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Buddhism and Politics

I often find the calls in Buddhism to “calm/silence/watch the mind” troubling. Does this circumvent the political? How can we act and engage with political action/thought if we are constantly training ourselves to silence the mind, to come to a stage of “non-thought”? All the time we are mere observers to our own suffering/minds, is that time that could be spent changing the very nature of our environments to end suffering for more and more people, and not just focus on ending suffering for ourselves, with the hope that everyone else will become Buddhist too? Can a full fledged buddhist also be a full fledged Marxist, say? With our constant shutting down of our own mind, as a means of practice, is this not the perfect method of accepting this neo-liberal capitalist world we live in?

Lets take an example – say you’re a factory worker working in awful conditions, with an exploitative landlord who charges you the absolute maximum for a damp and dangerous accommodation, that the government has no respect for your rights – well if all that suffering that entails is soothed and ceased by “your practice”, then who then is ever going to change those external conditions? Is the buddhist way simply to shrug one’s shoulders and think “everythign would be okay if everyone become buddhist”?

If you look at history – in terms of social progress, i.e. the lessening of suffering, caused not by “equanimity” and “mindful wisdom”, but by people engaging directly with their suffering, running into it, and angrily overhauling the structures that cause it?

Or, in summery, is Buddhist practice anti-intellectual, if intellectual means using the means of consciousness to restructure the world? Are there moral implications for constantly striving for “non thought” or “pure mind”?