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Engaged Buddhism refers to Buddhists who are seeking ways to apply the insights from meditation practice and dharma teachings to situations of social, political, environmental, and economic suffering and injustice. Finding its roots in Vietnam through the Zen Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, Engaged Buddhism has grown in popularity in the West.[1]


Asian Origins

The term was coined by Vietnamese Zen Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh (known as Thay to his students), inspired by the Humanistic Buddhism reform movement in China by Taixu and Yinshun.[2] At first, he used Chinese characters (a scriptural language of Vietnamese Mahayana Buddhism), 入世佛教 (lit: Worldly Buddhism, 入世 = enter + world). During the Vietnam War, he and his sangha (spiritual community) made efforts to respond to the suffering they saw around them. They saw this work as part of their meditation and mindfulness practice, not apart from it.

Since then, the term has been translated into Western language as "Engaged Buddhism", which is not an accurate translation of the original Chinese. This term has since been retranslated back into Chinese as "Left Wing Buddhism" (左翼佛教) to denote variations that this type of Buddhism underwent in the West.[citation needed]

The term has also been used as a translation for what is commonly understood in China and Taiwan as "Humanistic Buddhism" (人間佛教).

Western Socially Engaged Buddhism

Organizations such as the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, the International Network of Engaged Buddhists and the Zen Peacemakers, led by Roshi Bernard Glassmanare devoted to building the movement of engaged Buddhists. Other engaged Buddhist groups include the Benevolent Organisation for Development, Health and Insight, Gaden Relief Projects, Fo Guang Shan and Tzu Chi.

Prominent figures in the movement include Robert Aitken Roshi, Joanna Macy, Gary Snyder, Alan Senauke, Sulak Sivaraksa, Maha Ghosananda, Sylvia Wetzel, Anthony Stultz,Diana Winston, Fleet Maull, Joan Halifax, Tara Brach, and Ken Jones.

As a leader of Western Socially Engaged Buddhism, the Zen Peacemakers host an annual Symposium on the topic and publish Bearing Witness, a free monthly online newsletter.


  1. ^ Queen, Chris; King, Sallie (1996). Engaged Buddhism: Buddhist Liberation Movements in Asia. New York: Albany State University Press. ISBN 0-79142-843-5. 
  2. ^ Queen, Christopher (2000). Engaged Buddhism in the West. Somerville, MA: Wisdom Publications. ISBN 0-86171-159-9. 

See also

External links



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