CHAPTER 5 BUDDHISM.docx

This version of buddhism based in social activism has

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lives. This version of Buddhism based in social activism has been informally called “Navayana,” (new vehicle), comprising what some consider a fourth branch of Buddhism. Buddhism has also been adopted for political purposes in India. Politicians in some areas have tried to promote Dalit liberation through Buddhism and respect for Dr. Ambedkar, whose statue now appears in many towns. Since the Dalits comprise a large vote bank, it is uncertain whether the intention is sincerely to instill Buddhist ideals in them or rather to gain their votes. In the most populous state in India, Uttar Pradesh, the merger of Buddhist religion and politics is particularly controversial. The chief minister up to 2012, a Dalit politician named Mayawati, spent millions of rupees on public monuments honoring the Buddha, Dr. Ambedkar, and local politicians, including herself, affirming that these public works would engender public pride and economic development. Among her projects were the renovation of the ancient Buddhist pilgrimage sites—including Kapilvastu, Sarnath, and Kushinagar, the places of the Buddha’s birth, first sermon, and death—and Gautam Buddha University, with its schools of humanities and social sciences, management, information technology, law and social justice,
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biotechnology, engineering and design, and Buddhist studies and civilization. While critics point to the persistence of poverty in Uttar Pradesh, Mayawati’s supporters likened her building projects to those of the ancient King Ashoka, who coined the expression dharma vijaya , “the victory of righteousness.” A celebration around a statue of Dr. Ambedkar in honor of his birthday is mixed with politicalparty banners. Dr. Ambedkar inspired many Dalits to convert to Buddhism in order to overcome the oppression caused by the traditional Hindu caste system. Summarizing the work of Engaged Buddhists, Thich Nhat Hanh said:
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Once there is seeing, there must be acting. We must be aware of the real problems of the world. Then, with mindfulness, we will know what to do, and what not to do, to be of help. 65 Sulak Sivaraksa explains that socially engaged Buddhism does not mean promoting Buddhism per se: The presence of Buddhism in society does not mean having a lot of schools, hospitals, cultural institutions, or political parties run by Buddhists. It means that the schools, hospitals, cultural institutions, and political parties are permeated with and administered with humanism, love, tolerance, and enlightenment, characteristics which Buddhism attributes to an opening up, development, and formation of human nature. This is the true spirit of nonviolence. 66 Even when one intends to be nonviolent in one’s approach to life, difficult ethical questions may still arise. For example, contemporary scholars of Buddhist medical ethics are trying to determine how best to apply Buddhist principles to issues such as abortion, reproductive technologies, genetic engineering, organ transplants, suicide, coma patients, and euthanasia.
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