NPJ Book Review: Mindful Politics, A Buddhist guide to making the world a better place. Ed., Melvin McLeod


Mindful Politics, A Buddhist guide to making the world a better place. Ed., Melvin McLeod (2006)

Decades ago I experienced the nature of Buddhism from living in Japan to studies and work in India. It’s not something you only read about. To understand and appreciate one needs to experience.

This book has been gathering dust on my shelf and I thought no better time to revisit. Buddhism is a moral philosophical approach to life in all its spheres. For Buddha all acts have a political aspect about them. Buddhism doesn’t pretend to achieve absolute perfection and its practitioners are imperfect at best.

And in this collection of essays the various thinkers, whether the Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hanh, David Loy, and many others. it offer insights not so much about policy approaches to politics but rather understanding leadership and human relationships and how one presents oneself while shedding one’s ego, how we treat each other particularly in an age of increasingly strident language. The rise in racism, misogyny and narcissism are but a few examples of concern. Though statistical graphics can show decreases in pure violent acts depending on the country, the reality is poverty and abuse remains high and it coincides with the wealth in fewer hands. Poverty is the worst form of violence as Gandhi observed.

The writers speak of the lofty Buddhist ideal versus harsh reality and the nature of politics on a personal, corporate and various governmental levels. From environment, health issues, the global economy and war the issues are vast.

One essence of living a life of “mindful politics” is found in simple truths though humility and away from the arrogance of power and greed. To feed the hungry to redirect spiritual and physical starvation and to acknowledge our humanity each hour of each day and to come together knowing there exists divisiveness but showing the wisdom of acknowledging in word and deed by working towards healing and negotiating the differences. No easy task and this book through all of its discussions and conversations both in poetry and prose is a step towards mindfulness. Mindful Politics demonstrates the imperfections even within Buddhist philosophy though still offering morsels of intrinsic value to seriously consider.