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The International Network of Engaged Buddhists : INEB also known as “Engaged Buddhism” Ato-Carrera, Manu


The International Network of Engaged Buddhists - INEB is a web of Buddhist organizations, religious leaders, activists, and scholars in more than 25 countries, mainly Asia and some West regions. Founded in Thailand in 1989 under the initiative of the writer and social activist Sulak Sivaraksa with the participation of several Buddhist and some non-Buddhist figures, the network appointed three prominent patrons representing the major traditions of Buddhism: The XIV Dalai Lama (Vajrayāna ), Thich Nhat Hanh (Mahāyāna), and Maha Ghosananda (Theravāda). In that regard, this entry aims to document the shared values and practices of the members of this organization, which congregates around the concept of engaged Buddhism, a notion that implies a paradigm shift in contemporary Buddhist ethics, promoting civic engagement to address the social ills of modern societies from a Buddhist perspective. In the 1960s Vietnam, Thich Nhat Hanh coined the concept of engaged Buddhism to stress the necessity of an active involvement of Buddhism toward social suffering, offering spiritual and material support to the ones in need. In that context, it particularly implied organizing monastic and lay Buddhists in networks of peace activism and welfare aid to address the calamities of war and propose concrete ways to overcome them. Since then, the notion of engaged Buddhism has been used in academic and non-specialized circles to refer to a plurality of Buddhist movements -in Asia and around the world- profoundly concerned with different forms of civic engagement, starting from the late 19th century to this time. In that sense, engaged Buddhism accounts for a modern trend that emerged parallel in different regions of Asia and across the major Buddhist traditions. Consequently, it does not constitute a new Buddhist school or path (yāna) but a way of interpreting Buddhism as socially committed and adapting its traditional teachings to the modern world's social needs. As such, engaged Buddhism finds a broader context in the concept of Buddhist modernism, a term developed by Heinz Bechert that expresses the multiple transformations Buddhism suffered in modernity by its interaction with Western culture. One key characteristic of this period is the tendency of a variety of Buddhist reform movements to engage with social work and activism amid times of war and colonialism -although some authors diminish the role of Western influence in the genesis of engaged Buddhism, underscoring its Asian roots. From a doctrinal perspective, engaged Buddhism represents a new paradigm in Buddhist ethics. Even though some of its proponents emphasize the social dimension of the Buddha's teachings from which engaged Buddhism continuously draws inspiration, the consensus among scholars leans to consider that the broad scope and high intensity of the social commitment found in contemporary Buddhism constitutes a new phenomenon. In that way, engaged Buddhism embraces the moral obligation to take action in front of social suffering and offers innovative responses to address modern society's social ills by combining elements of tradition and modernity. Indeed, how much each pole -tradition and modernity- signifies in that formula remains a contested issue among scholars and Buddhist leaders. Considering the vast extension of engaged Buddhism, its pledge to civic commitment assumes various forms. In some cases, it focuses on social welfare and aid through civil society organizations. In other cases, it takes a political stance in front of social abuse and oppression, denouncing the culture of consumerism, corporate greed, and political corruption, among other social ills, and offering alternatives for a social order aligned with Buddhist and secular values. Sometimes it limits its efforts to one core issue, such as environmentalism, peace activism, gender equality, human rights, or battling poverty, discrimination, and social injustice. Other times it assumes every aspect of the social agenda. Again, there is no absolute uniformity among the engaged Buddhist movements regarding the means to address social suffering. However, some key features appeared in engaged Buddhism during the last decades, especially around the sphere of influence of the International Network of Engaged Buddhists - INEB, the larger organization of its kind to date. Under that lens, engaged Buddhists conceive social action as spiritually-rooted, which implies cultivating the practice of meditation as capital means to inspire and sustain every civic effort and promote spiritual friendship (kalyāṇa-mitratā) to involve the Buddhist sangha in a collective endeavor. According to traditional Buddhist principles, it is also a compassionate and non-violent action. Moreover, it seeks interreligious cooperation, finding common ground for social harmony rather than imposing a Buddhist doctrine. Similarly, it looks for interorganizational cooperation, overcoming political biases. It combines local and global approaches, searching for solutions at different levels of society and ultimately pursuing world peace. Finally, engaged Buddhist action finds a recurrent source of inspiration in the concept of interdependence -a modern interpretation of the social dimension of the pratītyasamutpāda Buddhist teaching. In doing so, it understands the social experience in the world as a profoundly interrelated one: among citizens, humans with other sentient beings, and society with nature.

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Attribution 4.0 International