The practice of giving is universally recognized as one of the most basic human virtues, a quality that testifies to the depth of one’s humanity and one’s capacity for self-transcendence. In the teaching of the Buddha, too, the practice of giving claims a place of special eminence, one which singles it out as being in a sense the foundation and seed of spiritual development. In the Pali suttas we read time and again that “talk on giving” (danakatha) was invariably the first topic to be discussed by the Buddha in his “graduated exposition” of the Dhamma. Whenever the Buddha delivered a discourse to an audience of people who had not yet come to regard him as their teacher, he would start by emphasizing the value of giving. Only after his audience had come to appreciate this virtue would he introduce other aspects of his teaching, such as morality, the law of kamma, and the benefits in renunciation, and only after all these principles had made their impact on the minds of his listeners would he expound to them that unique discovery of the Awakened Ones, the Four Noble Truths.
Modern man in his search for pleasure and affluence has exploited nature without any moral restraint to such an extent that nature has been rendered almost incapable of sustaining healthy life. Invaluable gifts of nature, such as air and water, have been polluted with severely disastrous consequences. Man is now searching for ways and means of overcoming the pollution problem as his health too is alarmingly threatened. He also feels that it is irresponsible and morally wrong on his part to commit the future generations to a polluted planet. If man is to act with a sense of responsibility to the natural world, to his fellow human beings and to unborn future generations, he has to find an appropriate environmental ethic today to prevent further aggravation of the present pollution problem. Hence his search for wisdom and attitudes in a hitherto neglected area of knowledge, namely, religion.
Buddhism strictly limits itself to the delineation of a way of life designed to eradicate human suffering. The Buddha refused to answer questions which did not directly or indirectly bear on the central problem of human suffering and its ending. Furthermore, environmental pollution is a problem of the modern age, unheard of and unsuspected during the time of the Buddha. Therefore it is difficult to find any specific discourse which deals with the topic we are interested in here. Nevertheless, as Buddhism is a full-fledged philosophy of life reflecting all aspects of experience, it is possible to find enough material in the Pali canon to delineate the Buddhist attitude towards nature.
The word “nature” means everything in the world which is not organized and constructed by man. The Pali equivalents which come closest to “nature” are loka and yathabhuta. The former is usually translated as “world” while the latter literally means “things as they really are.” The words dhammata and niyama are used in the Pali canon to mean “natural law or way.”
The Political Buddha offers a deep exploration of his dedication to the transformation of society. The Buddha addressed leaders, the powerful, the rich and numerous citizens from every area of life.
The first section examines the major aspects of the spiritual/social/political teachings of the Buddha. Themes include the wanting mind, the money, greed, religion and war.
The second section explores the Buddha’s teachings relevant for our major institutions including banks, corporations and democracy. There is an enquiry into ethics, mindfulness and spirituality.
The third section endorses the Sangha, namely groups and organizations working to apply wisdom to change. This includes the necessity for political action, dissent as a form of healing, deep teachings and a Charter for Life on Earth.
Mindfulness has gone mainstream, with celebrity endorsement from Oprah Winfrey and Goldie Hawn. Meditation coaches, monks and neuroscientists went to Davos to impart the finer points to CEOs attending the World Economic Forum. The founders of the mindfulness movement have grown evangelical. Prophesying that its hybrid of science and meditative discipline “has the potential to ignite a universal or global renaissance”, the inventor of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), Jon Kabat-Zinn, has bigger ambitions than conquering stress. Mindfulness, he proclaims, “may actually be the only promise the species and the planet have for making it through the next couple of hundred years”.
So, what exactly is this magic panacea? In 2014, Time magazine put a youthful blonde woman on its cover, blissing out above the words: “The Mindful Revolution.” The accompanying feature described a signature scene from the standardised course teaching MBSR: eating a raisin very slowly. “The ability to focus for a few minutes on a single raisin isn’t silly if the skills it requires are the keys to surviving and succeeding in the 21st century,” the author explained.
But anything that offers success in our unjust society without trying to change it is not revolutionary – it just helps people cope. In fact, it could also be making things worse. Instead of encouraging radical action, mindfulness says the causes of suffering are disproportionately inside us, not in the political and economic frameworks that shape how we live. And yet mindfulness zealots believe that paying closer attention to the present moment without passing judgment has the revolutionary power to transform the whole world. It’s magical thinking on steroids.
Ronald Purser has a new book releasing on July 9th titled “McMindfulness: How Mindfulness Became the New Capitalist Spirituality”
On the internet is an image of Ronald McDonald, the McDonald’s hamburger icon, seated in a lotus position. Some Thai Buddhists see this in literal terms as disrespectful to the Buddha; others are rightly critical of the colonialist and harmful cultural appropriation of Buddhism by the west and the lack of regard for Asian Buddhism in the US and Canada.
The technical, neutral definition of mindfulness and its relativist lack of a moral foundation has opened up secular mindfulness to a host of dubious uses, now called out by its critics as McMindfulness. McMindfulness occurs when mindfulness is used, with intention or unwittingly, for self-serving and ego-enhancing purposes that run counter to both Buddhist and Abrahamic prophetic teachings to let go of ego-attachment and enact skillful compassion for everyone.
This study focuses on the role played by the work of Leo Tolstoy (1828–1910) in shaping socialism and agrarian-Buddhist utopianism in Japan. As Japanese translations of Tolstoy’s fiction and philosophy, and accounts of his life became more available at the end of the 19th century, his ideas on the individual, religion, society, and politics had a tremendous impact on the generation coming of age in the 1900s and his popularity grew among young intellectuals. One important legacy of Tolstoy in Japan is his particular concern with the peasantry and agricultural reform. Among those inspired by Tolstoy and the narodniki lifestyle, three individuals, Tokutomi Roka, Eto Tekirei, and Mushakōji Saneatsu illustrate how prominent writers and thinkers adopted the master’s lifestyle and attempted to put his ideas into practice. In the spirit of the New Buddhists of late Meiji, they envisioned a comprehensive lifestyle structure. As Eto Tekirei moved to the village of Takaido with the assistance of Tokutomi Roka, he called his new home Hyakushō Aidōjō (literally, Farmers Love Training Ground). He and his family endeavored to follow a Tolstoyan life, which included labor, philosophy, art, religion, society, and politics, a grand project that he saw as a “non-religious religion.” As such, Tekirei’s utopian vision might be conceived as an experiment in “alter-modernity.”
James Mark Shields
Full Text: https://www.mdpi.com/2077-1444/9/5/161/htm
The encounter between Buddhism and science has long been recognized as one of the key events in the formulation of Buddhist modernisms. Yet only recently has this begun to be explored in its historic specificity. This paper examines Republican-era Chinese Buddhists’ engagement with the theory of evolution at the peak of its cultural influence in the 1920s and 30s. It argues that while Buddhists largely accepted biological evolution, Darwinist theories of survival of the fittest were rejected. Instead, they embraced the alternative theory of Peter Kropotkin, who saw mutual aid as the driving force of evolution. This theory was not only less offensive to Buddhist sensibilities,but also amenable to a rhetorical strategy of subsumption in which Kropotkin was presented as anticipated and fulfilled by Buddhist doctrine. This tactic allowed Buddhists to portray the religion as modern, scientific, and progressive while avoiding what were seen as the pernicious corollaries of Darwinism. Effectively, Buddhists who employed this tactic attempted to annex Kroptokin’s discursive space, taking advantage of the internal variegation of modernity in order to constitute it as part of a modern discourse and superscribe that discourse with their own concerns
By Justin Ritzinger