Conflict, Culture, Change - Foreword
The Many Faces of Sulak Sivaraksa
It has been my honor and pleasure to know Acharn Sulak for nearly forty years, as a friend, colleague, teacher, and student. He is many things to many people—traditional Thai scholar and global networker, writer and critic, activist and provocateur. There is Sulak-of-the-elite and Sulak-of-the-masses. This book reveals these many facets of a modern traditionalist caught in the belly of a paradox.
Sulak promotes dialogue, reconciliation, and compassion, yet he attacks, with thinly veiled righteous anger, America’s global dominance, his own government’s harsh treatment of villagers displaced by the Pak Moon dam, and China’s disregard for the cultural and ethnic integrity of Tibet. He tilts at the windmills of transnational corporations, while participating in World Bank–sponsored events such as the World Faiths Development Dialogue. He rails against the deleterious consequences of globalization, yet he is cofounder of the global International Network of Engaged Buddhists. And there is the paradox of Sulak’s frenetic schedule alongside his appreciation of monastic simplicity, breathing meditation, and a nonmaterialistic lifestyle.
Conflict, Culture, Change includes themes familiar to Sulak’s readers: the cultural and environmental impacts of consumerism; understanding, nonviolence, and compassion in the aftermath of 9-11; the integration of mindfulness with social activism; using Buddhist ethics to confront structural violence; and globalization’s threat to traditional identity. This book is an informative introduction to his wide range of interests and commitments. It also breaks new ground: a discussion of Buddhist education, insights on interreligious dialogue (see chapters 6 and 8), and analyses of the transformation of Thailand during the past three-quarters of a century.
Since Acharn Sulak taught with me at Swarthmore College last year, his students continue to speak about his breadth of knowledge and experience, and even more so about his openness to them in the classroom and at his home. Although a book cannot substitute for a conversation, these essays introduce the reader to Sulak as a person—his warmth, commitment, and creativity—and invite the reader to come to know one of the founders of the worldwide movement of socially engaged spirituality. Conflict, Culture, Change is a welcome addition to the growing literature on contemporary global Buddhism. It is intended to provoke, and I believe it will.
Donald K. Swearer Director, Center for the Study of World Religions
Harvard Divinity School
Chiang Mai, Thailand
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© Sulak Sivaraksa, Conflict, Culture, Change (Wisdom Publications, 2005)
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