Socially Engaged Buddhism is an introduction to the contemporary movement of Buddhists, East and West, who actively engage with the problems of the world―social, political, economic, and environmental―on the basis of Buddhist ideas, values, and spirituality. Sallie B. King, one of North America’s foremost experts on the subject, identifies in accessible language the philosophical and ethical thinking behind the movement and examines how key principles such as karma, the Four Noble Truths, interdependence, nonharmfulness, and nonjudgmentalism relate to social engagement.
Many people believe that Buddhists focus exclusively on spiritual attainment. Professor King examines why Engaged Buddhists involve themselves with the problems of the world and how they reconcile this involvement with the Buddhist teaching of nonattachment from worldly things. Engaged Buddhists, she answers, point out that because the root of human suffering is in the mind, not the world, the pursuit of enlightenment does not require a turning away from the world. Working to reduce suffering in humans, living things, and the planet is integral to spiritual practice and leads to selflessness and compassion.
Socially Engaged Buddhism is a sustained reflection on social action as a form of spirituality expressed in acts of compassion, grassroots empowerment, nonjudgmentalism, and nonviolence. It offers an inspiring example of how one might work for solutions to the troubles that threaten the peace and well being of our planet and its people.
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Sallie B. King is professor of philosophy and religion at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia.
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