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From a Buddhist Vow to an Oath of Office

Kathleen Treseder is relatively new to Buddhism. A few years ago, she started feeling that there was something more to life than she had recognized.


She felt part of a larger whole, but was unable to articulate or understand what that meant. She thought about joining a faith community, but her previous experiences with religion made her hesitant. About that time, we all experienced the COVID lockdown. Many Orange County faith organizations began delivering online services.


“This was perfect for me — I could try out different groups without any pressure,” she said. “I found the Orange County Buddhist Church's YouTube channel and began watching services. I enjoyed them — the ministers' messages rang true to me. I then completed Rev. Jon Turner’s beginning Buddhist courses at EverydayBuddhist.org. He made very challenging philosophical concepts seem accessible. I ‘tried on’ the practice, and discovered that it fit me well. I am now a proud Buddhist and OCBC member.”



During this time, she was also running for the Irvine City Council. She is a professor of climate change at UC Irvine. Kathleen decided to run so she could foster climate action in the city. Irvine is a large city, so she had to campaign for two years. She faced a number of ethical challenges, as is typical for political candidates.


“My Buddhist practice helped me make decisions I felt good about,” Treseder said. “For example, as the race heated up, my campaign staff encouraged me to go negative on my main opponent. I was receptive at first, but upon contemplation realized that just wasn't a very Buddhist thing to do. My opponents started running attack ads against me, but I resolved to not respond in kind. In the end, the voters supported me instead. I believe that people care about others, and a peaceful approach resonated with them.”



On Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2022, I was honored to administer her oath of office as she took her place as an Irvine City Councilmember. Before I administered the oath, I read a shortened version of the Loving-Kindness (Metta) Meditation. I didn't know it at the time, but it was her favorite meditation. She contemplated it often during the campaign.


“I heard later from several attendees that they were inspired by Rev. Turner’s words,” Treseder said. “I have no doubt that his participation helped other Buddhists feel represented within our community. I will continue to identify myself as a practicing Buddhist as I serve the City of Irvine. Rev. Turner was the highlight of the swearing-in ceremony.”


It was also an honor for me as well. It is so wonderful to see how Buddhism can be so relevant within our everyday lives. Sometimes Buddhism is seen as a passive religion, but I do not see it that way.


Sangha members, like Kathleen Treseder, demonstrate the power and dynamic spirit that one feels when we are part of the flow of life — both from within and without.


Namoamidabutsu


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