Are Gore and Bush closet Buddhists?

They're paying more attention to inner peace than lower taxes

We have certainly heard much discussion about Christianity in the recent political campaign. But if you listen carefully (ok, very carefully), you can also hear some important Buddhist principles. At times, it appears as if the Road to Enlightenment and the Road to the White House have begun to converge.

Let's begin with some background: Buddhism is a 2,500-year-old system of beliefs, one that originated with a man named Siddhartha, now known as the historical Buddha. What the Buddha said is that men and women are susceptible to something called dukkha, an ancient word best translated as dissatisfaction.

Feeling dissatisfied is not an indication that something is necessarily awry with our life -- it is the natural state into which we are born. The problem, Buddhism tells us, is that people register this feeling of dissatisfaction as a void and desperately strive to fill it with possessions, acclaim, love, food, achievement. We believe that gaining these things will make us happy. But they don't, and it is only days, weeks, sometimes mere moments, before we once again feel that empty feeling, and start all over. Ending that cycle is what all the meditation and simplicity and so on are all about.

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Now on to the campaign.

Admittedly, none of the candidates have used the word dukkha anywhere near a microphone, and their nasty attack ads do not convey a Buddhist sense of calm. Neither of the two perceived frontrunners is likely to shave his head and don monk's robes -- though, I for one, would pay more attention to the campaign if they did. But then we are not a very Buddhist nation. If we had our collective way, everything would be bigger -- houses would sprout extra rooms, sport utility vehicles would be the size of dump trucks, televisions would fill a wall.

In fact, we have had our way, and our houses, cars, and televisions are massive. The electronic gadgetry in the average family room nowadays rivals the early years of the space program. As if that isn't enough, we eat enormous quantities of food once considered rare delicacies -- salmon, filet mignon, organic arugula. And still we are discontent.

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