The Engaged Buddhism Study Group began in Tokyo in 2004 initiated by the Zenseikyo Foundation & Buddhist Council for Youth and Child Welfare and the AYUS International Buddhist Cooperation Network along with some other individual engaged Buddhists in order to examine the ways Buddhists could confront a variety of social issues. Since that time, Buddhists in Japan have become increasingly engaged in a wide variety of pressing social issues, from trauma care and suicide prevention to working with the homeless, elderly, and disaster victims to activism against nuclear power and militarism and finally working to build and revive the spiritual and ecological culture of Japan. These activities and movements are a far cry from the negative image of “funeral Buddhism” that was prevalent in Japan at the end of the 20th century.
The next step in this challenge for Japanese Buddhism to re-invent and revive itself is to connect with Buddhists and other religious groups active in like-minded social activities outside of Japan. There are numerous international Buddhist associations and networks these days, but many of them are confined to a rather top-down exchange in which wealthy East Asian Buddhists provide aid and material support to “poor” Buddhists in South and Southeast Asia. The Japan Network of Engaged Buddhists (JNEB) is seeking to develop more horizontal relationships with Buddhists in other countries, creating collaborative actions in a wide variety of fields, especially concerning pressing issues like global climate change and inter-ethnic & inter-religious conflict.
Priests and nuns, researchers, NGO staff, journalists, students and people from various other sectors have been involved in this study group and our networking events. We welcome your participation in working for the harmonization of a peaceful inner life and a peaceful society in this time of increasing social division and intolerance. Please come join us this spring to engage in discussions with foreign Buddhists on their issues of concern and activities. Translation will be provided in Japanese, but you are also encouraged to come develop your international communication skills in English or the native language of our guest!
2018 Spring Series
May 9 (Wed.)
Mainstream media has been focusing for decades on the cultural and often violent conflict among the three great Abrahamic faiths of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam in the Middle East. More recently, however, are the increasing number of conflicts among Buddhists and Muslims in South Asia (Sri Lanka & Bangladesh) and Southeast Asia (Myanmar & Thailand), piled on top of long the older conflicts between Hindus and Muslims in India and Hindus and Buddhists in Sri Lanka. Buddhism has generally had a more positive global image as a religion of peace, but these recent conflicts have exposed very old patterns of Buddhist nationalism and chauvinism. What are we to make of these trends? Is Buddhism no less prone to chauvinist violence & is Islam actually more peaceful than it has been made out to be? How much are these conflicts really about religious communities and their value systems OR rather about economic and political forces that have used them to advance agendas of profit and power? Finally, and perhaps most importantly, what role can ecumenical and progressively minded Buddhist and Muslim groups play in building a greater civilizational culture of peace across Asia that can temper economic and political agendas driven by greed, anger, and delusion?
Our two speakers are deeply involved in these above questions and issues. Harsha Navaratne, the Chairman of the Executive Board of the International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB), has devoted his life to progressive, religious based social development: first as a member of the founding generation of the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement, and more recently, as Chairman of INEB, developing programs to bring Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, and Christians together for peaceful dialogue in Sri Lanka and across the region. Before becoming Executive Secretary of INEB in 2009, Somboon Chungprampree worked for progressive, Buddhist based social development in Myanmar. More recently, he has help to guide INEB’s International Forum on Buddhist-Muslim Relations, which has brought together Buddhist and Muslims leaders throughout South Asia and Southeast Asia to promote mutual understanding and speak openly on non-violent dialogue and diplomacy. Please join us for a fascinating evening of dialogue!
18:30 Opening and Introduction to INEB (Jonathan Watts, Director of the Japan Network of Engaged Buddhists – JNEB)
18:40 Talk by Harsha Navaratne & Somboon Chungprampree
19:30 Questions & Open Discussion
20:30 Optional Dinner at local restaurant
Location: Shinko-in Temple
1-1-5 Higashi Azabu, Minato-ku, Tokyo 106-0044
Contact: ogigaya[AT]gmail.com (Jonathan Watts)