Monday, June 18, 2018

An Open Letter to Brad Warner

Hello Brad,

We have never met personally, but I'm a big fan of your work.  In fact, your book Hardcore Zen was instrumental in me choosing to follow the Buddhist path.  

I enjoyed your honesty, and the way you presented Zen as more of a tool than some kind of mystical gateway to inner peace.  As I read it, I was actually shocked by how much we have in common.

I grew up in Cleveland, a 20-minute drive from your hometown of Akron.  And while I was a few years too late for the Punk scene that you often write about, I did spend several years as a raver.  So I know what its like to be part of an alternative music scene.  Sometimes I miss those days, and sometimes I don't.

But you probably guessed that I'm not writing to you so that we can reminisce.  I want to talk about politics.  

After the 2016 election when it seemed like Civil War 2 was about to kick off, you wrote some posts that I didn't like.  


Essentially, you kept saying that Trump voters were worthy of love and respect just like everyone else; that we can disagree with people without belittling them.  You also suggested that the Dharma and politics should remain separate.

Like I said, those articles did not make me happy.  I actually stopped reading your blog for a while as a result.  I was filled with a lot of anger at the time, and I just didn't want to hear anything that you had to say.

But that changed when I took part in an action a year ago that got a little crazy.  There was a pro-Trump rally taking place, so some friends and I went to counter protest.  I won't go  into details, but suffice it to say that I did not behave like a Buddhist that day.  To this day, I feel deeply ashamed of my actions.

I think politics are a naturally corrupting force.  They only work if people have a certain amount of attachment to their views; enough to enforce those views through politicians and laws.  But attachment leads to desire, and desire leads to suffering.  

As a Buddhist, I vowed to help end suffering, not cause it.


So, I've spent the last year working with organizations that I support instead of fighting organizations that I don't.  I teach meditation and mindfulness to activists.  I give Dharma talks about faith and compassion, and I try to help people work from a place of peace, not anger.

It's a good middle ground, I feel like it's more in keeping with my vows.  But I'm worried that it won't be enough. 

Recently, I watched a video where a Western monastic was standing on a street corner, speaking into a bullhorn.  But he wasn't talking about meditation or the 4-Noble Truths.  He was ranting about wealth disparities.  It was horrifying.

To be clear, I agreed with his message.  I just didn't like seeing a monastic standing on a street corner, speaking into a bullhorn, surrounded by people who looked like they were ready to "burn it all down".  That can't be what the Buddha had in mind when he started this whole thing 2,600 years ago.

Is that what Buddhism is going to become; just another tool of the political elite to sway the masses to their cause?  It certainly seems that way.  

So, I thought I would write you this letter, and let you know that I appreciate your message.  I appreciate that someone tried to keep the Dharma pure, even when numb skulls like me didn't listen.

Gassho,
Alex


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3 Things I Learned from My Outdoor Meditation Retreat