Religious Studies and Philosophy: Research that matters, especially now! What constitutes the common ground that we all share?

Tag: mindfulness (page 1 of 1)

Engaged Buddhism, Interbeing, and the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings

A spider’s understanding of Indra’s net.
Source: (accessed April 5, 2017, labelled for noncommercial reuse)

Studying Asian religions often involves examining their ethical impact. One significant contribution to reformulating Buddhist ethics for the contemporary context was made by Thich Nhat Hanh, who created the Order of Interbeing during the Vietnam War. Although the first fourteen “principles” articulated in 1966 used a prescriptive language beginning with “do not…,” they were then rephrased as injunctions to meditate on these central issues in the spirit of mindful inquiry. Below is the description provided in 1999.


Aware of the suffering created by fanaticism and intolerance, we are determined not to be idolatrous about or bound to any doctrine, theory, or ideology, even Buddhist ones. Buddhist teachings are guiding means to help us learn to look deeply and to develop our understanding and compassion. They are not doctrines to fight, kill, or die for.


Aware of the suffering created by attachment to views and wrong perceptions, we are determined to avoid being narrow-minded and bound to present views. We shall learn and practice nonattachment from views in order to be open to others’ insights and experiences. We are aware that the knowledge we presently possess is not changeless, absolute truth. Truth is found in life, and we will observe life within and around us in every moment, ready to learn throughout our lives.


Aware of the suffering brought about when we impose our views on others, we are committed not to force others, even our children, by any means whatsoever—such as authority, threat, money, propaganda, or indoctrination—to adopt our views. We will respect the right of others to be different and to choose what to believe and how to decide. We will, however, help others renounce fanaticism and narrowness through compassionate dialogue.


Aware that looking deeply at the nature of suffering can help us develop compassion and find ways out of suffering, we are determined not to avoid or close our eyes before suffering. We are committed to finding ways, including personal contact, images, and sounds, to be with those who suffer, so we can understand their situation deeply and help them transform their suffering into compassion, peace, and joy.


Aware that true happiness is rooted in peace, solidity, freedom, and compassion, and not in wealth or fame, we are determined not to take as the aim of our life fame, profit, wealth, or sensual pleasure, nor to accumulate wealth while millions are hungry and dying. We are committed to living simply and sharing our time, energy, and material resources with those in need. We will practice mindful consuming, not using alcohol, drugs, or any other products that bring toxins into our own and the collective body and consciousness.


Aware that anger blocks communication and creates suffering, we are determined to take care of the energy of anger when it arises and to recognize and transform the seeds of anger that lie deep in our consciousness. When anger comes up, we are determined not to do or say anything, but to practice mindful breathing or mindful walking and acknowledge, embrace, and look deeply into our anger. We will learn to look with the eyes of compassion at those we think are the cause of our anger.


Aware that life is available only in the present moment and that it is possible to live happily in the here and now, we are committed to training ourselves to live deeply each moment of daily life. We will try not to lose ourselves in dispersion or be carried away by regrets about the past, worries about the future, or craving, anger, or jealousy in the present. We will practice mindful breathing to come back to what is in the present moment. We are determined to learn the art of mindful living by touching the wondrous, refreshing, and healing elements that are inside and around us, and by nourishing seeds of joy, peace, love, and understanding in ourselves, thus facilitating the work of transformation and healing in our consciousness.


Aware that the lack of communication always brings separation and suffering, we are committed to training ourselves in the practice of compassionate listening and loving speech. We will learn to listen deeply without judging or reacting and refrain from uttering words that can create discord or cause the community to break. We will make every effort to keep communications open and to reconcile and resolve all conflicts, however small.


Aware that words can create suffering or happiness, we are committed to learning to speak truthfully and constructively, using only words that inspire hope and confidence. We are determined not to say untruthful things for the sake of personal interest or to impress people, nor to utter words that might cause division or hatred. We will not spread news that we do not know to be certain nor criticize or condemn things of which we are not sure. We will do our best to speak out about situations of injustice, even when doing so may threaten our safety.


Aware that the essence and aim of a Sangha is the practice of understanding and compassion, we are determined not to use the Buddhist community for personal gain or profit or transform our community into a political instrument. A spiritual community should, however, take a clear stand against oppression and injustice and should strive to change the situation without engaging in partisan conflicts.


Aware that great violence and injustice have been done to our environment and society, we are committed not to live with a vocation that is harmful to humans and nature. We will do our best to select a livelihood that helps realize our ideal of understanding and compassion. Aware of global economic, political and social realities, we will behave responsibly as consumers and as citizens, not investing in companies that deprive others of their chance to live.


Aware that much suffering is caused by war and conflict, we are determined to cultivate nonviolence, understanding, and compassion in our daily lives, to promote peace education, mindful mediation, and reconciliation within families, communities, nations, and in the world. We are determined not to kill and not to let others kill. We will diligently practice deep looking with our Sangha to discover better ways to protect life and prevent war.


Aware of the suffering caused by exploitation, social injustice, stealing, and oppression, we are committed to cultivating loving kindness and learning ways to work for the well-being of people, animals, plants, and minerals. We will practice generosity by sharing our time, energy, and material resources with those who are in need. We are determined not to steal and not to possess anything that should belong to others. We will respect the property of others, but will try to prevent others from profiting from human suffering or the suffering of other beings.


(For lay members): Aware that sexual relations motivated by craving cannot dissipate the feeling of loneliness but will create more suffering, frustration, and isolation, we are determined not to engage in sexual relations without mutual understanding, love, and a long-term commitment. In sexual relations, we must be aware of future suffering that may be caused. We know that to preserve the happiness of ourselves and others, we must respect the rights and commitments of ourselves and others. We will do everything in our power to protect children from sexual abuse and to protect couples and families from being broken by sexual misconduct. We will treat our bodies with respect and preserve our vital energies (sexual, breath, spirit) for the realization of our bodhisattva ideal. We will be fully aware of the responsibility of bringing new lives into the world, and will meditate on the world into which we are bringing new beings.

(For monastic members): Aware that the aspiration of a monk or a nun can only be realized when he or she wholly leaves behind the bonds of worldly love, we are committed to practicing chastity and to helping others protect themselves. We are aware that loneliness and suffering cannot be alleviated by the coming together of two bodies in a sexual relationship, but by the practice of true understanding and compassion. We know that a sexual relationship will destroy our life as a monk or a nun, will prevent us from realizing our ideal of serving living beings, and will harm others. We are determined not to suppress or mistreat our body or to look upon our body as only an instrument, but to learn to handle our body with respect. We are determined to preserve vital energies (sexual, breath, spirit) for the realization of our bodhisattva ideal.

Excerpt from Nhat, Hanh. 1999. Interbeing: Fourteen Guidelines for Engaged Buddhism. Berkeley, CA: Parallax Press, 17–22. This book then provides a detailed commentary on the fourteen guidelines.

A Path Toward Japan’s Reconciliation with Asia

This post resembles a bottle thrown into the ocean with a message inside. Will anyone pick it up, or will it keep drifting with all the meaningless information clouding our senses and reason? It results from a dream I had in October 2014. Although it may sound presumptuous, this message is titled “Open Letter to Asia: Soul-Searching on the Occasion of the Seventieth Commemoration of the Pacific War and Suggestions for Japan’s Reconciliation with Asia.” Let me append the full text below. A PDF version if available from the following links: English PDF versionJapanese PDF version, English and Japanese bilingual version. These files are designed to be in the public domain. It depends on each of you whether these small seeds grow. It is only a matter of finding the right soil and the proper conditions, isn’t it? I welcome suggestions for improving the wording in either language, or constructive criticism of the content. If you agree with what is being said, you are encouraged to circulate this message to friends or acquaintances, or even to translate this message into your own language. In this case, please be kind enough to leave a note in the comments. May all beings be happy!


The little piece of rock we call home. Yet this is also our mother Gaia.

Open Letter to Asia

Soul-Searching on the Occasion of the Seventieth Commemoration of the Pacific War and Suggestions for Japan’s Reconciliation with Asia

Although seventy years have elapsed since the conclusion of the Pacific War, wounds are still vivid and even tend to be exacerbated by the lack of sincere reflection and unambiguous apology from the Japanese government. Those of us who love Japan’s traditional emphasis on sincerity (makoto) cannot watch this scene without being appalled and without thinking that with minimal effort Japan could reconcile with its neighbors and finally turn the page of its militaristic past. Coming to terms with past atrocities may sound difficult but is the only way forward. Germany has shown that it is possible. This nevertheless implies genuine reflection on the complex historical factors that led Japan to lose touch with the rest of Asia. It should also be emphasized that this reflection is not limited to Japan and could apply to any country losing touch with reality and treading the path of militarism. Here are a few suggestions on how to express such sincere reflection and apology in the spirit of this open letter. Precisely because nothing can be expected from the Japanese government, intellectuals and private citizens feeling a sense of responsibility must take the lead.

  • Although words cannot heal the deep wounds inflicted on so many people and cannot revive those who died because of absurd ideologies, we express our deepest remorse for the past actions of the Japanese army and civilians abroad. Even if they initially derived from the desire to compete with colonial powers, we feel ashamed by the unfortunate policies followed in Asia since the Meiji era, which led to such devastating militarism until 1945 and harmed so many individuals across the world. There is no justification for the mad militaristic ideology that was used throughout these years to kill and oppress people even within Japan.
  • When necessary, we, intellectuals and responsible citizens, have the duty to stand against our own government and denounce its unjust belligerent actions, its exploitation of other people inside or outside the national boundaries, and to oppose the use of misleading rhetoric to justify such actions. We vow never to repeat mistakes done during the Pacific War.
  • We can only express our sincerest apology and vow never to let similar barbarous acts be repeated, but a small awareness can trigger huge changes. May all individuals be mindful of their actions and of their consequences, and pledge to never blindly follow warmongers!

Written on April 19, 2015.