Generally when one considers “Engaged Buddhism” one thinks of the writings of Thich Nhat Hanh or perhaps the writings of Stephen Batchelor and his secular-oriented bent. One can think of many others like Robert Thurman or even the earlier writings of Walpola Rahula. Of course the list can go on incorporating the tradition of Theravada Buddhism and more mainstream Mahayana Buddhism. For this blog I’d like to focus on the writings of Ken Jones, particularly his “Buddhism and Social Action”, and how they may, in some fashion, pertain to our Transcendentalist approach to Engaged Buddhism here in Unborn Mind Zen. One of our blogs, “The Karma Factor”, spoke of its relationship to rebirth—perhaps even to the nether regions of Buddhist Hell. Ken Jones offers a “social” component:
The social karma — the establishment of conditioned behavior patterns — of a particular culture is and is not the aggregate of the karma of the individuals who comprise the culture. Individuals share common institutions and belief systems, but these are the results of many different wills, both in the past and the present, rather than the consequence of any single individual action. It is, however, individual karmic action that links the individual to these institutions and belief systems. Each individual is a light-reflecting jewel in Indra’s net, at the points where time and space intersect. Each reflects the light of all and all of each. This is the mysticism of sociology or the sociology of mysticism! Human societies, too, suffer the round of birth and rebirth, of revolution and stability. Each age receives the collective karmic inheritance of the last, is conditioned by it, and yet also struggles to refashion it. And within each human society, institutions, social classes, and subcultures, as well as individuals, all struggle to establish their identity and perpetuate their existence.
He also presents his own notion of Buddhist “social action”:
By ‘social action’ we mean the many different kinds of action intended to benefit mankind. These range from simple individual acts of charity, teaching and training, organized kinds of service, “Right Livelihood” in and outside the helping professions, and through various kinds of community development as well as to political activity in working for a better society.
While his definition appears to be all-inclusive, it does lack the “Transcendent-Factor”. This is the Engaged-Buddhism of Unborn Mind Zen, wherein one rises above the samsaric-glue of the five-skandhas or sheaths and recollects one’s own Unborn Buddha Mind. Once one’s “original nature” is clarified and refined by the earnest adept’s willingness to transcend the downside of the human train-wreck, then one is in an enhanced position to benefit and help direct mankind spiritually. Without this spiritual component, materialism will continue to rule the roost in samsara. If this Transcendent Factor is missing, then one stands little chance of authentically empowering mankind to evolve in this healthy and life-giving fashion. One is merely attempting to serve the “outer” and usually defiled reality without the necessary balance of an “inner-formation” and guidance that is a prerequisite. It’s all about enhancing spiritual rejuvenation and not just attending to the “symptoms” of the outer malaise. When push comes to shove, the inner-journey is truly more authentic and provides a Contemplative Dimension wherein one transcends their own karmic factors that impinge upon True-Liberation of Mind and Spirit.