The Buddha and George Washington?
Recently, a reviewer questioned why it would be that I bring these 2 historical figures together in addressing CIVILITY.
It is not uncommon that history gets “air-brushed.” In the case of spiritual or religious figures, this is particularly true. In Tibet, there is “nam thar” or sacred biography – where only the transcendent stories an qualities are presented without the messiness of the human life they lead before, even during their elevated status was icon-ized.
So, for those who need a “why” for me bringing these 2 historical figures together in one volume side by side, here are some comparisons…
Washington’s were landed gentry – significant landowners in Colonial Times in 1700’s Raised in an environment where many daily tasks were tended to by servants and slaves.
The Buddha, originally Siddhartha Gautama, was of an aristocratic ruling family close to 500 BC.. He was raised in an environment where ALL daily tasks were tended to by servants.
Washington received only 8 years of formal education
As the son of a king, Siddhartha received the finest education that was available
Learning about the Fragileness of Life in their 20’s
Washington saw the rugged life of being on and tending to the needs of a farm. He then joined the army and saw many armed conflicts.
Siddhartha was prevented from seeing these realities of life until he snuck out of the palace and saw (1) a a sick person (2) an old person and (3) a corpse.
After the Revolutionary War, some wanted Washington to be crowned King
After returning from his retreat and victory in attaining Enlightenment, he chose not to assume the title and station of King, even though it was his birthright.
As you may or may not know, George Washington, like many founding fathers were Freemasons. And in the literature and legacy of Freemasonry, particular that of the Scottish Rite, it is said that at its core, one of Freemasonry’s tasks is to uproot Ignorance, Fanaticism, and Tyranny.
The prime directive of the mind science of the teachings of all those who become Buddhas is to transform Ignorance, Attachment, and Aggression.
Many are under the impression that the Buddha only spoke lofty, transcendent – thus hard for the average person to understand – truths. But the Dharma (trans. the way things are) that he taught was quite pithy and relevant. In terms of civility and speech, consider this…
In a series of stanzas from the Anguttara Nikaya, the Buddha provide general guidelines of “Well-Spoken Speech” with respect to speeches, discussions, debates, and so forth which encapsulate the points regarding conversing in “The Rules of Civility” as written down by George Washington. As translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi:
I repeat this blog entry here because it bears repeating – particularly in the polarized realm of politics and public life that infest and infect even our homes…
“Those who speak with quarrelsome intent,
settled in their opinions, swollen with pride,
ignoble, having assailed virtues,
look for openings to attack one another.
They mutually delight when their opponent
speaks badly and makes a mistake,
they rejoice in his bewilderment and defeat;
but noble ones don’t engage in such talk.
If a wise person wants to talk,
having known the time is right,
without quarrelsomeness or pride,
the sagely person should utter
the speech that the noble ones practice,
which is connected with the Dhamma and meaning.
Not being insolent or aggressive,
with a mind not elated,
on the basis of right knowledge.
He should approve of what is well expressed
but should not attack what is badly stated.
He should not train in fault finding
nor seize on the other’s mistakes;
he should not overwhelm and crush his opponent,
nor speak mendacious words.
Truly, a discussion among the good
Is for the sake of knowledge and confidence.
Such is the way the noble discuss things;
this is the discussion of the noble ones.
Having understood this, the wise person
should not swell up but should discuss things.”
(AN 3:67) (Footnote 3)
Perhaps I’ll send this out again in the future. After all, it is a very Asian tradition to repeat again and again so that habitual patterns get bombarded with positive impressions.