Social Engagement in Western Buddhism

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 2 1995

Practicing Peace: Social Engagement in Western Buddhism

Kenneth Kraft
Lehigh University

This essay examines some current concerns of socially engaged Buddhists in the West. How does one practice nonviolence in one’s own life and in the world? How can the demands of “inner” and “outer” work be reconciled? What framework should be used in assessing the effects of Buddhist-inspired activism? Today’s engaged Buddhists do not refer extensively to Buddhism’s ethical tradition, and some of their activities may not appear to be distinctively Buddhist. Nonetheless, their efforts reflect a longstanding Mahāyāna ideal — that transcendental wisdom is actualized most meaningfully in compassionate action.

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