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Lions Roar : November 2008
SHAMBHALA SUN NOVEMBER 2008 22 the entertainment industry. Has the hour arrived, then, for a member of this genera- tion to move into the White House? Perhaps it would be best to describe the Obama phenomenon as being, from a Buddhist perspective, not so much revolu- tionary as potentially evolutionary. But if so, then one problem Obama faces are people who do not want to evolve beyond the an- cient stupidity and error of epidermalizing the world, who are attached to the idea of a racial (or geographic) identity as a way of avoiding the experience of their true nature as interconnectedness or emptiness. (Or, if you prefer existentialist thought to the buddhadharma, Sartre’s famous “Existence precedes essence” may substitute for the idea of our true nature as interconnectedness.) In other words, the meaning of our lives is never pre-given: whatever meaning we find is based on our deeds, actions, and, as Martin Luther King, Jr., once said, “the content of our character.” The Illinois sena- tor, who repeatedly rejects obsolete ways of thinking and talking about race, predictably finds himself walking a cultural tightrope, always performing with balance, remark- able grace, and civility when attacked by those with a tribal mentality (white, black, and otherwise) who feel most threatened by the monumental sea change his presence in American politics represents. If his cam- paign fails, it may well be for the reason Charles M. Blow identified in an op-ed piece in the New York Times: the inability of American voters to “let go” of the illusion of race. If he wins, we may have the possibility of a bit of liberation and relief from centu- ries of racial masks and dissembling. For Obama understands that a black presidential hopeful can only become the leader of the most powerful nation in hu- man history if he rises above the racially provincial and parochial; if his humanity, empathy, and compassion are strongly felt to be genuine by his “fellow citizens of the world.” That is one enduring lesson of this dramatic, unprecedented campaign. And whether he wins or not in November, the truth that excellence is color-blind, and that broad service to others has no tribal affiliation, will live on in our memories long after the election is over. ♦ With more than 500 graduates worldwide this precious 2-year course offers guiding tutors, meditation, study and online discussion. Created by Geshe Tashi Tsering, one of the west’s leading Buddhist minds and resident teacher at Jamyang Buddhist Centre, who is renowned for his ability to make Buddhism accessible and relevant to modern day life. Courses start every 4 months in January, May and September. For more information and to apply visit: www.buddhistthought.org A fully integrated and structured correspondence course that brings together the most important teachings of the Buddha The Foundation of Buddhist Thought Distant Learning Course Jamyang Buddhist Centre Tel: (+44) 020 7820 8787. email: