The Spirit of ‘No Side’ Is the Teaching of the Middle Path

The U.S. presidential election took place last November and it attracted a great deal of attention worldwide. But the election was also complicated by historic political as well as pandemic concerns, it has taken longer than anticipated to finalize the vote count, which means that results remained undecided.


Sadly, America is still divided on many social issues. Disagreements remain on topics like religious conflicts, the immigrant-refugee crises, and BLM and LGBTQ+ concerns. Unfortunately, from what we see in the news, even friends can abuse and use violence against one other because of our political differences.


Unfortunately, the ones affected most painfully are the children. Young people these days are anxious and fearful about discrimination and violence. They don’t feel hopeful about America’s future.


Despite the election results, now is the time to respect and accept the differences we have with others. We must realize the importance of both recognizing one’s social identity and of protecting human rights. This is how we can create a society which is kind and thoughtful. I believe this mindset is the only way to unite, not divide, this nation.


Two years ago, the Rugby World Cup was hosted by Japan and it was a great success. Football is far more popular in the United States, but rugby has one aspect superior to other team sports. It is the spirit of “No Side.”


Rugby is a very physical sport. Players come in contact repeatedly, and sometimes even get into fist fights. During the game, each team tries fiercely to beat its opponent.


But once the game is over, there is “No Side” of winners or losers. Regardless how fiercely the game was played, once it ends, all players step away from the concept of “them versus us.” They only have praise for one another for their hard work. With this attitude, the players can even deepen their friendships. This is the unique tradition of No Side, which is the most attractive aspect of rugby.


In Buddhism, we have the teaching of the Middle Path to practice right mind, which doesn’t cling too hard to either side of extremes. Right mind has something in common with the spirit of No Side.


For example, during the presidential campaign, we each likely supported one political party. And because of the differences in our values, we probably argued with someone who supported another party. But now that the election is over, we should respect and accept one another, regardless of our political differences. Even if we hate another person for his views, we shouldn’t dwell on our differences, but try to let them go. Hatred can never create anything constructive.


The spirit of No Side is the right way to encourage the entire nation to stand together. This is how we can get beyond the barriers of race, religions, cultures, and everything else. No Side is a world of kindness and respect without discrimination or hatred.


Regardless which political party holds power, if we firmly grasp this spirit of No Side or the Middle Path, we can create a safe and comfortable community where each of us respects another’s values and protects another’s civil rights. This is how to realize “the empathic world,” meaning, “When you are in pain, I am also in pain. When you are happy, I am also happy.” It refers to the world of Nembutsu filled with kindness, respect, and gratitude.


This spirit of No Side is the teaching of the Middle Path, the basis of Buddhism which encourages us not to be too attached to either side of extremes. It shows us how important and precious the way of life is that treats others, as well as ourselves, with respect.


Issues with the election results may linger, but all of us want to see unity and harmony in this country, so I sincerely hope that each of us will try to embody the spirit of No Side. With its calm promise to fearful children everywhere, No Side shows that by being truly respectful of one another, we can create a kind and hopeful society to unite, not divide, this nation.


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