By Alex Chong Do Thompson
My jaw clenches as I read the headline, “White House Says Cutting Meals On Wheels Is Compassionate.”
A fire burns in my chest as I continue reading, and soon it feels like I can barely breathe. “So we can spend 14 billion on a wall, but we can’t feed old people,” I scream at my laptop. My breathing becomes rapid and adrenaline pulses through my muscles.
I want to punch something. I want to burn things down.
Angrily, I standup and begin pacing around the room. Cursing under my breath, I imagine elderly people sitting alone in their houses; their stomachs growling as the food they’ve depended on for years never comes. My anger hits a fever-pitch. And right when I think I can’t take it anymore…I stub my toe on a chair.
The pain tears through my body like a bullet and wipes my mind clean. In that moment, I look around the room and come to a realization; I’m alone in the house. No one is impressed by my temper tantrum. No one is listening to my rants about the obligations of the state to the individual. And the 10 minutes that I’ve spent filling my corner of the world with sound and fury have accomplished…nothing. Embarrassed, I laugh quietly to myself, and look down at my laptop and see that an image of President Trump is on the screen.
Without thinking, I place my palms together; and bow deeply.
In Tibetan Buddhism, there is a strong focus on reincarnation and past lives. I’m not sure I believe in literal reincarnation as it’s taught in Tibetan schools, but that’s another article for another day. I bring it up only to say that one fantastic teaching that comes from the Tibetan tradition states that everyone you meet was your parent in a past life. So every interaction you have with another sentient being is nothing more than a parent (them) trying to teach a child (you) a valuable life lesson. If you’re open to learning these lessons, then your progress on the path to nirvana will be swift. If not, that’s okay too because you’ll have countless opportunities in future lives to try again. You win either way!
Clearly, I have not mastered this teaching. However, meditating on it has caused me to realize that there is only one way for me to get through the next four to eight years with my mental faculties in tact. I must train my mind to see President Trump as a teacher and not as an adversary.
He is a Buddha. And like all Buddhas, he is acting with great compassion in order to help me along the path to enlightenment.
I should stop at this point and tell you that I’m a progressive liberal. If it were up to me, America would be the land of basic incomes, paid maternity leaves and free college educations. President Trump and his agenda represent the opposite of everything that I hold dear, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s my teacher. It just means the lessons are harder to learn.
I must learn to see the Buddha in people who engage in unskillful acts. I must learn to show kindness to people who wish to do me harm. I must learn to maintain calm-abiding when anguish fills my heart. And I must learn to do all of these things while working for the betterment of all sentient beings through activism and volunteer work.
A Trump presidency will teach me all of these things, but only if I’m willing to learn. This will be some of the hardest training of my life, but that’s to be expected.
If enlightenment were easy, everyone would do it.
Editor: Dana Gornall