Economic Injustice and Buddhist Teachings

A recent article by my online friend Maia Duerr, writing on the Turning Wheel Media site, addresses issues that are central to my own concerns recently: how do the Buddha’s teachings, and our practice, relate to the social, environmental and political problems that threaten to sink our society and indeed humanity?

This article focuses on Economic Injustice. Maia points out that the Buddha clearly gave his teachings a social dynamic:

We so often ignore the most basic teaching of the Buddha, that interconnection is the truth of things as they are. We forget that when Shakyamuni Buddha had his own awakening, from the get-go he put it in this collective context: “I and all sentient beings on earth, together, attain enlightenment at the same time.”

She goes on to point out that these social problems all have roots in our individual and collective ignorance of this interdependence, and the cravings and aversions that arise out of that ignorance.

(I would add again, the three poisons – rendered in the article as greed, anger, and delusion – I think are easier to understand as ignorance, attachment, and aversion. But that’s another post.)

Identifying racism, classism and corporate control of resources as some of the social manifestations of the three poisons, she says we’ll only begin to address these problems when we understand those roots.

As Thich Nhat Hanh suggested, when our practice begins to mature, we find ourselves ready to get up off the cushion and address the problems in front of us.

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