In a recent post linking back to an earlier one, I spoke of being “saved from politics.” Judging by the comments and incoming links, that phrase seems to have struck a chord with several readers. But several of those readers, notably Grad Student, also rightly asked: does that mean you are urging us to be apolitical, or even anti-political?
It’s a great question, and one I’ve asked myself a number of times. Being anti-political is a position I’ve flirted with a lot, especially over the course of writing my dissertation, and my personal views are closely entangled with the ideas I address there. In many respects I see the dissertation’s main contribution to Śāntideva scholarship as pointing out the strongly anti-political nature of Śāntideva’s thought, and the underlying reasons for his anti-politics. Śāntideva is, I think, often thought of as a great friend to the Engaged Buddhist program of Buddhist political activism, since he is probably best known as the favourite thinker of that noted activist Tenzin Gyatso, the present (fourteenth) Dalai Lama; I claimed in the dissertation that such a placing of Śāntideva is mistaken. Continue reading