Socially Engaged Buddhism

No holds barred discussion on the Buddhadharma. Argue about rebirth, karma, commentarial interpretations etc. Be nice to each other.

Re: Socially Engaged Buddhism

Postby catmoon » Mon Nov 05, 2012 11:02 pm

Huseng wrote:
viniketa wrote:A waste of both our time. You have a "view". If you are truly interested in changing it, here are some reading lists:


Replying with a bunch of links doesn't refute anything I've asserted.



I think what you have asserted has been thoroughly refuted by many people in this thread, to say nothing of being in complete contradiction of any number of passages from the Dalai Lama on the subject of the nature of humanity and society.
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Re: Socially Engaged Buddhism

Postby greentara » Tue Nov 06, 2012 2:41 am

Huseng, "This, however, is why transcendence is necessary. By transcending, i.e., abandoning, society and conditioned existence we are no longer tainted by them. Liberation effectively means leaving society. The bodhisattva ultimately returns, but is no longer tainted by the mire of society. They're enlightened and noble (ārya) and are thus capable of operating in saṃsāra without being dragged into it. That doesn't apply to me or all too human institutions."
I agree with you but Christianity is making huge inroads in third world countries because they are socially engaged and helpful ....of course there are strings attached and thats when the proselytising starts. Buddhists are not very developed in social engagement. Of course all this has nothing to do with enlightenment.
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Re: Socially Engaged Buddhism

Postby viniketa » Tue Nov 06, 2012 3:00 am

catmoon wrote: ...any number of passages from the Dalai Lama on the subject of the nature of humanity and society...


Today's world requires us to accept the oneness of humanity. In the past, isolated communities could afford to think of one another as fundamentally separate. Some could even exist in total isolation. But nowadays, whatever happens in one region eventually affects many other areas. Within the context of our new interdependence, self-interest clearly lies in considering the interest of others.

"Our" interests are now so often interwoven with those of "others" that in serving others we benefit ourselves as well, regardless of whether this was our original intention.

Consider the following. We humans are social beings. We come into the world as the result of others' actions. We survive here in dependence on others. Whether we like it or not, there is hardly a moment of our lives when we do not benefit from others' activities. For this reason it is hardly surprising that most of our happiness arises in the context of our relationships with others. Nor is it so remarkable that our greatest joy should come when we are motivated by concern for others. But that is not all. We find that not only do altruistic actions bring about happiness but they also lessen our experience of suffering. Here I am not suggesting that the individual whose actions are motivated by the wish to bring others' happiness necessarily meets with less misfortune than the one who does not. Sickness, old age, mishaps of one sort or another are the same for us all. But the sufferings which undermine our internal peace -- anxiety, doubt, disappointment -- these things are definitely less. In our concern for others, we worry less about ourselves. When we worry less about ourselves an experience of our own suffering is less intense.

What does this tell us? Firstly, because our every action has a universal dimension, a potential impact on others' happiness, ethics are necessary as a means to ensure that we do not harm others. Secondly, it tells us that genuine happiness consists in those spiritual qualities of love, compassion, patience, tolerance and forgiveness and so on. For it is these which provide both for our happiness and others' happiness.

Our good fortune is dependent upon the cooperation and contributions of others. Every aspect of our present well-being is due to hard work on the part of others. As we look around us at the buildings we live and work in, the roads we travel, the clothes we wear, or the food we eat, we have to acknowledge that all are provided by others. None of them would exist for us to enjoy and make use of were it not for the kindness of so many people unknown to us.

~ His Holiness the Dalai Lama


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Re: Socially Engaged Buddhism

Postby Indrajala » Tue Nov 06, 2012 5:31 am

viniketa wrote:
Huseng wrote:Also, for there to be order in society there must be authority whose power is derived ultimately from violence and other coercive measures.


Societies which involve such totalitarian political control are the most unstable. The most stable have always been those based in legitimate (non-coercive) authority. We have social order because we want social order. The vast majority of people in a society follow, on a daily basis, social customs, mores, norms, and laws because they want to. I recommend reading Jürgen Habermas: Theory of Communicative Action (1981); The Inclusion of the Other (1996); Truth and Justification (1998); The Future of Human Nature (2003).



It is not totalitarian political control. All real political authority is ultimately derived from force and violence. All states strive to have a monopoly on violence and coercive measures. Elected democracies do not and cannot give their citizens complete freedom. There are vast arrays of laws and enforcement methods in place to ensure that citizens tow the line, even though the state's power is derived from the mandate of the people. It is in the interest of the citizens normally to follow the laws, though in some cases, especially during economically hard times, people behave differently.


So we must all abandon home and family and live as solitary individuals in the forest? All 7 billion of us? Do we meet once a year or so to procreate, or do we just let human beings die-out?



I never suggested nor implied that. The ideal is that eventually a practitioner should abandon society. Ideally Buddhist institutions should support the few who have the capacities to take their practice to that level. Traditionally most institutions do provide financial and material support for such individuals, few as they are, while the rest of the community remains within society, or in some cases on the fringes of it.

I've been saying there are two models where the ideal is to either eventually abandon society altogether (the traditional model of transcending the world found in most Buddhist schools throughout history) or positively and progressively be an active part in society with no doctrine of abandoning it (a modern movement).
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Re: Socially Engaged Buddhism

Postby Indrajala » Tue Nov 06, 2012 6:00 am

Thus-gone wrote:
Huseng wrote:That is correct. It is largely a result of akuśala-karma. The complex social relationships among humans which constitute a given society are largely supported by akuśala-karma. Border defenses require violence or at least the threat thereof. Internal policing likewise. There is also the matter of taxation under duress. Food production to sustain the population requires intentional killing of beings from insect pests to livestock for their flesh. The stability, nutritional sufficiency and economic prosperity for all this requires vast amounts of akuśala-karma.


However, you have not shown that these social conditions are intrinsic to the idea of human society. This question may help: given entirely different historical/material conditions, could a utopian society exist? If so, society could not be called inherently evil.


Yes, I have demonstrated that society is formed from akuśala-karma.

As the Buddha taught in the Aggañña Sutta human laws and economic relations arose out of people's greed. Before that there were no ideas of private property, and no need for laws and judges. There was no society basically. Society came to exist due chiefly to negative, not positive influences.

In the modern perspective this is even more clear when we examine how states form and operate. It is all due to negative influences and reactions rather than benevolence.

And no, I don't believe a utopia is possible.










And yet you advocate leaving society precisely because it is gruesome. What you're saying here is exactly the argument I would make to defend social activism as a viable form of practice.



You can't fix saṃsāra. Society being a complex saṃsāric web of relationships and resource exchanges, you cannot fix it.





Social work is beneficial and to be praised, but ultimately the capacity for social work depends upon activities which are by definition negative and evil. The state security apparatus, for example, requires violence. If you don't have security, then you probably won't have any realistic means of having organized charity work. In our present modern age this is especially so.


This applies to institutional activism. What about anti-institutional - or spiritual - activism? In my view, social work as a form of Buddhist practice should manifest in a much different way than simple charity. It should, like Buddhism itself, radically question the basis of society and its functioning.



Good luck with that. I've never heard of spiritual activism.


You have not shown that (irrational/violent) authority is a necessary component of society. What about anti-authoritarian activism?


Real political authority is derived from force. I'm not talking about fluffy politicians who discuss whether or not to allow gay pride parades down Main Street. The actual policy decisions which dictate economic and military futures are gained by people who command the tools of violence and coercion. They don't necessarily have to use them, but just having the threat works. The deterrence factor is enough to coerce people to do your bidding.

Anti-authoritarian activism is really only possible in prosperous societies where crushing opposition is both unnecessary and not particularly relevant to the elites. Unfortunately, economic prosperity depends on military power and environmental exploitation. You might argue this is not applicable to Scandinavian countries, but they're all client states of the US, whose war machine indirectly ensures their protection from hostile entities (namely the Russians).

In the western world we're particularly blind to who the real leaders are and think our democratic voices actually matter. They don't. If they did much of the western world wouldn't have attacked Iraq. Remember how many people across the world protested that fiasco? Nevertheless, they got away with it and over a million civilian deaths later still the activists think their voice matters.


Engaged Buddhism need not manifest as petty, liberal charity institutions. In my opinion, it should manifest as a radically anti-authoritarian and democratic movement. Furthermore, this kind of work is not in itself the vehicle to liberation. If you follow a direct teaching on enlightenment, however, you can absolutely find liberation in the midst of all this activity. Hence... the Mahayana.


And we've seen how well democracy has worked out.

How many innocent civilians were brutally murdered and made homeless refugees as a result of the decisions carried out by nominally elected governments in just the last decade? How many people were murdered by the US war machine in the last half-century? NATO powers and the US are made up of democratic governments who are capable of horrid atrocities while their citizens sit back thinking their hands are free of blood 'cuz they didn't support it, nevertheless the state having the mandate of the people was able to get everyone's cooperation in attacking foreign countries.

The unfortunate reality is that democracies can become empires that look to extract unearned wealth from foreign lands. The beneficiaries of this violence are none other than the electorate of these democracies, and hence the political will exists for their states to pillage the world.

So your ideas are problematic if you look at things from the big picture. If you're a citizen of a NATO country, you're an accessory to war atrocities just by virtue of paying your taxes and cooperating with the system.

The flavour of saṃsāra is truly bitter.
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Re: Socially Engaged Buddhism

Postby PorkChop » Tue Nov 06, 2012 6:57 am

Huseng wrote:So your ideas are problematic if you look at things from the big picture. If you're a resident of any country, you're an accessory to war atrocities just by virtue of breathing.

The flavour of saṃsāra is truly bitter.


there, FTFY.
if you've ever gone to school, if you've ever used a road, if you've ever ridden a train, if you've ever used any currency, if you've ever flown on a plane in any country on the planet, you are just as much an accessory to war atrocities.
there's no getting away from it, there's no hiding in a hole, there's no collecting alms bought or produced as a result of currency, from people supporting you in renunciation, pretending it's not blood money.
you can get your own farm and till the land, but you're still going to be paying for the property & paying the taxes to some country doing the killing.
look at the clothes on your back, if there is a logo on there anywhere, you can bet there were some unfair labor practices involved, and you can bet they are owned by some parent company that directly funds war.
name a country and it's not hard to find their dirty laundry.
the 3rd world is no better.
there is nothing totally pure and there is nothing totally obscene.
you participate in this world whether you want to or not.
may as well try to make a positive difference.
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Re: Socially Engaged Buddhism

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Tue Nov 06, 2012 8:15 am

Don't know if it fits well here or not, but I just got done reading:

http://www.buddhistische-gesellschaft-b ... dhanew.pdf

If even a quarter of what he says here has some truth to it, it makes for an exceptionally good cautionary tale against the idea that Buddhists should disengage from society.

As far as protest not changing society..that seems like a ridiculous claim to me. Specifically anti-war protest against imperialism can be ineffective for a complex net of reasons.. However, protest movements have been more responsible for more real gains in social justice and other areas than electoral politics ever has, in fact i'd argue that if anything electoral politics sometimes can be bent to the will of social movements, for at least modest gains. To quote Howard Zinn (yeah gives me away doesn't it) "It doesn't matter who's sitting in the Whitehouse, it matters who's sitting in". Are they all successful, of course not, it is a constant battle to which there is no real end, and it's a Sisyphean task for sure, . but I really don't see much justification in not being somehow 'engaged'. Beyond it being socially bad, I have my doubts that Buddhism which separates itself has a good future in store for itself either.
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Re: Socially Engaged Buddhism

Postby viniketa » Tue Nov 06, 2012 8:21 am

Huseng wrote:Yes, I have demonstrated that society is formed from akuśala-karma.


That has yet to be demonstrated.

Huseng wrote:You can't fix saṃsāra.


So, Buddha taught the Four Noble Lies?

Huseng wrote:Society being a complex saṃsāric web of relationships and resource exchanges...


Which is the same as saying: "Society being a complex nirvāṇic web of relationships and resource exchanges..."

One cannot externalize ones' own saṃsāric thinking and claim it is everyone's reality.

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If they can sever like and dislike, along with greed, anger, and delusion, regardless of their difference in nature, they will all accomplish the Buddha Path.. ~ Sutra of Complete Enlightenment
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Re: Socially Engaged Buddhism

Postby Indrajala » Tue Nov 06, 2012 9:09 am

viniketa wrote:
Huseng wrote:Yes, I have demonstrated that society is formed from akuśala-karma.


That has yet to be demonstrated.


You need to reread what I wrote about the origins of society and how security and prosperity are established.

If you don't address those points directly, I'm not playing your game.



So, Buddha taught the Four Noble Lies?


The Buddha taught the Dharma of liberation, which results in arhatship, i.e., abandoning the three realms.

Huseng wrote:Society being a complex saṃsāric web of relationships and resource exchanges...


Which is the same as saying: "Society being a complex nirvāṇic web of relationships and resource exchanges..."

One cannot externalize ones' own saṃsāric thinking and claim it is everyone's reality.


If you don't actually address my points in a logical and definitive way I'm not going to continue this discussion with you.
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Re: Socially Engaged Buddhism

Postby Indrajala » Tue Nov 06, 2012 9:12 am

PorkChop wrote:may as well try to make a positive difference.


I don't deny this, but before you can really remedy the suffering of others you need to be a qualified physician. That means you're not in much of a position to help others be liberated unless you yourself are liberated.

Few might achieve this in our present day, but that should be the goal of institutions (which entails some members of the community abandoning society altogether) rather than trying to fix saṃsāra.
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Re: Socially Engaged Buddhism

Postby viniketa » Tue Nov 06, 2012 9:19 am

Huseng wrote:If you don't actually address my points in a logical and definitive way I'm not going to continue this discussion with you.


Logical refutation has been given by myself and others. You wish to cling to your view. So, we agree there is no further need for conversation.


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Re: Socially Engaged Buddhism

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Tue Nov 06, 2012 5:20 pm

I don't understand your argument Huseng..you clearly know how the world works, I just don't understand the conclusions you've drawn from that.

In places it sounds like you are saying that there is no point for those of us living (comparatively comfortably) in the first world to have any sense of justice, nor to oppose injustice, because we benefit from said injustice in our material existence. We should just forget about it and be Buddhists, maybe with a nice helping of guilt. One does not need to be transformed or changed to feel someone else's suffering, it is innate in us to do this. If it weren't our whole system wouldn't require the insane network of rationalization for all the horrible stuff it churns out.


To me this actually makes a compelling argument that we should oppose this kind of injustice, or at least oppose the systems of thought that are generated to justify the indefensible.. it's either that or stew in guilt and watch the water get muddier and muddier..but I didn't design our system, and making the decision to "play poor", or to simply give up as you seem to be advocating certainly doesn't validate anything.

Of course you cannot "fix" the world, I assume any Buddhist will agree with that, but you can certainly reduce the suffering in it, which can be transformative of and within itself.

What if you lived in America during the civil rights movement, would you believe the Buddhist should simply disengage himself from this kind of effort?

I think your description of 'samsaric society' is eloquent and has a ring of truth, i'm just not sure why you draw the conclusions you do.
Last edited by Johnny Dangerous on Tue Nov 06, 2012 5:45 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: Socially Engaged Buddhism

Postby futerko » Tue Nov 06, 2012 5:37 pm

Huseng wrote: I have demonstrated that society is formed from akuśala-karma.


I think that the motivation is based on fear and that the result is therefore unwholesome. I suspect you are confusing the cause with the result here.
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Re: Socially Engaged Buddhism

Postby Indrajala » Wed Nov 07, 2012 1:10 am

Johnny Dangerous wrote:In places it sounds like you are saying that there is no point for those of us living (comparatively comfortably) in the first world to have any sense of justice, nor to oppose injustice, because we benefit from said injustice in our material existence.



We are beneficiaries of violence. Our standard of living depends on both exploitation of fellow humans as well as of the environment.

You can oppose such things, but on the other hand condemning slavery while making use of slave produced products renders you a hypocrite, no?

But it is unavoidable in our present day unless you live a very stoic and isolated lifestyle.

This is the nature of saṃsāra. A vast web of evils in which we are submersed.


We should just forget about it and be Buddhists, maybe with a nice helping of guilt. One does not need to be transformed or changed to feel someone else's suffering, it is innate in us to do this. If it weren't our whole system wouldn't require the insane network of rationalization for all the horrible stuff it churns out.



I'm saying that you can't fix saṃsāra and ultimately if you want to help others in anything more than a palliative way you need to first liberate yourself. This means arhatship or becoming a first stage bodhisattva. This should be the goal of Buddhist institutions. Few will actively pursue such a goal, but the ideal will direct resources and people in that direction. This is in contrast to socially engaged institutions whose chief aim is active involvement in society. I hope you see the difference here.

I have no reason to think either is really possible while actively a part of saṃsāric society, which entails abandoning it. The bodhisattva inevitably returns, yes, but that's a bodhisattva, not an ordinary person emulating a bodhisattva.

To me this actually makes a compelling argument that we should oppose this kind of injustice, or at least oppose the systems of thought that are generated to justify the indefensible.. it's either that or stew in guilt and watch the water get muddier and muddier..but I didn't design our system, and making the decision to "play poor", or to simply give up as you seem to be advocating certainly doesn't validate anything.


As I said, you can oppose the system yet be a handsome beneficiary of it.

However, hot coals and ice do not remain together long in the same container.



What if you lived in America during the civil rights movement, would you believe the Buddhist should simply disengage himself from this kind of effort?


The civil rights movement was indeed noble, but you don't gain liberation from saṃsāra through social activism.

In any case, you need to look at things from a greater perspective. Internally America gave its coloured minorities dignity and proper rights, but externally it went and murdered countless millions of innocent people. The citizens at home might feel they've progressed and are more noble for having had such civil rights movements, but this is not so meritorious in the face of brutal exploitation and violence inflicted on foreign countries by the USA (and her client states of course).


I think your description of 'samsaric society' is eloquent and has a ring of truth, i'm just not sure why you draw the conclusions you do.

Let me quote Nāgārjuna:


If your wife is evil and your friend evil,
If the King is evil and your relatives evil,
If your neighbour is evil and the country evil,
(Then) abandon them for a distant (land).


http://www.sacred-texts.com/bud/srdb/srdb.htm
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Re: Socially Engaged Buddhism

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Wed Nov 07, 2012 1:22 am

Now you've lost me...are you claiming causal relationships of some sort between the right of black folks to vote, and be free of some measure of discrimination, not have to live with Jim Crow laws with the fact that America has always had imperialist designs and policy, or with the Vietnam war directly?

The people who were instrumental in the civil rights struggle (Malcolm X, Martin Luther King etc.) pointed out and understood that the struggle at home for basic dignity and rights was connected not only to the struggle against American imperialism and Militarism, but to various movements for justice around the world, even in this time, the view was moving towards an understanding of human rights linked to many issues, not just some simple movement for blacks to be able to vote..however imperfectly this was expressed, at least some of the leaders of the civil rights struggle did not view it in such simple terms. Today also social justice movements have an international scope, up to and including acknowledging in no uncertain terms the ugly part America plays in perpetuating a whole network of awful stuff.

You can oppose such things, but on the other hand condemning slavery while making use of slave produced products renders you a hypocrite, no?


No, I don't think so. I think your view of what constitutes social culpability is way off, our society is not set up such that your actions as a consumer affect much of anything, things like this are unavoidable, paradoxically especially for the poor. Is a ten year old "guilty" for wearing sweatshop clothes? It is the producers that hold the reins in this world. Therefore you are making assumptions about someone's character based on something which is for the most part a volitionally (is that a word?) neutral act, such as whether one buys Free Trade or something, or believing that environmental catastrophe can simply be avoided by all of us willingly doing the right things as individuals, such as building "green housing" or something.

I'm sure you would be the first to laugh off the efforts of "first worlders" who think that things like Free Trade can change something, yet I think here you are engaging in similar thought - Believing that "good" essentially amounts to what you are able abstain from indirectly, rather than what you do. I hope that Buddhism begins to see Right Action in terms of actively doing good (which there is plenty of in the Suttas), rather than believing passivity and avoidance are the key.

It is true that none of this will liberate people from Samsara, then again i'm sure none of the devotees who built roadside shelters, nursed the sick etc. in Buddha's time believed that these actions alone would liberate them, nor am I sure this was their intent in doing them.
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is not born in the hearts of disciples in whom the moisture of attachment has dried up. It grows instead in the hearts of ordinary sentient beings who possess in full the fetters of bondage." -Se Chilbu Choki Gyaltsen
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Re: Socially Engaged Buddhism

Postby futerko » Wed Nov 07, 2012 2:57 pm

Johnny Dangerous wrote:…our society is not set up such that your actions as a consumer affect much of anything, things like this are unavoidable, paradoxically especially for the poor. Is a ten year old "guilty" for wearing sweatshop clothes? It is the producers that hold the reins in this world. Therefore you are making assumptions about someone's character based on something which is for the most part a volitionally (is that a word?) neutral act, such as whether one buys Free Trade or something, or believing that environmental catastrophe can simply be avoided by all of us willingly doing the right things as individuals, such as building "green housing" or something.

I'm sure you would be the first to laugh off the efforts of "first worlders" who think that things like Free Trade can change something, yet I think here you are engaging in similar thought - Believing that "good" essentially amounts to what you are able abstain from indirectly, rather than what you do. I hope that Buddhism begins to see Right Action in terms of actively doing good (which there is plenty of in the Suttas), rather than believing passivity and avoidance are the key.


Are you suggesting that if everyone limited their spending to what was strictly necessary rather than extravagancies it would have no impact?

What if people decided to not pay taxes on the basis that their money was being spent on weaponry that was being used to kill people in other countries, would that have no effect?

If you are "actively doing good" but are a cog in a machine which is promoting nothing but ego, fear, and greed, then aren't your efforts somewhat compromised?
You are right that whether one person wears sweatshop clothes or not is arbitrary, but the point is the degree to which we all choose to support such a system or not, which in many cases is not made explicit, but there is a direct connection there.
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Re: Socially Engaged Buddhism

Postby Indrajala » Wed Nov 07, 2012 3:11 pm

Johnny Dangerous wrote:Now you've lost me...are you claiming causal relationships of some sort between the right of black folks to vote, and be free of some measure of discrimination, not have to live with Jim Crow laws with the fact that America has always had imperialist designs and policy, or with the Vietnam war directly?


I'm saying that despite the token civil rights movement in pursuit of justice for all, at the same time in the greater scope the same country and its citizens were running a brutal war machine murdering plenty of innocent civilians. The citizens are guilty of letting it happen because they run the economy which the war machine depends upon. Moreover, the citizens cooperated with the system instead of otherwise not cooperating, which enabled the killing to occur. So, while they march for rights thinking it is a just cause, they plainly ignore their complicity in great sins.



The people who were instrumental in the civil rights struggle (Malcolm X, Martin Luther King etc.) pointed out and understood that the struggle at home for basic dignity and rights was connected not only to the struggle against American imperialism and Militarism, but to various movements for justice around the world, even in this time, the view was moving towards an understanding of human rights linked to many issues, not just some simple movement for blacks to be able to vote..


Human rights don't really exist. You only have rights when it is economically convenient for the elites to allow such ideas. The US now has the right to order extra-judicial assassinations against its own citizens, yet few really care. Drone strikes against foreign nationals in some foreign country is irrelevant to most westerners when the latest Bond movie turns out to be a flop. Citizens are given token rights that ensure their "dignity", but does that prevent the same country from going on a brutal homicide streak abroad? Nope. Bread and games, and "civil rights" keep the populace placated and apathetic to the real sins of their country.



You can oppose such things, but on the other hand condemning slavery while making use of slave produced products renders you a hypocrite, no?


No, I don't think so. I think your view of what constitutes social culpability is way off, our society is not set up such that your actions as a consumer affect much of anything, things like this are unavoidable, paradoxically especially for the poor. Is a ten year old "guilty" for wearing sweatshop clothes?


Supply and demand. We buy slave produced products rather than hiring a properly paid worker or craftsperson to produce them. We have a choice in the matter, but as it turns out the former are cheaper and sell better, hence the cycle grows.




I'm sure you would be the first to laugh off the efforts of "first worlders" who think that things like Free Trade can change something, yet I think here you are engaging in similar thought - Believing that "good" essentially amounts to what you are able abstain from indirectly, rather than what you do.


Good amounts to effectively recognizing your own wretched saṃsāric state and how most of what you do just to survive and get by day to day is negative karma in a really awful world. This hopefully acts as a match under the rear to see reality for what it is and see how true good is that which is conducive to transcending this world rather than trying to fix saṃsāra.



I hope that Buddhism begins to see Right Action in terms of actively doing good (which there is plenty of in the Suttas), rather than believing passivity and avoidance are the key.


Benevolence is praiseworthy and to be praised, but as I have said repeatedly you cannot help people in anything other than a palliative way until you are liberated from saṃsāra yourself. Liberation is not achieved on good deeds alone.


It is true that none of this will liberate people from Samsara, then again i'm sure none of the devotees who built roadside shelters, nursed the sick etc. in Buddha's time believed that these actions alone would liberate them, nor am I sure this was their intent in doing them.


Practitioners need to generate merit and I praise all benevolence. However, if all your time is taken up promoting civil rights in a society which readily supports, both directly and indirectly, horrid atrocities and environmental devastation (animals count like humans do), then you are running against the wind.
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Re: Socially Engaged Buddhism

Postby Indrajala » Wed Nov 07, 2012 3:13 pm

futerko wrote:What if people decided to not pay taxes on the basis that their money was being spent on weaponry that was being used to kill people in other countries, would that have no effect?



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Re: Socially Engaged Buddhism

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Wed Nov 07, 2012 4:56 pm


I'm saying that despite the token civil rights movement in pursuit of justice for all, at the same time in the greater scope the same country and its citizens were running a brutal war machine murdering plenty of innocent civilians. The citizens are guilty of letting it happen because they run the economy which the war machine depends upon. Moreover, the citizens cooperated with the system instead of otherwise not cooperating, which enabled the killing to occur. So, while they march for rights thinking it is a just cause, they plainly ignore their complicity in great sins.


How are citizens complicit in actions taken by the military industrial complex, much less citizens at "the bottom" such as plenty of those who would have been involved in civil rights struggle? Funnily I think you are buying into one of the most nonsensical notions about representative democracy here - that somehow there are a bunch of enlightened 'citizens' capable of making rational decisions without having their eyes opened. again the citizens do not "run the economy", by nature being a consumer is a powerless position, the producers are who control the operation of the economy - which you acknowledge funds the machine of war- and make the real decisions.



Human rights don't really exist. You only have rights when it is economically convenient for the elites to allow such ideas. The US now has the right to order extra-judicial assassinations against its own citizens, yet few really care. Drone strikes against foreign nationals in some foreign country is irrelevant to most westerners when the latest Bond movie turns out to be a flop. Citizens are given token rights that ensure their "dignity", but does that prevent the same country from going on a brutal homicide streak abroad? Nope. Bread and games, and "civil rights" keep the populace placated and apathetic to the real sins of their country.


You are ignoring the connection between struggles against racism, militarism, and human rights, and basically just putting it out there that the power structures of the world don't believe in human rights - this is undoubtedly true, but it is no reason for us not to believe in them. In fact it is all the more reason we should.




Supply and demand. We buy slave produced products rather than hiring a properly paid worker or craftsperson to produce them. We have a choice in the matter, but as it turns out the former are cheaper and sell better, hence the cycle grows.


We do not have a 'choice' in the matter really..well, if you have enough money you have some choice, but for the most part, global capitalism and it's power structures have made people's buying decisions for them. Buying from a "craftsperson" is doable, but quite expensive.


Good amounts to effectively recognizing your own wretched saṃsāric state and how most of what you do just to survive and get by day to day is negative karma in a really awful world. This hopefully acts as a match under the rear to see reality for what it is and see how true good is that which is conducive to transcending this world rather than trying to fix saṃsāra.


Is opening people's eyes to aspects of Samsara the same thing as trying to "fix it"?


Practitioners need to generate merit and I praise all benevolence. However, if all your time is taken up promoting civil rights in a society which readily supports, both directly and indirectly, horrid atrocities and environmental devastation (animals count like humans do), then you are running against the wind.


This assumes that a "society" is some kind of large, individually culpable organism rather than what it is, a web of causes and effect connecting people, yoking people even to institutions, to wealth etc. most notably with very entrenched power structures based on an economic model that some would say encourages the atrocities you are referring to.

Maybe we are getting too abstract here for a thread that might about simpler questions?

What do you think Buddhists should do about things in this world? Do you advocate them holding no opinions on social ills and doing nothing but activities directed towards the Dharma explicitly, with maybe a sprinkling of altruistic activities..or would you advocate something else?
Last edited by Johnny Dangerous on Wed Nov 07, 2012 5:29 pm, edited 7 times in total.
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Re: Socially Engaged Buddhism

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Wed Nov 07, 2012 5:12 pm

futerko wrote:
Are you suggesting that if everyone limited their spending to what was strictly necessary rather than extravagancies it would have no impact?

What if people decided to not pay taxes on the basis that their money was being spent on weaponry that was being used to kill people in other countries, would that have no effect?

If you are "actively doing good" but are a cog in a machine which is promoting nothing but ego, fear, and greed, then aren't your efforts somewhat compromised?
You are right that whether one person wears sweatshop clothes or not is arbitrary, but the point is the degree to which we all choose to support such a system or not, which in many cases is not made explicit, but there is a direct connection there.


Sure it would have an impact, let's see if we can get all the people living in our material obsessed society to individually just stop doing that. Or, we could do something more practical and point out the conditions that have led us to this point, which are largely based on political and economic structures, not individual consumer decisions.
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is not born in the hearts of disciples in whom the moisture of attachment has dried up. It grows instead in the hearts of ordinary sentient beings who possess in full the fetters of bondage." -Se Chilbu Choki Gyaltsen
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