Religion and politics are always a dangerous mix. Here I choose to differentiate between “religion” and “spirituality.”Notice there are no "Thou Shalt nots" here. And I am sure I fail at some of these some of the time.
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-=[ Political Precepts ]=-
The Fourteen Precepts of Interbeing
(Adapted from Interbeing, by Thich Nhat Hanh)
I like to call myself a “practicing Buddhist,” whatever that means. I guess it’s a reference to the precepts I have taken. Traditionally, the Buddhist precepts address our individual behavior towards others -- not to kill, lie, engage in manipulative sexual relations, steal, etc. In order for a discipline to remain relevant, it must be able to address contemporary life. Refraining from harmful actions today is a much more subtle endeavor. We have to recognize that we also do harm as citizens, consumers, through denial or attachment to rigid views, and even in the way we seek entertainment and pleasure. The Order of Interbeing, founded by the Vietnamese Zen Monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, proposes the following fourteen mindfulnesses of the way we create suffering in the modern world and vows not to continue them. Whatever your spiritual orientation (or lack thereof), I think these are a good place to start any political process.
Aware of the suffering created by fanaticism and intolerance, we are determined not be idolatrous about or bound to any doctrine, theory, or ideology, even Buddhist ones. Buddhist teachings are guiding means to help us look deeply and to develop our understanding and compassion. They are not doctrines to fight, kill, or die for.
Aware of the suffering created by attachment to views and wrong perceptions, we are determined to avoid being narrow-minded and bound to present views. We shall learn and practice nonattachment from views in order to be open to receive others' insights and experiences. We are aware that the knowledge we presently possess is not changeless, absolute truth. Truth is found in life and not merely in conceptual knowledge, and we will observe life within and around us in every moment, ready to learn throughout our lives.
Aware of the suffering brought about when we impose our views on others, we are not committed to force others, including children, by any means whatsoever -- such as authority, threat, money, propaganda, or indoctrination -- to adopt our views. We will respect the right of others to be different and to choose what to believe and how to decide. We will, however, help others renounce fanaticism and narrowness through deeply engaging and compassionate dialogue.
Aware that looking deeply at the nature of suffering can help us develop compassion and find ways out of suffering, we are determined not to avoid contact with suffering or close our eyes before suffering. We are committed to finding ways, including personal contact, to be with those who are suffer, so we can understand their situation deeply and help them transform their suffering into compassion, peace, and joy.
Aware that true happiness is rooted in peace, solidarity [groundedness], freedom, and compassion, and not in wealth and fame, we are determined not to take as the aim of our life fame, profit, wealth, or sensual pleasure, nor to accumulate wealth while millions are hungry and dying. We are committed to living simply and sharing our time, energy, and material resources with those who are in need. We will practice mindful consuming, not using alcohol, drugs, or any other products that bring toxins into our own and the collective body and consciousness.
Aware that anger blocks communication and creates suffering, we are determined to take care of the energy of anger when it arises and to recognize and transform the seeds of anger that lie deep in our consciousness. When anger comes up, we are determined not to do or say anything, but to practice mindful breathing or mindful walking and acknowledge, embrace, and look deeply into our anger. We will learn to look with the eyes of compassion at ourselves and at those we think are the cause of our anger.
Aware that life is available only in the present moment and that it is possible to live happily in the here and now, we are committed to training ourselves to live deeply each moment of daily life. We will try not to lose ourselves in dispersion or be carried away by regrets about the past, worries about the future, or craving, anger, or jealousy in the present. We will practice mindful breathing to come back to what is happening in the present moment. We are determined to learn the art of mindful living by touching the wondrous, refreshing and healing elements that are inside and around us, and by nourishing the seeds of joy, peace, and understanding in ourselves, thus facilitating the work of healing and transformation in our consciousness.
Aware that lack of communication always brings separation and suffering, we are committed to training ourselves in the practice of compassionate listening and loving speech. We will learn to listen deeply without judging or reacting and refrain from uttering words that can create discord or cause the community to break. We will make every effort to keep communication open and to reconcile and resolve all conflicts however small.
Aware that words create suffering or happiness, we are committed to learning to speak truthfully and constructively, using only words that inspire hope and confidence. We are determined not to say untruthful things for the sake of personal interest or to impress people, nor utter words that cause division or hatred. We will not spread news that we do not know to be certain nor criticize or condemn things of which we are not sure. We will do our best to speak out about situations of injustice, even when doing so may threaten your own safety.
Aware that the essence and aim of a sangha is the practice of understanding and compassion, we are determined not to use the Buddhist community for personal gain or profit, or transform your community into a political instrument. A spiritual community should, however, should take a clear stand against oppression and injustice and should strive to change the situation without engaging in partisan conflicts.
Aware that great violence and injustice have been done to our environment and society, we are committed to not live with a vocation that is harmful to humans and nature. We will do our best to select a livelihood that helps realize our ideal of understanding and compassion. Aware of global economic, political, and social realities, we will behave responsibly as consumers and as citizens, not supporting companies that deprive others of their chance to live.
Aware that much suffering is caused by war and conflict, we are determined to cultivate nonviolence, understanding, and compassion in our daily lives, to promote peace education, mindful mediation, and reconciliation within families, communities, nations, and in the world. We are determined not to kill nor let others kill. We will diligently practice deep looking with our sangha to discover better ways to protect life and prevent war.
Aware of the suffering caused by exploitation, social injustice, stealing, and oppression, we are committed to cultivating loving-kindness and learning ways to work for the well-being of people, animals, plants, and minerals. We will practice generosity by sharing our time, energy, and material resources with those who are in need. We are determined not to steal and not to Possess anything that should belong to others. We will respect the property of others, but prevent others from profiting from human suffering or the suffering of other beings.
Aware that sexual relations motivated by craving cannot dissipate the feeling of loneliness but will create more suffering, frustration, and isolation, we are determined not to engage in sexual relations without mutual understanding, love, and a long-term commitment. In sexual relations, we must be aware of future suffering that may be caused. We know that to preserve the happiness of ourselves and others, we must respect the rights and commitments of ourselves and others. We will do everything in our power to protect children from sexual abuse and to protect couples and families from being broken by sexual misconduct. We will treat our bodies with respect and preserve our vital energies (sexual, breath, spirit) for the realization of the bodhisattva ideal. We will be fully aware of the responsibility of bringing new lives into the world, and will meditate on the world into which you are bringing new beings.
About the Order of Interbeing Founder
Thich Nhat Hanh was born in Vietnam in 1926, and he left home as a teenager to become a Zen monk. In Vietnam, he founded the School of Youth for Social Service, Van Hanh Buddhist University, and the Tiep Hien Order (Order of Interbeing). He has taught at Columbia University and the Sorbonne, was Chair of the Vietnamese Buddhist Peace Delegation to the Paris Peace Talks, and was nominated by Martin Luther King, Jr. for the Nobel Peace Prize. Since 1966, he has lived in exile in France, where he continues his writing, teaching, gardening, and helping refugees worldwide. He is the author of seventy-five books including Being Peace, The Miracle of Mindfulness, and The Sun, My Heart.