A few days ago, I enjoyed a beautiful walk along the San Francisco Bay with Alan, Bhikkhu Bodhi, Katie Loncke, and Kim and Sylvie of Buddhist Global Relief. Together, we spanned three generations of engaged Buddhism, and the conversation on our walk ranged from dharma questions for Bhikkhu Bodhi (who has translated many classic Buddhist texts) to debating the utility and futility of electoral politics.
Alan gifted me with his new book, The Bodhisattva’s Embrace: Dispatches from Engaged Buddhism’s Front Lines. I’ve been reading the book and deeply appreciating how much Alan has contributed to all of us over his many years of practice and service. It’s a beautiful book and I highly recommend it.
This excerpt comes from the book’s introduction:
It is hard to define engaged Buddhism. But I think it has to do with a willingness to see how deeply people suffer; to understand how we have fashioned whole systems of suffering out of gender, race, caste, class, ability, and so on; and to know that interdependently and individually we co-create this suffering. Looking around we plainly see a world at war, a planet in peril.
Some days, I call this engaged Buddhism; on other days I think it is just plain Buddhism — walking the Bodhisattva path, embracing the suffering of beings by taking responsibility for them. In almost every religious tradition there [are] similar ways and practices integrating faith and activism. Across religions and nations we are each others’ sisters and brothers and allies. Our effort is to be more truly human.
what a wonderful quote to choose. that must have been an awesome walk.
enjoyed the excerpt….
In my mind I’m not so sure I see a difference or if there truly is a difference when one uses the term “engaged Buddhism” vs just “Buddhism”. We are either engaged in the practice or we are not. No ?It has always struck me as an odd term because by the very definition of the word “engaged” we would be active in our spiritual practice…not just dabbling in it or not active at all.
When we are truly engaged in something, whatever that may be, we are actively taking a part in that something. In my practice I try and remain present with all sentient beings suffering…my suffering is theirs and theirs becomes mine. (Tonglen & Compassion Meditation) That is what we are taught. I give as much of me as I can without taking too much time away from an elderly family member whereby I am the sole caretaker.
I agree in that our effort should be more human or actually more humane than it currently is….and that, in my mind, will never come to fruition unless we are “engaged” in our Buddhist, plain & simple, practice.
I hope you had a wonderful time in the Bay area….my new home. ‘-)
It was so wonderful to spend a little time with you, Maia. Thank you for your special combination of kindness, frankness, and clarity (echoed in the other folks on the walk). And thanks, too, for your writerly kinship. 🙂 It means a lot. Hugs.
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