Gassho to Both Sides
By Rev. Don Castro (former referee)
A few years ago, there was an article in the news about Korean Buddhist monks’ excitement over a soccer game. Their abbot let them watch the game on TV but they were forbidden to root for either side. Maybe the abbot was giving the monks a spiritual test: all beings are equal in the Dharma. In the Dharma, there are no winners and losers. Of course, in the relative world, who won the women’s world soccer championship, Japan or the USA? Did you watch it without taking sides? Or, were you like the sweet, elderly woman who was asked who she voted for in the last election? She replied, “The candidates were such fine, dedicated people I couldn’t make up my mind so I just wrote on the top of the ballot, ‘God bless you all.’”
Traditionally, monks and nuns in Buddhism never take sides; which means they are not politically active. They represent the world of enlightenment, the world of non-duality. For this reason, I believe there has been less persecution of Buddhism than other religions. In modern times, we see many politically active monks and nuns who promote non-violent resistance as the way of the Dharma. They do not take sides but peacefully demonstrate as a way to draw attention to a particular cause of suffering. In this way, no one is seen as an enemy. All are Dharma friends.
I certainly would not categorize myself as absolutely non-violent. However, just because we may have to engage in violent actions, it doesn’t mean that our heart has to be filled with hatred or that we have to demonize the other. Living in this relative world, we are forced to make many difficult choices and Buddhism teaches personal responsibility for our actions. Even as we choose one side over the other, however, let us mentally put our hands together in gassho to acknowledge the Buddha nature of both sides – and no cheering when your side wins. That is good sportsmanship.