Thursday, May 13, 2010

Engaged Buddhism

Engaged Buddhism is a contemporary movement that concentrates on developing Buddhist solutions to social political and ecological problems. The term “engaged Buddhism was coined in 1963 by a Vietnamese monk named Thich Nhat Hanh when his country was in the middle of war. He wanted to find a solution to all the unnecessary violence by applying Buddhist teaching in a practical manner. Engaged Buddhism seeks to apply the traditional practice of meditation and the teaching of dharma to solve situations of injustice and remove suffering whether they be political, social economic or environmental in nature.

Buddhism teaches that all suffering comes from the mind. It strongly encourages people to take responsibility for their own suffering however severe. This way internal peace and contentment can be retained and the middle path can be practiced in all situations. Engaged Buddhism goes one level deeper. It says that when suffering arises, one must calm down, introspect and then respond to the outside situation in order to help those who are on need. The reaction to the situation will be much wiser if one is calm and at peace with oneself. While maintaining the Buddhist emphasis on inward spiritual growth, Engaged Buddhism aims to reduce suffering and oppression through social and political reform.

Nhat Hanh, the monk who first coined the term engaged Buddhism is still a leading protagonist of this movement. He had founded the “order of inter being” to promote worthy social causes. He has written a book tilted “Interbeing” in which he has laid down 14 precepts of engaged Buddhism. Some of his precepts are paraphrased below.

Do not be idolatrous. Be broad minded enough to receive others viewpoints. Use compassionate dialogue not force to help others renounce fanaticism and narrow mindedness. Share yourself with those who are suffering by personal contact and visits. Live simply and share material resources with those who are in need. Do not keep anger or hatred within you. Practice mindful breathing so that you do not get lost in your surroundings. Do not create discord. Have the courage to speak the truth even if it means a threat to your own safety. Do not use the Buddhist community for personal gain. Practice a vocation that helps you be compassionate. Do whatever you can to protect life and prevent war. Respect the property of others. Respect your own body. These are just a few among those preached by the monk.

Engaged Buddhism does not restrict itself to the monks alone. Neither is it confined to a particular sect or denomination. Lay people from all parts of the world play an active role in practicing and propagating it. Engaged Buddhism has broken all boundaries and covers the entire spectrum of east and west. Today, Engaged Buddhism is gaining more and more popularity in the west among people who love peace and want to make a change to the world they live in. You will just need to observe what happens to learn a few things pertaining to this new concept!

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