Or at least the delineation of a new “engaged” branch of Buddhism is.
Bernie Glassman hinted on this new movement when he stated that an ongoing challenge to socially engaged Buddhism is to be able to practice social engagement as a Buddhist without be “drummed out of Buddhism” or accused of “staining the Dharma.” It seems that what Mr. Glassman (I am not sure if he is addressed as Roshi) is really talking about is politicizing Buddhist practice and then having people not agree with his politics. Good luck with that. Far as I can see, some people will always disagree with some aspect of your political leanings.
The answer to his question, however, is simple: Don’t practice social engagement as a Buddhist. Don’t practice charity as a Buddhist. Don’t show compassion as a Buddhist. These are the things that every personal practice should contain without contraining them with religious identity. When you chose to show charity, compassion or social engagement as a part of your personal practice you can do so without waving a religious banner. Do it for the benefit for others. Period. End of sentence. No strings attached. No politics or banners. Slogans or comments. No conversions or evangelizing.
The goal of peace needs to be replaced with the process of peace ~ peace as a practice. We can neither win or wage a lasting peace nor can we make or create a lasting peace for others. It is a state which has to be worked at day and night unceasingly, unstintingly with constant commitment to a personal practice that is not deliniated by religious belief or dogma. Peacekeeping is similar to housekeeping: it is a series of repetitive, occassionally monotonous, and always exacting tasks which maintain the continuity of living for all sentient beings. The only variable is the size of the household.
Engaged practice is not glamorous, and it is not does not provide instantaneous results. Just like meditative practice ~ it is not always daring, exciting or momentous. It demands patience, fortitude, and unending effort without thought of goal or success. It is the internalization of new patterns of behavior, innovative ways of thinking, new ideas and hope.
For these reasons I prefer the 14 Precepts of Engaged Buddhism as outlined by Thich Nhat Hanh as a launching point for any “engaged” practice. As with any precepts, these are meant to be internalized into a daily practice and not followed as directives or rules. They do not deliniate “engaged” Buddhists from “regular” Buddhists. The more I apply these precepts to my daily actions (all actions are engaged) the more I practice in a manner that is beneficial to others, compassionate and wise.
Personally, when I hear that someone or some group wishes to “create” a peaceful society, my hackles go up. To create or mold the thoughts of others through an institution or religion lies the roots of tyranny and oppression. Or at very least, very annoying t-shirted people slinging a side of benefit with a huge heaping serving of evangelism.
Are you performing civic deeds as an excuse to wave a banner or are you trying to help others? Practice isn’t a goal but a process. Apply that to daily activity and you will be as engaged as you need or are able to be.
I am eating a bacon sandwich
on a pony
while saving the world
one moment at a time.