Envisioning a Dharmic Society: Retelling a Traditional Buddhist Tale
This chapter examines how Buddhism can help social justice efforts by retelling the story of Aṅgulimāla, a vicious serial killer whom the Buddha subdues and converts to monastic life. In the spirit of “Social Engaged Buddhism,” peace activist Satish Kumar updates this tale in his powerful book, The Buddha and the Terrorist. While conservative critics may decry Kumar’s efforts as distorting the Dharma, they miss the point: Kumar’s retelling depicts a society informed by Dharmic principles that offers a possibility of dealing humanely with violence and loss. In a sense, Kumar narrates a Buddhist “liberation theology” to prompt us to rethink our responses to fear and hurt, and thus deal constructively with violence on an individual and socio-structural level. While obviously idealized, Kumar offers a compelling vision of “the good life” that should inspire all of us.
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