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.
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. 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, in part by coopting the nonviolence activism of Mahatma Gandhi in India and of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. in the United States to oppose the conflict. 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 term "Engaged Buddhism" has since been re-translated back into Chinese as "Left-wing Buddhism" (左翼佛教) to denote the left 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).
As early as 1946, Walpola Rahula identified an explicit social ethos present in the earliest recorded Buddhist teachings, noting that the Buddha encouraged early monks to travel in order to benefit the largest number of people, and that his discourses to lay people often included practical instructions on social and economic matters, rather than being purely concerned with philosophical or soteriological concerns.
Socially Engaged Buddhism in the West
In the West, like the East, Engaged Buddhism is a way of attempting to link authentic Buddhist practice—particularly mindfulness—with social action. It has two main centers from which its approach, spearheaded by Thich Nhat Hanh, is disseminated: the Plum Village monastic community in Loubes-Bernac, France and the Community of Mindful Living (CML) in Berkeley, California. Both centers are tied to Hanh's Unified Buddhist Church. Beside Hanh's efforts, the current Dalai Lama has voiced a need for Buddhists to be more involved in the socio-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 Soka Gakkai International, Buddhist Peace Fellowship, Buddhist Global Relief, the International Network of Engaged Buddhists, the Zen Peacemakers led by Roshi Bernard Glassman and Thich Nhat Hanh's Order of Interbeing, 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.
- 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
- Irons, Edward (2008). Encyclopedia of Buddhism. New York, NY: Checkmark Books. pp. 176–177. ISBN 9780816077441.
- The Fourteen Precepts of Engaged Buddhism
- Rahula, Walpola (1974). The Heritage of the Bhikkhu (1st English ed.). New York: Grove Press. pp. 3–7. ISBN 0-8021-4023-8.
- Engaged Buddhism
- What's Buddhist about Socially Engaged Buddhism
- Justify Your Love: Finding Authority for Socially Engaged Buddhism
- Uebel, Michael, and Shorkey, Clayton. "Mindfulness and Engaged Buddhism: Implications for a Generalist Macro Social Work Practice," in Mindfulness and Acceptance in Social Work: Evidence-Based Interventions and Emerging Applications, Ed. Matthew S. Boone. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, 2014. 215-234.
- 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
- Ecodharma Centre
- 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
- Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation