Engaged Buddhism in India: Social Engagement or Self-absorption?


The Forum for South Asia Studies was honred to organise a guest lecture by Prof Siddharth Singh on "Engaged Buddhism in India: Social Engagement or Self-absorption?", 2 March 2015, 10:15-12:00, Hugo Valentin Room, The Hugo Valentin Center, Engelska Parken, Uppsala. Prof Siddharth Singh is Visiting Professor, Chair of Indian Studies, Uppsala University, Professor, Dept. of Pali & Buddhist Studies, Banaras Hindu University.

Engaged Buddhism, as a specific term might have emerged in the recent times but, undoubtedly as a concept it was already set in motion by the Buddha himself. Buddha never settled only in a monastery expecting others to come to him and receive the knowledge. Had Buddha not interfered during the conflict of Rohini River, uncountable Sakyans and Koliyas would have been killed in the war? Had Buddha been a neutral spectator of all the social evils, he would also have been counted just as one of the many philosophers, logicians and teachers of ancient India. We find an active social and political engagement of the Buddha in order to bring peace in the society. 

Later in its long history, Buddhism ended up being more a spiritual path that leads to self- absorption rather than a pro-active path offering realistic solutions of life. Social engagement, which was practiced by Gautam, The Buddha throughout his life remained lost in its long historical development and confined within monasticism. 

In the modern discourse, discussion on Buddhism without Engaged Buddhism is incomplete. But the form of Engaged Buddhism being practiced in the west is really focused to social evils? What model of Engaged Buddhism has to be adopted in India? Indian form of Neo Buddhism propounded by Dr. B. R. Ambedkar or spiritual engagement getting popular in the Western countries or else? This guest lecture offered a discussion on the various layers of future of Engaged Buddhism, in its Indian and Western context.