“The choice is yours.” As another presidential election approaches, we are bombarded with this message. Each side proclaims their greatness and denounces their opponent’s shortcomings. They tell us to make the choice that is in our best interests. The Buddhadharma also tells us that the choice is ours. However, the basis of this choice is different; how do we overcome suffering?

One of the most misunderstood Buddhist concepts is karma. In America, people refer to good karma or bad karma. In Buddhism, karma is neither good nor bad. Karma is simply the result of human actions that have led to the present moment. This, however, creates another misunderstanding. Some think karma is fatalistic, that everything is predetermined, therefore, we have no control over our lives. To the contrary, the Buddhadharma teaches that karma has led to this moment, but in this moment our options are infinite. Every action is our choice.

On many occasions, when I have stated that everything we do is based on choice, people have disagreed. They tell me we must eat, we must sleep, we must obey the law, we must pay our taxes. My reply is that we do not have to do any of these things as long is we are prepared to face the consequences. In fact, the only thing we must do is die someday. The Buddhadharma presents a guideline to follow when making our choices. This is the Eightfold Noble Path; Right View, Right Thought, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Meditation. These are not right as opposed to wrong. These are right in an absolute sense; leading to the cessation of suffering.

In most religions, choices are made to ensure an eternal, blissful life after death. Buddhism does not have a deity, heaven, or eternal life after death. The desired result of our choices is the overcoming of suffering in this life and the liberation from suffering of all beings, now and in the future. The obstacles to this result are our greed, anger and ignorance. Looking into ourselves, with an awareness of the world in which we live, is the method by which we eliminate these obstacles. See the world as it is; not as we want it to be.

Every day, every moment, we make choices. How often do we really think about these choices before we make them? What is the long range effect of these choices? Are we making these choices based on a personal desire; oblivious, or not caring, about their effect on others? The Buddhadharma tells us that only by being mindful of our ego driven ignorance can we make the right choice.

Next month, when you vote, think about why you are making your choice. Is it for personal gain or desire? Or will it lead to a cessation of suffering for all beings? Mindful in the moment, make your right choice.

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