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What Buddha Might Say To Barack Obama

January 15, 2009

From The Huffington Post

There is a story of a Buddhist monk who meditated for many years on the quality of patience. He was immersed in everything to do with patience. One day someone walked past him and said, “Eat shit!” The meditating monk immediately replied, “You eat shit!”

This story goes to show just how tough it can be, even for monks and let alone Presidents, to keep balanced during challenging or difficult times, as there will always be those who disagree, criticize, or think they know better. They may even throw shoes at you! For Obama, his reaction to these dissenters will determine whether he is able to do his job successfully or not.

The Buddha said: When people speak badly about you, you should respond in this way: Keep a steady heart and do not reply with harsh words. Practice letting go of resentment, and accept that another’s hostility is the spur to your understanding. Be kind, adopt a generous standpoint, treat your enemy as a friend, and suffuse your world with affectionate thoughts, far-reaching and widespread, limitless and free from hate.

The Buddha spoke these words, or some just like them, 2,500 years ago, yet they are just as relevant today and, we imagine, might be what he would say to Obama. Although Obama has demonstrated such qualities so far–“no drama Obama”–his real test is coming as he faces adversaries both at home and in rogue countries. He should bring his friends close but his enemies even closer. He demonstrated this when he recently met with hostile conservative republican pundits for dinner. As long as he can keep his cool then we may see the change that we all long for.

When we are in a position of power it is very challenging to stay real. Last week Obama went, unannounced, to eat at Ben’s Chili Bowl. We doubt he will get many opportunities to act normally like this, but hopefully he will not let power and fame go to his head so that he loses his very special “I am one of you” appeal.

When we get carried away by our own PR and forget that, in the bigger picture, we are no special deal, it helps to remember, The heart is the king, not the head. The mind is like the king’s advisers that go out and gather information to bring back to the king. But ultimately it is the king, the heart, that must make the decisions. May Obama follow the wisdom of his heart!

Since his election we have seen people all over the world cry out to him with joy and relief, from the young girl in Brazil who said, “He has hair like me so now I have a chance in this world” to the little African-American boy who said that now he too could be president.

Next Tuesday Barack Obama will take an oath to be President ‘of the people and for the people.’ Throughout his campaign he stressed, “I am in it for you, not for me!” Let us hope he governs with that always in mind and may he serve with dignity, love, and compassion.

We wish you luck Mr. President. May the next 4 years be peaceful ones. May your mind be clear and your heart pure.

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