If Buddha had added a ninth practice to the Eightfold Path, it might have been Right Voting. Voting is a manifestation of the law of interdependence: Each of our actions, no matter how small, affects the whole cosmos. Our votes count. True, more people voted for Gore than Bush in 2000, but a great many people did vote for Bush, and if just a handful more had voted for Gore, history would have unfolded differently. The law of karma is operative. There are many causes and conditions that get a person a job in the Oval Office—or the mayor’s office, or the office of the superintendent of schools—but your voting is a big one.
When I am in my local polling place in the neighborhood senior center, I think of voting as part of the practice of Right Speech. I have considered the issues and made a choice, and now I am joining with the whole electorate to exercise my hard-won right to speak my mind. For me, to throw away my right to vote would be an example of wrong speech—of failing to speak up when speaking up could matter to the well-being of others.
Buddhist teacher Sylvia Boorstein says that voting was a religious act in her family when she was growing up. We can sanctify voting within our circle of family and friends, gathering all of the information and sitting down to study it together, discussing issues and making our best decision. Consider taking a child or teenager with you to the polls, to show him or her that voting is a privilege, a duty, and something to do from a deep place of respect and thoughtfulness. As Buddhist writer and activist Melody Chavis says, “If Dharma Gates are really boundless, the door to the voting booth is one of them.”
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