I’ve only just learned through a Facebook posting by David Loy that Ken Jones has died. Looking into it I see he died on the 2nd of August, from the ravages of prostate cancer.
It is appropriate in some ways that is how I learned it. As I think David has taken on much of the mantle that Ken wove out of a life time of hard investigation of his own heart and the heart of the world. I had some brief correspondence with Ken in the past, I only wish our communications had been more extensive, it is hard to say how much I admired him.
He was born Kenneth Henry Jones on the 18th of May, 1930. In Wales. It is unclear to me what his formal education, if any, was. His website was more concerned with his political life. Well, that and his poetry. He states he was “an unrepentant phenomenological Marxist” to the end of his days. He was, however, expelled from the Communist Party of Great Britain, had a rocky relationship with Labour before joining the UK Green Party. While he remained fond of the Greens it appears his final political home was the Welsh Plaid Cymru.
Ken was also a poet, deeply committed to the haiku form, as well as haibun, a form that combines haiku and prose.
But what most impressed me, and why I became an admirer is because of his cogent analysis of the world and culture through the lens of the four noble truths. This was originally published as the Social Face of Buddhism in 1989, and throughly rewritten and republished by Wisdom Publications as the New Social Face of Buddhism in 2003. Thich Nhat Hanh called it “a through analysis of the history and philosophy of engaged Buddhism,” while Joanna Macy said, it is “a wellspring of inspiration and an enduring contribution to global sanity.” Robert Aiken said simply “The Social Face of Buddhism is the decent face of humanity.”
I was deeply honored to be able to add my own word of praise among the blurbs for the reissue of the book.
Because of this book he deserves to be remembered as one of the founders of the engaged Buddhist movement, and a prophet of that possible decent face of humanity.
He is survived by his wife Noragh, as well as the rest of us…