Exhumator Esoterics

Encyclopedia of Spiritual — Letter A - BUDDHISM, SOCIALLY ENGAGED

BUDDHISM, SOCIALLY ENGAGED
Exhumator Esoterics
Exhumator Esoterics





Proponents of socially engaged Buddhism contend that concern for social justice follows naturally from the fundamental principles of Buddhism. Among these fundamental principles are the five ethical precepts to which all Buddhists are expected to adhere. Engaged Buddhists stress that these precepts have profound social implications. In discussing the first precept of not killing, for example, Thich Nhat Hanh highlights the need not only to make a personal commitment not to kill (including not to kill animals for food whenever alternatives are available), but also the need to confront the social manifestations of killing in the forms of militarism and structural injustice. When more than 30,000 children die each day due to hunger-related causes in a world of food abundance, then challenging the structures of the global economy that perpetuate this injustice becomes a necessary consequence of faithfulness to this precept. Similarly, Thich Nhat Hanh interprets the second precept of not stealing as not only forbidding personal theft and encouraging the virtue of generosity, but as also requiring a commitment to "prevent others from profiting from human suffering or the suffering of other species on Earth" (Nhat Hanh, 1993: 20). Thus, the second precept requires an active commitment to social and even interspecies justice.

With regard to the third precept forbidding the misuse of sexuality, Sulak Sivaraksa argues that this precept should include not only a personal commitment to sexual responsibility, but also a critique of male dominance/patriarchy in the very structures of society. The fourth precept concerning truthfulness Sivaraksa claims should lead not only to a personal commitment not to lie, but also to a critique of forms of advertising that stimulate false needs, as well as propaganda, bias in the news media, and other forms of false communication. Lastly, with regard to the fifth precept against the use of intoxicants, Sivaraksa suggests that in addition to making a personal commitment to not use these products, attention must be given to overcoming the underlying factors that often contribute to substance abuse. Some of these factors that he highlights include economic inequality, unemployment, employment that lacks social value, and the destruction of communal bonds and spiritual traditions that he sees as resulting from a single-minded pursuit of economic growth. Practitioners of socially engaged Buddhism tend to be very critical of the existing economic and political structures of the world. They highlight the need for alternatives based on spiritual values, the meeting of basic needs, more equitable distribution of wealth, popular participation in decision making, the use of appropriate technology, nonviolence, respect for the rights of women and minorities, and ecological sustainability.