Reasonable involvement in "World Issues"

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
User avatar
SDC
Posts: 4395
Joined: Mon Dec 14, 2009 11:08 pm

Reasonable involvement in "World Issues"

Post by SDC » Fri Oct 18, 2013 12:21 am

The global warming thread from the lounge and others from the past have got me thinking:


What is a reasonable level of involvement in social/environmental/political/etc. issues while trying to practice the teachings of the Buddha?



Practicing the dhamma seems primarily concerned with adjusting our attitude and understanding as opposed to adjusting the the world. However the Buddha was explicit about how to peacefully engage with others, so the practice does involve the external world to some extent.


Some additional questions:


Does anyone feel that involvement in world issues is crucial to progress on the path?

Is there a point where involvement can counteract or inhibit progress?

How much external adjusting should we do? Does adjusting the external world to be in harmony with internal ideas affect our ability to go the other way and adjust our understanding to be in harmony reality especially when it comes to specific aspects of the dhamma?



A couple of rules:

- Only bring up specific world issues if you plan on addressing how they relate to the primary topic of this thread.
- Please keep the specifics about those issues to a minimum as that is not the purpose of this discussion.
- Please do not use this thread to solicit support for any specific issue.
- Keep the drama to a minimum :tongue:

User avatar
cooran
Posts: 8504
Joined: Tue Jan 06, 2009 11:32 pm
Location: Queensland, Australia

Re: Reasonable involvement in "World Issues"

Post by cooran » Fri Oct 18, 2013 7:50 am

Hello SDC,

I found this article to be relevant as regards the cultivation of wholesome attitudes for working with worldly issues.

Detachment and Compassion in Early Buddhism
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... bl141.html

With metta,
Chris
---The trouble is that you think you have time---
---Worry is the Interest, paid in advance, on a debt you may never owe---
---It's not what happens to you in life that is important ~ it's what you do with it ---

User avatar
Ben
Posts: 18442
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 12:49 am
Location: kanamaluka

Re: Reasonable involvement in "World Issues"

Post by Ben » Fri Oct 18, 2013 8:01 am

Hi SDC,
I am actually inspired by the example of Bhikkhu Bodhi who manages being active as the chairperson for Buddhist Global Relief as well as being a translator and editor as well as attending to his own practice. Worldly engagement can be an excellent expression and extension of one's own practice, but it can also be a distraction or obsession that can harm our practice. The bottom line is that we should never neglect walking the path, ourselves.
Kind regards,
Ben
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global ReliefUNHCR

e: ben.dhammawheel@gmail.com..

User avatar
mikenz66
Posts: 16413
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: Aotearoa, New Zealand

Re: Reasonable involvement in "World Issues"

Post by mikenz66 » Fri Oct 18, 2013 8:01 am

Hi SDC,

Gil Fronsdal has had some recent talks addressing some of the issues you're raising:
Being Whole & Caring for the Environment 2013-10-07
Environmental Stewardship 2013-10-06
Earth Care Dharmette 2013-10-02
Practice Notes for Earth Care 2013-10-02
http://audiodharma.org/teacher/1/
:anjali:
Mike

User avatar
Kim OHara
Posts: 4973
Joined: Wed Dec 09, 2009 5:47 am
Location: North Queensland, Australia

Re: Reasonable involvement in "World Issues"

Post by Kim OHara » Fri Oct 18, 2013 10:47 am

cooran wrote:Hello SDC,

I found this article to be relevant as regards the cultivation of wholesome attitudes for working with worldly issues.

Detachment and Compassion in Early Buddhism
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... bl141.html

With metta,
Chris
Excellent - thanks, Chris :smile:

:namaste:
Kim

User avatar
SDC
Posts: 4395
Joined: Mon Dec 14, 2009 11:08 pm

Re: Reasonable involvement in "World Issues"

Post by SDC » Fri Oct 18, 2013 10:59 pm

Thanks for the responses so far. I'll check out some of the links people posted.

User avatar
daverupa
Posts: 5980
Joined: Mon Jan 31, 2011 6:58 pm

Re: Reasonable involvement in "World Issues"

Post by daverupa » Fri Oct 18, 2013 11:56 pm

By the way SDC, what have you read so far on Engaged Buddhism? This literature may approach some of what you're asking about, so I'd hate to tread ground you're already familiar with.
  • "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.

- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

User avatar
SDC
Posts: 4395
Joined: Mon Dec 14, 2009 11:08 pm

Re: Reasonable involvement in "World Issues"

Post by SDC » Sat Oct 19, 2013 12:56 am

daverupa wrote:By the way SDC, what have you read so far on Engaged Buddhism? This literature may approach some of what you're asking about, so I'd hate to tread ground you're already familiar with.
Thanks, Dave. No I haven't heard of this. Interesting.

User avatar
SDC
Posts: 4395
Joined: Mon Dec 14, 2009 11:08 pm

Re: Reasonable involvement in "World Issues"

Post by SDC » Sat Oct 19, 2013 1:23 am

I'd like to clarify my question based on the responses so far:

What is a reasonable level of involvement in social/environmental/political/etc. issues while trying to practice towards nibbana?

Clearly engagement inspired by the teachings is a very real thing and can be very productive, but will a life dedicated to this type of external engagement minimize progress that may have been there had the focus had been more within?

Based on my experience, I'm tending to think it will. There is only so much energy, especially when you really start to commit to the nuts and bolts of this practice. I can't see putting external issues as the primary focus and be able to make the same strides along the path. I'm not saying that good is not being done and that tremendous merit is being garnered, but with respect to progress towards nibbana...I think there is only so much involvement to be had in the external issues.

Thoughts?

User avatar
Kamran
Posts: 458
Joined: Fri Oct 07, 2011 3:14 am

Re: Reasonable involvement in "World Issues"

Post by Kamran » Sat Oct 19, 2013 2:02 am

Merit and generosity can be very skillful, but you have to try and see for yourself what the specific results are in your case. How does it affect your meditation, for instance ? Does it provoke skillful or unskillful thoughts ?

I find Bikhu Analayo inspiring, because he is a highly prolific scholar of early budhism, and works as a university professor, but still manages to dedicate 3 days a week to nothing but meditation. If you can increase meditation time, perhaps you can include more work that you would like to do.
"Silence gives answers"

Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi

User avatar
Kim OHara
Posts: 4973
Joined: Wed Dec 09, 2009 5:47 am
Location: North Queensland, Australia

Re: Reasonable involvement in "World Issues"

Post by Kim OHara » Sat Oct 19, 2013 10:37 am

Okay, a random collection of points, mostly addressing SDC's latest post but some going back a bit earlier:

Engaged Buddhism in a whole forum over on the other DW - http://www.dharmawheel.net/viewforum.php?f=42. It's one of the reasons I spend time on the Mahayana side.

Another is the "Bodhisattva ideal" they emphasise. It works for me as a way of framing my place in the world.

Which brings to mind a rather different issue: are we "lay followers" or "monks" in classical terminology? Or (as I suspect many of us are) a new kind of follower with far more education and far more free time than most lay followers the Buddha taught, and correspondingly higher ambitions.

Engagement with social issues can be our dana, with all the good things that dana brings the giver. It is also a great practice arena for all four of the Brahmaviharas ... including the equanimity we need when our goals are unachievable :tongue:

More "engaged Buddhism" - http://www.ecobuddhism.org/index.php

:namaste:
Kim

User avatar
SDC
Posts: 4395
Joined: Mon Dec 14, 2009 11:08 pm

Re: Reasonable involvement in "World Issues"

Post by SDC » Sat Oct 19, 2013 12:50 pm

Kamran wrote:Merit and generosity can be very skillful, but you have to try and see for yourself what the specific results are in your case. How does it affect your meditation, for instance ? Does it provoke skillful or unskillful thoughts ?

I find Bikhu Analayo inspiring, because he is a highly prolific scholar of early budhism, and works as a university professor, but still manages to dedicate 3 days a week to nothing but meditation. If you can increase meditation time, perhaps you can include more work that you would like to do.
Good post, Kamran.

nibbuti
Posts: 155
Joined: Mon Sep 03, 2012 11:36 pm
Location: Germany

Re: Reasonable involvement in "World Issues"

Post by nibbuti » Sat Oct 19, 2013 1:17 pm

Hi

I like to be well informed what is going on around us, from various sources (like russian or middle-eastern too) as well as local ones.

However, the best, most relieving meditation experience I had was when I completely and entirely switched off all in-fluences that could stir up the mind except some minimal contact to dhamma friends & family.

Good luck with Engagement Buddhism.

:meditate:
Last edited by nibbuti on Sat Oct 19, 2013 1:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
SDC
Posts: 4395
Joined: Mon Dec 14, 2009 11:08 pm

Re: Reasonable involvement in "World Issues"

Post by SDC » Sat Oct 19, 2013 1:21 pm

Kim OHara wrote:Another is the "Bodhisattva ideal" they emphasise. It works for me as a way of framing my place in the world.

Which brings to mind a rather different issue: are we "lay followers" or "monks" in classical terminology? Or (as I suspect many of us are) a new kind of follower with far more education and far more free time than most lay followers the Buddha taught, and correspondingly higher ambitions.

Engagement with social issues can be our dana, with all the good things that dana brings the giver. It is also a great practice arena for all four of the Brahmaviharas ... including the equanimity we need when our goals are unachievable :tongue:
Right on, Kim. I was wondering if anyone had this perspective. Though it is not my view, I agree that it is wholesome approach to life and practice.

I do not think we are new type of lay follower. Granted life is definitely easier and yes there is free time, but the method is still the same and work is just as difficult. You touch on a significant point though about ambition. Since we have such incredible transportation and communication abilities there is so much more that we can engage in, there is so much more the individual can affect. I think this is very empowering for all people, not just people pursuing the path. Yet throughout the coarse of history, no matter where you were, there was always "high ambition" with respect to what the culture was capable of. So I do not think we are any different when you get down to the effects that social engagement have on how we think and feel about our own experience.

I guess our level of engagement is determined by our goals? Or rather, what it is we think we are reasonably capable of accomplishing in this life? I think so.

User avatar
SDC
Posts: 4395
Joined: Mon Dec 14, 2009 11:08 pm

Re: Reasonable involvement in "World Issues"

Post by SDC » Sat Oct 19, 2013 1:39 pm

nibbuti wrote:Hi

I like to be well informed what is going on around us, from various sources (like russian or middle-eastern too) as well as local ones.

However, the best, most relieving meditation experience I had was when I completely and entirely switched off all in-fluences that could stir up the mind except some minimal contact to dhamma friends & family.

Good luck with Engagement Buddhism.

:meditate:
Pretty much my thoughts. Well, it's what I want to think is the case, but it isn't exactly how I live.

My daily schedule puts me into a lot of challenging situations which requires at least some level of engagement. This is where the five precepts are critical. And there are many instances where I go out of my way to tend to the needs of those around me. I enjoy this type of engagement, but I am not sure I would miss it if it were gone.

EDIT - Clarification

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Bing [Bot] and 73 guests