Thích Nhất Hạnh coined the term “Engaged Buddhism" during the Vietnam War, when he and his community of monks and nuns had to decide what to do when the villages around them were being bombed. Should they continue to meditate in their monastery, or should they go out into the streets to help the people who had been hurt? They decided to do both--to help people and do so in mindfulness.
Engaged Buddhists draw on the teachings of the Buddha to inform their actions on issues such as war, nuclear weapons, poverty, globalization, the criminal justice system, and climate change. A key passage from the Dhammapada (a collection of Buddha's sayings) states: “In this world, hate never yet dispelled hate. Only love dispels hate.” Thousands of years later, this principle was echoed by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
In this spirit, the Winding Path Sangha is exploring opportunities to speak into and respond mindfully to the suffering in the world today, from hunger and poverty to war and systemic injustice, here at home and across the globe. One example of Right Action is writing "love letters" to political leaders as a way to water seeds of compassion in them, rather than demonizing or merely criticizing their actions. A recent and helpful example of this is a December 21, 2017 letter from Sister Chan Khong to the leaders of Myanmar, where the Rohingya Muslims have been displaced and are suffering greatly.
Deeper explorations of what Engaged Buddhism means may be found in this teaching by Thay, and in this 2003 Lion's Roar interview with him. There are also several good books about Engaged Buddhism within Thay's tradition, including:
- Interbeing: Fourteen Guidelines for Engaged Buddhism, Thích Nhất Hạnh
- Love in Action: Writings on Nonviolent Social Change, Thích Nhất Hạnh
- The Raft Is Not the Shore: Conversations Toward a Buddhist-Christian Awareness, Daniel Berrigan and Thích Nhất Hạnh
- Learning True Love: Practicing Buddhism in a Time of War, Sister Chan Khong