Home > Blog: Currents & Futures > Beyond King and Gandhi: The Results of My “Challenge” (and why the Buddha is not on my list)

Many thanks to the many people who wrote to say that the “Beyond King & Gandhi” article was very meaningful for them.  And, thanks to those who responded to my “challenge” to name 2 others who are on my list.

Before I complete my list for you, I want to acknowledge the responses I’ve received.  First of all, NONE of you got my additional 2 names!  On the other hand: a couple of names that you sent are going to go on my list!  THANKS!

The Buddha (2 votes)

Jesus of Nazareth (2 votes)

Sojourner Truth (2 votes)

Delores Huerta

Frederick Douglass


Paulo Friere

Saul Alinsky

Desmond Tutu

Lyla June

Eve Esler

I am going to re-acquaint myself with the life and times of Sojourner Truth.  (I haven’t read about her since my college days.)  I have been seriously looking for women leaders who meet the 8 characteristics that I put in the article.  Since Ang San Suu Kyi’s credibility imploded under her inaction in the face of the brutality toward the Rohingya people, my list has been very top-heavy with men.

I’m also going to re-think Desmond Tutu.  (An interesting fact: with Mandela and Tutu, the first time in history that two Nobel Laureates, came from the same country, the same city… and lived on the same street!  While in Johannesburg two years ago, I walked from Mandela’s house to Tutu’s – a short walk to acknowledge two great men.)

So… why not the Buddha?  In the list of characteristics, look at #3: 

Taking on the most powerful political entities of their time.  Putting their own lives on the line for their ideals. Acting beyond fear.

Unlike all of the others on my list, the Buddha did not challenge (and was not challenged by) the temporal powers of his time.  (I think the only “leader” he had to challenge was… himself.  He had to shed his identity as Prince Guatama in order to become the Buddha.)  So, while the Buddha remains a spiritual teacher and role model for me, he’s not on my list.

So… ADDITIONS TO MY LIST! There is one clear addition, plus one “provisional” candidate.  (And, I’m thinking about adding Sojourner Truth and Desmond Tutu…)

William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia and the “Amish Country”.  Upon his conversion to the Society of Friends, he wrote over 40 books and pamphlets on the notion of religious freedom.  That got him into so much trouble with the Crown (imprisoned four times, including a stint in the infamous Tower of London), that King Charles II, to get rid of him, gave him Pennsylvania and Delaware, which cancelled a debt the King owed his father.  (As the son of a popular nobleman, Penn could not be executed – the only thing that saved his neck.)

Penn used the land, named for his father by the King, as a refuge for persecuted people in Europe and a place to practice Christian ideals.  In 1683, Penn made the only treaty with Native Americans (Lenape & Delaware) that was “never sworn to and never broken” (Voltaire).  His treaty was founded on a simple premise:  “You were here first.”

While his experiment in spiritually-based urban living (Philadelphia: ‘The City of Brotherly Love’) was a failure even in his own lifetime, his rural experiment, the Amish Country, was and still is a success!   A 330+ year experiment in sustainable, ecological and moral living.

A little-known Penn fact, one that we all live by today: in one of his many trials, a jury found him innocent of the charges against him.  The judge, enraged, ordered the jury to find him guilty.  They refused… and the judge ordered the jury arrested and sent to prison!  The appeal of this action established the legal doctrine of the independence of the jury in legal matters, a principle which still holds today.

Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama.  (He’s on my list provisionally.  Like Ang San Suu Kyi, he still has both time and opportunity to abandon his principles.  Stay tuned.)  He has been a constant challenge to the Chinese occupation of his country, and a shining example of what “Love Thy Neighbor” means in times of actual conflict.  The Dalai Lama said:

Tolerance can be learned only from an enemy; it cannot be learned from your spiritual teacher….  Therefore, I am very grateful to the Chinese for giving me this opportunity. The enemy is very important. The enemy teaches you inner strength.  (From “A Policy of Kindness”, page 103.)

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