Sunday, April 17, 2016

How to Love Politicians


Last week, as I was putting together the last ‘Metta Letter’, I searched out a few different translations of the Dhammapada. One version that I particularly liked was by Ajahn Thanissaro. It starts:

Phenomena are   preceded by the heart,
ruled by the heart,
made of the heart.
If you speak or act
with a corrupted heart,
then suffering follows you —
as the wheel of the cart,
the track of the ox
that pulls it. 
Phenomena are  preceded by the heart,
ruled by the heart,
made of the heart.
If you speak or act
with a calm, bright heart,
then happiness follows you,
like a shadow
that never leaves.

I felt that this was exceptionally beautiful, and I liked the way the Ajahn chose to use ‘heart’ instead of the more common ‘mind’. In many ancient cultures the heart and mind are interchangeable, as the lump of flesh we call the heart was thought to be the seat of our consciousness.

Reading further, we have the following:

'He insulted me,
hit me,
beat me,
robbed me'
 — for those who brood on this,
hostility isn't stilled. 
'He insulted me,
hit me,
beat me,
robbed me' —
for those who don't brood on this,
hostility is stilled. 
Hostilities aren't stilled
through hostility,
regardless.
Hostilities are stilled
through non-hostility:
this, an unending truth. 
Unlike those who don't realize
that we're here on the verge
of perishing,
those who do:
their quarrels are stilled.

Reading this my mind (or heart) went to thinking about the current political dialog. There is so much ‘he said, she said’ going on at the moment. Yes, there are significantly differing views on very important issues, and some of these are being aired. However, much of what we hear and read is exactly the hostility this passage talks about.

Note that the Buddha doesn’t say “You’re wrong - he didn’t insult, hit or beat you.” Instead we are encouraged to not dwell (or brood) on our perceived hurt. It isn’t denying the reality of what happened, it is just saying that our choice is whether to brood on that, thus generating hostility.

In the same way, we may have real issues with some of what is being said by the politicians at the moment. We can - and should - continue to work for justice and the protection of the weak and disenfranchised in our society. But we can choose whether or not to turn that into hostility against those we dislike or disagree with.

When we practice Metta (Loving-kindness) meditations we practice loving all beings - people, creatures and politicians. It is up to us whether we choose to get drawn in to the ad-hominem hostility that is the normal dialog of our time.

Maybe if we chose instead to dwell on love that we would truly change our society.

Metta, Chris.



The following fully guided meditation allows us to practice cultivating love for all beings - including politicians.



If the embedded audio player above doesn't work for you, please click here.

You can read the whole of Ajahn Thanissaro’s wonderful translation here.

"Yamakavagga: Pairs" (Dhp I), translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Access to Insight (Legacy Edition), 30 November 2013, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/kn/dhp/dhp.01.than.html