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Lions Roar : May 2015
©STEPHANIEROESER/BLEND liberalism. I would argue that a thought- ful Buddhist’s engagement with the socio-political world can lead to a quite conservative sensibility. For me, it starts with “Not Knowing,” one of the three tenets of the Zen Peace- maker Order. “Not Knowing” urges the practitioner to give up fixed ideas, and to me this calls forth restraint, humility, and modesty in approaching governance. Much follows from this. If you combine the humility of “Not Knowing” with a compassionate THE BUDDHIST CONSERVATIVE moves among his fellow practitioners a bit like a unicorn circulating at a garden party. I don’t mean that people react with hostility, though I’ve occasionally seen this. More commonly, they just show bewilderment, unable to believe their eyes. A Buddhist conservative? Can such a thing really be? Well, it can be—and I hope I can help you understand how. While convert Bud- dhists are today overwhelmingly liberal, Buddhism doesn’t have to entail political FROM WHERE I SIT Elephant in the Meditation Room? Does Buddhism mean you have to be a liberal? No, says Buddhist and lifelong Republican CHRISTOPHER FORD. Buddhist desire to help other sentient beings and a commitment to ahimsa (non-harming), you can get a mindset conducive to a limited-government conservatism. Translated into the policy arena, “Not Knowing” is an antidote to the hubris of the “Right Answer,” which otherwise tempts people to impose a CULTURE • LIFE • PRACTICE CHRISTOPHER FORD is senior counsel for national security policy at the U.S. Senate Banking Committee. He was ordained as a lay Buddhist chaplain by Roshi Joan Halifax. SHAMBHALA SUN MAY 2015 13