Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Thomas Jefferson with a Buddhist advisor?

What if Thomas Jefferson had a quasi-Buddhist advisor (who focuses on wellness) and his letters were recently discovered?  Suneel Dhand has written a book that explores these themes in a pleasant and clear little book.

Suneel Dhand is a doctor who has focused on wellness.  You can follow his tweets about wellness.

At times reading Thomas Jefferson: Lessons from a Secret Buddha I was a bit incredulous.  This Buddha friend participated in the Boston Tea Party?  I mean, I believe in engaged Buddhism and all, but the Buddha didn't get involved in the various kingdoms of his time beyond advising kings on how to deepen their spirituality.  He didn't take to modern political protesting.  As revolutionary as he was, he operated mostly on a personal level, he was a revolutionary of the internal world.

In many ways, this wasn't the Buddha I recognize, he was more like a modern wellness guru, and a political activist.  Like Dr. Suneel Bhand perhaps.  Perhaps I took the word "Buddha" too literally regarding the historical Buddha.  There were many politically active buddhist including Ashoka The Great.  There's no telling what the Buddha would have done in Revolutionary America.  And this is an honest act of imagination.

Dr. Bhand says the quotes are from the Buddha, but I have the feeling they were more along the lines of fake Buddha quotes.  I can't actually prove that, but I do know the "live in the now" stuff isn't so much exact Buddhism, but a vague kind of modern version.  Mindfulness in the Buddhist context is much more specific.  Not that I mind different definitions of mindfulness and wellness.  And you can create any kind of Buddha you want, there's no such thing as blasphemy in Buddhism.  "My thinking was so uptight," as the Dude says.  I think it's a kind of western thing to be such a fussbudget.  In the east syncretism is much more acceptable, I imagine.  Alas, that was my initial reaction to this fine book.  He's really trying to put forth the positive wellness aspects of certain approaches of Thomas Jefferson that are congenial to eastern ways.

When I settled in to this Buddhist inspired wellness guru (instead of quibbling about his vision of the Buddha), Thomas Jefferson and the American Revolution, I enjoyed this book on revolutionary history and the wellness of one of our great founders.  Dr Bhand is also the author of a book on wellness, and I take his comments about wellness seriously.  I think I would like Dr. Suneel Dhand if I ever met him, and I think he's tackled an awesome project of retranslating eastern spirituality into western culture by weaving into Thomas Jefferson's life a kind of eastern guru of wellness.  A very impressive book.  Thank you.

I always appreciate a book that gets me thinking and this one did.

I kept singing Shot Heard Round The World, after I read the book.

Which of course lead me to this video

which of course lead to this video

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