A history of Buddhist Social Engagement

Not long ago, a friend and colleague of mine posted a query in a Buddhist academic group: what sutras or other suitably ancient Buddhist writings could one read today as appealing to something like the social activism we see in America now?The ensuing discussion was lively and, for some perhaps, disappointing. In short, there are none. No pre-modern Buddhist writing can be found that will exhort people to go to the streets, to directly help the poor, or work to overcome systemic … [Read more...]

The Dalai Lama’s Doctor – Buddhist advice on Forgiveness

Barry Kerzin is an extraordinary person. A medical doctor, a philosopher, and a Tibetan Buddhist monk. He has been featured on PBS advocating for more compassion in medicine and has given two TED talks, one on happiness and the other on compassion and anger management. Today he writes on forgiveness: At one level, forgiveness means you shouldn’t develop feelings of revenge. Revenge harms the other person. It is a form of violence and usually leads to counter-violence – so the problem never goes … [Read more...]

On Modern Mindfulness, Buddhism, and Social Ethics

There is much about mindfulness being published these days: studies, meta-studies, mega-studies, maha-megha-studies (bad Buddhist studies joke). And then there are the opinion pieces; "We're all doomed. Mindfulness? Humph!"As I mentioned in my introduction to Doug Smith's recent article here, what we are seeing is the growth of a discussion, a dialogue. And as with many early discussions with disparate parties, it can sound a bit "noisy", and sometimes well-meaning people who are quite close … [Read more...]

On Some Criticisms of Modern Mindfulness

A guest post by Doug Smith (originally posted at the Secular Buddhist Association here).Editor's note: As a philosopher working primarily in Buddhist ethics, my attention has been turned in the last 3 years or so to the topic of "mindfulness." This started with an excellent call of warning published by Ron Purser and David Loy (written about here). Mindfulness has continued its journey since then, and as much as it has created an economy of its own--mindfulness teachers, seminars, wisdom 2.0 … [Read more...]

Buddhist Ethics has a good day: on Philosophy, East and West

Almost 3 years ago exactly, 3 AM Magazine interviewed Jay Garfield, one of the best-known Buddhist philosophers in academia today. I wrote about that interview and still look back fondly on the comments and conversations that ensued.So it was with great joy that I saw 3 AM Magazine's latest interview with a Buddhist philosopher: Nicolas Bommarito, who teaches at NYU and the University of Buffalo. It was a great reminder that great thought within the academy is still being devoted to Buddhist … [Read more...]

Mindfulness and Self-Care: Why Should I Care?

A guest post by Edwin Ng with Ron PurserEditor's note: this is the second in a two-part series by Edwin Ng and Ron Purser, part one can be found at the Huffington Post here.Part One considered the current hype surrounding workplace mindfulness against the dubious history of management science. Part Two here considers the use of critical mindfulness in experiments with ethical self-care.Though we are skeptical about celebratory claims, we actually do hope that mindfulness might bec … [Read more...]

Shantideva: Buddhism and the delight of solitude

I've just completed teaching the Bodhicaryāvatāra (Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life) for the third time in my academic life, which probably makes this the 6th or 7th time I've been through the text. Some of it is finally, maybe, starting to sink in.Vesna and Alan Wallace, whose translation I borrow from below, tell us that it, "has been the most widely read, cited, and practiced text in the whole of the Indo-Tibetan Buddhist tradition" and that it is widely cited in the works of the cu … [Read more...]

Robert Thurman talks “Buddhist Ethics” at Google

In an entertaining and thoughtful talk, Columbia University's Robert Thurman discussed Buddhist ethics at Google late last week. The talk is excellent for both situating Buddhist ethics in the context of the Four Noble Truths and the Eight-fold Path as well as engaging with aspects of Western philosophy and current ways of thinking. The talk revolves around a visual aid, The 10-fold Path of Skillful and unskillful evolutionary (karmic) action*:Kill Save … [Read more...]