Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Musings of a Libertarian Buddhist

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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Elisheva Hannah Levin said...

You had me hooked, Ish, from the first sentence. And now you leave me hanging: I understand that you opposed coercion and practice disciplined martial arts. And what about gun control? I think I know where you stand, but a statement of it in one pithy paragraph would help me, non-Buddhist that I am! :)

Anonymous said...

Another name for spiritual bullying is psychic blackmail. We must find the truth within ourselves, not impose any philosophy upon ourselves, Buddha's or otherwise. I am not a Buddhist but have been very much influence by that philosophy. The problem I have with "gun control" is somehow the police and military (the government) can be trusted with guns but the general public cannot. Those who wish to own guns should be able to.

Sam said...

Partial agreement... I'd say Buddhism is more compatible with Libertarian Socialism (which only sounds like a contradiction if you wrongly think that 'socialism' means 'state ownership' along the lines of the Soviet model). This is because the core of Buddhism is non-attachment to self, along with all self-based material desires; emphasising cooperation and compassion over competition and self-interest. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that the essential definition of Buddhism is almost interchangeable with the definition of anti-capitalism!

I'd also say that Libertarianism itself is incompatible with capitalism, since capitalism is inherently authoritarian; for where you have self-interested competition for profit, you have inequality, and where you have inequality you have social relations characterized by dominance and subordination. And the moment you employ others to work to create wealth for you, I don't see a difference between your organisation and a mini-state dictatorship. This is why the term 'Libertarian' itself was first used politically by Socialists, who wanted to distinguish themselves from the Authoritarian Socialism (i.e. state ownership) of Lenin, Stalin and Mao.

Anonymous said...

This is a fantastic article. Spot on. I'm a longtime libertarian and you just opened my eyes to Buddhism. I now want to explore further - and I will.

Anonymous said...

You know as a Buddhist myself, I find it funny that a fellow Buddhist would waste time and energy on worrying about something as trifling and small as gun control, instead of things like self mastery.

Don said...

if "gun control" means everyone may have guns, but this allows for background checks to see if someone has committed a violent crime in the past, would you still have a problem with it?"

(Please stick to the hypothetical - I know you can make up endless alternatives which have no basis in reality, but this has actually been proposed, and the latest poll as 89% of the American public in support)

I spoke a few months back with a protege of Jim Demint who said he was fine with background checks.

Any thoughts?

(by the way, Buddhist libertarian is an oxymoron; libertarian first principles: Private property, private property, private property

Buddhism: "nothing is mine, nothing is me, nothing is myself"

ATexas said...

This is an intriguing blog, and I am happy to stumble across it. I have led an erotetic life consistent with one tenet of Buddhism. In the West this is commonly referred to as a philosophical life, a life of questioning. Another tenet of Buddhism is detachment, which strikes me as, shall we say, absurd? Life is the opposite of detachment. Life is engagement. Only death is the ultimate disengagement. Adversity in life forces individuals to engage and express their vitality. In our contemporary world one essential form of defense against adversity is the possession and possible use of guns. This is true both for societies and for individuals. It is especially true when a political class seeks to make its power over a population absolute by depriving individuals of their best means of defending themselves. Personal guns are effective repellents to violent personal crime and to political oppression and invasion. The notion that government militias or police forces can protect people is clearly false in many situations. ISIS is demonstrating this on a global scale today. The bloody history of the 20th century provides this awful lesson for those who look. In your own home the old joke holds, "when seconds count, the police are only minutes away." Self-defense against adversity is the first manifestation of life. Fail in that and you will disengage forever.