As a presidential voting year in America, it can be quite challenging at times to remain spiritually calm. Every form of social media will be telling you whom you should vote for. Each will paint the other candidates as “evil” or void of humanity.
In some cases candidates themselves openly describe their negative attitudes and in other cases, the negativity is well below the surface. But each of our candidates, and each of us, has negative traits.
The Cause of Suffering
The problem comes however, when we think we can solve a problem solely with physical means, and that is after all what politics is about. Many spiritual paths openly state that the cause of suffering is attachment to the things of the world (those things which are not eternal but part of entropy and decay.)
Attachment brings two main sources of suffering:
On one hand we desire something we are attached to (sex, money, attention) and on the other hand we become frustrated when our desires are not met or are blocked. Desires based on the world are net fully met, or fully satisfying.
The Suffering Nature of Attachment
When we attach to any object, thought, person or thing – we open the door to suffering (whether we know it or not.)
Let’s take the example of a new car. Imagine a car you may desire. You see advertisements for it, you spend time looking at reports and driving experiences online. You finally find a way to buy the car. Yet instead of being more peaceful, you are more worried. Now you must find a way to keep the car safe. You hate to visit your relatives in the “bad part of town,” now – out of fear your beautiful car might get stolen. When you go to the shopping center you park away from other cars for fear of getting dents or dings. Then it happens. One day, you walk out to your beautiful new car and see dents in it. Someone has dinged your car. Most likely you would get angry or frustrated.
This is an example of someone’s painful attachment to a physical object. By attachment, we take on the object as though it were an extension of ourselves. If we saw someone take a key and carve their initials in our car door, it would be as though they made the act directly against us. This is the pain caused by attachment.
To desire any object, person or act will only create diminishing returns. Just consider a new car: You desire a brand new sports car. You earn enough money to secure a loan on it. You love the car, you drive the car all the time. After a year or so though, you might start to regret the purchase… after all a new model is out. Your car now has dents and dings in it. The once desired car is no longer leaving that initial impression. Now, a year later, it feels old and less attractive.
We’re Changing the Wrong Thing
Two sides of the attachment coin are certainly desire and frustration. These two topics lead us into ignorance. We incorrectly assume a self-existing, permanent change will affect us if we get what we want. Yet it never happens, does it?
A person elects the “right” candidate to change our world for the better… only to find said world still sucks. A person changes jobs thinking that the new job will solve so many problems the current one has… only to find more of the same going on at the new company. A person changes spouses, thinking that a new spouse will treat them better… only to find they are still unhappy with their relationships.
Why? Why aren’t our changes working?
Because, we’re changing the wrong thing!
Instead of changing our mind, we’re changing life “out there.” In doing so, we have certainly created change, but in time (when things settle down) we will undoubtedly discover the same or similar causes of suffering still persist.
Our World is a Product of Our Mind
In the Eastern paths of spirituality, the world as we know it (the physical universe) is considered the illusion. It is called Maya (Illusionary.)
Within the teachings of Buddhism is a teacher called, Shantideva. Master Shantideva has many beautiful quotes of wisdom – one in particular is a quote about the nature of reality. He said a parable, that:
A man doesn’t need to cover the world in leather, he only needs enough for his feet.
What that statement is saying on a deeper level, is that you can’t possibly change the world… but you can change what you control (your mind.) Instead of covering the earth in leather, and walking barefoot on it, you could instead simply wear some shoes.
Karma and Suffering
Karma is a truism of spirituality. It is taught as “karma” in the East and by description in the Western Spiritual traditions. When in the Bible it says, “As you sow, so shall you reap,” it speaks of the same concept the Eastern paths call “karma.” Karma is simply a response to actions you have committed.
Karma is often described as seeds, sown in one’s own mind. When conditions are right, these seeds ripen and blossom. The result we interpret as “bad,” “good” or “neutral,” depending our point of view.
But every action you commit (in body, speech or mind) is a source of karma. If you desire sex, you sow the seeds of more desire – which probably will come about as never being satisfied. If you strike someone with your hands in anger, then you will find others attacking you in some way. Cheating someone out of money, will return with you yourself always finding a lack of money (others cheating or taking from you.)
Karma is not a judge, it is more like gravity. It is simply a force that mirrors our intended actions back to us at a future point in time, when conditions are favorable. Now, I said, Intended Actions: the intent of an act goes a long way to how it returns to us.
One could save someone by harming something else… a man might kill a bear to save a child being mauled. The act if done with the intent of love for the child would be quite different then if a man killed a bear with cruelty in his heart.
Therefore it is imperative that we understand the nature of our mind and intentions for each act we think or commit to. Voting for a candidate (for example) with the intent of hurting others (i.e. “This candidate will get the job done and carpet bomb Iran”) has a karmic return – the lack of peace in one’s life.
Our intentions should always be pure.
It follows then that it is possible that two different people, both with altruistic intent, could make opposing decisions.
Just as a gardener has a rich soil in which they plant seeds, so emptiness is likened to one’s karma. Emptiness is the potential of everything. It is the lack of self-existence. Objects in this world are empty of existing in a permanent way.
A classic example, is to taken an object on your desk. Perhaps a letter opener. Ask, “what is this thing I hold?”
- Many will say, “A letter opener”
- A child might say “A long skinny mirror”
- A criminal might say, “A weapon”
Who is right and who is wrong? They all are both!
Each can see the object in different ways depending on their karma! Equally so, each of these perceptions is based on ignorance and is wrong! The true nature of reality is far deeper – it is understanding the very subtle nature that exists and how it can manifest in it’s unlimited ways depending on each person’s karma. This view of true nature is called “the direct perception of emptiness,” by Mahayana Buddhists.
It is key to understand emptiness, as it is the way to ripen one’s karma sooner. By understanding emptiness and karma, one can commit to different actions and see the results ripen far sooner.
All the great Masters seemed to understand that real lasting change doesn’t come about by modifying one’s physical reality. Doing so (modifying one’s physical reality), only solidifies the illusionary world!
Jesus didn’t tell His disciples, “Ok, Rome is very corrupt… I don’t like how the government is spending our taxed income. Let us not pay it in rebellion.” Nor did he lead people to change the local government in one way or another.
Instead, Jesus taught to change one’s own nature. Through good works, prayer and devotion, a Christian would take on a new mind and that mindset would free them from suffering.
Buddha, likewise didn’t instruct people to set up proper government or change the tax laws. Instead he approached the problem in an internal way. Modify one’s own mind, modifies one’s reality.
These great spiritual masters all taught to give unto others, and ask little for one self. They taught us to show love and compassion, even unto our enemies.
But why give to others, if this world is an illusion anyway? Perhaps, because they knew if we could give with pure intentions, it would transform our own very nature. Sacrificial giving transmutes one’s offering into a Holy act of great return.
Short Term Goals
In the short term you can see a better world come about. If this world doesn’t fit the bill, then upon death your next world will. However, without dying, you may find that changing your actions to get a result (with the knowledge of karma and emptiness) gets you a new house, or out of debt.
Long Term Goals
But these short term goals are not the goal at all really. Our long term goals are to be free of suffering. We are to find the path out of suffering – some call this Enlightenment, others describe it as Nirvana.
Approaching our World of Suffering with This Mindset
Now we get down to the heart of the topic. How do we relate to political economy from a spiritual frame of mind?
Well it’s hard isn’t it? We all think we know what’s best. One person feels we should invest more money int Autism research and another man feels Autism isn’t even real. Back and forth they argue and may even hate one another. Not very spiritual is it?
Or perhaps one person feels we should let those seeking aid into our country without question and another feels this leaves us vulnerable to attack or an increase in our own poverty. They fight and argue and call each other names… and again, it isn’t very spiritual.
What we could do instead is distill our doctrines down to key action points:
- Love everyone, including our enemies
- Pray for those who hate us, or despitefully use us
- Lift our consciousness into Higher Realms
- Look at life as the “watcher” (not fettered to our emotions and attachments)
- Give unto others
- Seek little from others
- Be happy for others who get some gain
- Trust in the Divine Source to meet our needs
If we acted under the points above, we may find our attitude in politics is quite different. In fact we may find politics is not suitable at all for us. But when people enter into our space and ask us, “do you think we should restrict muslims from our country?” We could respond, “I’m not scared of others, and if they need help, why not?” “But they might hurt us, they might take our resources,” says the other… to which we may respond, “my God meets all my needs and if someone does harm, well this life isn’t my goal – I want to be peacable to all – including the so called ‘enemy.'”
The Way Out of Suffering
The real way out of suffering is talked about in many different spiritual groups. It’s fascinating that religion and spirituality are so different.
Political & Religious on Suffering
The “religious” groups often demand action in the physical world to “stop suffering.” These actions usually increase suffering! Actions like war, torture, murder, assassinations, excluding others from resources and the like ultimately will return seeds of karma that will ripen more problems in our future.
Spirituality on Suffering
Unlike the “religious” who follow a leader, the spiritual groups look to solutions to uplift one’s consciousness and let go of attachments, desires and frustrations.
Buddism seeks the way out through constant meditation. Some meditation will re-habituate one’s actions to the world around them. Other meditations will clear the mind to wait for inspired thought. Still other forms of meditation, seek total enlightenment by contemplating the nature of Emptiness.
Hinduism may seek it out through the idea of Oneness with the Divine Source. This can be accomplished through the works of Yoga, meditation and spiritual sadhana (practice.)
Teachers, such as Yogananda taught special practices like Kriya Yoga – to nullify action/karma and allow one to transcend into a state of Self-Realization, beyond the nature of suffering.
Sufi’s may rely on compassion, meditation and spiritual practice and dance to achieve mental states to overcome the obscurations of the false illusionary world.
The Taoist may use techniques of meditation and contemplation to overcome the duality of illusion. To go beyond the nature of the physical universe and achieve liberation by loosening one’s grip on the false reality of duality.
Many Fruit – One Tree
There are many spiritual paths to cease suffering, but each has something in common:
Not to find peace through physical action.
After all you can not kill your way to peace. You can not overcome a problem with a problem. You simply dig a deeper pit in which you’ll soon fall into.
The way out of suffering is by going inward, not outward – unless by outward means your outward work is of inward intent (such as giving to those around you, knowing it transforms yourself into a greater depth of spiritual truism.)
The nonsense of pushing one political candidate over another just doesn’t seem to go very far to lasting peace. Look at those who are peaceful (The Dalai Lama for example) do you see him picking sides in the American Political debate?
That isn’t to say you simply do nothing. We must relate to the world, but relate to it from our positive spiritual understanding. We look for the best in others. We pray for those we are scared of… we love them.
If one is scared of Mexicans, then pray for them and love them. Get over your own self fears of loosing resources, or even of loosing your life. Love those you are scared of and your fear will also be lost.
If one is scared of an angry politician like Donald Trump, don’t fear him. Love him. Pray for him. Remember that the same Divine Source that created you, created him and God is in him as much as God is in you.
Whatever you do, do it from a point of love… and yes, you and I will make mistakes.
I recently blew up at someone on Facebook for posting some politically slanted and smearing content. I was wrong in my means, but what I said was true… I told the individual that this grasping to the political spectrum will not save us, and that although I find Donald Trump to embody much hatred, I myself don’t hate him. I try and understand that the same Divine Source is in him as much as me. I also said some very mean things about the person who posted, and for that I’m truly sorry. But I learned and grow from the experience.
The point is, we are not perfect but on the path to perfection. We will make mistakes, don’t cover them up, don’t defend them. Instead, recognize and grow from them – but always, return to the source of truth, in love and compassion for all!