In: Religion Topics

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Chapter 1


Thich Nhat Hanh: “Buddhism is already engaged. If it is not, it is not Buddhism.”

Walpola Rahula: “Buddhism is based on service to others”…political and social engagement is the

“heritage of the bhikkhu” and the essence of Buddhism.

Robert Thurman: “The primary Buddhist position on social action is one of total activism, an unswerving commitment to complete self-transformation and complete world-transformation.”

Stated in simplest terms, engaged Buddhism means the application of Buddhist teachings to contemporary social problems. Engaged Buddhism is a modern reformist movement. A practitioner is socially engaged “in a nonviolent way, motivated by concern for the welfare of others, and as an expression of one’s own practice of the Buddhist Way” (King Being 5). In this description Sallie B. King invokes the spirit of the Bodhisattva vow: May I attain Buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings. According to Ken Jones engaged Buddhism is “an explication of social, economic, and political processes and their ecological implications, derived from a Buddhist diagnosis of the existential human condition” (Kraft New). Jones emphasizes the social theory underlying engaged Buddhism. According to engaged Buddhists the “three poisons” of greed, anger and ignorance apply both to the individual and to “large-scale social and economic forces” (Kraft New); their remediation is therefore the collective concern of society. As the subject of numerous treatises, anthologies, lectures and symposiums, engaged Buddhism plays a vital role in the twenty-first century dialogue concerning universal humanism and human rights. Ken Jones writes that the original 1989 edition of his book, The Social Face of Buddhism, “was an argument for a socially engaged Buddhism that at that time was little developed and not widely accepted…Since then…...

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