Volume 30, 2023
Engaged Buddhism at Sixty-Five: Nuancing The Consensus
After more than 65 years of public activism and social service by engaged Buddhists in Asia and the West, it is time to reconsider the nature of engaged Buddhism and how faithfully it has been represented by scholars. In “Beyond Queen and King: Democratizing ‘Engaged Buddhism,’” Donna Lynn Brown argues that the category should be expanded to include “overlooked Buddhists” who may have traditional, ethnic, national, state-supported, or conservative orientations; those who perform social service; and those who engage in violence. Furthermore, Brown claims that engaged Buddhism is a narrative imposed by Western scholars on Asian Buddhists who may not know or approve of it. In this response, I will focus on three characteristics of engaged Buddhism that Brown and other scholars she cites have misunderstood or rejected in their critique: (1) the practice of compassionate service by engaged Buddhists; (2) the commitment of engaged Buddhists to nonviolent social change; and (3) the decentralized, hybrid, and evolving nature of engaged Buddhist ideology and praxis which reflects the contribution of voices and values from Asia and the West.