Updates to the Now

And, as traditions from different nationalities meet and cross-fertilize in the West, there's increasing engagement of Buddhists in contemporary social and political issues, most commonly environmental. David Loy's piece, "Why Buddhism Needs the West," is a sharp case in point. The title draws upon a trope from American Buddhist ecopoet Gary Snyder, from forty years ago: "The mercy of the West has been social revolution; the mercy of the East has been individual insight into the basic self/void. We need both."

Naturally, for Buddhism to take root in America, it must accommodate ethnic and class diversity, women taking an active role, gays, vigils, marches, writing elected officials, environmentalism, and so on. One way Buddhism uniquely informs political engagement and social justice is in applying its critique of self on larger degrees of scale (corporation, political entity, etc.), as equally liable to, and capable of liberation from, the same suffering as so-called individual self. Work on self and work on the world are one.

Allen Ginsberg once wrote: "While I'm here, I'll do the work. What's the work? To ease the pain of living. Everything else, drunken dumb show." The Best Buddhist Writing encourages the work. The real work, timely in any season.

This article was first published at American Book Review, and is reprinted with permission.

4/12/2011 4:00:00 AM
  • Buddhist
  • Books
  • Buddha nature
  • literature
  • Buddhism
  • Gary Gach
    About Gary Gach
    Gary Gach is the author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Buddhism (Nautilus Award) and editor of What Book!? Buddha Poems from Beat to Hiphop (American Book Award). His work has appeared in such magazines and anthologies as AsianArt.com, BuddhaDharma, Harvard Divinity Bulletin, Inquiring Mind, Language for a New Century, The New Yorker, Shambhala Sun, Technicians of the Sacred, Tricycle, Veterans of War Veterans of Peace, Whole Earth Review, and Yoga Journal.