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Buddhadharma : Spring 2019
DAVID R. LOY 31 the usual focus of Buddhist practice resonates well with the usual appeal of mindfulness, and both of them accord well with the basic individualism of US society—“What’s in it for me?” But are there other factors that encourage this disparity between mindfulness and social engagement? Is there something else integral to the Buddhist traditions that can help us understand the apparent indifference of many Buddhists to the ecological crisis? The Challenge A few years ago I was reading a fine book by Loyal Rue, titled Everybody’s Story: Wising Up to the Epic of Evolution, and came across a passage that literally stopped me in my tracks, because it crystallized so well a discomfort with Buddhism (or some types of Buddhism) that had been bothering me. The passage does not refer to Buddhism in particular but to the “Axial Age” religions that orig- inated around the time of the Buddha (the italics are mine): The influence of Axial traditions will continue to decline as it becomes ever more apparent that their resources are incommensurate with the moral challenges of the global problematique. In particular, to the extent that these traditions have stressed cosmological dualism and individual salvation we may say they have encouraged an atti- tude of indifference toward the integrity of natural and social systems. Although the language is academic, the claim is clear: insofar as Axial Age traditions (which include Buddhism, Vedanta, Daoism, and Abrahamic religions such as Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) emphasize “cosmological dualism and individual salvation,” they encourage indifference to social justice issues and the ecological crisis. What Loyal Rue calls “cosmological dualism” is the belief that, in addition to this world, there is another one, usually understood to be better or somehow higher. This is an important aspect of theistic photo page 28 | Tokyo skyline Ramon Kagie / Unsplash