Filed in Politics

Confessions of a Bush-Bashing Buddhist

Why are we so reluctant to bring politics into the meditation hall?

Wes Nisker

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Sometime in the early '90s, just after the Soviet Union had collapsed, the Dalai Lama appeared at U.C. Berkeley, where an interviewer asked him to speak about his relationship to the communist government of China. His Holiness began reminiscing and told the crowd that when he was young and still living in Tibet, he traveled to Beijing as the guest of the Chinese. He went on to say that after being around the capital for a few weeks and observing how things worked, he just couldn't understand how the Chinese officials could call themselves communists. Then he paused, reflected for a moment, and said, "I think maybe I myself am half Buddhist, half Marxist." The crowd gasped in shock, partly because any reference to socialism had become taboo in America, and also, I think, because we were surprised to hear the leader of Tibet admit his identification with this political ideology, especially considering the recent history of his people.

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