Beginning in August 2012, I will be exploring the influence of Buddhism on approaches to peace-building and conflict. This endeavor was born from my own unexpected encounter with Buddhism and the tremendous impact it has had on my life. The Buddhist perspective of concepts such as the self, the ego, altruism, compassion, loving-kindness and detachment have brought me only peace and understanding; so, I am curious to know, could it do the same for society?
A religion or philosophy can only offer as much as we take from it, so I will be paying close attention to how individual actors interpret Buddhism and derive their values from it. Inadvertently I will come face to face with a major question: to what extent has one’s worldview, values, ambitions, etc., been influenced by Buddhism? This question becomes truly tumultuous when we consider that Buddhism is not a monolithic and unchanging religion. It means very different things to different people.
I must confess that Buddhism is not the subject of my research, per se. What I am interested in is what Sulak Sivaraksa refers to as little “b” Buddhism (or “buddhism,”) which avoids the entrapments of labels and instead focuses on the virtues and values upheld and promoted by Buddhism. By blurring the lines of what constitutes “Buddhism” or “Buddhist” there are so many more opportunities to learn.
While the values of buddhism are what draw me to Buddhism, are not the diverse cultures of Buddhism those which protect and inculcate them in society? Is not culture the ever-evolving provider of answers to life’s greatest questions… the guide for interpreting and making sense of life? Thus, I must try to understand local forms of Buddhism, including how they have been shaped by historical developments. This approach sheds light on the seemingly contradictory phenomena of “militant Buddhism” and deepens the significance of the buddhist (little “b”!) movements that have risen to address pressing social problems.
I invite you to join me on this journey and determine for yourself whether the lessons I learn resonate with you, and perhaps they can inspire positive change in your life as they have inspired it in mine. My hope is that these lessons will ultimately help create a more compassionate society that is resilient to violence and the roots of conflict. Finally, I humbly request your forgiveness for any errors or misconceptions I create during my travels and writings.