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Letter 77 | American Values Religious Voices

Letter 77

Karma Lekshe Tsomo

Professor of Theology and Religious Studies
University of San Diego

April 6, 2017

Dear President Trump, Vice President Pence, Members of the Trump Administration and 115th Congress,

As a Buddhist scholar and practitioner, I would like to share some wisdom from my religious heritage with those who have been elected to lead our nation as public servants.

Love and compassion are universal values cherished by people around the world. The Buddha taught these values as antidotes to destructive emotions and behavior. Cultivating inner peace is a powerful way to overcome anger, jealousy, pride, and selfishness. We begin by generating loving kindness toward ourselves, and then expand these feelings to others: neighbors, colleagues, enemies, and gradually the whole world.

Shantideva (685-763), a Bengali Buddhist scholar, taught: “All happiness comes from cherishing others. All misery comes from cherishing oneself.”

The Questions of King Milinda is a dialogue between a Buddhist monk named Nagasena and a 2nd century BCE Indo-Greek king named Menander (Milinda) I. The text depicts an ideal Buddhist ruler who practiced the values of nonviolence, justice, and compassion and thus created a peaceful, harmonious, prosperous society. As a consequence, naturally he was beloved by all.

One need not be a world leader to put this Buddhist wisdom into practice. My experience teaching meditation in U.S. prisons over the years has shown that those who are incarcerated also respond well to meditations on compassion, especially when the practice of generating compassion develops gradually, starting with oneself.

A leader who embodies these virtues will be remembered fondly for ages to come. Will you be remembered as a wise and compassionate leader? Will you find constructive solutions to help relieve suffering in the world? We hope we can count on you.

Sincerely,

Karma Lekshe Tsomo

Karma Lekshe Tsomo
Professor of Theology and Religious Studies
University of San Diego

About the author

Karma Lekshe Tsomo, Professor of Buddhist Studies at the University of San Diego, holds a doctorate in Comparative Philosophy from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. Her publications include Into the Jaws of Yama: Buddhism, Bioethics, and Death, as well as Sisters in Solitude: Two Traditions of Monastic Ethics for Women, and ten edited volumes on women in Buddhism. She is a founder and past President of Sakyadhita International Association of Buddhist Women and Director of Jamyang Foundation, which supports education programs for women in the Indian Himalayas and Bangladesh.