No, I don’t mean that Barack Obama is a secret Zen Buddhist. He is our first Zen President the way Clinton was our first Black President, which is to say, not very. As far as I know Barack Obama is not the trying to attain enlightenment through meditation. He is a “white person’s” Zen Buddhist. “White people” like religions their parents don’t belong to, especially if they do not seem to require much from them. In real life Zen is quite demanding, but “white people” like the chill aspect they see in Zen. Sit back, relax, watch the world go by. Pretend you are meditating.
(OK, I’m not being fair to my race. Leonard Cohen is a dedicated Buddhist. Youngish Bay Area Jews like to blend meditation with their own Judaic practices. There are white monks in the Buddhist monastery in my town.)
Unlike Islam, Buddhism intrigues “white people”. (I thought I’d throw that one in there.) Not surprisingly there were quite a few attempts to paint Obama in Zen terms by his white groupies. For some reason the media played up the Zen angle during the White House visit of a Laker’s coach Phil Jackson. All sorts of sycophants congratulate Obama on being a Zen Master of sorts. And then there is this from Puffington Host:
Fortunately, Obama is delivering. In fact, it has become ever more noticeable to me what a different leader he is than any other I have witnessed in my lifetime. This was particularly showcased recently when he attended the Summit of the Americas.
Reading about his trip, it became clear to me: Obama is practicing some serious Zen. No, he did not sit cross-legged at a Zen center during his visit, but he embodied the spirit of Zen, and arguably all major religions, by extending a hand to those that have been viewed as enemies of the U.S in the past, including the outspoken Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.
Now, I am not necessarily a big fan of Hugo Chavez, nor am I against him, but the fact that Obama shook his hand was not to me, as others suggest, a statement that, “I agree with everything you stand for,” but instead expressed, “I acknowledge you as a leader of your country, one that we may not always agree with, but with which we have a relationship. I see you.” The Zen of Obama in this situation was to open a door, to see Chavez, and to do what he could from his side to support a healthy engagement.
New York Times: Obama’s Zen State, Well, It’s Hawaiian.
In the words of Ed Norton Obama’s Presidential Campaign is “So Zen”:
Norton was impressed with the “calm,” “no-drama Obama.” The actor continued, “And in a weird way, when you look behind the curtain with that team, they are really zen. It’s amazing how zen they are.”