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Engaged Buddhism

Approaching the Buddhist Path

Volume 1 of The Library of Wisdom and Compassion

by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and
Ven. Thubten Chodron

Wisdom Publications

I see three ways the Buddhist community can serve society. First, we can be more active in projects that directly benefit others.

Dharma centers and monasteries can either set up their own projects or participate in already existing organizations that help the homeless, provide hospice care for the terminally ill, educate children, reach out to refugees, counsel prisoners, provide healthcare and food to the poor, protect endangered species, care for the environment, and so on.

Some centers are already engaged in such works, and I am very pleased with this.

Second, we can use Buddhist principles and techniques to promote compassion, altruism, self-confidence, fearlessness, fortitude, and tolerance in society. Many concepts and techniques found in Buddhism for working with the mind can help others, both secular people and those of other faiths.

Social activists may want to learn methods to overcome anger. Teachers may want to introduce exercises to cultivate empathy, compassion, and good communication among students. We should explain these methods to others in a secular setting without speaking about Buddhist doctrine or encouraging people to become Buddhists.

Third, we can present Buddhist ideas and practices to help those who are interested. Someone who is terminally ill may want to hear about rebirth. Healthcare professionals may be interested in the stages of dying as described in Buddhist texts.

Buddhist teachings may help young people who are spiritually lost, and teaching buddha nature and compassion to the incarcerated can give them a new vision of life.

Representatives from various Buddhist groups could meet to consider taking a united stand on some issues.

In that way, Buddhists can participate with concerted effort to preserve the environment and protect the beings in it, including animals. In our world many life forms that do not create problems are sacrificed to serve the purposes of human beings, who are the troublemakers.

We cannot change these things at once, but it is worthwhile to voice our concerns and do whatever is possible.