Engaged Buddhism refers to Buddhists who are seeking ways to apply the insights from meditation practice and dharma teachings to situations of social, political, environmental, and economic suffering and injustice. Finding its roots in Vietnam through the Zen Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, Engaged Buddhism has grown in popularity in the West.
The term was coined by Vietnamese Zen Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh (known as Thay to his students), inspired by the Humanistic Buddhism reform movement in China by Taixu and Yinshun, and later propagated in Taiwan by Cheng Yen and Hsing Yun. At first, he used Chinese characters (a scriptural language of Vietnamese Mahayana Buddhism), 入世佛教 (lit: Worldly Buddhism, 入世 = enter + world). During the Vietnam War, he and his sangha (spiritual community) made efforts to respond to the suffering they saw around them. They saw this work as part of their meditation and mindfulness practice, not apart from it. Thich Nhat Hanh outlined fourteen precepts of Engaged Buddhism which explained his philosophy.
|The Fourteen Precepts|
|1) Do not be idolatrous about or bound to any doctrine, theory, or ideology, even Buddhist ones. Buddhist systems of thought are guiding means; they are not absolute truth.|
|2) Do not think the knowledge you presently possess is changeless, absolute truth. Avoid being narrow minded and bound to present views. Learn and practice nonattachment from views in order to be open to receive others' viewpoints. Truth is found in life and not merely in conceptual knowledge. Be ready to learn throughout your entire life and to observe reality in yourself and in the world at all times.|
|3) Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education. However, through compassionate dialogue, help others renounce fanaticism and narrow-mindedness.|
|4) Do not avoid suffering or close your eyes before suffering. Do not lose awareness of the existence of suffering in the life of the world. Find ways to be with those who are suffering, including personal contact, visits, images and sounds. By such means, awaken yourself and others to the reality of suffering in the world.|
|5) Do not accumulate wealth while millions are hungry. Do not take as the aim of your life fame, profit, wealth, or sensual pleasure. Live simply and share time, energy, and material resources with those who are in need.|
|6) Do not maintain anger or hatred. Learn to penetrate and transform them when they are still seeds in your consciousness. As soon as they arise, turn your attention to your breath in order to see and understand the nature of your hatred.|
|7) Do not lose yourself in dispersion and in your surroundings. Practice mindful breathing to come back to what is happening in the present moment. Be in touch with what is wondrous, refreshing, and healing both inside and around you. Plant seeds of joy, peace, and understanding in yourself in order to facilitate the work of transformation in the depths of your consciousness.|
|8) Do not utter words that can create discord and cause the community to break. Make every effort to reconcile and resolve all conflicts, however small.|
|9) Do not say untruthful things for the sake of personal interest or to impress people. Do not utter words that cause division and hatred. Do not spread news that you do not know to be certain. Do not criticize or condemn things of which you are not sure. Always speak truthfully and constructively. Have the courage to speak out about situations of injustice, even when doing so may threaten your own safety.|
|10) Do not use the Buddhist community for personal gain or profit, or transform your community into a political party. A religious community, however, should take a clear stand against oppression and injustice and should strive to change the situation without engaging in partisan conflicts.|
|11) Do not live with a vocation that is harmful to humans and nature. Do not invest in companies that deprive others of their chance to live. Select a vocation that helps realise your ideal of compassion.|
|12) Do not kill. Do not let others kill. Find whatever means possible to protect life and prevent war.|
|13) Possess nothing that should belong to others. Respect the property of others, but prevent others from profiting from human suffering or the suffering of other species on Earth.|
|14) Do not mistreat your body. Learn to handle it with respect. Do not look on your body as only an instrument. Preserve vital energies (sexual, breath, spirit) for the realisation of the Way. (For brothers and sisters who are not monks and nuns:) Sexual expression should not take place without love and commitment. In sexual relations, be aware of future suffering that may be caused. To preserve the happiness of others, respect the rights and commitments of others. Be fully aware of the responsibility of bringing new lives into the world. Meditate on the world into which you are bringing new beings.|
This term has since been re-translated back into Chinese as "Left-wing Buddhism" (左翼佛教) to denote the liberal emphasis held by this type of Buddhism. The term has also been used as a translation for what is commonly understood in China and Taiwan as "Humanistic Buddhism" (人間佛教).
Western Socially Engaged Buddhism
In the West, like the East, Engaged Buddhism is a way of attempting to link authentic Buddhist meditation with social action. The current Dalai Lama has voiced a need for Buddhists to be more involved in the social and political realm.
In 1998, while on retreat in Bodh Gaya, India, ...the Dalai Lama told those of us who were participating in a Buddhist-Christian dialogue that sometimes, Buddhists have not acted vigorously to address social and political problems. He told our group, “In this, we have much to learn from the Christians.”
Organizations such as the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, the International Network of Engaged Buddhists and the Zen Peacemakers, led by Roshi Bernard Glassman are devoted to building the movement of engaged Buddhists. Other engaged Buddhist groups include the Benevolent Organisation for Development, Health and Insight, Gaden Relief Projects, the UK's Network of Buddhist Organisations, Fo Guang Shan and Tzu Chi.
Prominent figures in the movement include Robert Aitken Roshi, Joanna Macy, Gary Snyder, Alan Senauke, Sulak Sivaraksa, Maha Ghosananda, Sylvia Wetzel, Joan Halifax, Tara Brach, Taigen Dan Leighton, Ken Jones, and Bhikkhu Bodhi.
- Buddhist socialism
- Humanistic Buddhism
- Engaged Spirituality
- Buddhist Peace Fellowship
- Religion and peacebuilding
- Queen, Chris; King, Sallie (1996). Engaged Buddhism: Buddhist Liberation Movements in Asia. New York: Albany State University Press. p. 2. ISBN 0-7914-2843-5.
- Queen, Christopher (2000). Engaged Buddhism in the West. Somerville, MA: Wisdom Publications. p. 36. ISBN 0-86171-159-9.
- In Engaged Buddhism, Peace Begins with You
- The Fourteen Precepts of Engaged Buddhism
- Engaged Buddhism
- What's Buddhist about Socially Engaged Buddhism
- Justify Your Love: Finding Authority for Socially Engaged Buddhism
- Phra Paisal Visalo: Buddhists Engaged in Social Development
- Phra Paisal Visalo: The path to social and inner happiness
- Engaged Practice
- Buddhist Peace Fellowship
- Zen Peacemakers
- International Network of Engaged Buddhists
- Network of Buddhist Organisations (UK)
- Amida Trust Home Page
- Sulak Sivaraksa: A Socially Engaged Buddhism
- The Engaged Zen Foundation
- Buddhist Global Relief
- Benevolent Organisation for Development, Health and Insight
- Gaden Relief Projects
- Sakyadhita International Association of Buddhist Women