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84[ineb] Think Sangha Journal

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  • Jonathan Watts
    Jan 3, 2000
      Hell all-

      A Happy New year to you. Just a quick note here to keep you abreast of
      Think Sangha activities. We have just completed our second Think Sangha
      Journal entitled The LACK of Progress : Buddhist Perspectives on Modernity
      and the Pitfalls of "Saving the World". For what that all means, see the
      editor's note below which outlines what we are talking about in 180 pages
      of articles. The issue will be printed in the next week or so. If you'd
      like a copy just send me an e-mail. We are basically offering it for free
      although a dana contribution of $5 is greatly appreciated to help cover
      printing and postage, especially if you would like multiple copies.

      Finally, I became a dad 3 weeks ago on December 6th, a daughter. Her name
      is Aruna, for the rising sun. I'll also attach a photo here for those of
      you who like to ogle at babies.

      metta and all the best for this year 2542!

      Jon Watts

      Editor's Note

      In the following pages, our little group called Think Sangha grapples with
      the issue of modernity. Before turning ahead, we would like to inform the
      reader a little about Think Sangha and how we arrived at the theme for this
      issue, modernity. Since the early 90s, we have slowly formed from a group
      of socially engaged Buddhists intent on bringing religious and spiritual
      viewpoints back into the discourse of contemporary social problems and
      issues. Though we come out of the International Network of Engaged
      Buddhists (INEB), we can't claim to represent the vast population of
      Buddhists around the world. Certainly, we are international in that the
      members contributing in this issue live in America, Europe, East Asia and
      Southeast Asia. However, as some have been quick to point out, we tend to
      over-represent the male, white skinned, English speaking part of the world,
      and this is perhaps why we have focused on the issue of modernity. As
      individuals mostly raised in the industrial north, our experiences,
      including time well spent in the more rural southern hemisphere, have been
      framed by what we see as the powerful myth of modernity - of scientific
      rationalism, nation-state and corporate capitalism. We have become acutely
      aware of how these three forces have bent and shaped culture and peoples
      throughout the world, from the colonial period of emergent nation-states to
      the present period of corporate globalization. As descendants of the first
      European moderns and as Buddhist practitioners who have received so much
      from the cultures of the East, we feel a responsibility to expose and
      clarify what we see is a problematic and increasingly untenable world view.
      Luckily, we have made many friends and colleagues along the way from the
      opposite gender and from other parts of the world. Some of their voices are
      also found in this volume.
      The first section of this issue is framed around a Buddhist
      analysis of modernity. David Loy's essay, "The Spiritual Roots of
      Modernity", gives a good introduction to the concept of modernity through a
      Buddhist analysis of the rise of scientific rationalism, nation-state and
      corporate capitalism in the West. My own essay, "Reinhabiting the
      Flatland", goes more deeply into the Buddhist aspect of these developments
      through an analysis of the rise of the cultural ego-self (att�. Finally, Ph
      ra Phaisan Visalo's piece, "Buddhism for the Next Century", gives us a view
      of the effects of this "trinity" of modernity on the Buddhist world through
      an analysis of Thai Buddhism in the modern era.
      The second section of the issue revolves around a recent dialogue
      we have been having in Think Sangha on the problematic nature of socially
      engaged Buddhism (SEB). Much of this debate has focused around this issue
      of modernity. Questions have been raised such as, "How authentic is engaged
      Buddhism, if its edge of social activism is based in modernist concepts
      like human rights?" The section begins with a piece by Ken Jones that gives
      an outline of socially engaged Buddhism and explores some initial pitfalls
      of this emerging tradition. The center pieces of the section are a dialogue
      between two old friends, David Loy and Nelson Foster, the latter a founding
      member of the American Buddhist Peace Fellowship (BPF). They raise very
      important questions about present modes of Buddhist social engagement by
      reflecting on the transmission of social engagement in their Japanese Zen
      tradition. Finally, Santikaro Bhikkhu reflects on all three of the above
      authors from his own different viewpoint as a celibate Therav慧a monk living
      in Southeast Asia.
      The last section of the journal contains two articles which
      represent Think Sangha's past and future. The first piece, "World Faiths
      Development Dialogue: Reflections One Year Later" by Alan Senauke, looks at
      his involvement in this dialogue on poverty with the World Bank. This
      dialogue was part of Think Sangha's focus on consumerism and economic
      development over the past two years and remains an ongoing concern. The
      second piece, "Feminism and Buddhism" by INEB Women's Project coordinator
      Ouyporn Khuankaew, is a reflection on her ongoing activities to merge
      Buddhist practice with feminist activism. As an original member of Think
      Sangha, she is one of the bridges to this underdeveloped concern of Think
      Sangha that we hope to make the focus of a future Think Sangha Journal.
      For the coming year, Think Sangha has been making plans for holding
      more regionally based meetings rather than one large international meeting.
      The intention behind this is to expand the variety of perspectives within
      the group, which as mentioned above is still somewhat limited. Our larger
      hope, though, is not so much the expansion and growth of the group itself
      but rather that people in various places speaking various languages will
      pick up on this idea of social analysis rooted in spiritual and religious
      viewpoints and go on to form their own think sanghas - to explore their own
      social and cultural issues (which may or may not include modernity), to
      share and commune with other such groups (like ours) in the spirit of
      weaving wider webs of community based on common beliefs and commitments. We
      hope this issue of Think Sangha Journal will contribute in some small way
      to such developments.

      Jonathan Watts - Think Sangha Coordinator
      Kita-Kamakura, Japan
      December 28, 1999
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