The very first western Buddhism came from scholars and archeologists. British surveys aided in discovering many significant Buddhist sites which were in India. Initially, Buddhism was viewed as something exotic as opposed to an essential way of life. Buddhism was brought into the West in the 1950s for the first time by Zen Buddhism when he went to America. His Buddhist teachings had a significant impact on the Beat generation, and several Japanese teachers established different meditational centers(Korda). After some time, Zen continually grew in the United States and other countries and even produced western teachers who were qualified to continue with the transmission.
Western Buddhism is mainly uncluttered and straightforward and focusses mostly on the Buddhas core teachings. Many practices and concepts that sometimes prove difficult for westerners are not included in the teachings. Different rituals which are part of the oriental culture such as dancing, music, and chanting are not incorporated in western Buddhism (Jones). Many people who were taught Buddhism in traditional styles now teach it in the west where they apply a modern perspective on vital Buddha teachings.
Socially engaged Buddhism
Socially engaged Buddhism calls for the involvement of Buddhists in different social, political, environmental, and economic challenges being experienced in society. The people who participate in these activities seek to fulfill traditional ideals in Buddhism that call for compassion and wisdom in the world. Buddhism is viewed as passive, and engaged Buddhism may be viewed as a self-contradiction. However, many engaged Buddhists believe that there cannot be complete enlightenment if there are some people who are trapped in delusion(Jones).
They also believe that genuine wisdom is depicted in actions that show compassion for others. Buddhists who engage in social activities, therefore,strive to assist people who are facing different problems such as hunger, war, oppression, poverty, pollution among others.Therefore, to these Buddhists, working with the aim of reducing suffering in all living things and the planet as a whole is an essential part of spiritual practice and it leads to compassion and selflessness.
Differences between Early Buddhism and Western and Socially Engaged Buddhism
Early Buddhism together with the socially engaged Buddhism and the western Buddhism reflects the life and early teachings of Buddha. However, different variations occur across them. Early Buddhist practices took place in shrines, temples or Buddhist monasteries (Korda). However, western Buddhism and socially engaged Buddhism activities take place mainly in temples, but they may also be conducted in different areas and are not specific to only one given place.
Early Buddhism activities involved regular temple visits, and the Buddhists made sacrifices to Buddha. Conversely, western Buddhism and socially engaged Buddhism do not follow the tradition of offering sacrifices and mainly involves actions such as; meditation, right view, the eightfold path, right effort, right concentration, and right speech. Early Buddhist teachings also believed in karma, and different festivals were practiced (Eck). On the contrary, many Buddhists who practice western and socially engaged Buddhism do not believe in karma, and they also do not celebrate the different festivals.
Early Buddhist practices also made use of statues that were used as meditation objects and whichwere also revered because they were believed to portray the Buddhas qualities. On the other hand, western and socially involved Buddhism use the statues just as symbolic reminders which are not revered. Finally, early Buddhism was hierarchical while western and socially engaged Buddhism is egalitarian(Eck).
Therefore, it is evident that the early Buddhist teachings have continually evolved as people break away from the original Buddha teachings and way of life to practice Buddhism in other different ways. However, the impact of Buddhism is still being felt as people practice it in the various ways and the core principles are still upheld.
Eck, Diana. "Buddhism and Social Action: Engaged Buddhism." The Pluralism Project; Harvard University, 2017, http://pluralism.org/religions/buddhism/issues-for-buddhists-in-america/buddhism-and-social-action-engaged-buddhism/.
Jones, Ken. "Buddhism And Social Action An Exploration By Ken Jones." 2010, https://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/jones/wheel285.html. Korda, Josh. "Early Buddhist Paths That Lead to Liberation." Huff Post, 2017, https://www.huffingtonpost.com/josh-korda/early-Buddhist-paths_b_8323766.html.
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