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Lions Roar : July 2006
SHAMBHALA SUN JULY 2006 61 followers because it linked the struggle for world peace with the desire of each individual to be engaged in meaningful spiritual practice. Coming out of a time when it had been cool for smart people to be agnostic or atheist, people wanted per- mission to seek spiritual connection. Introducing the collection of essays entitled Engaged Bud- dhism in the West, editor Christopher Queen calls attention to the fact that socially engaged Buddhism “has emerged in the context of a global conversation on human rights, distributive justice, and social progress.... As a style of ethical practice en- gaged Buddhism may be seen as a new paradigm of Buddhist liberation.” In the late eighties and nineties Thich Nhat Hanh’s teachings on engaged Buddhist practice spoke directly to con- cerned citizens in the United States who had been working on behalf of peace and justice, especially for an end to domination based on racial, gender, and sexual practice, but who had begun to feel hopelessness and despair. The assassination of visionary leaders, the inability to end racism and create a just society, the failure of contemporary feminism, which, rather than healing the split between men and women, actually led to further gen- der warfare—all of this engendered a collective feeling of hope- lessness. Buddhist teachers addressed this suffering directly. Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche was one of the first Buddhist teachers in the West offering the insight that this profound hopelessness could be the groundwork for spiritual practice. Certainly I came to Buddhism searching for a way out of suf- fering and despair. Thich Nhat Hanh spoke to my struggle to connect spiritual practice with social engagement. Yet at the time, his Buddhism often seemed rigid, and like many other seekers I turned to the teachings of Trungpa Rinpoche to con- front the longings of my heart and find a way to embrace a passionate life. For many Western seekers, the feeling that we had failed to create a culture of peace and justice led us back to an introspective search of our intimate relations, which more often than not were messy and full of strife, suffering, and pain. How could any of us truly believe that we could create world peace when we could not make peace in our intimate relationships with family, partners, friends, and neighbors? Responding to this collective anguish of spirit, vision- ary teachers (like King, Thich Nhat Hanh, the Dalai Lama, Sharon Salzberg) were moved by spiritual necessity to speak more directly about the practice of love. Proclaiming trans- formation in his consciousness engendered by a focus on love, Thich Nhat Hanh declared in the poem “The Fruit of Lucky Star, 2004, tapestry, 68 x 79 inches. COURTESYOFTHEARTISTANDMAGNOLIAEDITIONS,OAKLAND,CA