Engaged Buddhism

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Buddhism is one of the world's most influential faiths, with millions of adherents worldwide. Currently, most urbanized areas, especially in the West, are infused with various stereotypes, impressions, and photographs concerning this faith. Due to the simplicity and authenticity of this faith, Hollywood films depicting Buddhist teachings and ways of life have drawn a large number of audiences (Esposito, Fasching and Thornton 400). Buddhism is a faith based on the teachings of Buddha, a religious leader who was born in Nepal and raised in various parts of Asia. Most religious experts now see Buddhism as an ideology rather than a faith. The teachings of this religion are inspirational and focus on the various elements of human life that beings face during their day-to-day interactions with one another. Buddhism is also a religion of simplicity and oriented towards immediate nirvana realization. Over the past few decades, a new form of Buddhism dabbed as the Engaged Buddhism has emerged in different regions of Asia. While “Engaged Buddhism” might be deemed as a sharp violation of the ancient teachings of Buddha advocating for social and political exclusion, this new form of Buddhism is crucial and inspirational as it aims at confronting suffering and counseling their believers about the “mundane awakening.”

Engaged Buddhism refers to a contemporary Buddhist mode of life in which Buddhists and other religious leaders refrain from turning their backs on suffering, social injustices, and political interference (Esposito, Fasching and Thornton 404). Engaged Buddhist engage in activities that would enhance the lifestyles of their followers. The rise of engaged Buddhism emerged in the late 20th century but was manifest in the 2004 Tsunami on the Indian Ocean (Esposito, Fasching and Thornton 403). Most leaders subscribing to Buddhism were seen rushing out to provide compassionate assistance to the victims of the unfortunate natural calamity. The first forms of humanitarian responses came from Buddhist households that provided medicine, bandages, and clothes to the victims of the calamity. The unprecedented calamity was a demonstration of how strong the Buddhists adhere to their religious doctrines and apply them to modern situations. Perhaps, the commonest and earliest inspirations of engaged Buddhism can be demonstrated by the Vietnamese monks who committed suicide in 1963 due to the government’s failure to acknowledge and adore Buddhism (Esposito, Fasching and Thornton 404). Most Buddhists consider the suicide as a form of indulgence in the political arena which is not permissible according to the doctrines of the religion. Nhat Hann, a renowned Buddhist religious leader, came out to urge nuns and Buddhist monks to unite in deferring solitary individualistic practices based on the religious guidelines of non-violent confrontations with authorities (Esposito, Fasching and Thornton 404). The primary inspiration for engaged Buddhism is the activities of Vietnamese monks who responded appropriately to the different social and political injustices. Currently, engaged Buddhist activities are widespread in most parts of Asia and the west. The individuals aim at addressing issues concerning global hunger, environmental despoliation, and political corruption.

Engaged Buddhism is indicative of the nature and teachings of traditional Buddhism as it advocates for freedom from human suffering. Most of the activities that the socially engaged Buddhists do are aimed at enhancing the lifestyle of other persons. Engaged Buddhism uses morally acceptable tools to advocate for their needs and aspirations. There exist numerous political factors that have the potential of interfering with religious activities and the social lives of humans. Consequently, people are subjected to abject poverty due to the immoral deeds of their leaders. Socially engaged Buddhists utilize the various religious teachings and legal frameworks to enhance the lifestyle of other human beings.

Buddhism is a religious guided by strict doctrines that dictate the conduct and extents that an individual must not supersede (Esposito, Fasching and Thornton 400). Most Buddhist monks and nuns have for several decades secluded themselves from social and political affairs due to the fear of violating their religious teachings. However, there exist no traditional Buddhist laws that bar individuals from participating in social affairs. Socially engaged Buddhists who have openly affianced in social and political confrontation always do so using the guidelines and constraints of their religious laws (Esposito, Fasching and Thornton 405). Most individuals misinterpreted the traditional Buddhist laws and individualistic since the monks and nuns only paid attention to the various social issues affecting them. However, the present-day Buddhist leaders ensure that they protect their religion and followers at all costs. The philosophies of this religion direct the leaders to be caring and considerate about other Buddhists. However, in the past, most nuns and monks would only offer religious assistance to their followers. The sharp distinction between the socially engaged Buddhists and the contemporary religious leaders are the tools used in protecting humankind from both natural and manmade suffering. Therefore, socially engaged Buddhists act according to religious teachings when conducting their activities. Esposito, Fasching and Thornton (405) provide examples of Sri Lanka’s “Sarvodaya Shramadana” movement whose key objective is to enhance rural development by harnessing the services of volunteers and the “Trailokya Baudha Mahasanha Sahayaka Gana” of India which has tirelessly worked since 1956 to transform to low-rank castes from Hinduism to provide assist in raising them out of poverty.

The key religious doctrine that this group has on several occasions breached or violated is the teaching of peace. Some of the socially engaged Buddhist leaders utilize violent means when advocating for their rights and entitlements. Buddhism is also a religion of order (Esposito, Fasching and Thornton 400). Therefore, confronting religious leaders regarding governance issues might be deemed as respect for authority.

The concept of socially engaged Buddhism reveals that the religion is flexible and capable of changing to suit modernization. Initially, the mindsets of most Buddhists were fixed. The individuals were acquainted with knowledge regarding religious teachings but did not know how to apply it in the social and political sphere to solve issues affecting humankind. Currently, engaged Buddhism is common in most urban areas as the people in these regions know their political, economic and human rights. Therefore, Buddhism is a flexible religion that can be transformed to suit the dynamic world. Secondly, the emergence of socially engaged Buddhism indicates that the religion is guided by strict norms and has the ending of human suffering as its main objective. Unlike other religions that have actively participated in both social and political confrontations, the concept of engaged Buddhism made headlines as most people believed that Buddhists should never engage in politics and social affairs. The Buddhists also ensure that they use religious teachings to advocate for their rights.

In summary, while “engaged Buddhism” might be deemed as a sharp violation of the ancient teachings of Buddha advocating for social and political exclusion, this new form of Buddhism is crucial and inspirational as it aims at confronting suffering and counseling their believers about the “mundane awakening.” Socially engaged Buddhists have chosen to defer from their solitary and individualistic ways of life and engaged actively in activities aimed at ending human suffering.

Work Cited

Esposito, John L., Darrell J. Fasching, and Todd Thornton. World Religions Today. 5th ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014. Print.

November 03, 2022

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Buddhism Management

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