Transcending Malintent and Anger
Allan Hunt Badiner, AlterNet
A Buddhist confronts his anger towards the president. How does a student
of the Dharma deal with the rising temptation to wish ill on the
perpetrators of shocking and detestable undertakings?
When George W.
Bush mouths the word "compassion" chills
dart up my spine. Anyone paying attention can easily see how the actions
of the Bush regime reflect a distinct lack of empathy and understanding.
This is an administration bent on blatant paybacks to friends and contributors
at everyone else's expense.
Its single truth: What is good for extractive profits is good for
the country. Trees and caribou don't contribute cash so Bush's environmental
policy opens majestic old growth forests for commercial logging and
protected wilderness areas for domestic oil exploration. His foreign
policy confuses justice with punishment, disagreement with treachery,
and cultural differences with evil. He willingly risks escalating and
perpetuating a continuous cycle of global violence.
Bush's regime is
a disgraceful manifestation of the nefarious crony capitalism that
the Presidents Roosevelt - Theodore and Franklin -
used their administrations to combat. His vows of "No Child Left
Behind," and his recent but forgotten AIDS initiative in Africa
tell all, as does his underfunded plan to expand AmeriCorps and his
promises to clean up carbon monoxide poisoning while increasing the
pollution rights of the corporations that fund him. He cuts taxes,
then drives the Federal Government from surplus to its greatest debt
in history, robbing future citizens to pay the bill.
and sending for Bush is not about tonglen (giving and receiving)
but monetary and political favors.
Compassion, according to Bush, is allowing utility plants to upgrade
their infrastructure without the pollution abatements previously
required by law when, according to the National Academy of Sciences,
50,000 American children are born every year with brains damaged
by prenatal exposure to methyl mercury compounds from fossil-fuel
and industrial air pollution. And adding insult to injury, Bush and
his minions spend their holidays shooting innocent creatures - bird,
fox and deer hunting not for supper but for sport.
Thai Buddhist professor
Sulak Sivaraksa likens Bush to Hitler and Stalin, arguing that his
declaration of an 'Axis of Evil,' Hitler's
'Final Solution,' and Stalin's pogrom of peasants were actually similar
attempts "to perfect the world by destroying its [perceived] impurities." Bush
has withdrawn the U.S. from nearly all cooperative efforts for the
planet like international treaties for nuclear disarmament, and initiatives
like the Kyoto Accord to abate climate instability. Even if Bush does
not win reelection, or otherwise get elected, the damage he has done
will live on in the form of zealots in judicial robes that will set
misguided legal precedents for hundreds of years. His is the zealotry
and the extremism that Shakyamuni Buddha spent his life defining as
the cause of suffering.
How does a student of the Dharma deal with the rising temptation to
wish ill will on the perpetrators of such shocking and detestable undertakings?
To the specter of four more years of Bush, what is an appropriate Buddhist
While it's important to recognize the full scope of the damage generated
by this President and his cronies, and understandable to feel bitter,
the Dharma clearly counsels us against hating our enemies. As Buddhists,
we can assume that Bush-hating doesn't help anyone.
Buddhist philosophy is centered on non-duality, the unity of all things,
so we must concede that we ourselves are not separate from the corruption
and unprincipled behavior of those who represent us.
It is in fact an old political axiom that people get the government
they deserve. [We get what we "ask for" whether we know
it or like it or not... in both Church and State. -CR]
As Thich Nhat Hanh
might say, the Bush Regime is made up of non-Bush elements, and there
are Bush-like behaviors in every family, and in
every mind. [As Mother Theresa once said, "There's a little Hitler
is all of us". There's also a little Buddha and "small voice" of
Christ within. -CR]
Hated by the Viet
Cong for being CIA and by the CIA for being Viet Cong, Nhat Hanh
is famously loved for his plea that we transform anger
through meditation and heal it by putting our loving kindness into
practical action. Martin Luther King Jr. taught that true nonviolence
means "you not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate
If we could read the secret history of our enemies," Longfellow
reminded us, "we should find in each man's life sorrow and suffering
enough to disarm all hostility."
Bush deserves our appreciation because he gives us a need to practice
and thus to progress along the path. The Dalai Lama often speaks
of the Chinese with gratitude, saying they have given him the "unavoidable
opportunity" to practice compassion and cultivate forgiveness
Zen-Benedictine Brother David Steindl-Rast and Joan Halifax Roshi
teach radical gratefulness, which posits that in every difficult or
painful circumstance there is an opportunity for gratitude. Adversity
can show us how well we have mastered our minds, how far along the
path we have progressed.
Asked how those in the dharma should respond to times like these,
and how they should live their lives in a world where evil runs like
an open sewer, the great Tibetan master Thrangu Rinpoche said
counter the negative energy with as much positive thought and action
as you can possibly muster. You must unceasingly sustain
It is the Buddha's teaching to make of ourselves an example, a light,
a beacon. What a practice opportunity has been thrust upon us!
This opens the possibility that the consequence of our long suffering
in the realm of the Bush regime will be a complacent body politic that
wakes up. The bold and unrepentant corroding of the core principles
of justice, fairness and personal liberty that made this nation great,
could make people feel an urgent need for a U-turn.
The Bush years could be the threshold to another great society,
an era of great compassion in which elected officials become
representatives of the people again and restore the environment,
reinvigorate social programs, and bring fairness and integrity back
Meanwhile, Bush's approval ratings are still high for many Americans.
Thwarted in their samsaric longings and impotent in their daily grind,
they admire the macho cowboy image and identify with the "regular
guy" quality of their leader. As the California election of
Arnold Schwarzenegger has again shown us, people have difficulty
separating virtual reality from real life, entertainment from existence.
The mind is easily clouded by confusion, ignorance and projection.
unskillfulness of the Bush government makes it tempting to confuse
evil and ignorance. Buddhism observes that people are not
inherently evil - even if their behavior has that appearance. "Like
a blind man in a room full of deaf people." is how Ex-U.S. Treasury
secretary Paul O'Neil describes a surprisingly disengaged Bush during
cabinet meetings. The Bush sangha, i.e., Cheney, Rumsfeld etc., have
taken refuge in an old and outdated vision of the world, one hopelessly
Cartesian, self-referential, and completely lacking awareness of interconnection,
cause and effect, and certainly the true meaning of compassion.
Just after 9/11, anxious to do what he could to prevent all out war,
the Dalai Lama broke with a long tradition of not commenting on the
internal affairs of other nations and wrote to Bush.
"It may seem presumptuous on my part," said His Holiness, "but
I personally believe we need to think seriously whether a violent action
is the right thing to do and in the greater interest of the nation
and people in the long run."
His Holiness stressed
to Bush how "violence will only increase
the cycle of violence." He suggested the American President deal
with the root causes of such senseless violence: hatred and anger.
Bush didn't get it.
"The Bush administration simply doesn't trust smart people," says
Harvard lawyer Alan Dershowitz. "It's anti-intellectual by nature,
and it doesn't even want to hear their advice."
Given the countless Iraqis and over 4,000 Americans killed or injured
- not in self-defense but in cold blood, and given the enablement
of pollution, the trees and animals hurried into extinction, can
we even begin to calculate the negative karma Bush & Co. are
mounting? But if Buddha could forgive and even ordain Angulimala,
whom the sutras say viciously killed thousands of innocent people
with his own hands, then can George W. Bush be beyond our forgiveness
And didn't the great Tibetan yogi Milarepa practice black magic and
kill people before he turned his mind so magnificently to the dharma?
George W. Bush is unfortunately no Angulimala or Milarepa who were
able to overcome, to awaken to the unskillfulness of their actions
and repent the loss of life they caused.
In fact, Bush may be the closest we can come to an anti-Buddha: a
global poster-boy for profound ignorance.
We can use him in our visualizations. We can breath in his confusion
and breath out to him our clarity. We can also get out on the campaign
trail for candidates who more closely represent that first precept:
Do no harm.
Sit and breathe contemplating this and see if you feel called to volunteer
on voter-registration drives.
Mindful that the real source of American power does not come from
its superior war machine but from its constitution, its leadership
in the global community, its democracy and its history of respect for
human rights, George Bush has seriously weakened America. For this
he deserves no praise, only reproach. But my practice has helped me
prevent any grim imaginings in his regard.
When I'm stricken with unskillful thoughts about the President, I
immediately focus on the words of the Buddha:
never put an end to hatred, love alone can. This is the unalterable
Now my visualizations are of bearing witness to a panoply of devas
and gods, the Boddhisatva Avalokitesvara, and countless rows of Buddha's
and Bodhisattvas throughout space and time sitting in the clouds
and celebrating Bush's retirement from the Oval Office and his safe
return to Crawford, Texas.
Then I close with two healing mantras in rapid succession:
"May all beings be happy and free from suffering - even Bush" "May
all beings be happy - and freed from Bush."
See also: The 5 Minute And 8 Second Goat Story Video
Watch What Commander-and-Chief Bush Did When He Heard Of The 911 Attacks
9:05 a.m.: Andrew Card walks up to Bush while he is listening to a
Goat Story with 16 second graders in Sandra Kay Daniels's class at
Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida. Card whispers
in his ear"A second plane has hit the World Trade Center. America
is under attack."Bush (commander-and-chief?) keeps listening to
this Goat Story with these children for at least 7 minutes.Why he didn't
excuse himself from these children right away, and immediately address
this national emergency, is totally illogical and unexplainable. There
is no way this should have happened.What of course should have happened,
was as soon as the secret service found out about United Airlines Flight
175 impacting the WTC (now knowing it was a "terrorist" act),
they would have immediately grabbed Bush and brought him to an undisclosed
location.There is no way the secret service leaves Bush in a place
(Emma E. Booker Elementary School) where everyone knows he is. Watch
The 911 Goat Story Video http://9112001.net/bush-911.mov