Musings of a Libertarian Buddhist
by Ish Calleros
Recently, I was challenged by an Obama supporter friend of mine. A fellow "Buddhist" as to my views on gun control. The fact that I thought guns kept people safe from criminal and tyrannical activity apparently disqualified me from walking as did The Buddha.
This statement already illustrates the problem at hand. Coercion.
Libertarian values at their core center around the idea of non-aggression. Non-coercion. It is this idea that attracted me to the Libertarian political philosophy. Simply put, do not coerce others in any way, shape, or form. Religion, in my opinion is one of biggest forms in which people attempt to coerce people. By trade, I am a martial arts instructor. I tell my students all the time that bullying can occur physically, mentally or spiritually. I teach them to watch for signs of bullying and to never fall victim to it. Spiritual bullying can be very intense in nature. It can lead to murder, mass murder, or genocide.
That being said, what attracted me to Buddhism as a spiritual practice (read: not religion) was the idea of letting go of judgment as a way to improve the self. When you take the ideas of Siddhartha Gautama the man (The Buddha), he was very wise in leaving room for questioning his teachings. "If you find The Buddha, kill The Buddha" being one of my personal favorites, he encouraged revolutionary thought. Even if it were against his own ideas. He very carefully closed the door on any who would make a deity out of him.
Yet many did. Many do. To the point where when you mix Buddhism with modern "Democrat" beliefs, you get coercion. "You can't believe in gun rights and The Buddha's teachings at the same time." I disagree. In fact, if you look at the evidence, it would appear that Buddhism as a philosophy is more geared to Libertarian thought than other forms of spiritual practices while still leaving room for others who have different spiritual inclinations. Example: The Buddha said, "no one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path." Were he a statesman saying this exact line, it might come at a time just before he gets rid of entitlement programs. In fact, that single line almost excludes Democrats from his teachings, not Libertarians. He goes on to say; "The whole secret of existence is to have no fear. Never fear what will become of you. Depend on no one. Only the moment you reject all help are you freed." I can assure you, right along with my Buddhist principles, I will not be taking any handouts soon. Seems pretty downright Libertarian to me.
I am not the only one who believes the belief systems are seamlessly compatible. Robert A. Meyer calls it "The Way of the Libertarian Warrior." His writings blend his idea of the Zen Buddhist – a peaceful warrior-with hard-hitting Libertarian edge: "When Patrick Henry said 'give me liberty or give me death,' he wasn't joking. He understood an eternal truth. Government subjugation of an individual's body, mind, and spirit amount to a living death."
The man understands the biggest bully known to man: The Government, and he will not take it lightly. Not a man lacking in diligence. And what did The Buddha say about diligence? "To be idle is a short road to death and to be diligent is a way of life; foolish people are idle, wise people are diligent."
Moving on to compassion, another Buddhist principle, I will give you a peek into my martial arts classroom. I tell the children as well as adults, "self-reliance is compassion in action. Loving yourself so much that you will defend yourself is actually the highest form of love. How can you love another human or be compassionate with one if you have none for yourself? Love yourself. You deserve it." Any compassion that you are capable of giving is because you are self-reliant to have something to give. When giving of your own free will, that is true compassion. Plus, the person receiving gets to feel true gratitude. How spiritually devoid is a transaction then when coercion is involved? In fact, the spiritually inclined man in me believes that coerced giving is "evil." You promote resentment from the giver. The person on the receiving end does not feel gratitude but entitlement. And the receiving party actually resents the giver for having more. When done in freedom, there is gratitude and compassion sprung forth into the universe. The government wants us to feel that the evil is not wanting to be forced to give. Again, I will refer back to the Buddha here: "virtue is persecuted more by the wicked than it is loved by the good."
The more I study and feel from within, I know that no other political philosophy can actually make sense to my Buddhist principles other than the Libertarian party. So I am grateful to the person who questioned my positions on gun control and the Buddha. It inspired a deeper introspection that reaffirmed my already solid principles.
Ish Calleros is the owner and operator of Kung Fu San Soo of Albuquerque
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