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Socially Engaged Buddhism

Socially Engaged Buddhism

Copyright Date: 2009
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    Socially Engaged Buddhism
    Book Description:

    Socially Engaged Buddhism is an introduction to the contemporary movement of Buddhists, East and West, who actively engage with the problems of the world—social, political, economic, and environmental—on the basis of Buddhist ideas, values, and spirituality. Sallie B. King, one of North America’s foremost experts on the subject, identifies in accessible language the philosophical and ethical thinking behind the movement and examines how key principles such as karma, the Four Noble Truths, interdependence, nonharmfulness, and nonjudgmentalism relate to social engagement. Many people believe that Buddhists focus exclusively on spiritual attainment. Professor King examines why Engaged Buddhists involve themselves with the problems of the world and how they reconcile this involvement with the Buddhist teaching of nonattachment from worldly things. Engaged Buddhists, she answers, point out that because the root of human suffering is in the mind, not the world, the pursuit of enlightenment does not require a turning away from the world. Working to reduce suffering in humans, living things, and the planet is integral to spiritual practice and leads to selflessness and compassion. Socially Engaged Buddhism is a sustained reflection on social action as a form of spirituality expressed in acts of compassion, grassroots empowerment, nonjudgmentalism, and nonviolence. It offers an inspiring example of how one might work for solutions to the troubles that threaten the peace and well being of our planet and its people.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6435-4
    Subjects: Sociology, Religion

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Editor’s Preface
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. CHAPTER 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    In the twentieth century, a politically and socially active form of Buddhism called Engaged Buddhism came into being and quickly became a large and powerful movement throughout Buddhist Asia; toward the end of that century, it also became very influential among Western Buddhists. In the Buddhist-majority countries of Asia, Engaged Buddhism became a vehicle capable of giving voice to the people’s political aspirations and bringing down national governments. It became a path of psychological and practical liberation to oppressed peoples and of economic development to impoverished peoples. The reader may be surprised to hear of Buddhists engaging in this way...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Philosophy and Ethics
    (pp. 13-38)

    As we have seen, Engaged Buddhism is a noncentralized movement that emerged in response to multiple crises in modern Asia. The leaders and groups that make up the movement all draw upon traditional Buddhist concepts, values, and principles as they develop their various responses to the crises and challenges of their particular situations. It is this shared grounding in traditional Buddhism that ties together the various Engaged Buddhist groups. Let us examine some of these foundational teachings and the ways in which they shape Engaged Buddhism.

    “Karma” means “action.” More broadly, it refers to the law of cause and effect,...

  7. CHAPTER 3 Spirituality
    (pp. 39-66)

    Sometimes scholars of non-Western religions avoid the term “spirituality,” feeling perhaps that the term has dualistic connotations of the “spiritual” realm versus the “material” realm—connotations that do not apply to Buddhism—or that it refers to a spirit or soul, as opposed to the body, which, again, does not apply to Buddhism. I will use the term “spiritual” to refer to the entire realm of religious life, its goals and practice, and “spirituality” to refer to the many practices with which Buddhists intentionally develop their insight, concentration, and the many Buddhist virtues—the Four Immeasurables (loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy,...

  8. CHAPTER 4 War and Peace
    (pp. 67-95)

    A number of prominent Engaged Buddhist leaders have come to international attention in the course of responding to war, invasion, military violence, or genocide; in efforts to prevent war; and in efforts to heal from war. Notable among them are His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, in Tibet; Thich Nhat Hanh in Vietnam; and Maha Ghosananda in Cambodia. A. T. Ariyaratne, head of Sarvodaya Shramadana in Sri Lanka, came to international attention initially through his work in the field of development, but in recent years he has turned his attention also to the war in his country. As might be expected,...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Economics
    (pp. 96-117)

    Economic issues sound to many like something with which Buddhism would never concern itself. This, however, is true neither of the Engaged Buddhists, who have major concerns to eliminate poverty and to challenge consumerism, nor of the Buddha himself. Engaged Buddhism’s first task in the area of economic concerns is often to convince people that the Buddha did have economic teachings and that this area is a proper concern for Buddhism. The Engaged Buddhists in fact derive their basic economic principles from the Buddha’s teachings, applying them to the contemporary world.

    Perhaps the most important point to recognize is that...

  10. CHAPTER 6 Ecology
    (pp. 118-136)

    It is widely felt that there is a great compatibility between Buddhist principles—both concepts and values—and an ecological perspective. Some take this even farther, pointing to ways in which Buddhist thinking opens up new possibilities for ecological thinking. The Engaged Buddhists are among those who are pioneering the exploration of this new area.

    The concept of interdependence is the most important source in the Buddha’s teachings of the often cited compatibility between Buddhism and an ecological perspective. This concept, also known as dependent origination, points out that everything comes into being through a process of causes and conditions....

  11. CHAPTER 7 Human Rights and Criminal Justice
    (pp. 137-158)

    The Buddha did not speak of either human rights or criminal justice. In response to current social needs, Engaged Buddhist leaders are creating new forms of Buddhist discourse and practice in these areas. While these are based upon traditional Buddhist values and ideas, they entail entirely new applications of them.

    The subject of human rights in Buddhism has occasioned more debate than any other aspect of Engaged Buddhism. Some scholars, both Asian and Western, argue that the concept of human rights is a Western concept that has no place in Buddhism. Others, Asian and Western, argue that the concept of...

  12. CHAPTER 8 Challenging Tradition
    (pp. 159-175)

    Prompted by compassion and by belief in the preciousness of a human birth, work to promote human well-being is prominent among the Engaged Buddhists, Asian and Western. However, this work is dogged at times by traditional thinking about karma and gender.

    We have seen that karma is a crucial element in traditional Buddhist thought; without it traditional Buddhism is inconceivable. It continues to play an essential role in the thinking and action of Engaged Buddhists today, as we have also seen. However, a number of Engaged Buddhists have significant complaints about the idea of karma or at least about the...

  13. CHAPTER 9 Conclusion
    (pp. 176-178)

    Let us conclude this volume by briefly reviewing what isBuddhistabout Engaged Buddhism. In other words, Engaged Buddhism is a form of spiritual social activism, but what makes itBuddhistsocial activism? This is important to note not because being Buddhist makes these ideas and approaches to social activism better or worse than the Western counterparts, but only because they are different from them. Because they are different, when we encounter them, they may stimulate our own thinking in creative directions. Let us consider them in this light.

    1. The signature contribution of Engaged Buddhism to global thinking about...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 179-184)
  15. For Further Reading
    (pp. 185-188)
  16. Index
    (pp. 189-192)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 193-195)