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Engaged Buddhism Movement in Asia/Southeast Asia - Essay Example

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Engaged Buddhism Movement in Asia/Southeast Asia

Although the concept of engaged Buddhism became evident in early 1960’s, it is a product of ancient Buddhist tradition in diverse periods of the religion’s existence. This paper is a critical examination of social engaged Buddhism movement in Asia, with focus on Shinran and Takagi Kenmyo, two of the earliest influential Buddhists, from whom Thich Nhat Hanh founded the concept of engaged Buddhism movement. Engaged Buddhism In Thich’s perspective, social and economic interdependence are some of the most fundamental elements of Buddhism. Therefore, caring for one another and taking an active role in enhancing and shaping the future of one’s country is the duty of every Buddhist in the society (Shigaraki, 63). According to Kraft, Thich was a pacifist and he strongly opposed any kind of war and conflict. During this time, Vietnam was amidst a bloody conflict and Thich stance attracted the wrath of Vietnamese authorities. Thich’s pacifist conviction took him to the US to participate in political activism alongside other prominent persons such as Martin Luther and Thomas Merton, among others, who were against the war (Ogi 37). The US had a significant role in the war as it supported South Vietnam and therefore, there was need to convince the leadership in the country to mediate peace in Vietnam. According to Chappell (105), engaged Buddhism is a proactive approach taken by Buddhist communities with an objective of protecting their social and political interests. Traditionally, these societies did not engage in activism and hence, they remained under oppression and dictatorship from their governments. However, Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese monk helped to open up the minds of these people through his works in 1963, which concentrated on peace building and reconciliation during a period characterized by armed conflict between south Vietnam and the communist north Vietnam. Thich’s efforts conflicted with the aims of his government and this made him a target of violence from supporters of the war, which made him go into exile, where he spent more than 25 years before coming back to Vietnam in 2005 (Ogi, 2). During this era in Vietnam, a wave of Buddhist activism was noted especially after Buddhist monks begun displaying their discontent with the war as well as the highhandedness of the Catholic Church while dealing with other religions. This discontent was displayed through the monks setting themselves ablaze, a practice that has been adopted by the Tibetans, to express displeasure against Chinese invasion and oppression in the region. According to Kraft (37), the purest form of engaged Buddhism is founded on the principles of “self protection” and “self healing”. The self-reflection element intends to transform the selfish traits in human beings to altruistic individual. These concepts were prominent in the teachings of Shinran, a Japanese Buddhist monk in 13th century. Shinran has historically inspired several monks leading various socially engaged Buddhism movements in Asia and other continents, during trying times (Kraft, 44). In order to understand socially engaged Buddhism movement in Asia, it is important to examine the teachings and the works of Shinran Shonin, Takagi Kenmyo and Thich Nhat Hanh the three most influential monks of socially engaged Buddhism movement. Priest Shinran Shonin (1173-1262), an early Buddhist monk founded Jodo Shinshu ...Show more

Summary

Introduction Engaged Buddhism is a concept, which has its roots in Vietnam, and which was highly inspired by the works of a Vietnamese monk, Thich Nhat Hanh. In 1963, Thich formed the Tiep Hien, which when translated means, “the order of interbeing,” as a reactionary measure against the war that was going on between South and North Vietnam (Ogi, 9)…
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