Buddhism and Globalization - Seeker's Thoughts

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Buddhism and Globalization

Buddhism and Globalization

 Buddhism traveled from India to Asia and the transcontinental links that were created carried more than just spiritualism. It carried a rich cargo of knowledge and learning. It carried arts and crafts as well. 
It spread meditation techniques and even martial arts. Eventually, the many roads that the monks and nuns – those men and women of faith – carved out became among the earliest trade routes. In that sense, Buddhism was the basis for an early form of globalization.

Buddhism binds the culture of India with that of countries in the region like Bhutan, china, Cambodia, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Myanmar, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam. About 500 million Buddhist worldwide, represent 7% of the world’s population, making Buddhist, the fourth largest community in the world. The Indian Missions abroad identified eminent Buddhist scholars/ monks / opinion makers for International Buddhist conclave 2018.

Globalization occurs when products made in one country are sold in another. It also refers to how religions spread to new locations and cultures around the globe.

Modern analysts define globalization as a long-term process of deterritorialization, time-space distanciation and increasing interdependence; we all witness it whenever we purchase an imported car or travel abroad.




As Buddhism expands in modern society, it faces both opportunities and challenges. One key issue facing it is secularization - while it's not ideal for many religions, secularization can actually prove advantageous for Buddhism as it allows communities to work more easily with governments and institutions that share similar beliefs and values, while simultaneously helping develop deeper spirituality complemented by secular ideas.


Secularization in Buddhism is not new; several authors have examined its prevalence. Unfortunately, most studies on secular Buddhism fail to address its global ramifications - some works address this topic within Buddhist missions and evangelism while others investigate Western influence on Buddhists in Asia. While these works provide useful information about secularization and Buddhism overall.


Secularizing Buddhism, a recently published collection of essays, provides a critical viewpoint of secularization trends. This book investigates how Buddhists respond to secularization while discussing how different Buddhist traditions interact with secular societies.


While not all authors in this volume are Buddhist, their works do represent a range of Buddhist perspectives and practices. Some essays in this collection have never before been published while others reprint classic works on Buddhism studies.


Fronsdal provides the book with its most provocative argument when she asserts that secularization of Buddhism is a positive development, noting how secularism shares many core beliefs with Buddhism - nonattachment and rejecting superstition among them - providing an interesting counterbalance to what are often negative accounts of secularization in literature.




Buddhism has responded to globalization's challenges and opportunities in various ways, including its commitment to pluralism. Unlike Western political ideologies such as democratic liberalism or Communism which prioritize their respective groups' interests above those of all humans, Buddhist teachings emphasize interdependence among us all and promote spiritual progress through social engagement - providing alternatives to ethnocentric and nationalist thinking that could prove valuable alternatives in times of unrest and nationalism.


One of the hallmarks of Buddhism is its emphasis on nonviolence, which has helped it survive religious conflicts throughout its history. Additionally, Buddhist principles emphasise self-discovery and transformation through practice - evidenced in individuals such as Asoka (who built an entire state on Buddhist principles) or Maha Gandhra today.


Buddhist ideas are increasingly being integrated into social work. One such organization, the International Buddhist Forum, provides support for people of various Buddhist traditions and cultures by offering information, resources and expertise exchanges as well as offering a forum to discuss possible responses of Buddhism to contemporary issues.


Many scholars are making connections between Buddhism and cosmopolitanism. Andrew Linklater compares it to cosmopolitanism's emphasis on moral commitment among its subjects as the basis for harmonious unity, while Pradeep K. Giri cites service to all humanity as a core principle of Buddhist cosmopolitanism, with numerous historical examples such as White Lotus Society in China and ikko-ikki peasant revolts in Japan citing examples.


Human Rights


As Buddhism becomes a global religion, its influence and growth present both new challenges and opportunities. One such opportunity lies within how Buddhism relates to human rights. This article investigates how Buddhist philosophical traditions like Theravada and Mahayana can enhance our understanding of what it means to have rights and responsibilities.


Buddhism provides a compelling answer to human rights concerns by encouraging its followers to practice kindness and selflessness. Buddha taught that harming living beings was wrong; thus his followers strive to treat each person with dignity. They also try to remain aware of life's transience, so as not to become attached to permanent states of being or objects that ultimately are fleeting in nature.


Other Buddhist teachings emphasize the need to protect the environment and alleviate poverty and disease, while many Buddhists also hold that their karmic debts must be paid back through service and devotion - this belief has resulted in lay service becoming an integral component of Buddhism.


Numerous volumes on Buddhist approaches to human rights have recently been published, with Learman 2005 being the first volume that specifically mentioned "globalization" as its title; many essays within it focus on missionary or evangelistic efforts by Asian Buddhists inside and outside Asia, particularly their involvement in missionary or evangelistic endeavors (Learman 2005) while some dealt with other topics such as Western imperialism's effect on Asian history (Alles 2008 cited under Globalization Theories), while Heine and Prebish 2003 addressed more specifically modernity than anything else.




As Buddhism becomes an international religion, its practitioners are adapting to meet both the challenges and opportunities presented by modernization. For instance, some have become involved in environmental efforts, working to protect our planet. Others have discovered ways of merging their spiritual practices with civil rights activism or peace movements; many promote humanism or support the notion of shared social responsibility.


At the time of Buddha, societies and economies were more deeply embedded within nature and economies were regionalized. Nowadays, however, humans are less tied to the land due to globalization's ecological and social crises - pollution, deforestation and biodiversity loss are increasingly becoming major concerns; accordingly Buddhism has developed an interconnectedness philosophy emphasizing compassion and mutual aid as the basis of relationships among its adherents.


Indian Buddhism introduced the concept of reincarnation, which holds that all living beings are subject to death and rebirth - giving Buddhists an alternative view on environmental issues.


Recently, Buddhism has experienced a revival in the West and interconfessional interactions among different schools are once again common. This trend can be partly attributed to neo-Buddhism trends which go beyond traditionalist philosophical positions by actively engaging in social reconstruction through new humanistic ideas. Esposito et al's 2008 provides an excellent general introduction while Inda and Rosaldo's 2008 provides a graduate-level reader that examines religion from an anthropological viewpoint.


Social Justice


Social justice has its foundations in religion. First coined by Luigi Taparelli d'Azeglio in 1843 - an Italian priest and philosopher involved with Catholic social teaching - its principles can be found throughout Judaism, Christianity and Islam as well as Hindu dharma or universal law philosophy.


Buddhism has responded well to both the challenges and opportunities presented by globalization, with some scholars even going as far as to characterize it as a global religion. Although its primary goal is liberation from suffering (dukkha), Buddha taught that all humans share basic considerations of humanity including interdependence and impermanence of life itself.


Buddhists have also shown how Buddhism can play an active role in modern society by engaging in charitable and enlightening work as well as opposing war and protecting the environment, showing it is not simply an obsolete cultural relic of yesteryear.


Though much research on Buddhism and globalization has focused on missionary or evangelistic efforts, more recently there have been essays that approach it from soteriological viewpoints - an excellent example being Linda Learman's 2005 volume entitled, "Buddhism in an Era of Globalization".


Melanie L. Harris's essay "Engaged Buddhism and Liberation Theologies: Fierce Compassion as a Mode of Justice," published in Buddhists, Globalization and Religion offers another approach that takes up this subject matter: namely from a feminist viewpoint on Buddhist studies as part of globalization. While most other Buddhist studies examine Buddhism from an Asian or Hindu cultural standpoint, this piece offers a different viewpoint by approaching its subject matter from this angle - which provides for a unique take on its globalization aspect.