South Sound Buddhist Peace Fellowship, Cultivating Compassionate Action, Olympia, Washington
South Sound Buddhist Peace Fellowship
Cultivating Compassionate Action
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Engaged Buddhism

Engaged Buddhism, also known as Socially Engaged Buddhism, is not a sect, but a movement within the Buddhist religion. Founded by Vietnamese Zen monk Thich Nhat Hanh in the 20th century, Engaged Buddhism seeks to apply Buddhist teachings in a more activist and social manner than has been traditional.

Engaged Buddhism is a cross-denominational movement that involves the lay community as well as monks, western converts as well as eastern Buddhists. While maintaining the Buddhist emphasis on inward spiritual growth, Engaged Buddhism also aims to reduce social suffering and oppression through political and social reform.*

What distinguishes Buddhist activism from other kinds of activism?
Based on 10 Guiding Priciples of Socially Engaged Buddhism by Diana Winston and Donald Rothberg
  1. Setting Motivation
    Our political actions can be dedicated to the benefit and awakening of all beings. Holding this, the action itself moves beyond mere do-gooding and into the realm of dharma practice.

  2. Interbeing
    First, we see alive and present in our own minds the same external structures of greed, hatred and delusion that we are fighting against. We bow to them. Then we realize there is no "other " to fight against anyway.

  3. Not Knowing
    Our job as activists is to learn to hold the multiple questions that arise in our work. We don't have to have the answer; we want to be present with whatever is coming up. Maybe we are wrong.

  4. Opening to Suffering
    Through our meditation practice, we learn to be present in the face of suffering. We take this skill out into the world and don't turn away as we face all levels of injustice.

  5. Knowing Equanimity
    Can we bring equanimity to all of our actions? Can we act without being attached to the result of our actions? Can we recognize the impossible nature of our tasks and act anyway?

  6. Being Peace
    Beyond ideological differences, there is a place we can, as Buddhist activists, stand together; our commitment to be in ourselves that which we are trying to bring about in the world.

  7. 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?

  8. Devotedly Doing... 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.

  9. 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.
* From "Religion Facts",