This government shutdown and debt ceiling crisis is the most insane thing I’ve ever seen. I can’t believe that a minority of fanatical elected representatives have been able to wreak so much havoc, threatening to damage America’s credit, its reputation, send the economy back into a recession and imperil the global financial markets, simply in order to inflict a small wound in a President they don’t like.
At this hour (12AM PDT on Wednesday) with less than 24 hours before the deadline, it seems that House Speaker John Boehner might finally do what he could have done anytime during the past two weeks and put something on the floor of the House that would get some bipartisan support. Or maybe not. It changes every few hours.
After 16 wasted days and wasted nights, make no mistake about it, we’re at DEFCON 2.
But say a bill is passed, we’ll just end up going through all this again in a couple of months. How we can guard against the further dissolution of our precious republic?
Buddhism has an answer: Get a copy of the Sutra of Golden Light (there’s a link below), and read it aloud, in public. This sutra is supposed to protect countries, and if recited in public, it can rescue any country from any disaster. It worked in 660 CE, when the Baekje Kingdom of Korea threatened the Tang Dynasty of China. The sutra was read aloud in a court ceremony and the Tang Dynasty was protected. If enough of us do the same thing now, who knows . . ?
It’s absurd, of course. However, there are times when I wish some of the fantastic stuff in Buddhism were real, and this is one of those times. If I actually thought reading the sutra in public might end the shutdown and keep the country from going into default, I’d be down on the boulevard with a copy in my hand first thing in the morning. It’d be the bodhisattva thing to do. People are suffering from the shutdown, and if we go into default the suffering will only spread.
The Golden Light or Suvarnaprabhasa-sutra (the full title is “Golden Light of the Most Victorious Kings Sutra”) is not that well known today, but once it was a popular and influential Mahayana text.
In Japan, Buddhists really seized upon its central theme, as the ability to establish peace and security in the land, bring rain, and so on, could make or break a religion. As a result, many Japanese Buddhists held the Golden Light Sutra on a par with the Lotus and Heart Sutras.
The Golden Light Sutra was highly esteemed in Tibet, as well. Today, some Tibetan lamas encourage followers to recite the sutra to end Chinese oppression in their land.
Lama Zopa Rinpoche, head of the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition, states,
This text is very precious; it brings peace and happiness and is very powerful to stop violence. It gives incredible protection to the country from violence etc. By hearing this text, one’s karma gets purified.
This text increases success and, especially for leaders like kings or presidents, brings success in guiding in virtue, the path to happiness . . . In whichever country this is taught, the whole country benefits. The king of that country doesn’t get attacked and disease is eliminated, everyone is happy and the country becomes harmonious; there are no quarrels. The king gives religious freedom and is always protected by the devas. It is especially good to be read in places where there is a lot of fighting. As well, there is prosperity and rains come at the right time.”
According to Chapter 12 of the sutra, there existed a royal treatise called “Instructions concerning Divine Kings.” This treatise spells out the benefits that will come to a political leader, a country, and its citizens who uphold justice and commit themselves to leading ethical lives. Conversely, wherever justice is not upheld and ethical living is not the norm,
there will be three things: famine, thunderbolt, and death (by plague). After that there will be no [salvation] or strength in fruit or crop . . . Beings in those territories will become without prowess. Beings will become disease ridden, oppressed by various illnesses . . .”
Bad stuff. And while in our modern age we take some of the things we find in the sutras with a lot of salt, they often contain a ring of truth, and have relevance.
Now, back to the current political matter: In the history of this country perhaps only the Congressional anti-communist witch-hunts of the late 40s and early 50s match the shamefulness of the present situation. I cannot find words strong enough to condemn men and women who would put their ideologies and positions of power ahead of their responsibilities as representatives of the American people. Let us hope that Speaker Boehner can show us he does have the strength of character to do the right thing today.
The Sutra of Golden Light says,
When a leader does not perform the duty for which leadership had been conferred, he demolishes his own realm as an elephant tramples a lotus pond.”
For the Huntington Archive’s complete translation of the sutra, click here.