Monks should stay well clear of the poisonous world of politics
April 06, 2014 00:00
Re: "The power of Buddhism," Letters, April 5.
I strongly disagree with JC Wilcox’s belief that Buddhist monks should get involved in the current political struggle. Monks and nuns should keep out of politics. Their role is to work toward their own enlightenment and do good for the world. For them, politics is one of the daughters of Mara, the devil in disguise, a distraction and a temptation that will stir up their defilement, entangle them in worldly attachments, and bring them down.
Worldliness is the bane of religion, and ours is a very worldly age. Monastics are sometimes asked to guide householders in questions of morality. There’s a line between morality and politics that they need to be careful not to cross. Sometimes that line is unclear. In such cases, monastics should give it a wide berth.
For some reason, the politics of many religious people tends to be nationalistic and right wing. Note the prominence of the “religious right” in American politics, and the tendency of Sri Lankan (and now Burmese) monks to get involved in nationalistic right-wing political movements. But nationalism is egoism writ large, the right wing is not always right, and politics is poison for religion.