So, I hesitated to even mention the word, the name of the President of the United States. Simply put, making such a statement brings to mind different thoughts to different people and the very mention of the President’s name can create tension or excitement, thrills of victory or agony of defeat. In those very feelings about the President is the source of this post on Samsara. I capitalize the term here because it has particular meaning for me, right now, and this lesson I hope I can keep as the days turn into years.
I keep a hand-written journal and write in it as I practice my meditation or reading or study or whatever. I’ve been pretty consistently writing over the past few years and the practice of writing has helped me think and process ideas.
In my journal this week, I responded to Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse’s thoughts about Samara in Not for Happiness: A Guide to the So-Called Preliminary Practices. Khyentse writes, “Sentient beings, like silkworms, create their own traps and die in them.” In essence, we create our own pain and suffering, our personal Samsara, and live in it until we die. The decisions we make, the stories we tell, the jobs we have, the struggles we face, much of it is of our own making. Unraveling that concept or idea is a key to gaining clarity of our own existence and awareness of the suffering of those around us.
As you can predict, that idea brought me to Trump. Based on my own experience in conversations with family and friends, those who voted for Trump found in him a way out. I heard over and over again how he represented real change in our world; that he would no longer be the politician but be above or beyond all politicians. He would, according to one family member, bring back respect in our society…respect for each other. He would establish real law and order, real solutions to real problems. That approach, so said many folks I talked to, was why they voted for Trump and his policies.
Rather than have a debate or try to convince family and friends, I listened. I offered my own thoughts and sometimes that led to debate. For the most part, I recognized, in myself and in family, the same kinds of fear and uncertainty that we live with every single day. As I really got into these feelings in my own mind, I came to my own conclusion: regardless of the political position, the source of all of this fear and etc was a representation of our attempts to shape our own lives….we have such little control or affect over our lives. In a moment, we have lost a job, experienced pain, sickness, anger, resentment, and suffering on a small or large scale. Some of us see in a new President the hope that things will be better. That change, any change, will result in a better life for us all.
So we hang our hopes on a new set of policies or government programs (or removal of those programs). We think it is all going to be better or worse based on some external conditions that will somehow reshape our world.
More importantly, Trump and whoever comes after him, will be an expression of what we think, feel, express in those moments of fear and panic. That Trump is the current expression of the General Will (according to Jean Jacques Rousseau) in which what we feel and think is represented by the one we identify as our leader.
And. and. What we know about Samsara is that all of those external conditions and circumstances, all of them, are just like moving around the deck chairs on the Titanic. I’m not saying that some government policy or change cannot make things slightly better…they can. I am not saying that every person who holds political office is exactly the same.
What I am saying is that life is, ultimately, a situation in which we will face suffering regardless of the external circumstances.
One other thought I had about the current political situation is the idea that a savior, some person, can alleviate all of the difficulties we face. So, the election of a new President will correct the ills of the last one. That a single person can help change all of the things that we did not like about the last person….a new boss, manager, wife, husband, boyfriend, girlfriend, ANY new person will make a change that will benefit us.
Of course a new President can make changes to our lives….we can be forced to wage war, lose wages, face horrible conditions, be arrested, detained, or worse. Even so, we still have our minds, our precious human existence, and can realize and recognize our situation. Can we change our external situation? Maybe. Maybe a little.
The thing we can change is our mind…and that, my friends is what I am focused on right now. I can change how I view the world, myself, my friends, those who oppose me and those who do not. I can see the world as it is…as a place where many suffer on a daily basis. I can take on that suffering through prayer, meditation, awareness, or action. I can send to all of those sentient beings, all of those people around me and across the globe the kind of love that helps free those folks from suffering….maybe not literally…maybe only as a means of just extending the thought of love to all.
That’s where I will start: with compassion for my family who sees Trump as their savior; for my friends who see Trump as the worst person ever. For those who are not sure. All of us, all of them, all people I extend with all of my heart love and compassion in the hopes that we all can find the source of our own happiness and well being.