July 22, 2009

Candidate can't expect a Buddhist bounce

Erik Curren, Democratic candidate for Virginia's House of Delegates, is a practicing Buddhist who also calls himself a Christian. Curren says practicing Christianity and Buddhism are not mutually exclusive, according to The News Leader, which covers the central Shenandoah Valley and the district in which Curren is running.

But Curren can't expect a Buddhist bounce. At least that's what Augusta County Supervisor Tracy Pyles thinks: "I asked Curren about his faith and he told me he is a Buddhist, and for me, that is an issue... I don't see this district electing a Buddhist."

Pyles, a fellow Democrat, made an unsuccessful bid for the same seat in 2001.

Sour grapes? Maybe. But Curren may have sour karma: he wrote a book called Buddha's Not Smiling: Uncovering Corruption at the Heart of Tibetan Buddhism Today.

Pyles, a member Jerusalem Chapel United Brethren Church, in Churchville, VA, says he's voting for Curren anyway.

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James's picture

Dear Erik,

Thanks for your comment. Apologies if you took offense. I was being light-hearted about it and thought the humor came through and I'm sorry it didn't. I'm certainly happy that more and more Buddhists are entering public life and we'll be watching the race.

No, I haven't read your book and meant to make no judgment. If you sent us the book, I'd be happy to take a look at it. We usually receive dharma-related books from publishers as a matter of course but did not receive yours (I checked).

All best to you,


Erik Curren's picture

Thanks for covering my race out here in Virginia. Clearly a politician interested in Buddhism is something new for voters out here. I appreciate all the support of people in my district and around the country who stand for religious freedom, tolerance, and the values that make America great.

And of course, given how few politicians across this huge country know anything about Dharma at all, I value the interest of the Buddhist community in my race.

But I am also a bit confused about the karma comment. I'm not sure if James Shaheen is one of the small but thoughtful group of readers for my 2006 book on the Karmapa controversy, which was dedicated to getting to the facts and truth of a complicated issue. You may disagree with the conclusions of my book, but my motivation was to help separate politics from Dharma for the benefit of genuine practitioners.

I'm not an expert, but my Buddhist teachers always told me that karma is a pretty complex subject too. Does Mr. Shaheen know something about my karma that Buddhist teachers do not?

arunlikhati's picture

What does that book have to do with sour karma?