Thoughts on Why I Don’t Practice Engaged Buddhism

If you’re interested in reading about Buddhist perspectives from different schools and teachings, I highly recommend taking a minute to check out Tricycle. They’re a well-known Buddhist publication and I came across a provocative piece on an always-provocative subject: Politics

In the article, “Why I Don’t Practice Engaged Buddhism,” the author points out:

What is a Buddhist response? Some see a Buddhist response as the taking of some kind of political or social action—engaged Buddhism. For these people, Buddhism is a religion. Many centers have now established participants and teachers who function in ways that are similar to the congregations, priests, ministers, or rabbis in Christianity and Judaism. While the resources in these Buddhist congregations are not on the same order of those in Christianity or Judaism, they are probably sufficient to exercise serious influence.

He continues:

My own training was more about how to use whatever circumstances we encounter as a way of waking up in our lives. I was never taught that the practice of Buddhism was about making the world a better place. It has always been about coming to and giving expression to a different relationship with life—essentially a mystical path.

Full article on Tricycle

My own initial reflection is that I’ve never been in the business of telling someone how to live their life, whether that person is a Buddhist or not. I’m a practicing Buddhist and I know scores of people that lately have felt the need to participate in rallies or movements to speak up for values and generally, good. I’m not one to get involved in big marches because I would rather use that time to reflect on myself or to have a quick chat with a friend on the subject.

I was taught that Buddhism is about making the world a better place, and the best way for me to do my part is to be the best version of myself that I can be. I feel empowered as a Buddhist because I’ve experienced breakthroughs in personal struggles, and I believe that helping other people feel and harness this empowerment is how we tackle larger societal issues.

I don’t know if that means that I practice “engaged Buddhism” or not, because my priority is not to be a walking billboard for Buddhism and I don’t go out of my way to talk about Buddhism with every person that I meet. But every now and then when I start talking with someone that I think would be interested in Buddhism, I do my part.




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