Dissing Thay: Socially Engaged Buddhism and the Problem of Nonviolence


UBC’s Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Program in Buddhism and Contemporary Society is delighted to announce that it will be hosting a hybrid public talk by Professor James Mark Shields (Bucknell University) entitled:

Dissing Thay: Socially Engaged Buddhism and the Problem of Nonviolence

Wednesday June 8th, 2022, 2pm PT | Link to register

About this event:

Non-violence, or non-harming (ahimsa), is the first precept and a core teaching of classical Buddhism. And yet, despite its historical centrality and current popularity, the concept and ways of practicing non-violence have rarely been elucidated in Buddhist tradition. In particular, there has been little analysis within Buddhism of the problems of structural violence embedded in social, political and economic systems. In this exploratory paper, I examine some of the writings of Thích Nhất Hạnh (1926–2022)—revered Vietnamese Thien (Zen) Buddhist teacher and activist who is generally considered the “father” of Socially Engaged Buddhism—in an attempt to rethink the meaning and significance of the theory and practice “violence” and “non-violence” within contemporary Buddhism.

About the presenter:

James Mark Shields is Professor of Comparative Humanities and Asian Thought at Bucknell University (Lewisburg, PA). Educated at McGill University (Canada), the University of Cambridge (UK), and Kyoto University (Japan), he conducts research on modern Buddhist thought, Japanese philosophy, comparative ethics and political theory. He is author of Critical Buddhism: Engaging with Modern Japanese Buddhist Thought (Ashgate, 2011), and Against Harmony: Progressive and Radical Buddhism in Modern Japan (Oxford, 2017).