Results 1 to 8 of 8

Thread: Buddhism and Social Justice

  1. #1

    Buddhism and Social Justice

    Hello friends! I have come again to visit asking for help. I'm sorry, is there anything I can do to repay my debt to you guys?

    I have to write a paper explaining why Buddhism has been associated with social justice and what certain developments or ideas lead to this association. I would very much appreciate people's own experiences and stories, maybe some book suggestions, online resources, etc. that might help in writing this paper.

    It's an academic paper, not a journal or something, but I yeah. I wanna take it seriously. It's a perfect opportunity to share the dharma in an academic setting. Lots of reliable sources that might be in academic papers might help, but that's just a plus.

    Thank you! And sorry for asking so much.

    I hope everyone is doing alright. I still sit with you guys! Albeit not in so much the same way. As Jundo says, same, but different, different but same.

  2. #2

  3. #3
    Hi Ben

    This is a good start for recent trends:

    Otherwise it might be thought that the beginnings of social engagement arise with Mahayana Buddhism and especially the Bodhisattvas such as Tara, Avalokiteshvara/Chenrezig/Kannon who respond to the suffering of others.


  4. #4
    Great link Kokuu.

    Hi Tiwala,

    When I was studying long ago in the way-back-when of my University days, we referenced this book

    IIRC, it covers a lot of the basics as well as the contemporary movement that began with TNH.

    I'm pretty sure there was a book that had a lot of the source material called "Engaged Buddhist Reader" put out by Parallax press, but I think it's been out of print for a long while.


  5. #5
    These may help. But you can do searches on google or your college/university library should have electronic sources and searches which you may be able to access.

    Buddhist and Christian Movements for Social Justice in Southeast Asia
    Robert Bobilin
    Buddhist-Christian Studies, Vol. 8, No. (1988), pp. 5-12
    Action Dharma: New Studies in Engaged Buddhism
    Action Dharma: New Studies in Engaged Buddhism
    Christopher Queen, Charles Prebish, Damien Keown
    Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions, Vol. 10, No. 1 (August 2006), pp. 133-135

    Mercy and Punishment: Buddhism and the Death Penalty
    Leanne Fiftal Alarid, Hsiao-Ming Wang
    Social Justice, Vol. 28, No. 1 (83), Welfare & Punishment In the Bush Era (Spring 2001), pp. 231-247



  6. #6
    Thanks everyone!

  7. #7
    David Loy has done some excellent writing in this area as well. While his works are more "general readership," he is an academic. The value of his work is in his framing of the issues as they relate to what is termed 'Buddhist Social Theory.'

    Deep bows

  8. #8
    Hi Tiwala,

    The concept of "Buddhism and Social Justice" may be a rather modern concept, primarily because Buddhism existed in Asia for 25 centuries in primarily traditional, pre-industrial, conservative, agricultural, class and caste based monarchies and such where ideas of social justice and "civil rights" did not really exist. Despite that, the Buddha and some Buddhist Ancestors were surprisingly "enlightened" when it came to helping the poor and such. For example, the Buddha repeated a story in the Kutadanta Sutta (D.I p.127) in which a King was advised ...

    "Your Majesty's country is beset by thieves, it is ravaged, villages and towns are being destroyed, the countryside is infested with brigands. If your Majesty were to tax this region, that would be the wrong thing to do. Suppose Your Majesty were to think: "I will get rid of this plague of robbers by executions and imprisonment, or by confiscation, threats and banishment, the plague would not be properly ended. Those who survived would later harm Your Majesty's realm. However, with this plan you can completely eliminate the plague. To those in the kingdom who are engaged in cultivating crops and raising cattle, let Your Majesty distribute grain and fodder; to those in trade, give capital; to those in government service assign proper living wages. Then those people, being intent on their occupations, will not harm the kingdom. Your Majesty's revenues will be great, the land will be tranquil and not beset by thieves, and the people, with joy in their hearts, will play with their children, and will dwell in open houses."

    And saying: "So be it!" the king accepted the advice: he gave grain and fodder, capital to those in trade…proper living wages…and the people with joy in their hearts…dwelt in open houses.
    Many Buddhist Ancestors were quite passive in the face of social inequalities ... closing the monastery doors to the world outside, or just accepting the hardships of life as "karma" working out ... or emphasizing that "life is suffering", so this world was to be escaped rather than fixed. Buddhism was not so concerned with repairing the world ... and more about not being reborn in it. For the most part, Buddhism really was not focused on charitable work for much of its history. That "compassion" and "saving sentient beings" = "social programs" and such is a popular misconception among many modern Western Buddhists. There were always people during its history who engaged in various civic and charitable projects, but the interest in charitable work really first began in the 19th century because of inspiration from and competition with Christian missionaries who came to many Asian countries then and (for their own reasons) engaged in charitable work such as building schools and hospitals. The Buddhists suddenly felt that they should do the same. Other modernizers of Buddhism continued the trend.

    However, the fact is that, for most of its history. Buddhists believed that Samsara was truly a lost cause, to be turned from and escaped (into the Pure Land of the next life, Nirvana or at least into a monastery). One could cure "Dukkha", but not really the underlining grittiness of Samsara that was the cause of Dukkha (e.g., one can transcend the Dukkha of sickness and death, but not sickness and death themselves). One "saved Sentient Beings" by helping them attain Enlightenment or to reach the Pure Land, rather than by feeding them (and even "Enlightenment" was not for everybody, because some folks' Karma was just that they had to have a hard life and that was their lot, maybe hoping for a better opportunity in a life to come). "Engaged Buddhism", with folks like Bernie Glassman, is really a pretty modern idea. Buddha and Dogen never opened a soup kitchen or a clinic as their central focus. Life was pretty hard and gritty in ancient societies like India, China, Korea and Japan ... and the monks tended to live in their monasteries without much they could do (even if they wanted to) to solve the gross social inequalities and famines and wars and sickness outside their doors.

    There were many exceptions however, such as these noted fellows.

    Master Fajing:

    Anytime and anywhere there was a disaster
    or famine, Venerable Master Fajing was present
    to provide food and relief supplies. One time the
    famine was so bad that thousands were dying
    from hunger. The situation was desperate and
    miserable. With great compassion, he went
    every place seeking donations and help, convincing
    the government to release the emergency
    grain reserve to feed the people. Unfortunately,
    the number of hunger victims far exceeded the
    quantity of food supplies. In the end, Venerable
    Master Fajing decided to let the hungry people
    consume parts of his body to survive. What an
    incomparably fearless and compassionate spirit
    he displayed!

    Master Zhiyi “The Wise Man”:

    Venerable Master Zhiyi was known for
    releasing fish and turtles into many “rescue
    ponds” he had built. He was also known to be a
    devoted philanthropist.
    In his biography, the following was noted:
    “One time he received sixty types of different
    offerings. Out of compassion and respect, he
    immediately gave them away to the needy in the
    hope that their happiness and welfare could be
    enhanced and that the country and society as a
    whole could prosper.”

    Master Fachun:

    During a famine, Venerable Master Fachun,
    disguising himself in lay clothes, worked as a
    laborer in villages and towns, and donated all his
    wages to the poor and needy. He frequently
    volunteered to clean the toilets and remove feces
    and excrement. When the road was damaged, he
    himself would undertake the reconstruction work.
    He also encouraged neighbors and residents to
    level and smooth out bumpy and dangerous
    roads for the convenience of travelers.

    Zen Master Tetsugan Doko:

    During the Tokugawa Shogunate period in
    Japan, Zen Master Tetsugan discovered that one of
    the main reasons why Buddhism was not as
    prevalent as it should have been was the shortage
    of comprehensive collections of Buddhist
    Tripitaka (Sutras). He vowed to raise funds to print volumes
    of Buddhist sutras. After years of effort,
    the amount of funds raised was close to the point
    where the printing of the sutras could have been
    started. Unfortunately, various disasters and calamities
    hit the area and people were dying or
    struggling to survive. Master Tetsugan immediately
    donated his entire sutra-printing fund for
    relief purposes. Later, he resumed his fundraising
    activities for sutra printing. After all kinds of
    difficulties and hardships, he was reaching his
    goal again. But then a major flood came. Many
    people were homeless and struck by diseases.
    Again, he immediately donated all the money to
    relieve for the flood victims. His unshakable
    determination motivated him to continue his
    fundraising activities despite all these setbacks.
    On his third attempt, he finally accomplished his
    wish to print the complete volume of Buddhist
    As to further reading, this is one of the most complete lists I have seen (although already a few years out of date). It should keep you busy ...

    Gassho, J

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts