On the Election in the US

Well, the curtain has been pulled away and this country reveals itself to be roiling in greed, anger, and delusion, to some degree. Half of the country demanded change, and seemingly voted with anger and resentment.

I’ve lived long enough to have seen some fairly awful men serve as president of this country. Somehow, the country’s size, diversity, and determination have allowed it to weather many storms. But, this vote is a disappointment and a shock. I had thought this country as a whole had a better heart and nature.

So, I wrote on FB the predictable: " All things change, all things are inherently fluid. Let’s practice compassion, metta, equanimity, and have saddha that all (in general) will be well, happy, and peaceful." It sounds like a boilerplate response, but at the end of the day, this Dhamma has sustained many through the centuries, and is a guiding light in even dark times. I’m an optimist. To the rest of the world, I am sorry for this country’s anger and delusion. This country’s national pathology will have cause and effect. Many of us will do what we can to help the vulnerable and marginalized, to bring some counterbalance to what is likely to be a very un-Metta environment for the next four years.

Today, my SC is wearing a black armband at the top of the page. I get it.

Last week, I set up a trip to Abhayagiri for a first time visit this weekend. Could not happen at a better time. I’m in need of some kalyana-mitta-ing right about now.


I don’t.

I listened to the new President elect’s acceptance speech and I must say, it was surprisingly magnanimous. He asked for help, said he’d rule for all and specified that he meant all races and all religions. He was gracious about his opponent and said everyone in that country should be grateful to her for all the hard work she has done.

So…I am not without some hope.

I’ve been watching this thing unfold all day…which kind of surprises me as it’s not really my thing…I wasn’t planning to be glued to the telly today! And a couple of things popped out at me that I would like to share:

1.) A brown skinned, muslim, Australian journalist had said that he had been to a lot of Trump rallies and he said that he had met some of the nicest people at these rallies. For those of you who know, it was Waleed Aly from The Project. He’s widely respected and seems to do a heck of a lot of fact based (as opposed to opinion based) research for his work.

2.) One commentator pointed out that most of the polls were conducted through New York based news media. He pointed out that, this media was so scathing of those who might support the conservative candidate that this may have led to people being shy (in the polls) about being honest in their intentions to vote for him. So perhaps the nastiness (on both sides) stopped people from listening to each other. The sarcasm, the sense of righteousness and perhaps even a sense of putting ideology before people.

I’m not suggesting I’m glad at the outcome, one way or another. But I’m determined to find a way to understand this so that I can bring myself to a positive place and positive interactions with even those who will not agree with me about whom I thought was the best candidate and why.

Recently in Australian politics, there has been a similar pattern of those from the mainstream who were feeling disaffected showing their political muscles and voting for someone similiar. The most inspiring things I heard on the media about this and issues that were affected by this, came from two female politicians. I’ve heard both Linda Burney (an Aboriginal lady) and Anne Aly (an Egyptian born Muslim lady) both promote what I would call Right Speech and open, fact based, respectful dialogue with opposing political voices. I was so proud of them both and so incredibly relieved. And I know they have done this themselves and I believe they will continue to do this. And I understand their efforts were met with respect and friendliness from “the other side”.

Let’s not seek to characterise others as simply fearful or angry. Maybe some voted out of hopefulness. Maybe some voted out of love for their children’s futures. Whatever it is, let’s actively look for the good. I hope the new president elect continues with one of the surprising themes of his first speech and reaches out to all people…I hope people reach back and communicate respectfully. Perhaps people weren’t well informed about wider issues, issues greater than themselves, but maybe that’s because no one bothered to have a calm and respectful chat with them about it. Another commentator pointed out that the divide in the lives of ordinary people’s political lives becomes entrenched through them only surrounding themselves with those who agree with them. Surely there can be no communication, no consensus, no respect. At least we can agree to disagree in a kind and respectful fashion. We can salvage that much. And it would actually be a lot.

I’m frightened for our planet. For its climate and for its peace. But I’m more frightened that ordinary people will be so dispirited by this outcome (or so elated by it) that they will forget to be kind to each other and to those who voted differently to them. Actually, I’m worried that those who didn’t agree will not even talk to each other because if they can’t do this, then, not just one country, but all beings on this planet, will be even graver danger.

One thing that some people loved was the apparently no BS approach of the president elect. But what I couldn’t help noticing, as a practicing Buddhist, was the absence of those things that the Buddha, in the Early Buddhist Texts, more than once, described as being a part of Right Speech. The winner of this election may not have been fortunate to have access to these amazing and useful and loving teachings, but we do.

Not to be harsh, not to divide each other with malicious speech or gossip. To consider whether it’s correct and factual. To consider if it’s true. To consider if it will be for the betterment of oneself and others and whether it is uttered at the right time and place. To consider if it is gentle and kind. To consider if we are coming from our own fear, anger, desire or sense of thinking we know it all. To consider if we are coming from an open, present heart.

A tall order. But Buddhism sets the bar high. We don’t have to reach it. But it will help if we aim for it.




To quote Ajahn Brahm, “Good, bad, who knows?” Perhaps this will wake us (American citizens) from our collective apathy regarding all things political, therefore clearing the path to true, effective change. Maybe publicly funded campaigns, so that anyone could run without relying on “donors” to waste millions on divisive television advertisements and smear tactics, and maybe limiting the influence of big business in or democratic system. Also, a reform of the two party system which gives such a limited choice for a job which should go to the most qualified candidate. Most employers interview many people for one job, after all, not just two. I could go on, but instead of proliferating, I’ll just frame this as a wake up call to my fellow Americans, and hope that some good will come of it.

Now, off to the cushion I go!


so THATS why its changed, I was wondering… quite disconcerting honestly. Although I suppose it stems from one of my former mistaken beliefs of monastics(among the very many) being apolitical. I know now of course looking at buddhist countries and western monastics as well, that this is far from the case. So it’s just me causing my own suffering by having expectations.


Bhante, on the subject of monastics and politics, some discretion by monastics, of course, is needed. This election, though, placed certain issues that affect Americans and the globe significantly, at least from my viewpoint. Trump has promised to dismantle environmental regulations that were implemented to mitigate climate change. His administration will likely have harsh views toward the disadvantaged, and against immigrant families that have found safety and employment within our country. The list goes on. So, this race was less about politics, and more about the survival of the planet, the survival of people at risk, and a general referendum on longterm wisdom and compassion vs. shortsighted “me vs. them” and " I want mine, now." Nevermind Trump’s threat to distance himself from our traditional allies in Europe and expose certain countries to possible aggression.

I’m old enough to have weathered a few elections, and I recall ( I was 16) contests like the 1976 race between Carter and Ford. Either winner of that race was going to be a sane, thoughtful and mindful leader. Today, I can say I am in a bit of a funk over what happened last night, and truly do feel that when the health and safety of the Earth and the most vulnerable is at risk, we go beyond politics and step into the realm of survival. I’d like to see, frankly, more monastic voices over the next four years, giving voice to compassion, wise and equanimous government and justice for those oppressed and vulnerable. If Buddhists don’t speak up, mindfully, who will? I mention all of this knowing , from all you have said and written, that you hold these positive values deeply, and that each of us in the Buddhist community will advocate in our own way and to our own capacities. w/Metta


I just want to share a discussion here from @Sujato’s blog. There are some comments here that you might find helpful. It is a discussion we have also had at Mahapajapati last month.
The comments to the below post were also picked up by the Bangkok Post.


Imagine what you would feel if you opened SC oday and see an American flag armband with Trump’s smiling face on the top. I mean, I understand why lay people and monastics are unhappy and I appreciate their readiness to share their thoughts and opinions with us, and I myself cannot say I feel ecstatic about the future of America. So, I really liked how you conveyed your thoughts on the matter with your avatar today. However, it is one thing to speak for yourself and a completely different thing to speak for the whole community.


"Without going on too much, the role that the Sangha should take is as an independent, critical, ethical voice.

This part I agree with

There are some things that governments do that are good, like try to encourage harmony between religions, and we should support them. There are other things that governments do that are bad, like going to war and destroying the environment, and we should oppose them. The Sangha shouldn’t go into Parliament, or get into bed with a government or political party, but they should be outspoken on important ethical issues."

This point, not so much, this kind of assumes that everyone in the sangha has the same political views… who is the arbiter of how the “sangha” as a whole decides?

Bhante Sujato has been at this way way longer then me, and he is a scholar I don’t really plan on becoming, I have much respect for him in relation to dhamma and the suttas, but I’ve never in the suttas seen the Buddha say anything against slavery, but how the head of a household should treat their slaves. He makes jokes and rails against Brahmanic society in a few ways, sure, but I don’t see him as some sort of social crusader that some others seem to.

I can have high respect for Bhante Sujato, but disagree with his politics, thats the great thing about the Sangha, that there is no overarching body of control, he can do his thing, and others can do theirs. I personally find being apolitical to be best, because therefore I don’t marginalize anyone who would be interested in dhamma based on my views. It’s quite easy for people to feel they don’t see themselves having a voice in the dhamma because of politics. I know Buddhists from all ends of the political spectrum.

I’ve also been a political activist in the past, I’ve been on the streets, I was the leader of my party for half of my state, but the practice , and some wonderful quotes from Ajahn brahm like " suffering is asking from the world what it can’t give you" and " the buddha never changed the world, he made peace with the conditions in it", allowed me to make my peace with the world, and leave it.

I’m not saying I would NEVER be political, or even possibly revolutionary, but it would have to go much farther then bi-partisan rhetoric and lieing politicians for me to do that.


Venerable @Bhikkhu_Jayasara ,
Are you certain your views will not marginalize anybody?


there are no certainties in life, but I can’t see many examples where someone who shows a professionalism of no obvious political leanings would marginalize people over someone who has quite obvious biases. So Bhante Sujato has some obvious political leanings, is a website based on dhamma and sutta study, as opposed to say his own personal dhamma blog, supposed to express that, if its meant to be for all people, like the dhamma should be?

What was Ajahn Chah’s political leanings? Ajahn mun? Ajahn Brahm? I don’t know, because I’ve never seen anything obvious from them that would call it out.

when the average person who has a strong political leaning knows someone else they view as a teacher or person of respect has a strong political leaning that doesn’t align with them, they automatically begin the process of developing assumptions as to the validity of that person’s ability to do what you expect them to do.

I’m not saying that people are totally apolitical beings, but what I am saying is that there is a strong assumption with western buddhist communities that everyone has the same political views… because of course how could a buddhist not believe exactly how we do? and that IS quite marginalizing.

I remember walking with a senior monastic i now live with years ago, and he told me straight he only talks dhamma, and even though he is Sri Lankan and I’ve noticed through close association with him over the years, some political leanings, i’ve never seen him make it obvious in his teachings. Here at Bhavana we reiterate to people that the monastics do not answer questions about politics, the environment and all such things, but dhamma and meditation. I wouldn’t feel comfortable in a place that was any other way, for myself or anyone who had different political leanings then me.

If people are coming to a place for some sort of validation of their views, thats not quite Dhamma then is it.


All views marginalize someone. The black thingie up there on this webpage kinda marginalizes Buddhist people like me at least within this particlar community. Talking about this presidential campaign in simplistic bi-partisan terms, calling its results disastrous on a cosmic scale and threatening the future of the planet, as well as believing they will usher us into a new era of global peace and universal prosperity, kinda marginalizes the other camp. One thing is certain for me, the more dualist your views are, the more dangerous they are for your social environment, no matter whether you a Trump fanatic or a Hillary lover. Demonizing and polarizing is the melting pot, out of which real horrors come out.

It doesn’t mean lay people or monastics shouldn’t have their views and opinions on politics: they can have them, it’s fine. Expressing them openly is fine. It’s okay if, say, Ayya Vimala is having a black band on her avatar and I am having a triumphant MAGA slogan. It’s okay that all our views, when projected on the entire society, will inevitably marginalize someone. That’s the nature of Sansara, the thicket of views. It’s okay when you, like Ven. Jayasara, opt out of the whole deal - it may indeed be the most benificial option for all concerned. Still, and this is again only my opinion, it is not really okay to present your views so that they look like those of the entire community. Unless you run the whole difficult process known as ‘election’, that is.

Last but not least, let me say that even though we may not be sharing the general feeling about the results of the election, we are definitely sharing the concern about the state of the society. I understand your feelings and uneasiness. Just bear with us a little bit :slight_smile:

Honestly, this campaign was a mess on both sides and there could have been no true winner no matter what the results would have been. But then again, there never is one outside the Dhamma, is there?


Whether we want it to be so or not, people can draw out what our views are or make assumptions based on what we say or do. Of course, you are doing it to me, and I am doing it to you, regardless of whether you call yourself ‘apolitical’ or not.

Is the Dhamma opposed to us expressing what we think is right and good? What is right and good? Of course, that is for each of us to understand.

But when the monks and nuns messed up, the Buddha didn’t say “I have no opinion on that” he said "How can monks and nuns do xxx?"
When someone came with a wrong view he didn’t say “I’m not going to say anything so I don’t offend you and lose your support”. He expounded right view for the benefit of those who could hear.
Were those who disagreed ‘marginalized’? I guess so.

No matter what stance you take, you will marginalize someone who doesn’t share your view. How can that not be the case?
But you can also find Buddhists who support your views and agree with them, whatever they are.

Personally, I find it more interesting to have a bit of both. I appreciate that the space here on SC Discourse has remained a safe place for me and others, and that also sometimes things are posted that… stir up my defilements so I can have a closer look :slight_smile:

p.s. @Vstakan, all views marginalize - yes indeed


It’s great how we are able to find a common language despite any differences of opinions :slight_smile: If only the politicians could pull it out too…

And yeah, I r-r-r-really don’t get why someone would need the black armband here :grin: Perhaps, it would be a great idea to give everyone the choice between a cheerful and sad design :astonished:



thats because monastics are supposed(yes I know this isn’t reality) to be held up to a higher standard then lay persons and how they acted in society affected the whole sasana, so when they did something that pissed off the society, and people complained about it, he made a rule. It was never about trying to effect some kind of major social change and getting involved with views.

has it? Vstakan is one vocal example, same for me, and I’m not even for either major party. Even an undercurrent of politics can be felt when someone is in a place where the majority share a view or position that you don’t fit into. For people who agree it allows for a sort of closer bonding, for others it may mean looking elsewhere.

I like this place and this website, i’ve met some wonderful people here, but frankly I’m happy that the election is over so that undercurrent can die down and not be so blatantly visible… or maybe not.


I am sorry if you’ve felt unsafe here. I know what that feels like. As an example, @Vstakan and I (Sorry to bring you into it!) have differed widely on a number of issues but I feel that we have been able to have amiable and courteous discussions about our differing views, even if we can’t agree, and I have appreciated that and learned a lot.

I think it’s useful to have our views confronted and to challenge others who are willing to be challenged.

If this election has proved anything, it’s that not talking to those we disagree with is a bad idea.

I’m not sure what will happen because politics is becoming an increasingly important part of all our lives. We are facing global implications on an unprecedented scale. I don’t see how they can stay separate forever.


Not really unsafe. That would be a big exaggeration. Believe me, I used to live in Russia, I know what ‘unsafe’ really means. More like puzzled :blush:


100% agreed. which is one of the reasons I have the political beliefs I do. You might find however that we don’t differ all that much in politics, this is more a debate about an ideal related to monasticism then anything else.

as @Vstakan said I don’t feel “unsafe” here, but the undercurrent tends to be disruptive to dhamma studies when it rears up too far. I’m not saying anyone needs to change the way they use this website, but it might be good to be aware of how some people, albeit probably a small minority, feels about it.

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That’s true Venerable, and it’s a tough question because I see both sides. Of course, not being a monastic, I cannot comment on the monasticism side.

But I guess we lay people can make some critique of our monastics :slight_smile:
I, for one, am incredibly grateful for Bhante being vocal, because if he and others had not been, I perhaps may not have stayed Buddhist and had the most wonderful chance to learn dhamma, which is the greatest gift.
And there are those who are grieving, hurting and fearful today (maybe unnecessarily, only time will tell), but they are suffering and still I can’t help my heart going out to them and grieving too.

But then on the other hand, as we have established, views marginalize. Is silence the best choice? Is it better to be the sage on the mountain or the revolutionary in the street? Which is the fastest way to Nibbana? These are genuine questions I still don’t know.
Ugh, confusing. Guess that’s why it’s called samsara right? :laughing: