I think it’s time to bring out this piece, developed by my friends Diana Winston and Donald Rothberg. It seems like there are a number of people in the blogosphere who are questioning the whole notion and point of socially engaged Buddhism (see for example this post from The Reformed Buddhist and this one from Point of Contact) — is it really any different than someone with liberal politics who slaps a Buddhist sticker on to their beliefs and then heads out to a protest?
I think the answer is yes. There’s a qualitative difference. Diana and Donald have done a good job of distilling the qualities that characterize socially engaged Buddhism.
And by the way, in the near future I’m going to post an article that I believe will demonstrate that socially engaged Buddhism is not always synonymous with a liberal/progressive political stance. That should be interesting.
Ten Guiding Principles for Socially Engaged Buddhism
by Diana Winston and Donald Rothberg
1. Setting Intention, Clarifying Motivation:
Our actions can be dedicated to the benefit and awakening of all beings. Keeping this intention in mind helps our actions to go beyond mere “do-gooding,” fighting so-called oppression, or just “getting things done,” into the realm of dharma practice.
2. Interbeing and Co-Responsibility:
We look at our tendencies to separate “us” and “them,” and “inner” and “outer.” We see in ourselves the same structures of greed, hatred, and delusion that we seek to change. We realize that there is ultimately no “other” to fight against, yet we also recognize that some are indeed in positions of greater responsibility for suffering and oppression.
3. Not Knowing, But Keep Going:
Our work is to remain open to what is unknown, mysterious, and confusing, and to avoid easy answers and habitual views. Maybe we’re wrong or incomplete. We cultivate the ability to listen openly, to hold the multiple questions and perspectives that arise, and to be present with whatever is coming up.
4. Opening to Suffering:
In our meditation practice, we learn to be present in the face of suffering, working through out reactivity, denial, avoidance, and fears, and exploring and transforming the roots of suffering. We bring this skill outward, not turning away from the suffering and injustice that we find in our families, communities, work, society, and world. Our action comes increasingly out of our compassion.
5. Acting from Equanimity:
Can we bring equanimity–the state of even-mindedness and balance–to all our actions, balancing acceptance and understanding of the present moment and its causes and conditions with compassion and the intention to respond to suffering?
6. Being Peace:
Thich Nhat Hanh says that “peace is every step.” We are careful in balancing task- and process-orientation, ends and means. Beyond ideological differences, we share a commitment to be in ourselves that which we are trying to bring about in the world–peace and freedom.
7. Mindfulness and Presence in Action:
Open, mindful awareness is the fundamental nature of our being. How can we cultivate this presence in our actions in any domain, and cut through tendencies to be distracted, to be caught in fixed views and habitual patterns of thought, body, and emotion?
8. Embracing Paradox:
How can we hold in creative tension what often seem to be contradictory perspectives–that all is “as it needs to be” and that we feel deeply moved to respond to suffering, that we are both personal and universal, that nothing needs to happen and that everything needs to happen?
9. Devotedly Do… Without Attachment:
In our practice, we learn of the roots of suffering in compulsive attachment to objects, experiences, ways of doing things, views, and outcomes. Yet non-attachment does not mean complacency, passivity, separation from life, lack of commitment, or non-doing. We have to act. Action that comes from clear seeing and an open heart can be deeply committed, yet without attachment.
10. Loving Kindness: Taking Care of Ourselves, We Take Care of the World:
Like the parent who uses the mask in an airplane emergency first, before helping the child, we need to attend to our long-range well-being. We need to attend to the signs of burnout of resentment. Cultivating our own awakening and joy, we may truly be of use, and naturally seek the well-being of others.
If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to visit my other website: The Liberated Life Project — a personal transformation blog with a social conscience.