Wild applause in Chicago. Stunned silence in Boston.
Geshe Kelsang once told a sports lover how to watch games skillfully by rejoicing in the winners and having compassion for the losers.
If we are doing otherwise right now, ie, feeling resentful of the winners or gloating ignobly over the losers, this is good advice for the election results too.
However, this is not a sports game. The truth is we are not on opposing teams, which means that there are no actual winners and there are no actual losers. I think this cartoon illustrates our actual situation pretty well:
The President put this rather nicely and hopefully in his acceptance speech, when he said things like:
“The task of perfecting our union moves forward because you reaffirmed… the belief that while each of us will pursue our own individual dreams, we are an American family and we rise or fall together as one nation and as one people.”
“In the weeks ahead, I also look forward to sitting down with Governor Romney to talk about where we can work together to move this country forward.”
“Despite all our differences, most of us share certain hopes for America’s future.”
“By itself, the recognition that we have common hopes and dreams won’t end all the gridlock or solve all our problems or substitute for the painstaking work of building consensus and making the difficult compromises needed to move this country forward. But that common bond is where we must begin.”
“I believe we can seize this future together because we are not as divided as our politics suggests. We’re not as cynical as the pundits believe. We are greater than the sum of our individual ambitions, and we remain more than a collection of red states and blue states. We are and forever will be the United States of America.”
President Obama’s speech was rousing because it touched on a basic inspiring fact of our Buddha nature, that we are not intrinsically stupid or selfish but alright really — I think we all know that we have to rise above our “individual ambitions” (read, self-cherishing concerns) and think about the greater whole, which includes everyone, not just half of us. (See this article.) We are all united in the ways that it counts the most; we have a “common bond”. Starting with ourselves, we have to come to remember this not just during one moving, hopeful speech, but all the time.
From a spiritual and practical point of view, all living beings, American or otherwise, have the same common enemy, which is pain and suffering, and all living beings have the same common goal, which is happiness and freedom. This means we are all on the same team. And this means that we can only win by overcoming our common enemy and accomplishing our common goal. Fighting amongst ourselves is not only “small, even silly” as the President said, but it is like the Yankees fighting against each other during the game yet still hoping to win.
Bodhisattvas understand this and work to overcome the delusions and negative karma that are the deeper and actual causes of our suffering and everyday problems, and to cultivate the compassion and wisdom that are the deeper and actual causes of our happiness and freedom. They also have a vow to help others on a practical, relatively superficial, but still important level where possible. (See The Bodhisattva Vow for all the promises a Bodhisattva makes.)
With a good heart and wisdom, we can work together to overcome the manifestations of our confusion, attachment, and anger, for example, which can arise in many forms, such as poverty, as inequality, as climate disaster, as being in mammoth debt, as disharmony and fighting, etc. We can also work together to bring everyone greater success and happiness in the best ways we know how, spiritual and practical.
This is not idealistic advice from Buddha, this is advice based on the reality of our mutual dependence. Sooner or later we all have to catch up to it if we really want happiness and freedom.
Let’s really win this thing!