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( Synopsis: This paper explores the character of the challenge raised by Engaged Buddhism for classical religious thought

as well as modern secularism. By using the claims at the heart of the religious tradition in a µrevolutionary¶ way to address social issues, it is argued, engaged Buddhists move decisively beyond the spiritual dualism of most classical religious thinking. In fact, this is often a move back toward the truly revolutionary character of the teaching of the religious founders. This opening of religion to social justice also revolutionizes the classical religious tradition, of course, by critically transforming the dualist, intellectualist, and individualist biases of its doctrine. Throughout the paper, Gandhi¶s own model for religious challenge and transformation will be taken as a keystone. Gandhi is not only an influence but a pioneer in expressing a µcritical traditionalist¶ approach to modernity. This approach includes both a commitment to social justice and a critique of such modern ideologies of µscientific objectivity¶, µtechnical expertise and violence. We conclude with some reflections on the meaning of dialogue within this new approach.) Revolutionizing Religious Traditions and their Dialogue in the Modern Age: The Challenges of Gandhi and Engaged Buddhism Paul Schwartzentruber ³Effortlessly transcending the dichtomy of orthodoxy and iconoclasm, he forged a mode of self-expression which, by its apparently non-threatening simplicity, reconciled the common essence of the old and the new«but the content of the social changes he demanded«were highly subversive of Indian, particularly Hindu culture´. Ashis Nandy on Gandhi.1

Turning and Overturning the Tables: Religion as a source of human good in the future of the world. In a recent book entitled, Toward a True Kinship of Faiths. How the World¶s Religions Can Come Together, His Holiness, the Dalai Lama makes the very profound observation that ³a compassion-centered ethics [is] a tremendous shared resource«[among] the world¶s religions´ (121) This resource, he notes, is ³a well-spring for human goodness, with roots in every major culture and religious tradition´. He concludes by saying that ³if we use the resources of religion by returning to this fundamental wellspring, the faith traditions can be an extraordinary source of good on this planet. It is the world¶s religions that can help overcome prejudices, deal with conflicts, and give succor to the poor and weak´ (121). This vision of religion²all the religions²as a source of good for the planet and human society goes against the common sense of the modern era which has more often portrayed religion as a source of conflict, violence, prejudice and bias. While he acknowledges the historical reality of all these elements in the religious traditions, the Dalai Lama nevertheless insists on the potential for goodness in each religious tradition, particularly


now, when ³the greatest challenge facing humankind «is the question of peaceful coexistence´ (164). Religion²as the bearer of this compassion-centered ethics in human history--still has a role to play in assuring the human good of co-existence in the present.2 In this regard, it also has a crucial role to play engaging in a critical dialogue with secularism, seen as a purely materialistic ideology.3 This argument about the contribution of religion (as critically redefined) to socialpolitical and human good, typifies the approach of the movement that has been called µsocially engaged Buddhism¶---of which the Dalai Lama is one of the primary spokespersons. ³Engaged Buddhism´, as Sallie B. King argues, ³is defined and unified by the intention«to apply the values and teaching of Buddhism to the problems of society in a nonviolent way«´ (King, 2). King goes on to note that ³its philosophical and ethical roots lie deeply within traditional buddhist philosophy and values, which it applies to contemporary problems´ (King, 2). In this sense, Engaged Buddhism is a very important kind of response²perhaps the most engaging in the 20th and 21st centuries-from within a religious tradition to what I would call the ongoing µcrises of modernity¶, namely, the acceptance/justification of violence and its supporting ideologies. King and many others have noted that engaged Buddhism has a deep relationship to Gandhi and the commitment to nonviolence. This is clearly true. I want to suggest here however that this influence derives not simply from the notion of nonviolence but also from Gandhi¶s formative approach to redefining the connection between religion and society. I would like to explore this relationship between Gandhi and Engaged Buddhism in this paper, by highlighting a shared model of engagement between religious tradition and modernity. Following Ashis Nandy, I will call this model, µcritical traditionalism¶ .4 While Gandhi might be called the modern pioneer of this approach, the engaged Buddhists-such as the Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hanh and Buddhadasa Bhikku--have championed and extended it with resources from within their own tradition. This has created a truly revolutionary form of dialogue among religions and between religion and modern secularity. As I will argue, one important aspect of this new form of dialogue developed by the critical traditionalist is that, through it, we can become truly critical of the ideologies on both sides, both with relation to classical religion and its ideologies of dualism, intellectualism and individualism and with relation to modern secularism and its ideologies of µscientific objectivity¶, technical µexpertise¶, and violence (or the µinversion of means to ends)¶. Dialogue, in this model, will demand that both sides question themselves deeply and honestly. 5 Let me now return to the Dalai Lama. I want to briefly trace how he arrives at this vision of religion as a primary source of human good for human society. I have suggested that the Dalai Lama µturns the tables¶ on a modern assessment of religion; he does so, however, also by µoverturning the tables¶, that is, by critically reinterpreting classic religion from its own central values. A few examples of this will give some substance to our understanding of the model of critical traditionalism. First of all, by re-interpreting all the great religions from their core ³ethical teaching on compassion´ , the Dalai Lama shifts away from the classical claim that doctrinal teachings capture the core values of each tradition. While he recognizes the importance in the way each tradition explains and gives a ³metaphysical grounding´ to its 2

ethical teaching through various doctrines (theistic or non-theistic), he argues that it is the ³actual spiritual practises which I consider to be the essence of these religious teachings, as opposed to metaphysical or theological formulations´ (140). It is worth recognizing that with this revolutionary act of relativizing µteaching¶ or µtheory¶ to ethical action¶ or µpractice¶, the Dalai Lama is in fact echoing with great precision the Buddha himself in his great simile of the dharma as ³raft´.6 Teaching, theory, dharma have their crucial role to play but they are not the ultimate in a religious tradition, as the Buddha teaches, nor is it something to be µheld onto¶ as ultimate: ³I have taught the Dhamma compared to a raft, for the purpose of crossing over, not for the purpose of holding onto.´ We can hear in this teaching on the priority of ethical practice a further echo of many of the great religious founders (for example, Jesus¶ teaching that a ³tree should be judged by its fruits´). This priority of practice is also, as we shall see in a moment, a key element in Gandhi¶s radically redefined notion of swaraj as a religious-ethical-sociopolitical activity. On this principle, too, we will find Dr. Ambedhkar (at least in The Buddha and his Dhamma) in complete agreement.7 Just what this ethical practice of selftransformation involves, we shall explore in more detail through the work of Thich Nhat Hanh below. For the moment, however, let me emphasize (secondly) how this priority of ethics redefines the problem of µreligious truth as absolute truth¶ (or fundamentalism) and opens out a new possibility of dialogue among religions. On the one hand, if we follow the simile of the raft we can identify a very important µrelativization¶ of the religious claim to possess absolute truth: the absolute truth, the Buddha indicates, is always on ³the far shore´, to be approached through a real ethical praxis inspired by true teaching²i.e., paddling on a raft across the river. Absolute truth is not simply available as theory to the intellect, but only through ethical practice and then only through the realization of such practice--µon the far shore´. In brief, doctrinal positions cannot capture the core identity of any religion and they cannot claim to define its ideological µtruth¶ in relation to other religions. On the other hand, for the Dalai Lama, these doctrinal and cultural aspects of each religious tradition do indeed express an µidentity¶ , and the differences among them are ³real´. ³Real differences exist«between the faiths´, he argues, and those differences cannot ultimately be overcome in some ³syncretistic attempt to merge their various strengths into some universal faith´ (124). Precisely because these differences are not ultimate, they can be acknowledged and respected as necessary to ³admirably inform the ethical way of life´ within in each tradition: ³The doctrines themselves cannot be reconciled, but the way they make it possible to ground strikingly parallel and praiseworthy ethical systems is a wonderful fact. This fostering of deep and active respect for other faith traditions is certainly doable, and it is how I practice myself´ (151) In conclusion, we may say that challenge posed by the Dalai Lama¶s presentation of religion through ³a compassion-centered ethics´ is a µtwo-edged sword¶. With regard to the view of western secularism, religion is presented as a crucial source of understanding the human good, one that is necessary to a future of peaceful co-existence. Once it has been critically loosened from its rigid classical doctrinal formulations, religion re-emerges in the form of the many spiritualities of compassion-centred ethical 3

practice and provides a realistic basis for a possible future of peaceful co-existence. At the same in contrast to classic religious views, this critical re-presentation, argues that the form of theoretical-doctrinal truths must be relativized to ethical praxis and particularly to ethical practice which leads to the human social good. The Dalai Lama¶s decision to move to this deepest level of his own religious tradition is indeed µrevolutionary¶²but it is also as ancient as the teaching of the Buddha himself. In the light of this brief presentation, we can draw some preliminary conclusions about the nature of interreligious and secular dialogue. First, in the context of interreligious dialogue, one can say that religious differences are real and significant to each tradition but relative to ethical practice; for this reason they can be approached within the framework of mutual respect²indeed, ³deep and active respect´²since we find ourselves on a common path of ethical practice. Second, in the larger context of a dialogue with modern secularism, religion¶s critical claim to embody a compassionedcentered ethic raises a crucial challenge for the ³ethical awareness and inner values in this age of excessive materialism´ (Beyond Religion, 8). This challenge will have to involve a deeper confrontation with the ideological claims of modernity, as we shall see in a moment, for it is a challenge to the very perception of the world and the human being that is involved in modernity. Buddhism, it may be recalled, is primarily about this cognitive challenge, a challenge to the claim of the world as it appears to be, or samsara. For now, we can say that the approach suggested by the Dalai Lama is indeed a moment of µturning and overturning the tables¶, of a µrevolution¶ in understanding for both religious traditions and their dialogue with the world. I want to step back from the context of Engaged Buddhism now in order to consider the role of ideologies and the critique of ideologies in this dialogue. For this, another guide is necessary. An Interlude On Gandhian Nonviolence as a critique of the ideologies of violence I would like to go backward in time now, past the µcold war¶ and the proxy wars of µsouth east Asia¶ which marked the sixties and seventies; past the end of the first stage of colonialism in India and the brotherly brutalities of Partition; past the two horrendous wars among European and western nations whose claim to µgreatness¶ as µworld¶ wars depended on the vast numbers of people killed for the sake of ideologies now, thankfully, forgotten. All of this intense social and political violence of the twentieth century is the appropriate context for the emergence of engaged Buddhism of course and this is something that should not be forgotten: confronting this µman-made¶ suffering of the modern world--the innocence of its victims and the indifference of its ideologues--is the primary fact which pressed religious leaders like the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh to go deeper and not be satisfied simply with with other-worldly consolations of classical spirituality. 8 Just at the cusp of this age of ideological violence, there was a prophetic moment in the history of religion marked by the writing of Hind Swaraj in 1910, that small tract by an obscure and exiled Indian lawyer-cum-social activist written to herald his return to his native land. Gandhi had already seen and seen through the claims of empire from the perspective of its colonial victims in South Africa. Interestingly, he recognized from the 4

outset that the theoretical claims of µprogess¶, and µmodern civilisation¶ and µtechnological expertise¶ were in fact ideologies²theories which served to justify a new dominance of the powerful over the weak. It was this insight that made Gandhi ³by far the most consistent and savage critic of modernity and its best known cultural product, the modern west´ (Bonfire, 19) according to Ashis Nandy. As he wrote on board the returning ship, Gandhi also had in hand and mind a seminal insight of Tolstoy from the previous generation²³ It is not the English who have enslaved the Indians, but the Indians who have enslaved themselves?´ (Tolstoy, ³Letter to a Hindu´)9. The insight was crucial to the development of what must be called the great anti-ideology of the modern era, namely the Gandhian teaching of nonviolence and nonviolent resistance. Thankfully our own time has seen a second rebirth of this profound idea and catalyst of social change. I want to make two points about the meaning of ahimsa or refer to two levels on which it operates. I call Gandhi¶s nonviolence an anti-ideology, (though he himself would not have used the term) first because it articulates clearly what the Dalai Lama means by a ³deep and active respect´ for difference and the identity of the other. If ideology inevitably creates µothers¶ who then become its victims, nonviolence repudiates the strategy of µothering¶ and demands engagement and dialogue across difference. It is absolute, moreover, in its commitment to the relativity of µtruths¶ and the respect that is due them. Put simply, the µother¶ can never be dismissed as an enemy but must always be treated as dialogue partner, µan other who is necessary to us¶.10 This is a truly revolutionary position of course, and we shall see many echoes of it in the later work of Thich Nhat Hanh, especially in his account of the doctrine of µdependent origination¶. As revolutionary, however, Gandhi¶s understanding of ahimsa challenges any acceptance of structures of power and domination, or any half-measures which would leave those structures in place. (At this point, I must make an aside in order to contrast the principle of nonviolence with that of pluralism or secularity in the Nehruvian sense. It is very true that in the debates surrounding partition and in earlier µpolitical discussion¶, Gandhi also espoused something like the µsecularism¶ of Nehru and the Congress Party along with a polity of pluralism and tolerance toward all relgions²sarva-dharma samabhav.11 And he worked throughout his life for the integration and protection of religious minorities within the one country of India. But his vision of India is very different from Nehru¶s µsecularized modern nation¶ and by the same token, his principle of nonviolence goes much deeper than a belief in µpluralism¶ in the sense that it is espoused in a modern liberal democracy. 12 That pluralism can be indifferent to social conditions, structural violence and the demand for social justice; for nonviolence, by contrast, these are of the essence. Pluralism relates to an abstract otherness, generally; nonviolence is the commitment to engage the other concretely.) Alongside this meaning of ahimsa as respect for the other, it is also worth recognizing that Gandhi pioneered the strategy of µrelativizing¶ religion as doctrine and particular tradition without abandoning it. Unlike Nehru, however, Gandhi relativized religion²not to the good of the state²but rather to the universal quest of the individual for the divine. In a well-known passage, he identified this universal human quest at the core of all religions:


³It is not the Hindu religion which I certainly prize above all other religions but the religion which transcends Hinduism, which changes one¶s very nature, which bonds one indissolubly to the truth within and which even purifies. It is the permanent element in human nature which counts no cost too great in order to find full expression and which leaves the soul utterly restless until it has found itself, known its Maker and appreciated the true correspondence between the Maker and itself.´13 In the context of this universal human quest for truth, Gandhi believed, mere tolerance is not nearly sufficient, but rather only a nonviolent, ³deep and active respect´ for the other will be adequate. As an ethical and interreligious ideal, then, nonviolence in this first sense is a critique of ideologies of identity and certainly embodies the traditional truth of the Jain concept of anekantavada (³the non-exclusivity of multiple viewpoints´) and prizes ³deep and active respect´ for the other. In Gandhi¶s hands, however, it is also something more than this. The second and more profound sense in which ahimsa is anti-ideological has to do with the way Gandhi wielded the insight to articulate the viewpoint and power of the victim of violence and oppression. Insofar as it is defined primarily from the viewpoint of the victim in the violence of colonial empire, Gandhi¶s seminal concept of ahimsa is also a critical tool which radically questions both the oppressive actions and the justifications or ideologies of the powerful. Indeed, recalling Tolstoy¶s insight, we might say that ahimsa is the ethical-spiritual claim of the victim put forward in order to enlighten the oppressor and to break through the ideology by which they justify violence. It is for this reason that Gandhi could and did link ahimsa, as an ethical praxis, with the deepest spiritual aspirations of the human being, on the one hand, as well as with socio-political praxis on the other. In this second, deeper sense, then, ahimsa is closely related both to satyagraha and swaraj. These terms, which Gandhi deployed in the great struggle for the independence of India, were from the beginning charged with his deeper, spiritual vision of human self-transformation. In that vision, first sketched in Hind Swaraj, the µliberation¶ of the victim of political exploitation was intrinsically united with the spiritual liberation of each individual from the ideologies of power and oppression. Swaraj²µself-rule¶ could only truly emerge, Gandhi argued, from the ethical, self-liberation of the individual²and in a cascade which moved individual by individual or person to person. This radically personal act was an act of the highest political nature, as Gandhi conceived it. This is nowhere more clearly expressed than in Gandhi¶s advice to a young man who questioned the ability of one person to make a difference in the struggle for India¶s freedom: Emancipate your own self. Even that burden is very great. Apply everything to yourself. Nobility of soul consists in realizing that you yourself are India. In your emancipation is the emancipation of India. All else is make-believe.´ (Parel, Hind Swaraj, lxxiv). What was µmake-believe¶ for Gandhi, was the idea that the political and social structures could be changed for the social good without individual transformation toward ethical 6

goodness. So he spoke often and disparagingly of the very modern illusion ³of creating a system so perfect, that no one would need to be good.´ Throughout Hind Swaraj, Gandhi is arguing that the only true possibility of social and political transformation (rajyaprakaran) even in the modern context is through such individual moral self-transformation (atmadarshan).14 This position appeals to the very traditional roots of religious culture in India, precisely in the sense that it ³sought to understand and change the world«through self-control and self-realization´, as Ashis Nandy puts it. It argues for turning once more to ³the primacy given to selftransformation´ in traditional culture as the path for social/political change²just at the moment when all of the impetus of the modern world was turning rather to technologicalscientific methods of control through the manipulation of objective conditions of the human situation (Intimate Enemy, 62 ). This modern model of µdevelopment¶ by modernization is of course, the one that Nehru adopts for the new country of India. It is crucial to recognize that Gandhi is not simply trying to return to a simpler past; he is well aware of the novelty of the modern situation as well as of the need for a revolutionary new role for µreligion¶ in the modern world. Ashis Nandy calls this approach ³critical traditionalism´ precisely because it also revolutionizes this spiritual µself-transformation of the individual¶ into an essentially ethical, social and political act. In fact, what Gandhi does in Hind Swaraj is to link together the classical religious (moksha), the ethical (dharma) and the socio-political (artha) in a radical and integral way. Religious self-realization, morality and political service are thus intrinsically interrelated: ³For realizing the self, the first essential is to cultivate a strong moral sense«Morality means the acquisition of virtues such as fearlessness, truth, brahmacharaya, poverty«Service is automatically rendered to the country in the process of cultivating morality.´15 Throughout this, and in all his later writings, Gandhi is well aware that he is revolutionizing the conception of the traditional religious activity, pushing it out of the dualistic context of otherworldly experience into the socio-political context of µservice (seva) of the other¶. His karma yoga, derived from a novel rereading of the Gita, focusses on selfless action for the other (i.e., µgiving up the fruits of action¶) as the seamless path of the saint and the social reformer. Moreover, his later and famous shift from speaking of µGod as Truth¶ to the worshiping of µTruth as God¶ is a clear articulation of his view that there is a seamless relation between the religious good and the human good. At the same time, and with clarity, Gandhi seeks to unmask the ideological use of religion to justify µothering¶ and violence toward the other; violence justified by the name of µGod¶ must be unmasked and rejected in the name of µTruth¶.16 His final statement on ethics/politics²the well-known µTalisman¶²also embodies this vision of the selfless act as the ultimate act of the human being. Finally then, if the individual quest for truth and the divine must inevitably lead to political action and service of others in Gandhi¶s view, the reverse is also and equally true: only through the individual commitment to self-transformation is true political change possible. In this light, Gandhi¶s formative notion of nonviolence may be


recognized not simply as an isolated ethical suggestion but as the root-metaphor of a radically novel approach to social change, i.e., one which aims at an all-inclusive transformation. This model of social change is not aimed at the well-being of some or even the well-being of the majority but rather at the µwell-being of all¶ (sarvodaya) and of the µleast and the last of all¶ (antyodaya), the excluded ones. One can imagine such transformation, of course, only by beginning from the deeper starting-point of the self and µTruth¶, of µswaraj¶ and µahimsa¶. We are very far now from the modern dream of a socially engineered or legislated order of political and social good, a realm of µrights¶ and laws balancing the self-interests of many with some view of justice. Indeed, Gandhi¶s position constitutes a profound challenge to the notion that we can create true and postive change through system and structure, technique or expertise, science or method. I hope that the discomfortingly radical nature of Gandhi¶s position is evident²³you yourself must become the change you wish to see in the world´. I have highlighted this radical nature of Gandhi¶s model of social change through personal transformation because I think it is an important touchstone for understanding the approach of Engaged Buddhism²which makes similarly radical claims. I also think that it opens up a very important and neglected element of dialogue with modern approaches to justice, social good or human rights. With that in mind, I want to move forward again to look briefly at the work of the µfounder¶ of Engaged Buddhism, Thich Nhat Hanh. I will to begin by focussing on a single, central notion at the heart of his teaching. Being Peace: The Buddhist Ethic of Thich Nhat Hanh From Gandhi¶s notion of nonviolence, it seems a very short step indeed to that powerful concept which is at the heart of the synthesis of Buddhist teaching proposed in our own time by Thich Nhat Hanh, namely, the concept of ³being peace´.17 This very simple concept articulates a significant shift in articulating the meaning of µthe path¶ of the Buddha but it does so by drawing on the central teachings themselves. As Thay put it in 1998: ³To work for peace, you must have a peaceful heart. When you do, you are a child of God. But many who work for peace are not at peace. They still have anger and frustration, and their work is not really peaceful« To preserve peace, our hearts must be at peace with the world, with our brothers and our sisters« Root out the violence in your life, and learn to live compassionately and mindfully. Seek peace. When you have peace within, real peace with others will be possible.´18 This concept of a possible social transformation which is rooted in ³inner peace´ emerges first in the early work, The Miracle of Mindfulness, and it emerges there as an expression of the essential mindfulness meditation practice taught by the Buddha. Mindfulness, says Thay, ³is the miracle by which we master and restore ourselves«it is the miracle by which we can call back in a flash our dispersed mind and restore it to wholeness so that we can live each minute of our life´ (Miracle, 14). In this sense, it is an essential starting point for effective activism. Such mindfulness is, moreover, not simply a µtechnique¶, it is the essential path of liberation recommended by the Buddha: 8

³When mind has taken hold of mind, deluded mind becomes true mind. True mind is our real self, is the Buddha: the pure one-ness which cannot be cut up by the illusory divisions of separate selves, created by concepts and language. (Miracle, 42) Still later in this work, Thay connects this ³true mind´ of non-dual vision with the other essential teaching of the Buddha, namely, ³dependent origination´, or the recognition ³of the interdependence of all phenomenona´: ³To see one in all and all in one is to break through the great barrier which narrows one¶s perception of reality, a barrier which Buddhism calls the attachment to the false view of self´ (Miracle, 48)´ This teaching of ³dependent origination´²or as Thich Nhat Hanh will call it later, ³interbeing´19--is the springboard for articulating a new and deeper vision of µactivism¶, one which is based on a profound²enlightened--vision of the interrelation of all beings in all dimensions: ³We are life and life is limitless. Perhaps one can say that we are only alive when we live the life of the world, and so live the sufferings and joys of others. The suffering of others is our own suffering and the happiness of others is our own happiness. (Miracle, 49) We may pause only to note a now familiar model²the relativizing of doctrine to ethical praxis; the identification of the starting-point for social action in individual selftransformation and an articulation of the deeper context of human unity, or the oneness of all as the framework for an authentic life. Since we have just examined these positions in the work of Gandhi, we do not need to belabour them here. It is worth noting that Thay has drawn these claims directly from the teachings of the Buddha on mindfulness, nonself/duality and dependent origination. What is novel then, is the clear and simple argument that the cognitive therapy of the Buddha²the englightenment from suffering recommended in the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path²is now presented also as a path to the social and political therapy of peace-making and nonviolence. I will say more about this and particularly about the question of suffering (dukkha) in a moment but first I want to pursue Thay¶s expression of this radical and creative notion of µinterbeing¶ a little further in order to identify its implications. The essential teaching or re-teaching of the µthe heart of the Buddha¶s teaching¶ through the concepts of mindfulness and interbeing are unfolded in Thich Nhat Hanh¶s articulation of the fourteen ³mindfulness trainings´. 20 These trainings, written for his community in the midst of the Viet Nam War, give concrete ethical shape to the act of mindfulness as a socio-political act in the modern world. They are in fact statements of ethical commitment directly derived from and nourished by the Buddhist insights into mindfulness and dependent origination. I cannot examine them in detail but it is very important to recognize their shape and structure.


The first three trainings clearly and forcefully confront the problem of ideology in religion: Thay rejects an µidolatry¶ of any doctrine including the Buddhist ones (1) as well as forced µindoctrination¶ (3). In their place, and appealing to the teaching of µnonattachment to views¶ (2), he recommends dialogue and an ongoing ³attachment to life experience´. ³Truth is found in life´, he reminds us (3)²a statement which should fundamentally reshape our approach to the issue of dialogue! This is a non-theistic expression of Gandhi¶s more theistic statement, µTruth is God¶ and it appeals to the same anti-ideological openness to others and their experience as does Gandhi¶s. I would interpret the next five trainings (#4-9) as well as the final one (14) as directed at the distorting ideologies of the modern socio-economic order. These are, respectively, an avoidance of suffering (4), the pursuit of wealth/fame (5), ignoring the inner seeds of conflict in anger (6), the dispersion of awareness from the present into the emotions of the past and future (7), the failure to communicate (8), and the failure to speak ³truthfully and constructively´ (9). To this list, we may add number 14, the selfish use of sexuality which exploits others. This list is an analysis of the deep or root causes of modern conflict and violence and it is offered, remarkably, in the midst of the firestorm of violence that was going on in Viet Nam. In correspondence with these root causes of conflict, Thay then explains the concrete meaning of the expression, µbeing peace¶. It involves: accepting and learning from the suffering of self and others through compassion, living simply, accepting and learning from one¶s inner anger as the source of conflict, a mindfulness directed at the present moment, compassionate listening, speaking in accord with the truth and the common good (rather than just personal interest) and finally, a contextualizing of sexuality within the mutuality of relationship (14). This is a remarkable explanation of the details of the praxis of nonviolence or µbeing peace¶ and of course, it corresponds in detail to many of the teachings of the eight fold path (right speech, right livelihood etc,). From this diagnosis, Thay turns finally to the role of the community of Buddhism or sangha in the light of his new vision and articulates its role as a community of peacemaking. Here, as he stresses in number 10, he realizes that he is walking a fine line: ³we are determined not to use the Buddhist community for personal gain or profit or transform our community into a political instrument. A spiritual community should, however, take a clear stand against oppression and injustice and should strive to change the situation without engaging in partisan conflicts.´ This is a communal articulation of the meaning of the social engagement of ³being peace´; as a spiritual community, the sangha must stand against oppression and injustice and well work to resolve them. Again he gives concrete shape to this engagement in what follows. First, the community and its members should engage in deep environmental healing by their acts of livelihood and their economic choices (11). Second, the community and its members should become active and holistic peacemakers addressing both the root causes of violence and its expressions (12). Finally, the community should address the root causes of the µman-made suffering¶ ³caused by exploitation, social injustice, stealing, and oppression´ by concrete practices of loving-kindness and generosity. (13) Throughout these explanations, there is outlined a seamless connection between the µspiritual¶ work of mindfulness and compassion and the concrete social and political realizations of that activity. Clearly, for Thich Nhat Hanh, these social and political


realizations are not an afterthought or an addition but rather an essential expression of mindfulness in the one true realm of interbeing. I want to conclude by commenting on two aspects of this revolutionary synthesis: 1) the reinterpretation of dukkha and 2) the reinterpretation of µthe other¶ through compassion. The claim of Engaged Buddhism²as an authentic interpretation of Buddhism-is only valid if the central concept of dukkha is taken to refer not only to the sources of existential suffering/discontent (birth, old age, sickness and death) but also and primarily to the man-made suffering of ³exploitation, social injustice and oppression´. It is this broadened understanding of dukkha which allows for the extension of the praxis of mindfullness as the social activity of ³being peace´. Sallie King points to the importance of this reinterpretation of dukkha, 21 and refers to the powerful expression of it in the earlier work of Buddhadasa Bhikku: ³Having not fully appreciated the Buddha's teaching regarding Dukkha, we have misunderstood it. We have taken it to mean that birth, old age, and so on are themselves Dukkha, but in fact those are just its characteristic vehicles« anything which clings or is clung to as "I" or "mine" is Dukkha. Anything which has no clinging to "I" or "mine" has no Dukkha. Therefore, birth, old age, sickness, death or whatever, if they are not clung to as "I" or "mine", cannot be Dukkha. Only when birth, old age, sickness, or death are clung to as "I" or "mine" are they Dukkha. The body and mind are the same. It's not that Dukkha is inherent in the body and mind. It's only when there is clinging to "I" and "mine" that they are Dukkha.´ (King, 44) If the root cause of suffering is the µclinging to the I¶ (and not just the state of human existence as such) then of course, it is the root cause of all suffering including the manmade sufferings of ³exploitation, injustice and violence¶. Then, in turn, the therapy of mindfulness is also a true and effective therapy for the root causes of human suffering and enlightenment is a recognition of the realm of µinterbeing¶²with all its potential for good. I want to refer here finally to what I consider the most profound expression of this teaching concerning dukkha in the work of Thich Nhat Hanh, namely, the poem, ³ Please call me by my true names´ (1978). This poem not only portrays the interweaving of the existential along with the social and political realities of suffering in all realms of being, it also points to the deep or root causes of suffering which lie within the very relationship of victim and oppressor: ³I am the frog swimming happily in the clear water of pond. And I am also the grass-snake that silently feeds itself on the frog. I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones, my legs as thin as bamboo sticks. And I am the arms merchant selling deadly weapons to Uganda. I am the twelve-year-old girl, refugee on a small boat who throws herself into the ocean after being raped by a sea pirate. And I am the pirate, my heart not yet capable of seeing and loving.


My joy is like Spring, so warm it makes flowers bloom all over the Earth. My pain is like a river of tears, so vast it fills the four oceans. Please call me by my true names, so I can hear all my cries and laughs at once, so I can see that my joy and pain are one. Please call me by my true names, so I can wake up, and the door of my heart could be left open, the door of compassion.´ Moving beyond blame and adversarial notions of justice are a crucial aspect of this Buddhist approach and we may note how very closely related it is to Gandhi¶s notion of the nonviolence which treats the other not as enemy but as partner. Clearly here it is rooted in the traditional teaching of non-self, but when this is combined with the notion of µinterbeing¶, it creates a profound reconception of what social or political justice might mean²namely, a realm in which the victim and victimizer may somehow both be heard and reconciled. This is a realm where there is otherness and it is taken seriously but it is not taken to be ultimate. For this reason, there is a possibility to ³hear that all cries and laughs at once´ and to see that ³joy and pain are one´. To reinterpret ³the other´²the concrete social and political other²through the lens of compassion and mindfulness, is a profoundly disturbing act, a provocation in fact to most of our settled notions of justice, rights, and social equity.

Conclusion: Reopening the dialogue with modernity. The Hope of a Whole World From the outset, I have been trying to highlight the revolutionary nature of the challenge raised by Engaged Buddhism. I have used the Gandhian model of ³critical traditionalism´ to clarify some of the challenges posed here both for interreligious discourse and for the dialogue of religious traditions with modern secularity. Let me conclude with some reflections on these challenges and the possibilities of dialogue. First, of all it is important to carry such dialogue to the deeper levels where real change is needed and thus to engage in a dialogue about root causes. The critical meaning and implications of such core concepts as ³being peace´ or of ³compassioncentered ethics´ can easily be overlooked in the flurry of µpsycho-spiritualities¶ that have emerged within the global context. Clearly however, this re-interpretation of the ancient inner discipline of mindful compassion as the basis for an alternative ethic of socialpolitical action in the global era, is something more than this. What is often dismissed in the west at least (and I think also now in the westernized parts of the east) as a simply µpersonal¶ or spiritual engagement, or a kind of utopian ethical piety that can have no real traction in the hard world of science, technology and the politics of the global economy² is, in fact, also a critical discourse about the roots of the modern dilemma. It embodies, as we have argued, a profound analysis and critique of the ideologies of dualism, individualism and systemic violence (as the elevation of means above ends). In this sense, it is a discourse which challenges some of the fundamental assumptions of modernity¶s discourse about itself.


One such assumption is that it is the µsystem¶ itself which is the vehicle and instrument of change (through technique or method or process). In one form or another this focus on the macrostructures/objective elements (and now the µnetwork¶) as the catalyst and essential starting-point for ends up marginalizing and minimizing the role of human choice and therefore also of the ethical act as the essential expression of the human good. Moreover, the assumption which focusses on µexpertise¶ to the detriment of ethical action is now deeply embedded in almost all modern disciplines and policies. In this sense, it has already reshaped our vision of the world and its future; our hope in technical possibilities far exceeds our hope in human ethical possibilities. The result is that in the context of decision-making at all levels, what can be done (technically) almost always triumphs over what is good/right/humanly useful to do. (Think here of our ongoing inability to address the crisis of environmental degradation in any serious political way). It is in this context, that the Gandhian counter-claim, the claim which gives priority to inner self-transformation and the ethical action of the individual can reopen an important debate in the necessary dialogue about a future of peaceful coexistence. The real question is whether this crucial and necessary voice can be heard for what it is in the modern context, and being heard, whether it can initiate a dialogue about the very dimensions of the dilemma which faces us. It is then, secondly, a genuine and nonviolent confrontation over truth itself that is now required. Engaged Buddhism has taken up and re-articulated this vision of mindful nonviolent transformation again with great conviction and credibility, drawing on the resources of an ancient spiritual tradition. In doing so, therefore, it proposes a genuniely new conception of the problem we face: can we transform our view and action through an ethic of compassion sufficiently to regain a creative and value-based control of the structures of the global world? These socio-political, technological and scientific macrostructures are now operating with an internal logic that is self-perpetuating and destructive to our future. This global engine with all its inherent structural violence will not be essentially corrected through any technical µfix¶; such fundamental re-orientation can only come from an ethically-rooted human praxis with sufficient engagement to transform political and social practice. The very possibility of this being realized however, involves a broad and radical shift of viewpoint, one which would entertain again the claim of real socio-political power deriving from ethical action. This will not happen without dialogue. A final point: the form of such dialogue itself will need to be ethically- (and that means ultimately, spiritually-) rooted. In other words, it will depend on genuine openness to change²on both sides, both from the side of traditional µidentity-based¶ religious traditions and from the side of modern secularism²with its entrenched and encompassing ideologies. Let me point in the direction of a beginning already made. We heard at the outset the Dalai Lama¶s proposal for a renewal of interreligious dialogue which was based on the recognition and acceptance of difference with ³deep and abiding respect´. In his newest work²Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World²he moves this ethical model of dialogue out of the interreligious context into the form of a dialogue with secularity itself. ³What we need,´ he suggests, ³is an approach to ethics which makes no recourse to religion and can be equally acceptable to those with faith and those without: a secular ethics´ (7). In fact, his work is a profound and rich translation of the


religious understanding of ³compassion-centered ethics´ into secular, psycho-social language. Its ³two key components´ are ³discernment combined with a compassionate motivation´ (69) He develops this ethic on the premise of ³our shared humanity´, our ³interdependence´ (22) and ³our instinctive capacity for empathy´(27-28). In the afterword to the book, the Dalai Lama explains his hope for such a dialogue: ³when each of us learns to appreciate the critical importance of ethics and makes inner values like compassion and patience an integral part of our basic outlook on life, the effects will be far reaching«there is a real chance that we will move decisively in the direction of a culture that is less materially focussed«(148-9)´ The point of our work of dialogue, then, is very simple and clear: it is to open the space for this ³real chance´ for decisive change in the human future. Its path is that of a ³non-threatening simplicity which reconciles the common essence of the old and new´. With this in mind, we cannot do better than to follow the footsteps of Gandhi, the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh.


Ashis Nandy, ³Final Encounter´, in Bonfire of Creeds, 63. True Kinship, 123: ³Today, despite the tremendous advances in science and technology, as well as the material developments these have give rise to, the world¶s great religions retain their relevance for humanity. I believe this situation will remain for at least a few more millenia, insofar as our basic human nature and condition remain the same.´ 3 I think this point still applies even in the light of the new work entitled, µBeyond Religion´, where the Dalai Lama suggests, the need to move to a ³universal secular ethics´ as a means to ground the value of compassion²³without contradicting any religion and yet, crucially, without depending on religion´ Beyond Relgion, 8. I use the term µsecular¶ throughout in the µwestern¶ not the µIndian¶ sense, see the distinction developed in Beyond Religion, 12 ff. I will return to this point and the Dalai Lama¶s new proposal for a µuniversal secular ethics¶, in the conclusion.


Ashis Nandy, ³Outside the Imperium´, 191: ³He reforumulated the modern world in traditional terms to make meaningful to his traditional society, thus updating Indian culture and making it a holistic alternative to modernity´. Also Bonfire of Creeds, 21: ³Critical traditionality refers to the living traditions which include a theory of oppression, overt or covert´. 5 On this notion of dialogue, see Ashis Nandy, Tradition,Tyranny and Utopias´, 15: ³Overtly a dialogue is supposed to involve parallel but interrelated processes of selfconfrontation in each culture or faith participating in it.´ 6 ³Alagaddupama Sutta: The Water-Snake Simile" (MN 22), translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu: ³The Blessed One said: "Suppose a man were traveling along a path. He would see a great expanse of water, with the near shore dubious & risky, the further shore secure & free from risk, but with neither a ferryboat nor a bridge going from this shore to the other. The thought would occur to him, 'Here is this great expanse of water, with the near shore dubious & risky, the further shore secure & free from risk, but with neither a ferryboat nor a bridge going from this shore to the other. What if I were to gather grass, twigs, branches, & leaves and, having bound them together to make a raft, were to cross over to safety on the other shore in dependence on the raft, making an effort with my hands & feet?' Then the man, having gathered grass, twigs, branches, & leaves, having bound them together to make a raft, would cross over to safety on the other shore in dependence on the raft, making an effort with his hands & feet. Having crossed over to the further shore, he might think, 'How useful this raft has been to me! For it was in dependence on this raft that, making an effort with my hands & feet, I have crossed over to safety on the further shore. Why don't I, having hoisted it on my head or carrying on my back, go wherever I like?' What do you think, monks: Would the man, in doing that, be doing what should be done with the raft? ³In doing this, he would be doing what should be done with the raft. In the same way, monks, I have taught the Dhamma compared to a raft, for the purpose of crossing over, not for the purpose of holding onto. Understanding the Dhamma as taught compared to a raft, you should let go even of Dhammas, to say nothing of non-Dhammas." 7 B. R. Ambedkar, ³The Buddha and His Dhamma,´ in Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Writings and Speeches, Vol. XXI, Comp. Vasant Moon (Education Department of Maharashtra 1992), at 121-122: ³The world is full of suffering and how to remove this 15


suffering from the world is the only purpose of Dhamma. Nothing else is Dhamma. The recognition of the existence of suffering and to show the way to remove suffering is the foundation and basis of his Dhamma...A religion which fails to recognise this is no religion at all«´ See Sallie B. King, 3. See, Anthony Patel, Gandhi. Hind Swaraj and Other Writings, Centenary Edition. Editor¶s Introduction, (Cambridge, UP, 2009). 10 See the in depth analysis of this in Nandy, Tradition, Tyranny and Utopias, p 35: ³The Gandhian vision defies the temptation to equal the oppressor in violence« The vision builds on an identification with the oppressed which excludes the phantasy of the superiority of the oppressor¶s life-style, so deeply embedded in the consciousness of those who claim to speak on behalf of the victims of history. The vision includes the sensitivity that even those fighting an exploitative system may internalize the norms of the system.´ 11 M.K. Gandhi 1947: 257: ³ I do not expect India of my dreams to develop one religion that is to be wholly Hindu or wholly Christian or wholly Mussalman, but I want it to by wholly tolerant, with its religions working side by side with one another.´ 12 See, P.C. Joshi, ³Gandhi-Nehru and Indian Secularism´, in Mainstream Vol XLV No. 48 quoting Nehru ³In a country like India, which has many faiths and religions, no real nationalism can be built except on the basis of secularity. Any narrower approach must exclude a section of the population and then nationalism itself will have a restricted meaning than it should possess« We have not only to live up to the ideals proclaimed in our Constitution, but make them a part of our thinking and living and thus build up a really integrated nation. That does not mean absence of religion, but putting religion on a different plane from that of normal political and social life. Any other approach in India would mean the breaking up of India. -(Jawaharlal Nehru 1983: 330-331) 13 Gandhi, Young India, May 12, 1920, All Men are Brothers, p. 51 14 Patel, Gandhi. Hind Swaraj and Other Writings, Centenary Edition. Editor¶s Introduction, (Cambridge, UP, 2009), lxxiv. 15 From a letter in 1909 to Manilal, quoted in Hind Swaraj, 94-95, n 194. 16 Gandhi, Young India, 31-12-1931 : ³But two years ago I went a step further and said that Truth is God. You will see the fine distinction between the two statements, viz., that God is Truth and Truth is God. And I came to the conclusion after a continuous and relentless search after Truth, which began nearly fifty years ago.´ 17 Thich Nhat Hanh, Being Peace, Parallax Press, 1996. Cf. also King, 81: Since the war years, from among the company of Engaged Buddhists leaders Thich Nhat Hanh has made probably the single greatest contribution to global thinking about peacemaking with his idea of ³being peace´. To make peace, he argues, it is necessary to be peace´. 18 Thich Nhat Hanh, Preface to Johann Christoph Arnold, Seeking Peace: Notes and Conversations Along the Way. Plough Publishing, Farmington, 2007, 8-9. 19 Thich Nhat Hanh, The Heart of Understanding: Commentaries on the Prajnaparamita Heart Sutra: ³If you are a poet, you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in this sheet of paper. Without a cloud, there will be no rain; without rain, the trees cannot grow; and without trees, we cannot make paper. The cloud is essential for the paper to exist. If the cloud is not here, the sheet of paper cannot be here either. So we can say that the
9 8


cloud and the paper inter-are. ³Interbeing´ is a word that is not in the dictionary yet, but if we combine the prefix ³inter-´ with the verb ³to be,´ we ha vea new verb, inter-be. Without a cloud and the sheet of paper inter-are.´ 20 Thich Nhat Hanh, Interbeing: Fourteen Guidelines for Engaged Buddhism, Parallax Press, NY 1986. 21 King, 18: ³The Engaged Buddhists take this dukkha to mean suffering of all kinds, spiritual and mundane, and take as their own goal the elmination of all kinds of suffering, including spiritual. They understand that where there is dukkha, there is a problem; where there is no dukkha there is no problem.´ And also 44: ³they understand the goal of Buddhist practice as being liberation from dukkha and the perfection of wisdom and compassion.´


Works Cited Dalai Lama XIV, Toward a True Kinship of Faiths. How the World¶s Religions Can Come Together. Doubleday: NY, 2009. Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World. McLelland and Stewart, Toronto, 2011 Ashis Nandy, ³Final Encounter´, in Bonfire of Creeds.The Essential Ashis Nandy. Oxford: UP, 2011 ³Outside the Imperium´, in A. Nandy, Tradition,Tyranny and Utopias. Essays in the Politics of Awareness. Oxford, UP,1993. The Intimate Enemy. Loss and Recovery of Self under Colonialism, with a Postscript. OUP Delhi 2009 Sallie B. King, Socially Engaged Buddhism. Dimensions of Asian Spirituality. University of Hawai¶i Press, Honolulu, 2009 Gandhi. Hind Swaraj and Other Writings, Centenary Edition. Editor¶s Introduction, (Cambridge, UP, 2009). ³The Buddha and His Dhamma,´ in Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Writings and Speeches, Vol. XXI, Comp. Vasant Moon (Education Department of Maharashtra 1992) Being Peace, Parallax Press, 1996. The Miracle of Mindfulness. Trans. Mobi Ho. Beacon Press, Boston, 1987. ³Preface to Johann Christoph Arnold´, Seeking Peace: Notes and Conversations Along the Way. Plough Publishing, Farmington, 2007. The Heart of Understanding: Commentaries on the Prajnaparamita Heart Sutra. Parallax, California, 1988. Interbeing: Fourteen Guidelines for Engaged Buddhism, Parallax Press, California, 1986. ³ Please call me by my true names´ (1978) in Call me by my True Names. The Collected Poems of Thich Nhat Hanh. Parallax, California, 1999.

Anthony Patel,

B. R. Ambedkar,

Thich Nhat Hanh,