Watching the Kavanaugh hearings from a Dharmic perspective: two Buddhist women speak

Watching the Kavanaugh hearings from a Dharmic perspective: two Buddhist women speak September 28, 2018

If you’re like me, your social media feeds have been on fire with discussions and news postings about the Ford and Kavanaugh testimonies before the Senate Judiciary Committee. And, if you’re like me, you have a lot of Buddhists (teachers, scholars, and practitioners) on your friends list and you saw them engaging: often very deeply, passionately, empathetically, and personally, with the process unfolding on live television and the radio.

And it shouldn’t need to be said any more, but it does: this display of activity around a political process shows with abundant clarity that Buddhists are political. They are engaged in political processes, from local school or library levies to presidential elections: they are involved. I’ve seen this also in my time living in India. Likewise in my life and travels in China. And working and talking with historians of virtually every period and geographic location of Buddhism has shown me: Buddhists get involved with politics.

So expect more very Buddhist comments and commentaries on this particular unfolding of events on the world stage. As Rev. James Ford so eloquently notes in a recent blog post:

“The project of Zen is the project of our awakening to the wise heart.

And with that finding there is doing. There is the whole mess of living.

Politics is the work of people in groups. Politics is how we interact, how we deal with each other, and the world.

And, how can we not bring our deepest views, our moral compasses, those axioms of right and wrong to our political engagement?”

Exactly. And I think this deserves fuller discussion under my tentative banner of “why Buddhist ethics matters” collection of blog posts. Currently that collection is just one post, but it discusses how unique considerations from Buddhist ethics help shape the varying perspectives that Buddhists bring to a moral discussion (in that case psychedelic drug use). Perhaps we will see enough Buddhists writing or putting up videos about the current topic to warrant a similar analysis.

For our part now, we have: “Venerable Thubten Chodron and Venerable Thubten Chonyi give their thoughts on how an affliction can destroy a person, a family, a community, as shown in the hearing of Judge Kavanaugh.”

As you’ll see in the short (20 minutes) video, a variety of specifically Buddhist values come to light in the discussion between these two venerables. For instance:

“How many people there had a motivation to benefit others?” asks Ven. Thubten Chodron at one point. “It seems to me that Dr. Blasey [Ford], she had a motivation to benefit the country. It seemed that way to me. She’s not getting anything positive out of this. The whole thing is horrific for her.”

A commenter off camera notes in the talk that there were men in the questioning of Dr. Ford who were simply thanking her for performing her civic duty. The commenter here says that this is how she wants men to behave in these cases.

Chodron goes on to talk about the subtexts of class and privilege leading to Kavanaugh’s sense of entitlement to this position, his sense of entitlement to have his faults overlooked. Watch for yourself and see how Buddhist ethics (and practice!) intersect with this very real and very political situation.

And share your thoughts or links to any other Buddhist discussions of the topic in the comments below. Thanks!


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