On this Bodhi Day, I would like to take the opportunity to remind myself that bodhi, the development of bodhicitta (the mind that aspires to enlightenment for the sake of all beings), is not just a thing for Buddhists. Indeed, in the world at this moment, the need for the development of bodhicitta is perhaps greater than it has ever been.
We, as Buddhists, have the bodhisattva vow to guide us … we understand that we simply cannot enjoy Nirvana while any one yet remains in Samsara.
As a reflection of that, those of us in America in this time when we are about to elect leaders and determine the direction this country will follow for the next four years, must take the bodhisattva vow with us into the voting booth.
If the American dream is prosperity, it cannot be simply prosperity for Americans, but prosperity for all. We simply cannot in good faith turn our backs on the true basis of that American dream proclaimed on the Statue of Liberty:
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
Let us recall what one of our Founding Fathers, Benjamin Franklin said:
They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
Let us not let anger, xenophobia, and/or the desire for revenge determine how we vote.
Sealing our borders against those in need out of fear will not bring us security. Xenophobia and reactionary nationalism will only warp more minds, engender more resentment, and thus breed more terrorists. For, in the end, those who succumb to the ideology of terror are those who have lost all hope, who have been marginalized, disenfranchised and disrespected and in a state of despair have turned to those who abuse that state of despair to give them a new hope—false though it be—that what they desire can be taken through violence, when in fact it can only be given and received freely.
So on this Bodhi Day—and throughout the season of Christmas, Hanukkah, and Arba’een—let us be forgiving, charitable, welcoming and respectful of all. Let us mourn the dead and cease to commit further atrocities against the living. Violence begets violence.
What is more let us do this not out of mere sentimentalism, but out of the deep hearing of the Name that calls and the resultant realization that this is the minimum basis of harmonious society and balanced living.
Let Americans show the world that America is not just a name nor an empty dream of selfish prosperity for a few but a dream of peace on earth, goodwill toward men (and women) – all of them.