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date: 18 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter identifies challenges facing Engaged Buddhism in the West and proposes new models of ethical interpretation to account for its originality and persistence. Taking Engaged Buddhism to mean the application of Buddhist principles and practices to address social sources of human suffering and environmental harm—in contrast to other modes of Buddhist ethics, such as discipline, virtue, and altruism—we consider the degree to which Buddhist social engagement has been embraced, repudiated, or ignored by influential Buddhists and by the sponsors of mindfulness meditation programmes that have proliferated in the West. In comparing these expressions of contemporary religion and secularity, we find a range of conditions for the practice of Engaged Buddhism. We conclude by offering John Dewey’s pragmatism and Joanna Macy’s systems theory as resources for Engaged Buddhist ethics, as supplements to the virtue ethics and consequentialism others have proposed to account for traditional Buddhist ethics.

Keywords: socially engaged Buddhism, mindfulness movement, Ambedkar and Buddhism, Dewey and Buddhist ethics, general systems theory

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