So, now what?
So, now what?
Okay. My worst nightmare has now come to pass. It appears that hatred, anger, bigotry, misogyny and xenophobia has been legitimized. We have just witnessed an election season where the Ten Non-Virtues of body, speech and mind are now politically the norm. I am on Dukkha overload. Anxiety, stress and fear on steroids. I am worrying about a man who now has his finger on the nuclear button and thinks climate change is just a contrived hoax. So, how do I deal with this on a personal level?
I see only two alternatives. My first inclination is to crawl in bed, cover my head over with my blankie and just stay there for the next four (or God forbid eight) years. Or do I have another alternative? I have been studying the Dharma for the last five years. Has this just been an intellectual exercise? Just maybe this is the time to take everything I have learned and start using it. But still keep my blankie as a back up just in case.
So, this is what samsara feels like. If everything always went according to plan the Dharma would be superfluous. I guess I should be grateful life isn’t like that. Now is an excellent opportunity to work on such qualities as patience, tolerance and fortitude. Obviously, I have been attached to my political ideology and can’t fathom that other people don’t see the world as I do. Everyone just wants to be happy and not suffer. But if you throw ignorance, anger and attachment into the mix you find the whole gamut of thoughts, speech and actions popping up to find that happiness including actions that are clearly harmful to oneself and others. Clearly I have been expecting way too much from samsara and the “happiness” of this life. I need to tone down my desires and expectations. Way down!
Sure, things appear very bleak at the moment. But everything is in flux and nothing lasts forever. I need to constantly remind myself that this too will pass. Being a control freak, however, I want it to pass NOW. How much control do I have over my fellow countrymen? Only one vote which I exercised on November 8th. But I have enormous control over my mind if I choose to exercise it. I can choose to not become angry and bitter and instead maintain my love, compassion and equanimity even for those people who voted for the man/child. Where’s my blankie?
We are all empty of inherent existence and, therefore, can change. Yes, even you know who. I am not having a problem with the ultimate Donald Trump who doesn’t exist. It’s the conventional one who I find so unacceptable.
It is time to return to my cushion and remind myself that this lifetime is but a brief moment in time. It will be over before I know it. What really matters is the karma that I am creating right now and the lifetimes that I will experience in the future as a result. Ultimately this Buddhist path will lead to liberation from rebirth and suffering. Right now I would be satisfied with liberation from American politics!
I know you must be inundated with emails right now. Thousands of people worldwide are looking to you for guidance. I am working through this myself as if I am grieving the loss of a close relative. The answer for me is the Dharma. Now more than ever it is where I am finding refuge and answers. The Buddhist world view is saving me from total despair. Thank you for your kindness and teachings.
Ken Mondal is a retired Ophthalmologist who lives in Spokane, Washington. He received his education at Temple University and University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and residency training at University of California-San Francisco. He practiced in Ohio, Washington and Hawaii. Ken met the Dharma in 2011 and attends teachings and retreats on a regular basis at Sravasti Abbey. He also loves to do volunteer work in the Abbey's beautiful forest.