This is an inspiring, insightful and informative collection of essays for anyone interested in social justice, Buddhism, spiritual activism or interreligious cooperation. The essays in this book are written by committed Buddhist practitioners and activists, who are putting Buddhist principles to work in the world - who are engaged Buddhists. Each is building peace in his or her own way, whether through education, the practice of nonviolent resistance, social justice and welfare, community building, environmental protection, meditation, interreligious cooperation, and other ways. And within each is the spiritual foundation of Buddhism - using "our religious heritage as a living resource" is the way that Venerable Somdech Preah maha Ghosananda states it.
Joan Halifax Roshi says in the foreword, "Peace...is a process, not a goal. It unfolds in the very details of our daily lives as well as in the broad brush strokes of the big picture."
This book is a testament to that process. There are a number of Buddhist inspired and rooted peace projects going on all over the world. One cannot help but feel positive about the countless people and organizations committed to peaceful transformation of societies, working on a daily basis, step-by-step. It is truly inspiring. Not only has it made me feel very good about Buddhist peacework and activism, but it has also educated me on sophisticated leaders and the Buddhist teachings that form the basis for their peacemaking and justice activities. This is a valuable resource for students of religious studies, peace studies, engaged Buddhism, social work, spiritually inspired activism, and ecological activism.
The United Nations has designated this year (2000) as the International Year for the Culture of Peace. This collection of eighteen essays examines worldwide Buddhist peacemaking efforts, and addresses the question: what can Buddhists do to heal the social, economic, environmental, and political wounds of the world? The Buddha said we are all interdependent and share responsibility for the well being of the world.
In the book's Foreward, Joan Halifax sets forth the central theme of this collection: "We are called more than ever to realize the obvious, that we are not, nor were we ever, living in a world of isolation. We are completely and inescapably interconnected and interdependent" (p. 12). Other contributors return to this theme. In Chapter 14, Thich Nhat Hanh observes that listening "to the cries of the world . . . is the beginning of healing" (p. 157). In Chapter 16, "A Pure Land on Earth," Venerable Chan Master Sheng-Yen writes, "Buddhism teaches us that the causes of conflict and war lie within ourselves. It also teaches us how to constructively temper our own tendency to generate conflict. Underlying this is the Buddhist idea that peace in society begins with peace in oneself. This cultivated inner peace numerically expands from one person to the next until we can truly say that we act and think locally as well as globally. Simply by sharing our inner peace on a one-on-one basis, we can have a staggering effect on global peace" (p. 175). In Chapter 18, H. H. The Dalai Lama encourages "internal disarmament . . . you try to reduce negative emotions such as hatred, anger, jealousy, extremism, and greed, and promote compassion, human attention, tolerance, these things" (p. 190). Editor, David Chappell, concludes this excellent collection with a strong essay.
For anyone interested in putting world peace into practice, I recommend this engaging book of essays.