of this election, I will be able to think of them as people who deserve my compassion. It's very hard to do that when they could be the next leaders of the US. That is very frightening. Just the fact that people can think about Palin as a VP is very frightening. But, I will keep trying.


  • Jo

    I will be voting for Barack Obama. He is more inerested in bringing people together. He is supportive of programs that will help those in need of help. And he is not a warmonger. When I went to see him; his crowds were positive, upbeat and diverse. The opposite was true of McCain's crowds – they were angry and mean-spirited. The world needs no more of that. Mr.Mccain isan angry person and I don't want an angry person as my countries leader. Obama seems to better espouse my Buddhist views.

  • Timothy Hilgenberg

    From a Buddhist perspective I don't think it makes any difference which way you vote. Everything changes, everything is in flux and we need to see beyond the illusion that we take for “reality”. Do no harm is the maxim I live by as much as I can. My actions are my responsibility, voting for one or another of the candidates only supports the illusion of doing the “right” thing… you still have to do it, never mind which way you vote – easy for me to say as I'm prevented from voting, as by accident of birth I hold a UK passport.

  • John

    From the perspective of compassion, I do believe that both candidates believe that they will be doing what is best for people in general. I do believe both have honorable intentions.

    From a Buddhist perspective, I think Obama has a better grasp of dependent arising. I think McCain is more likely to attribute actions and situations to individuals rather than seeking out the wider causes of the situation. His actions and policies will reflect that, as have the current president's.And to some degree, he sees those situations from a wide view, without really understanding how those events affect individuals.

    I think Obama looks at situations differently, seeking (if not always seeing) the larger cause and effect of the situation, and will seek to address those root causes rather than just the current manifestation of those roots. I think Obama joins that larger view with a deeper awareness of how those situations affect individuals.

    Not surprisingly, I'm an Obama supporter.