The political and the spiritual -- hand in hand
Let me paint in broad strokes.
Eastern thought has traditionally focused on spiritual liberation. Western thought finds its highest sophistication in matters of political philosophy.
There is a bridge that needs to be built between Eastern and Western philosophy. A bridge that should bring travelers between the political and the spiritual. They are intertwined.
A politics that does not embrace liberation in all its forms, including spiritual liberation, is empty and a mind game. It is a politics that can justify slavery and oppression.
But similarly, a spiritual philosophy that pays no heed to the political problems of the day is nothing but escapism. Perhaps monks could run to a mountain cave. Today, there in no mountain cave that is not under the jurisdiction--or surveillance--of a political body. Spiritual seclusion is not the answer.
Instead, we should aspire towards movements that combine the spiritual and the political. I realize this sounds dangerous to people -- akin to mixing "politics" and "religion," something that reeks of fundamentalism. But I am not suggesting fundamentalism. I am suggesting a genuine form of liberation -- a liberation that comes about when we honor deep and powerful spiritual instincts that recognize the unity of all things, the connection between all forms of consciousness, and the liberation that comes about from seeing deep truths that lie beneath the daily illusion.
If the Buddha were alive today, I do not think he would be sitting under a Banyan Tree. I think he would be organizing.
Let's take the time to build bridges between East and West, and start to aspire towards a form of liberation that is honestly and avowedly spiritual as well as political. It is through this type of combination that we can really address the grave challenges of the present.