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Buddhadharma : Fall 2017
fall 2017 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly 75 buddhism in the West A Challenge to Buddhists by Bhikkhu Bodhi Seeing the immensity of the world’s anguish has raised in my mind questions about the future prospects for Buddhism in the West. I’ve been struck by how seldom the theme of global suffering—the palpable suffering of real human beings—is thematically explored in the Buddhist journals and teachings with which I am acquainted. It seems to me that we Western Buddhists tend to dwell in a cognitive space that defines the first noble truth largely against the background of our middle-class lifestyles: as the gnawing of discontent; the ennui of over-satiation; the pain of unfulfilling relationships; or, with a bow to Buddhist theory, as bondage to the round of rebirths. Too often, I feel, our focus on these aspects of dukkha has made us oblivious to the vast, catastrophic suffering that daily overwhelms three-fourths of the world’s population. I recognize that many individual Buddhists are actively engaged in social service and that a few larger Buddhist organizations work tirelessly to relieve human suffering around the globe. Their selfless dedication fully deserves our appreciation. Unfortunately, their appeal has as yet been limited. In each historical period, the dharma finds new means to unfold its potentials in ways precisely linked to that era’s distinctive historical conditions. I believe that our own era provides the appropriate historical stage for the transcendent truth of the dharma to bend back upon the world and engage human suffering at multiple levels—even the lowest, harshest, and most degrading levels—not in mere contemplation but in effective, relief-granting action illuminated by its own world-transcending goal. The special challenge facing Buddhism in our age is to stand up as an advocate for justice in the world, a voice of conscience for those victims of social, economic, and political injustice who cannot stand up and speak for themselves. This, in my view, is a deeply moral challenge marking a watershed in the modern expression of Buddhism. I believe it also points in a direction that Buddhism should take if it is to share in the Buddha’s ongoing mission to humanity. Fall 2007 (Opposite) Superman Buddha, Force Within by Elisa Insua