Buddhists and politics

A place to bring a contemplative / Dharmic perspective and opinions to current events and politics.
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Mr Man
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Re: Buddhists and politics

Post by Mr Man » Thu Sep 14, 2017 8:57 am

clw_uk wrote: Ahh sorry my man. Poe's law :)
You couldn't see the that little yellow head bouncing and laughing?

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clw_uk
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Re: Buddhists and politics

Post by clw_uk » Thu Sep 14, 2017 9:24 am

Mr Man wrote:
clw_uk wrote: Ahh sorry my man. Poe's law :)
You couldn't see the that little yellow head bouncing and laughing?

I did. I took it as sarcasm. Let's not over analyse though. My mistake buddy
Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken

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binocular
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Re: Buddhists and politics

Post by binocular » Thu Sep 14, 2017 10:11 am

clw_uk wrote:Its been my experience in life that most Buddhists tend to be left wing as opposed to conservative or right wing/libertarian.
Why do you think that is?
A lot depends on one's criteria for what makes for right wing and what for left wing.
By European standards, what by US standards would still be called left, would already be right. Although there seems to be a general trend everywhere toward the right.

I find though that all religious people, regardless of the religion they belong to, tend toward the right.

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Leeuwenhoek2
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Re: Buddhists and politics

Post by Leeuwenhoek2 » Sun Dec 17, 2017 8:17 am

clw_uk wrote:
Thu Sep 14, 2017 7:11 am
... most Buddhists tend to be left wing as opposed to conservative or right wing/libertarian.
In the US that is true according to the PEW Religious Landscape Study
Political ideology by religious group
http://www.pewforum.org/religious-lands ... -ideology/

In the USA Buddhists roughly tie with HIndu for having the fewest % who self identify as "conservative" when given the choice between conservative, moderate, liberal or I don't know. Buddhist self identified liberals out number conservatives by 3 to 1.

The non-western Buddhists I know come from countries with repressive regimes so sometimes it's hard to read their politics.
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There is a view of recent Buddhist history in the west (and the US in particular?) that says that a number of early adopters of Buddhism in the US interpreted or privileged elements of the dharma that favored their leftist leanings. That form of western Buddhism would naturally be more attractive to those with politically left inclinations.

Conservative Jews ask a similar question about the Jewish population, "why does it tend to lean so much to the left?" And again, in the US there seemed to be an affinity between those of Jewish heritage and Buddhism.

One possibility for the US is the relatively greater degree of tolerance and recognition given to Christianity by the Republican right in contrast to the Democratic party / politically left. Those on the political right may have a greater tendency to stay with their Christian roots / upbringing if they have them.

The "big five" personality trait called 'openness' is associated with a greater desire, even craving, for the new. Those higher in the openness trait also tend to hold left wing political views. That would suggest that leftist westerners would tend to be more attracted to Buddhism because it's different and new to their experience.

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A clue might be found in why the humanities and social sciences lean so far to the left. Things might have been different if academia were more mindful of and practiced diversity of ideology, political ideology in particular.

The Buddha seemed to be actively multi-partisan at least in his awareness. He spoke of a 'middle way' and in dialog was keenly aware of the positions and philosophies from vedic literature, Brammans, Jains, etc. He also seemed aware of the concerns of kings, local leaders, generals and the military.
So I image a sanga that was true to the best of Buddhism in light of the ideals of the western liberal tradition would say something like this.

A Precept for Engaged Buddhism

Preface: The human mind is a natural lawyer. It’s great at finding evidence for whatever we want to believe, and also at discrediting any evidence that seems to threaten our current beliefs. This guarantees that each of us will be at least partially wrong (a form of illusion) on just about everything we care about. A practice that frees us from this state of dukkha is exposing our beliefs to people whose internal “lawyers” have a bias different that one's own.

Intention: We are a politically diverse group of Buddhists who want to improve the level of socially engaged practices in our sangas.

We share a concern about the loss or lack of “viewpoint diversity.” When nearly everyone in a sanga or dharma body shares the same political orientation, certain ideas become orthodoxy, dissent is discouraged, and errors can go unchallenged.

To reverse this process, we have come together to advocate for a more intellectually diverse and heterodox sanga.

Western Buddhists, especially communities of so called western convert Buddhists, have leaned left for a long time. That is not a serious problem for the practice of socially enaged Buddhism as long as there are some people with a different political perspective in every sanga and body, we can assume that eventually, someone will challenge claims that reflect ideology more than evidence.
  • “[T]he only way in which a human being can make some approach to knowing the whole of a subject, is by hearing what can be said about it by persons of every variety of opinion, and studying all modes in which it can be looked at by every character of mind. No wise man ever acquired his wisdom in any mode but this; nor is it in the nature of human intellect to become wise in any other manner.” -- John Stuart Mill, On Liberty
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There is more to that statement but I think that gives the flavor.

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Re: Buddhists and politics

Post by DNS » Sun Dec 17, 2017 4:32 pm

Leeuwenhoek2 wrote:
Sun Dec 17, 2017 8:17 am
There is a view of recent Buddhist history in the west (and the US in particular?) that says that a number of early adopters of Buddhism in the US interpreted or privileged elements of the dharma that favored their leftist leanings. That form of western Buddhism would naturally be more attractive to those with politically left inclinations.

Conservative Jews ask a similar question about the Jewish population, "why does it tend to lean so much to the left?" And again, in the US there seemed to be an affinity between those of Jewish heritage and Buddhism.
American Jews tend to lean toward the left, those who are 50 and over anyway. That is most likely due to the Civil Rights movement where Jews marched with MLK and other activists and Jews faced discrimination, being denied housing, entrance to country clubs (even when they could afford it), etc. When I was a toddler in North Carolina, my (birth) family and I lived in a black neighborhood because the white neighborhoods wouldn't let us in. My father was in the military so we mostly lived on military bases which was fully integrated, but there was lack of housing on base in North Carolina so we had to live off base. And now some of the younger Jews in the U.S. are moving more toward the GOP and conservative views as discrimination is much less of a problem (for Jews) and they see the GOP as being more pro-Israel.

Buddhism arrived in the U.S. mostly in the 1960s which was a time of social upheaval, Vietnam War protests, etc so young people at that time gravitated toward leftist views and some of those people involved in those movements became Buddhists.

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Leeuwenhoek2
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Re: Buddhists and politics

Post by Leeuwenhoek2 » Tue Dec 19, 2017 10:58 am

Some additional perspective on the political left and Buddhism especially in the US.
David Chapman uses “Buddhist ethics” (with scare quotes) to refer to the ethics taught by what he calls Consensus Buddhism -- the American synthesis of the ideals of the 1960s youth movement with Asian Buddhist modernism.
Warning: Chapman does tend to the ironical and sometimes a bit of exaggeration in his writing.

Chapman notes that there seems to be very little distance between “Buddhist ethics” and the sensibilities of a non-Buddhist, college-educated, left-leaning Californian. He does see a distance between the ethics expressed in early Buddhist texts and this revised form of "Buddhist ethics". This analysis leads to some hard hitting judgments:
“Buddhist ethics” is not Buddhist ethics: It is indistinguishable from contemporary American leftish public morality. It is not based on the moral teachings of traditional Buddhist authorities. It is also not a valuable, unique innovation; it simply re-labels mainstream secular ethics “Buddhist.”

... [This ethics employs] rhetorical strategies that explain away traditional Buddhist moral teachings, and disguise Western secular ones as Buddhist.
-- https://vividness.live/2015/09/23/buddh ... s-a-fraud/
“Buddhist ethics” is a fraud: a fabrication created to deceive, passed off as something valuable that it is not, for the benefit of its creators and promoters.

“Buddhist ethics” is actually a collection of self-aggrandizing strategies for gaining social status within the left side of the Western cultural divide.

“Buddhist ethics” actively obstructs Buddhists’ moral and personal development. It has also deliberately obscured—and sometimes forcefully suppressed—most of Buddhism.

“Buddhist ethics” is gravely ill and will probably die shortly. In fact, I hope to drive a stake through its heart now. Its demise will open the door to new possibilities for Western Buddhism.
-- https://vividness.live/2015/09/23/buddh ... s-a-fraud/
Interview of Chapman on Buddhist Geeks podcast


    A review of Chapman's critique from a philosophy blog

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