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DOI 10.12887/31-2018-2-122-09

Marek SZYMAŃSKI – Western Buddhism and Social Oppression

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The number of Buddhists and that of the followers of Buddhism have strikingly increased in the West in the last decades. The characteristics of Western Buddhism include: the individualism and equality of its adherents, their common interest in meditation, a rationalistic attitude, the ideal of social justice, reverence for nature and universalism. Western Buddhism is strongly influenced by the values of Western societies and so clearly differs from traditional Buddhism. The counterparts of Western Buddhism in Asiatic Buddhism are the modernistic trends that arose as a result of Western colonial culture impact. David L. McMahan convincingly argues that Western Buddhism is a hybrid formation and cannot be explained without taking into account the impact of the Reformation, the scientific revolution, the Enlightenment, and Romanticism. Western Buddhists pay a great deal of attention to human rights and sources of social injustice. Elimination of social injustice is often believed to be a moral duty and part of religious practice. Such an attitude is a distinctive feature of so-called engaged Buddhism. In traditional Buddhism, social oppression and the suffering it generates were treated as natural and fair repayment for previous faults. So, traditionally, compassion was not tantamount to a duty to modify the social structure. That was changed in engaged Buddhism, wherein social oppression was interpreted as wrongness. The development of engaged Buddhism is a good example of intercultural interaction and global trends. The Buddhist model of activity directed towards social justice was created in Asia under the influence of Western social philosophy and afterward dominated Western Buddhism, which now affects Asian Buddhist traditions in reverse.

Keywords: Western Buddhism, engaged Buddhism, social oppression, interdependence

Contact: Zakład Religioznawstwa i Filozofii Dawnej, Instytut Filozofii,
Wydział Filozofii i Socjologii UMCS,
pl. Marii Curie-Skłodowskiej 4,
20-031 Lublin, Poland

E-mail: marek.szymanski@poczta.umcs.lublin.pl

Phone: + 48 81 5375984

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  1. ISSN 0860-8024
  2. e-ISSN 2720-5355
  3. The Republic of Poland Ministry of Science and Higher Education Value: 100.00
  4. Quarterly “Ethos” is indexed by the following databases: EBSCO, CEEOL, Index Copernicus (ICV 2017: 55.26), Philosopher’s Index, ERIH Plus.
  5. DOI Prefix 10.12887