While blogger Jesse Kornbluth ("Swami Uptown") is on book leave, Beliefnet is featuring a series of guest bloggers in his place. Earlier this month, Lama Surya Das, or "Downtown Lama," as he was known in this blog, contributed his prolific and timeless musings.

The founder and spiritual director of the Dzogchen Foundation in Massachusetts and California, Surya Das is a leading spokesman for Buddhism and contemporary spirituality, as well as a poet, translator, spiritual teacher, and a lama in the Tibetan Buddhist order. He is the author of several books, including the national best-seller "Awakening the Buddha Within: Tibetan Wisdom for the Modern World."

Heart to Heart Politics

This century's politics leave me cold, failing to touch my heart. I was mad and saddened about the outcome of the Florida election four years ago, but I got over it. Like so many, I have been alarmed by our current regime's weapons of mass distraction and its unconscious, uncompassionate conservatism; however, I am trying to take a more long term view. The truth is I feel I can't trust these people, can't seem find much truth-telling amidst all the spin and media, and that our leaders fail to touch my heart.

Decades ago, RFK said that politics is a noble profession, and no one snickered. I doubt we could say the same today. I long for some serious and sincere statesman to step up and lead us, but fear our country is not ready to either recognize or produce such people. It hurt when Wellstone of Minnesota and Tsongas of Massachusetts both met untimely deaths; I truly liked them both. Where will the future leaders of our country come from? Who in their right mind would enter and persevere, surviving in the bitter swamp of our cynical partisan political system long enough to emerge as a real candidate for high office in this country? What if anything are we doing to inculcate wisdom, enlightened leadership and selfless service as a core value in the younger generations today?

Is America a real democracy, an oligarchy or a plutocracy?

On Inauguration Day in January, I know several people--intelligent friends of mine--who were in a state of what they called "active mourning". Getting together to bemoan the state of things, they wondered about what's next, what can be done, how to proceed in a positive way during the next four years, and so forth. I myself have been in a state of reflection during the last period, particularly since I find that introspective quality extraordinarily lacking in politics and world affairs--at least as we have to come to know it.

The State of the Union did nothing to assuage my Inner Depressive. I felt our president to be a genuine zealot in effort to convert the world to our American way of life and consumer democracy, hidden just beneath the oft repeated mantric buzz word freedom. I feel that I can love him as a soul but not as the rough-riding person he pretends to be.

During last year's presidential campaign I was initially interested in Dennis Kucinich and what he had to say. However, after seeing him close up, it was obvious that he was both extraordinary and unelectable. Governor Dean caught my attention--I particularly appreciated the way his team utilized the Internet to mobilize people and raise funds, but I was ultimately willing later to go along with the party and think that Kerry would do a good enough job of it. I still remained skeptical of his chances against the incumbent and all the fierce forces of true believers marshalled again him.