“Engaged Buddhists” have attracted world-wide attention in the 21st century. They are carrying on non-violent struggles in different regions of the world, for promoting democracy, justice and human rights. Research scholars are interviewing them to elicit their views on questions related to the scope of their work as also the methods that they are employing to enhance the effectiveness of their struggles. This book provides answers to such questions that have been extracted from two of the main scriptures of Mahayana Buddhism viz. The Lotus Sutra and Shantideva’s Bodhicaryavatara, which have inspired most of the “engaged Buddhists”. Relevant portions of the Sanskrit—texts have been identified, and are reproduced here, along with their simple meaning in English. The pattern of presentation is similar to the authors’ earlier book “The Social Role of the Gita: How and Why”, which has won the hearts of Gandhian scholars. This presentation provides ample proof of similarity between the social message of Bhagavad Gita and of the two Mahayana-texts.
Satya P. Agarwal & Urmila Agarwal acquired expertise in social science research, at U.S. Universities, in the 1950’s. After nearly four decades of inter-disciplinary study and applied research at the global level, they brought out the award-winning book “The Social Role of the Gita: How and Why.” Thus began a series of innovative research publications based on Sanskrit and Hindi texts.
The conceptual origin of this book is linked with the study and research that we did in USA from 1953 onward. Alan Watts laid open before us the vast field of research opportunities connected with Buddhism. He arranged for us a short visit to the famous Buddhist Meditation centers of Kyoto (Japan). Also, the American Academy of Asian Studies (headed by Alan Watts) facilitated our cultural interaction with the Chinese community of San Francisco, in the context of their project aimed at building a Buddhist temple. For the multi-lingual Dharmic text to be used in this temple, the Sanskrit-section was prepared by us.
Simultaneously, our desire to do innovative research on Gandhi and Vinoba was strengthened through our close collaboration with Joan Bondurant who wrote “Conquest of Violence: The Gandhian Philosophy of Conflict”. One of our own studies on “Sarvodaya” (The Gandhian Vision of Uplift of All) was completed in 1956, but it could not be sent for publication due to organisational red-tape.
Our research on “Lokasamgraha” (Good of the world) — which has similarities with Sarvodaya—picked up steam in 1987 (after we had completed our assignment with the United Nations). A strong fillip to this research was provided by the University of California, Berkeley, in 1991, when they made us a part of their Center for South Asia Studies. Our first book on Lokasamgraha was published in 1993, under the title ‘The Social Role of the Gita: How and Why.” The main finding of this book, viz, that the social message of “Bhagavad-Gita” is Lokasamgraha, received strong support from Gandhian scholars as well as university professors. This prompted us to extend the coverage of our research to books which have been influenced by Bhagavad-Gita.
In the year 2000, we published “The Gita and Tulasi-Rarnayana: Their Common Call for the Good of All,” in which we brought out the similarity between the social message of Bhagavad-Gita and that of Tulasi-Ramayana (a sixteenth- century Hindi text).
While looking for other texts that we could include in our research program, we came across Dr. Radhakrishnan’s remark (made in 1948) that the most important Mahayana text (The Lotus Sutra) is indebted to Bhagavad-Gita. In fact, quite independently of this remark, we had started research on the social message of the Lotus Sutra. This research inevitably meant taking a close look at the important phenomenon of “Engaged Buddhism”. In this process, we discovered that, while many of the “engaged Buddhists” had been inspired by the Lotus Sutra, some of them had been inspired by Shantideva’s Bodhicaryavatara. The outcome of the consequent enlargement of the scope of our research is presented in this book.
In all our studies related to the social message of different texts, we have adopted a respectful attitude, because we do not want to hurt the feelings of those for whom these are scriptural texts. If any lapse has inadvertently occurred, we hope the readers will draw our attention to it so that we can take care of the problem (if any) in the next edition.
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