October 29, 2008

Buddhism and Politics

Beliefnet looks at Buddhism and politics:

So American Buddhists aren't likely to become a political machine or a crucial swing vote any time soon. But as the religion born in the East carves its place in the West, many Buddhists are making a mark in U.S. politics, including this year's presidential race.

A significant number of Buddhist immigrants who fled communist regimes in Southeast Asia tend to be politically conservative, which could help Republican candidate Sen. John McCain. But a solid majority of American Buddhists are converts, who tend to be liberal, and many back Democrat Barack Obama.

You may have read about the troubles of the Cambodian temple in Long Beach, California. The monks are fighting with the board and the president of the board is now held in contempt of court by an L.A. Country Superior court judge. Plus there's the Church of the Revelation angle. . .

So Prince Charles and Camila are touring Asia and today they visited Nara, Japan, a former capital of the country and neighbor of Kyoto. It is rich in Buddhist sites, including the the Todaiji Temple, said to be the world's largest wooden building. Hence the Telegraph's headline (if you listen closely you can hear the gentle thumps as the copy editors fall asleep at their desks): Prince Charles and Camilla visit world's largest wooden building

Buddhism is politically useful in Asia because unlike Hinduism or Taoism it can be thought of as pan-Asian, part of south and east and central and southeast Asia's shared heritage. For example Sri Lanka and China are talking Buddhism as they explore their relationship. This probably won't make India very happy. Just as this sentence wouldn't make, say Thaland, very happy: "Buddhists throughout the world respect Sri Lanka as the country which professes Theravada Buddhism." Or what about this: "The Theravada and Mahayana doctrines profess the same philosophy." Oh, well, give peace a chance.

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Gerald Ford's picture

Speaking of Nara, I visited the place and absolutely loved it, especially Todaiji. :) Todaiji used to be the official temple in Japan for giving out the Vinaya precepts by the way, though that "office" has been defunct for centuries.

I have pictures here of my trip there:


» Buddhism and Politics Barrack Obama On Best Political Blog's picture

[...] Buddhism and Politics John McCain. But a solid majority of American Buddhists are converts, who tend to be liberal, and many back Democrat Barack Obama. [...]