Rinpoche's response to a student about the election
Rinpoche has been contacted this week by several students voicing various concerns about last week’s election. One student in particular expressed feeling alienated from America and no longer wishing to participate in political elections.
The student asked, “How do I vote or express political opinion without creating self clinging or creating it in others?"
Here is Rinpoche’s reply which appeared on his Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/khentrullodrothaye.rinpoche.9?hc_ref=SEARCH&fref=nf
In general, the nature of samsara is based on attachment and aversion. As ordinary beings, this is our modus operandi. This is the very reason we cycle in existence.
However, even as we may see a flawed system of governance, we should never lose sight of the freedoms we enjoy in this country. America is still one of the most extraordinary countries on earth in terms of open-mindedness and laws that protect human rights. It’s about as good as it gets in samsara. I come from a country where most of these basic human rights are not granted, and I appreciate the huge difference. I consider it my great fortune to be able to be a citizen of the United States. I rejoice in my freedoms every day, and I will never stop appreciating or valuing them. I do not take them for granted.
The government of this country and the citizens of this country are 100 percent interdependent. Each of us is connected to the government, and the government is connected to us. We are mutually dependent and cannot speak about the one without the other. Being loyal to country is being loyal to our freedoms and rights as citizens. Our actions affect the government, just as its actions affect us. It is important to recognize this mutual responsibility and always strive to make it a better place by participating in the process, however we can. Always remember—especially when things don’t go according to our wishes—that the nature of governance is impermanence. It is always changing. Sometimes it will be better and sometimes it will be worse. It isn’t stable or static or reliable, but how it changes depends upon each of us.
As Buddhist practitioners we have a responsibility to tame our minds and engage in good conduct. This conduct includes doing things to make the world a better place, and part of that is participating in the country in which we live. Voting is one component of active participation. For me, I vote based on knowledge. First, by looking at the qualifications of the candidates to see who is most qualified, and second, by looking at who will help the majority of the people (whose policies are most inclusive of everyone). Even if I see that the two main candidates are flawed, I remember there is no one without flaws. There is no one who doesn’t make mistakes. So I ask myself, of these two candidates, which one is more capable of making this world a better place for all beings? That is how I placed my vote in this election, and I intend to do the same in the future.
In a democracy our choice of candidate doesn’t always win. But, regardless of whether he or she wins or loses, that doesn’t mean there is nothing left to do. We need more than ever to take an active role in our country to stop any harmful and negative actions from ensuing. If we believe a policy or action proposed by the government will cause harm, it is our responsibility to try to stop it. Even when we don’t succeed, we must keep trying.
However, as practitioners, when we take action and actively participate, it is important not to do so out of anger or grudge holding. That would be antithetical to our mind trainings. We are responsible for continuing to tame our minds and then, on top of that, to put those intentions into practice to the best of our capacity through actions. Even when we don’t succeed in our goals, we always keep striving to make this world a better place for all beings. That is bodhisattva conduct.
In "Entering the Conduct of a Bodhisattva," Shantideva said:
"The Buddha sees the disturbing emotions as the enemy, but not the individuals who have them.”
Individuals are not the enemy. When someone has disturbing emotions and acts out of them, he or she is worthy of genuine compassion. Compassion then becomes the motivation to stop harmful actions. That is noble and excellent conduct.
This is not the end of our country. There are many more generations to come and many more ups and downs, failures and triumphs, disappointments and celebrations. We must never lose heart or stop engaging in noble conduct.