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Buddhadharma : Summer 2007
buddhadharma| 13 |summer 2007 wouldn’t be sacrificed, and the atrocities involved in stockfarming would be stopped. One need only reflect on the law of supply and demand that governs the economic forces at work in our mod ern society in order to see this logic. The whole butchery business is not based upon thin air but on customer demand. When you pay for your steak, you are paying for the killing of the animal: the more meat eaters, the more slaughterers, the more suffering of animals. In the end, everyone has to decide for him or herself whether or not to eat meat. In trying to follow the Buddha’s teachings, which can be sum marized in four lines: “Avoid any negative actions / Commit only to positive actions / Completely pacify your mind / This is the teaching of the Bud dha,” it would seem wise to seriously consider the case for vegetarianism. If one is not able to change completely or abruptly, then gradual improvement is a possible course of action. If one eats meat three times a day, as is common in the West, then try to eat meat only twice a day, then once a day. After a while, become totally vegetarian one day a week, then two, etc. In this way, one’s actions will gradually move closer toward nonharming. Consider the simple act of practicing mindful ness in order to ease your way toward a shift in eating habits. Thich Nhat Hanh expressed it in strong terms: “Mindful eating can help maintain compassion within our hearts. A person without compassion cannot be happy, cannot relate to other human beings and to other living beings. Eating the flesh of our own son is what is going on in the world, because we do not practice mindful eating...therefore the whole nation has to prac tice looking deeply into the nature of what we consume every day. And consuming mindfully is the only way to protect ourselves, our family, our nation, and our society.” To conclude, as George Bernard Shaw once said, “Animals are my friends; and I don’t eat my friends.” from mandala, feBruArY/mArch 2007. election SeSShin Practitioner Elyse Mergenthaler recalls an unusual sesshin that made a difference at the polls on elec- tion day. Sometime in early September of 2006, I received an email from Buddhist friends: Did I want to partici pate in an election sesshin? – seemingly an oxymo ron. Stan Dewey, Melody Ermachild, Ed Herzog, and other Northern California Buddhists were organizing this CitiZen action. Richard Pombo, a Bush crony and wealthy Tracy rancher and land owner, had had the California 11th congressional district in a lockhold for sixteen years. Pombo’s seat was being challenged by Jerry McNerney, an unknown Democrat, who at first did not seem like he could possibly be a serious contender. McNerney is a wind engineer, with environmental sensibilities. A band of engaged Buddhists set out to help turn the tide. Two houses in Stockton were donated to the Buddhist volunteers, one with a spacious studio apartment in the backyard that made a perfect zendo. For the three weeks before the November election, a revolving group of peo ple followed a disciplined schedule. The days were framed by Zen practice at either end and included campaigning in between. At morning sittings, we recited the Heart Sutra and the Metta Prayer. At breakfast we laid out our three bowls in silence and prayer to benefit all beings. Like clockwork we carried out cleanup chores and reported for the day’s huddle with a bow. Midday, we broke into pairs and headed for McNerney campaign headquarters. We went wherever the enthusiastic twentysomething organizers sent us. “Is it alright if we call you ‘The Buddhists’?” they asked. They were as impressed with us as we were with them. Walking the beat, door to door, with a list of likely McNerney supporters in hand, we encoun tered many responses: “McNerney Who?” “What ever my church tells me.” A Jehovah’s Witness: “I don’t vote – I leave it up to God.” A sweet old man in a nursing home was upset that he hadn’t gotten his absentee ballot; I got it for him and took it back to the county office after he filled it out. One morning Jerry McNerney appeared at our door, asking to join our meditation. Jaws dropped. Afterwards he stayed to chant the Heart Sutra with us – “wisdom beyond wisdom” – and hori zons opened. On the last day, we knocked on every door to “Get Out the Vote.” Checking the list at polling places, we went back to kindly prompt those who hadn’t voted yet. My precinct partner came upon a busy mother whose small children were playing on the floor. “I filled my ballot out,” she said, “and I’m going to send it in.” “It’s too late for that,” he replied. “You’ve got just thirty minutes to get to the polls,” and in five minutes he managed to pile the whole family into his SUV in order to take the mother to her poll ing place. At last we headed back to the voting site for the final count. I was feeling frustrated and anxious that perhaps we hadn’t made an impact. But in our heavily Republican precinct, McNerney had in fact won, two to one! We were ecstatic. That evening a tired band of meditators rode the Stockton campaign charter bus to McNerney election headquarters in San Ramon for a victory celebration. We tried to practice “nonattachment