I think this comment explains my view of “Engaged (TM)” Buddhism well. It is from Kazen Miller and was posted on The Reformed Buddhist.
There is nothing more socially engaged than the practice of Buddhism: alert, aware, no separation, taking care of whatever appears. The idea of socially engaged Buddhism is the opposite of social engagement. Alas, if we didn’t keep sprouting another head on top of our heads we wouldn’t need to practice.
It is just the teasing out of another head, another branch that will bite and snip at every other sectarian head that has spouted up from the Gorgon of organized religion. This one happens to be firmly latched onto liberal politics rather than conservative dogma. Now don’t get me wrong, I love liberals. I am one. I was raised by a pair of liberals, married a liberal, had liberal babies (ok…two) but my politics don’t need to be melded with my practice.
That does not say that there is not an organic growth of social awareness and engagement that comes with continued contemplative practice. It does not matter the tradition or religion but when we start stating or hinting that only liberal politics are “engaged” or Buddhist then we are clouding our practice with our politics. And that is what I fear will happen to Engaged (TM) Buddhism when we begin to look more into organizational activism and less towards personal activism.
So overall, I think that the “Engaged” Buddhism movement is similar to SGI or any other religious group that starts mixing spirituality/religion with politics in an organizational context. It is a dangerous recipe that leads to groupthink. I can’t think of one thing more dangerous or detrimental to practice than groupthink.
Rather than wave a Buddhist banner, internalize the precepts, manifest your practice and approach your personal political beliefs as another chance to show compassion tempered by wisdom. The Engaged Precepts are a wonderful way of doing that. Becoming an “Engaged (TM) Buddhist” I think is the worst way of doing that.
Gandhi, Rev. King and Thich Nhat Hanh walked as people with a practice. They did not walk as Hindu, Christian or Buddhist. They allowed human rights to transcend religion…as it should.