Buddhist Politics

I’m meeting Jnanavaca, chair of the London Buddhist Centre, shortly to discuss an event we are planning for May, ahead of the UK local elections and European Parliamentary elections on 22 May. The plan is to invite all of the mayoral candidates in Tower Hamlets, where the LBC is based, to debate the issues ahead of the election, and to place this debate within a wider Buddhist context.

The first challenge is to discover who the mayoral candidates actually are. I am aware of Lutfur Rahman, the incumbent, of course, and also John Biggs, the Labour candidate who is campaigning under the banner ‘One East End’. Google also yields Chris Smith, the Green Party candidate. And it surprises me that it is not straightforward to find out who else is standing. Does anyone know?

Next up is to start thinking about what we might ask the candidates. What would you ask them? I am keen for this to be a different sort of meeting – not the usual hustings where the candidates try to score points at each others’ expense. It is so easy, even as Buddhists, to regress from a Dharmic viewpoint to pre-existing polarising value systems: class-, gender- or race-based, for instance. There is nothing wrong with these ways of looking at the world’s problems – these perspectives have brought a lot of good over generations – but they are not it from a Buddhist point of view. As to what is it from a Buddhist viewpoint…well that is something that we need urgently to work out together, in my view, if we are to address the many seemingly intractable problems we face as a society.

And this, essentially, is the inspiration behind Journal East: to work out, incrementally and collectively, what a society informed and underpinned by Buddhist views and values might look like. I hope to have the time and inspiration to re-engage with Journal East over the coming weeks and months. And I hope you will too.

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