Engaged Buddhism

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 Thích Nhất Hạnh, Engaged Buddhism has grown in popularity in the West.[1]

Asian Origins

The term was coined by the Vietnamese Thiền Buddhist teacher Thích Nhất Hạnh, inspired by the Humanistic Buddhism reform movement in China by Taixu and Yinshun, and later propagated in Taiwan by Cheng Yen and Hsing Yun.[2] At first, he used Literary Chinese, the liturgical language of Vietnamese Buddhism, calling it in Chinese: 入世佛教; literally: "Worldly Buddhism". During the Vietnam War, he and his sangha (spiritual community) made efforts to respond to the suffering they saw around them.[3] They saw this work as part of their meditation and mindfulness practice, not apart from it.[3] Thich Nhat Hanh outlined fourteen precepts of Engaged Buddhism, which explained his philosophy. [4]

The term "Engaged Buddhism" 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.[5][6] 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.”[5]

Organizations such as the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, Buddhist Global Relief, the International Network of Engaged Buddhists, 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,[7] Joanna Macy,[7] Gary Snyder, Alan Senauke, Sulak Sivaraksa, Maha Ghosananda, Sylvia Wetzel, Joan Halifax, Tara Brach, Taigen Dan Leighton, Ken Jones, and Bhikkhu Bodhi.

See also


  1. 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.
  2. Queen, Christopher (2000). Engaged Buddhism in the West. Somerville, MA: Wisdom Publications. p. 36. ISBN 0-86171-159-9.
  3. 1 2 In Engaged Buddhism, Peace Begins with You
  4. The Fourteen Precepts of Engaged Buddhism
  5. 1 2 Engaged Buddhism
  6. What's Buddhist about Socially Engaged Buddhism
  7. 1 2 Justify Your Love: Finding Authority for Socially Engaged Buddhism

Further reading

External links

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