1. Elena Kondracki says

    Just an observation

    We are born innocent. Our reactions and thoughts are formed by how we are treated, even before we have begun to use our minds….that applies to everyone. Negativity has often become ingrained and is often passed on from parent to child who then becomes parent and passes it on to child. Societies (Parents thus formed continue this pattern. If they do not teach that a person’s life is a gift and worth preserving, then that person will not value his/her life or the life of others. Rather complicated to say the least. The spirit must be educated, re-educated. those of us who have chosen to accept the principles of Buddhism know that. Those of us who are willing to face the destructiveness of negative habitual patterns and the pain of breaking them know this. It takes courage. Those who have courage are blessed.
    Others are cursed by their inaction.

  2. Sue Kochan says

    Ryan, I’m delighted to have stumbled on your article. It’s wisdom in action! 🙂 Thank you for inviting us to work with this political season and our own minds. If nothing else the situation is calling for a reflection on our relationship to society and our reactivity to candidates. So many beliefs and “truths” to examine… from the unshakable gound of basic goodness. Keep sharing your wisdom Ryan, please!

  3. Boulder Bubble escapee says

    Thank you Clifton! Let’s not forget the mud, slime and muck is where the Lotus comes from. No Lotus without it. First Noble Truth of Suffering. The Buddha taught a path to the way out. Prerequisite being an ability to discern suffering as suffering. Without it its just another dangerous, delusional path.

  4. Clifton says

    How can one think of ISIS as basically good? I don’t understand, so please explain. I thought the Buddha taught we ought to be discriminating when appropriate. It seems to be that entering ISIS into this commentary is akin to saying evil is basically good, and so were rhe Nazis and the Stalinist. You have to draw the line and discriminate at some point if basic goodness is to have credibility.

    • Ryan Stagg says

      Hi Clifton,

      As I understand, “discriminating awareness” is one potential translation of what is more generally translated as wisdom. In the context of the Buddhist path we’re discriminating between that which is unskillful and leads to unhappiness in the long run and that which is skillful and leads to happiness in the long run.

      So yes I agree, we should be discriminating when it comes to ISIS, particularly in terms of the mental states we are cultivating in response to it. I think when our mental state is derived from an assumption of absolute evil that the situation becomes unworkable and our courses of action become carpet bombing, as one politician has suggested, and war, which is precisely what ISIS is asking for. Their fundamentalism demands it. So to me, a mental state that beholds ISIS as absolutely evil is conducive to fear, anger and violence in the long run.

      I think if we cultivate a mental state that at least holds open the possibility that members of ISIS have something in them that is inherently good we can actually begin to understand them. In some extremely twisted way these people are acting in a way that seems logical to them, that they believe will bring them some form of happiness. They are extraordinarily confused, I am in no way justifying any of their actions. What I am saying is that a mind state grounded in basic goodness is conducive to understanding and skillful action in the long run. It leads us to ask questions: What do they believe? Why do they believe it? What need are they trying to achieve through their radical violent actions? What are the underlying causes of their insurgence?

      If we don’t know the answers to these questions we’re bound to add more ignorance and more fuel to the fire. That is very dangerous given the regional situation involving Syria and Russia. I am doubtful that war is the only answer and I think that if we as a nation aren’t seriously asking these questions that radical fundamentalism will continue to dominate the middle east.

      I think a radical form of basic goodness and a radical form of compassion is the ultimate antidote to the radical fundamentalism that is spreading. That doesn’t mean we act like idiots, it means we open to the situation and understand the causality so we can act skillfully, which may even include some form of military action but because it is coming from a place of deep understanding it has a better chance of being the kind of military action that leads to cessation rather than proliferation of terrorism.

      • Dorothy Wilson says

        The idea of basic goodness is very evident in a new born Babe. What lacks basic goodness is most Governments, without freedom. When we are forced to do things against our nature, which happens in some religions, governments, etc then the world has many problems. That is why our form of Government as it was conceived made the way for basic goodness. That made our country great.If we could get government out of our lives we would once again have the Freedom to use our basic goodness.

  5. evan says

    I like the title as is because it implies recognition, but also implies action continuously needed to ever move us towards goodness.

  6. Jeff Hunsinger says

    Wonderful article I enjoyed reading very much your writing is thoughtful and articulate and I aapreciated the application of the abstract primordial notion of basic goodness to a real time, concrete issue like politics. It helps to deepen my understanding. Keep writing you are really good at it and I hope to hear more. hank you!

  7. Loren Enders says

    The Lamrim says that it is exceedingly difficult to be born into this precious human body. We all have positive potential and we need to keep that thought in our minds.

    Hope that makes sense.

  8. Barbara says

    Thanks for the very thoughtful and timely post. It’s all good. I would only change the title a little to something like Recognizing that America is Basically Good — to reflect that it is already basically good, it doesn’t need to be made that way or made that way again — any more than we need to remake ourselves. What do you think?

    • Ryan Stagg says

      Hi Barbara, thanks for your comment! Yes, re-cognizing is a really good word choice. The title was just meant to be a playful twist on Trumps slogan, though it could be misleading, I agree.

  9. Craig Morman says

    If you vote, you are accepting having your income stolen to murder people worldwide.
    It matters not which sociopath you put at the head of the table.
    If human beings are basically good, then they must be allowed to self organize without the threat of violence hanging over their heads.
    Until organization is voluntary, there can be no enlightened society.
    Voting for a 1/300 million say in who gets to rule over you is not going to help.
    It is time we told those who would rule over us that we as a species are adults.
    Google democide, and then have a good think about the history of control.

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