Most Americans—probably even most Buddhist Americans—think of Buddhism as a quietistic spirituality focused on either individual peace of mind or complete transcendence of the social and material worlds. The famous sociologist Max Weber called it a “specifically unpolitical and anti-political status religion,” and that’s the impression that has pretty much stuck ever since. So, it might surprise many people to learn just how preoccupied Buddhist texts are with at least one mundane, bread-and-butter public policy issue: taxes.
Robert Thurman was a monk ordained by the Dalai Lama and also became an Ivy League professor of religion. One debate that is surfacing at the Symposium for Western Socially Engaged Buddhsim is whether social engagement is part of historical Buddhism or whether it was introduced by a synthesis with Western concepts of human rights. […]