Buddhism is a religion based on the spiritual and moral precepts of Siddhārtha Gautama (c. 5th century BCE), a teacher known as the Buddha, who stressed liberation from the cycle of suffering and rebirth. There are around 470 million Buddhists worldwide, the majority in East and Southeast Asia. Buddhism stresses the value of peace, and many Buddhist leaders and organizations today are outspoken in their promotion of non-violence. Protests by Buddhist monks have shaped the modern politics of Asia, particularly in Vietnam, Burma, and Tibet. Buddhism has no definitive scriptural canon; each of its main branches, Theravada, Mahayana, and Tibetan, accepts a wide variety of overlapping texts as authoritative.
April 22, 2011
Benjamin Rosenblum is a sophomore in the Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. He is majoring in Science, Technology, and International Affairs and serves as assistant producer for The God Vote.
October 23, 2010
On the morning of April 19, 2011, President Obama
hosted the second annual Easter Prayer Breakfast. “I wanted to host this [event] for a simple reason,” announced the president to a White House stocked with some of America’s most prominent Christian leaders. “During this season, we...
August 30, 2010
The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, which describes itself as "a nonpartisan 'fact tank,'" has recently garnered immense media and popular attention with its "U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey
Washingtonians will remember this ferocious August for its unusual and disconcerting heat - a merciless string of 90-plus degree days - and an intemperate, nasty, heated public discourse. Meanwhile, human crises of biblical proportions are unfolding across the world: stunning floods in Pakistan, a molasses-pace rebuilding in Haiti, heartbreaking conflict in central Africa, droughts in parts of Asia. We badly need to bring down the temperature and refocus the agenda.
August 9, 2010
There are few sadder fates than to be a child abandoned in Cambodia. Every day newspapers carry stories about trafficked children, harsh child labor, and abused children. Last week alone one report reminded readers where they could drop off unwanted babies (after a story of an abandoned baby), another recounted graphic details of the death of a woman after a a botched abortion, there were ongoing trials of pedophiles, and girls were rescued from brothels. Child mortality is still very high.
August 2, 2010
Phnom Penh was hot, noisy, and bustling last week. Cars, motorcycles, and the ubiquitous tuk tuks (motorcycle taxis) raced through the city with perpetual near collisions. Markets were full. Children were everywhere. There were clouds gathering, but the coming storms of the rainy season held off.
May 24, 2010
My grandmother, a very wise woman, gave me a piece of advice that sticks in my mind to this day: "A gingerbread he went to Rome, a gingerbread he came home." She was urging that, going into any new adventure or faced with any new idea, I should not be stuffy and stuck in the outlines of the way I understood things, because if I did, I would miss the chance to learn and change. Doing things that way, I might just as well stay home.
May 17, 2010
Ela Bhatt began her career as a labor organizer, a métier that lends itself more to conflict than to peace. She does not have any formal religious affiliation. And yet last week in Japan she was awarded the Niwano Peace Prize, which highlights the positive roles that faith and religion play in world affairs. (I am a member of the selection committee.)
January 31, 2010
October 26, 2009
Sulak Sivaraksa exudes a rare blend of calm and passion for action. Carrying a tall gnarled staff, dressed in a baggy outfit, and with an everpresent cloth bag stuffed with copies of his books, he's a presence wherever he goes. He prides himself on the many labels people attach to him: intellectual, troublemaker, jailbird, engaged Buddhist, spiritual leader. He carries them all with a smile, wise words, and a barb or two.
August 24, 2009
As a development practitioner who also teaches about development, I have tended to take the term for granted. But it's far from simple to define. Universities, non-profit agencies, and churches call fund-raising people "development officers" and the word crops up with other meanings in virtually every discipline.
Everyone in Cambodia has an extraordinary story of personal or family survival. Almost the entire population was displaced, often fleeing again and again, during the genocidal era of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, from 1975 to 1979. Most people lost everything they had. About two million people died. Schools were closed and destroyed, and anyone with an education was targeted. It is only in the past 10 to 15 years that it has been possible to talk of hope.
May 18, 2009
October 20, 2008
One of the world's longest running and nastiest wars, in Sri Lanka, may be near an end. Sri Lankan government troops have cornered remnants of a force called terrorists by some, nationalist guerrillas by others: the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam or LTTE. Over 70,000 people have died in a conflict that has raged, off and on, since 1983. Peace would indeed be a blessing.
September 1, 2008
The scene was a muggy hotel conference room in Phnom Penh, capital of Cambodia, last week. The topic was grand: "Building Peace, Cooperation, and Harmony through Interfaith Dialogue." The audience was a somber group of Buddhist, Muslim, and Christian leaders, government officials, students and a smattering of international speakers. The tone was utterly serious - no backslapping or chitchat. The organizer was a small new group called the Asian Faiths Development Dialogue.
August 22, 2008
In the midst of the gripping political dramas dominating our news cycle, images of Bhutan (where I was earlier this month) color my processing of the news. Bhutan is about as far as you can get from contemporary American life - a small Himalayan kingdom where ferocious deities are part of daily life and serfdom is a living memory (it was abolished in 1956). Nevertheless, parallels there are.
August 16, 2008
Out of the small Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan came a concept that has enthralled the international development community: Gross National Happiness. GNH offers up a different way to measure a country's well-being, based on the common welfare and infused with a good dose of spirituality--in contrast to the materialism represented by the Gross National Product (GNP). In a time dominated by anxiety about recession, climate change and spiraling energy and food prices, GNH seems to offer a respite,...
Your work in the coming days to promote integrity, honesty, and efficiency in the public and private sectors is a critical part of the fight against poverty. This is very much a global effort and it involves all sectors of societies, all countries, and many different kinds of intellectual approaches. You will be touching on many different dimensions here. I am sorry that I cannot be with you in person to learn from you all, but am honored to share my reflections with you and I look forward to...
August 8, 2008
July 4, 2008
Far away on a remote border between Cambodia and Thailand, an international conflict is brewing. The United Nations Security Council has been notified. Newspapers in Thailand and Cambodia report on hourly developments and, at least in Cambodia, the Ministry of Education warned students to remain calm in the face of nationalist fervor, recalling past violence triggered by similar disputes.
October 4, 2007
World leaders are heading for Japan for the annual ritual known as the Group of Eight meeting. Last week a different group of leaders met, also in Japan, also to take stock of the leading issues that face the world.
They were religious leaders, and their gathering took place in two Japanese cities with spiritual roots, Osaka and Kyoto. The meeting is part of a tradition, now three years old, of a religious summit on the eve of the grand G8 summit.
Religious leaders don’t make policy,...
The monk-led protests in Burma are about spiritual authority as much as they are about raw political power. They are deeply rooted in Burma’s religious culture. Nothing illustrates this so well as the chants of the protesting monks and their overturned begging bowls. Everyone in Burma understands the message: the military rulers are evil spirits who have lost their authority. The monks are chanting the Metta Sutta, a verse that embodies the Buddha’s counsel on the power and...