Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Vote from Your Most Enlightened Values

Democracy presupposes morality, compassion and wisdom.  As people head to the polls today, I sincerely hope that they can clear their heads of all the mean-spirited, deceitful rhetoric and hype and vote from their inner-most values.  We can draw strength from our most cherished philosophers and the original message of our religions.

I grew up as a Catholic but also became familiar with Protestant Christianity and Orthodox Christianity. Drawing from that background, loving neighbor as self, caring for the sick, feeding the poor, ministering to those in prison, and being good stewards of the earth and all living beings are central messages that I think we all can respect.  Jesus also spoke of unity, of oneness.  If we vote from these core beliefs, we'll stay on the right path.

Since 1976, I also developed a respect for Indian philosophy and religion, and later for Chinese philosophy.  Drawing from these traditions has only underscored the importance of the central Christian message I learned as a child.  As Thich Nhat Hanh so wisely said, "We are here to realize the illusion of our separateness."  We are all one.  It is not us versus them!  Our happiness cannot be separated from their happiness. Their misery cannot be separated from our misery.  Even on the most superficial level, we are all on this tiny speck, this dust mote floating in the unfathomable vastness of space and we need to think globally to make the best of it for all our sakes.  How could this much not be clear?  But, it goes so much deeper than that.  When we are most settled and at peace, when insight begins to dawn, it becomes increasingly clearer that we are all in this together.  We are one at the most fundamental level.

When we vote, we should vote from our inner-most values and purest insights, leaving behind all the divisiveness we've heard.  Then it becomes clear that as good stewards, we should vote for a sustainable future and for ecological conservation.  We need to vote to care for the sick and feed the poor.  We need to vote for education and rehabilitation instead of incarceration.  We need to vote for diplomacy that extends peace and good will, not war and violence.  As the Buddha said, "Hatred never ceased by hatred in this world -- this is an ancient truth."  We just need to vote for what we hope for ourselves when we are old and need care and vote for the world that we hope for our children, a world free of war and terrorism, hunger, and unnecessary suffering.  Loving-kindness, compassion, altruistic joy, and peace begin in the heart of each person and spread outward.  Taking the time each day to meditate reveals this clearly.  

If we vote from fear, delusion, hatred, ignorance, or greed, our world will become a hell.  If we meditate each day and then vote from loving-kindness, compassion, altruistic joy, and equanimity (the four Brahmaviharas or divine abodes of Buddhism) our world will become a pure land, a paradise.  So, vote from wisdom and compassion, from a sense of unity, of oneness with everyone.  Vote from your core, most enlightened values and our democracy will work and become a shining example.  If we want to lead, we have to lead by example.  It can't happen any other way.