Activism, Buddha, Buddhism, Philosophy, Socialism

On Accepting the Principle of Yathā Bhūta as a Basis For Understanding and Applying Political Philosophy, With An Addendum Explaining Satyagraha Socialism

You know, Sir, when you look at a tree or the clouds, the light on the water, when you know what it means to love, you will require no reason for being…In oneself lies the whole world. I discovered these words by the Brahmin philosopher and teacher Jiddu Krishnamurti and I felt enlightened. It is a moment of realization that comes not after a long time but within the here and now, which unites the now and the past and the future. The realization was a paradigm shift in the way I understood my own understanding of political theory. I have always seen politics as a tool used by human beings to leverage change in a society or for individuals and systems within the society. Politics was something external to the self to be applied into the real that is the world. I came to the realization, suddenly and inevitably, that politics is not an objective tool to be wielded against the world but instead politics is the social expression of mankind striving as a self-aware species to reconcile individual will with collective needs and impulses. The “reason”, the why of political striving is always oriented towards cooperation, at least so much as the real of politics is understood to represent a pure human impulse towards self-preservation coupled with compassion, in essence, love. Self-preservation should not be confused with the force of natural selection upon our minds and our genes but as a will towards life and expansion of knowledge. All not subject to pure sociopathy have a sense of this Joie de vivre and wish to see it expressed through compassionate and practical relations with their fellow beings and their intellectual contributions.

        Politics at its most basic and therefore most potent is awareness of how one’s own desires and needs conflict or overlap with others’, how to reconcile these conflicts, and how to administer and preserve justice. This must be decoupled with a commensurate understanding of economics as a mode of expressing human needs and appetites. The economics is the real of human hunger, human health, human well-being and human need for intellectual fulfillment and it is the “how” of getting what is needed where and in the correct way so as to preserve the potential for human well-being. This is in sharp contrast, indeed in direct conflict with, the individualistic and inevitably nihilistic system of capitalism, where the needs and desires of the human species are turned into base commodities to be sold, traded and patented. Every action deserves an arbitrary and avaricious reaction in capitalist philosophy and assumes that every human being is an isolated sphere of pure animalistic self-interest. An even cursory understanding of history and the eternal human urge towards creating societies and systems proves that the capitalistic mode of thought is naïve at best and anti-human at worst. The humane human society, when not corrupted by the capitalist impulse and the naïve rejection of human communal instincts, is biased towards cooperation, trust building and reinforcing and egalitarianism. Again this may not be the way that all human beings are allowed to express themselves through their society at this time but it is the ideal all human beings aspire to with their communities and systems.

        In truth, laws are always useful to those with possessions and harmful to those who have nothing; from which it follows that the social state is advantageous to men only when all possess something and none has too much. Rousseau believed in the human urge to create harmonious and fair systems and societies. What he called the social contract is what I see as the ever extant Real of politics underneath the unnatural corruption imposed on it by the unchecked individual greed of a small minority. The Real of politics should not be seen as a Platonic ideal attainable only through an opaque metaphysics. It is better understood as the existential reality of human interaction and thoughts made action. Buddhist philosophy speaks of yathā bhūta, things as they are and nature as it is without the imposition of artificial precepts of meaning and mission. I have come to see that we must cultivate the understanding of the qualities of reality and of our natural circumstances, a search termed dhamma vicaya by Theravada Buddhist philosophy. Now I must admit a bias against spiritualism as a virtue onto itself but I do believe that creative modes of expressing ideas and understanding ethics should be embraced and explored. Buddhism’s atheistic orientation and naturalistic view of metaphysics intrigues me and has helped to inform my ideas about politics and reality. My own dhamma vicaya has led me to discover that love is the center of all that is healthy, enduring and essential about society and social justice. Violent revolutions throughout history are the fruits of a culture and society disgusted to its core by the corruption of love and the rejection of the yathā bhūta.

        Human beings will only endure corruption, of ethics, systems, and justice for so long before they naturally lash out against the restraints used and the unjust punishment administered by a class that separates itself from the human family by seeking to profit individually from the toil and suffering of the many. The revolution may or may not lead to a new corruption when egoistic and greedy members of the people decide to take advantage of the turmoil inherent to volcanic social upheaval. This is not a sign of the corruption of revolution as a value but of the capitalistic/anti-human prerogative in hijacking human potential. This is a rejection of love and such a rejection can only be combated by the compassionate and diligent education of children by their parents, community, and society. Children are inclined towards fairness, compassion and intellectualism. These impulses can be stifled and retarded by parents and societies who have a vested interest in preserving individualistic privilege and power, be it monetary, religious, or systemic. Each child is born on its own path of dhamma vicaya, a search for the real of interaction between people and the ideal of pure love and cooperative striving. It is the duty of the generation in control to guide and aid every child as it becomes a compassionate and intelligent member of society. It is the responsibility of the present generation to nurture and preserve this natural impulse in the next generation.

        Love must be the center of any ethical political system. Now a political philosophy is distinct from the political real only so far as it is the expression of an individual’s exploration and interpretation of yathā bhūta, the world as it is now in the ever present moment. I believe Marxism is an ingenious and creative view of how human beings interact and how they can better understand and shape the systems that govern human needs and aspirations. Labor is the true value of economy, and how that labor is applied and towards what purpose is the question of Marxism. I have come to see that socialism, the practical expression of Marxism in society, can best be understood and applied through the contemplation of things as they are in the moment. The needs of human beings do not change in a basic sense, how those needs are met may change and may be improved or degraded depending on circumstances, but by accepting that every human will always need a place for it to feel safe, a way to preserve its health, a way to feed and water itself, and a way to express itself creatively and intellectually.

        Acquisition through manipulation of these needs is the essence of capitalism and inevitably throws a harmonious and humane system into chaos that leads to injustice. Socialism can only be comprehensible if it is understood as a political expression of love. What is love? Love is the understanding and contemplation of, fairness towards and patience with another human being. Love is the need for human contact and friendship and can be understood to include the affection shared by siblings, romantic partners, children, family and comrades. Love is a full comprehension and realization of  yathā bhūta because it finds joy in what is and in change and celebrates understanding. Marx may not have understood or been aware of this concept of love and contemplating reality as it is but he certainly realized that human endeavor is best served by harmony and a realization and discussion of needs and values. Division of labour presupposes cooperation or is only a specific form of cooperation […] Cooperation is the general form on which all social arrangements for increasing the productivity of social labour are based. Marx meant this as a thesis for understanding the eventual division and exploitation of labor as capital but I believe if you apply an appreciation of natural human impulse to cooperate and create harmonious and just systems the i.e. accepting the reality and value of love, this quote can be turned on its head and be seen to a declaration of intent to fulfill the needs of human beings.


        I must explain my personal conception of how socialism cannot work and how it must work. I reject as perversions of human potential and love the systems of totalitarian control masquerading as applied Marxism know as late stage Leninism, Stalinism, Maoism and the perversion known as fascism. These perversions used Marxist theory as a twisted apology for state usurpation and abuse of power. This led to a disgusting system of purges, humiliating anti-intellectualism and worst of all mass extermination and targeted violence. I do not believe it is possible to compel human beings to adapt to a new system through force without creating a reaction in the form of horrifically violent spasms of cruelty and pain. These cruelties will be suffered in large part by the poor and the defenseless and any “socialist” who claims to adhere to any of these systems is an ethical imbecile and intellectual misfit. If my socialism had to be given a name I would prefer Satyagraha Socialism. This of course is the philosophy of confronting and defeating power through the living of truth as a value and as a fact of existence and the understanding that the means of struggle are indistinguishable from the end itself. One must live struggle and live truth as an acceptance of what is and what always was regarding our lives, needs and innate dignity. This is the philosophy of Gandhi, of Martin Luther King, of Mandela, and it is non-violent and filled with love even for ones enemies.

        Corrupt systems and the corrupt individuals who manipulate them can, indeed must, be combated with love and dignity and a willingness to be abused or die in order to not allow the evils of the corrupt system to continue unabated. Gandhi said that what he “pleaded for is renunciation of violence of the heart and consequent active exercise of the force generated by the great renunciation.” I believe we can understand violence to mean the conflict between our own corrupt views of the world and truth as it is, so the renunciation of this violence would be a rejection of greed and crass individualism and the embrace of love and cooperation. The only socialist minded revolution that can succeed is one that embraces yathā bhūta and is informed by the humane doctrine of Satyagraha.

        Non-violent civil disobedience is actually an effective weapon against those who would abuse politics and systems for their own personal gain. The revolution may not end in the way that the revolutionaries expect or even wanted it to, but dignity will be regained and systems and societies on the brink of revolution or drastic change could be forced to a crisis point by targeted disobedience and protest, as Dr. King emphasized in his writings on protest, Satyagraha and Gandhi. Non-violent protest is not a reactionary philosophy and it is not a passive form of resistance or an admission of weakness. Dr. King explained the principle much better than I ever can in an interview published in Playboy magazine in 1965

        Nonviolence is a weapon fabricated of love. It is a sword that heals. Our nonviolent direct-action program has as its objective not the creation of tensions, but the surfacing of tensions already present. We set out to precipitate a crisis situation that must open the door to negotiation.

        To force a confrontation is a powerful political weapon that can be wielded by the people. Forcing the “surfacing of tensions already present” is the perfect reconciliation of yathā bhūta and dhamma vicaya, the realization and acceptance of the world as it is and the acting out constructively and decisively to further the cause of love as the best expression of a humanity striving to exist in the world and with each other peacefully and with dignity. To exploit the inherent tension within the now, of the realization of the Real of human existence and codependence, is a true revolutionary act and is the rational basis of Satayagraha Socialism. One must stand up and be heard as an expression of the truth. True power comes from the synthesis of contemplation and action. Violence is not an inevitable result of Satayagraha but if the systems of power react to the crisis exposed by non-violent action with violence it is within the right of the protester to protect himself by accepting the pain and punishment and enduring. Systemic and societal change leading to more justice for human beings can only be achieved through the exercise of love and the acceptance of the facts of the world as it is. There is no correcting the a priori fact of existing and striving and needing as a human being in the world but if we accept the yathā bhūta and our existence as a living fact of that precept. The acceptance of our life and our needs and the cultivation of our relationships with our fellow human beings is love and love is the only foundation upon which a true socialist system can be created.


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