The New Social Face of Buddhism: A Call to Action

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Press: Wisdom Publications; First Edition edition (June 15, 2003)
Publication Date:2003-6
Author Name:Jones, Ken


Jones presents an astute, well-informed, and balanced analysis of the philosophy, history, and future of socially relevant Buddhism. 
At a time when clear social action is needed more than ever, The New Social Face of Buddhism is vital reading for activists, scholars and everyone seeking to transform their spiritual practice into a force for social, political, and global change.
A groundbreaking work, Jones's book is a wellspring of inspiration that should not be missed.


"Jones's original Social Face of Buddhism, published in 1989, came just in time to encourage many of us who were searching for the point were Buddhism and social action meet. 
The book was a beacon and we turned to it eagerly.
Jones has now thoroughly re-written this work, as The New Social Face of Buddhism.
We are lucky to have this new tool in our hands.
The writing here is more fluid, and thus this volume is easier reading for an audience of Buddhists and fellow- travelers.
We must do the socially engaged work that Jones writes about." (Turning Wheel: The Journal of Socially Engaged Buddhism)"Jones makes a compelling and humane case that the well-being of the individual and the well-being of society simply can not be separated.
All the topics for putting your compassion into action are here." (Branches of Light)"An excellent, necessary book.
It reads as a complement to David Loy's The Great Awakening, where a shared Buddhist social theory is converted into a call to action.
Jones skillfully links meditation and spiritual awakening--opening the third eye--to opening the 'fourth eye' of social awareness." (Inquiring Mind)"A must-read." (Today's Books)"Ken Jones has given us an inspiring, challenging handbook for Buddhist social activism.
In such practice lies hope for the world." (Sam Hamill, founder, Poets Against the War, and author of Dumb Luck)"This inspiring book points the way to a revolution in contemporary spirituality." (Joan Halifax, Abbess, Upaya Zen Center, and co-founder of the Zen Peacemaker Order)"One of the first truly important books to rise out of the liberal Buddhist movement." (James Ishmael Ford, founding teacher of Boundless Way Zen and author of If You're Lucky, Your Heart Will Break)"In this substantially revised update of his Social Face of Buddhism, Jones argues that Buddhism has powerful, practical implications for profound social change.
This is a meticulous, philosophical foundation for compassionate social action and a clear, attentive, thorough explication of the social-action implications of Buddhist thought." (Publishers Weekly)

About the Author

Ken Jones was a Zen and Ch’an practitioner and teacher. 
His career wasmainly in higher education, with most of his spare time spent as a peace, ecology and social justice activist, as well as a period on the Samaritans’ telephone helpline.
He was a founder of the UK Network of Engaged Buddhists, eventually serving asits president, and a member of the International Advisory Committee of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship Jones facilitated numerous workshops and retreats on different aspects of Buddhism, but focusing particularly on “Everyday Buddhism”.
He published widely, his best known book beingThe New Social Face of Buddhism.
A widely published haiku poet, he has been awarded the Sasakawa prize for his contribution in that field.
He final years were spentin his native Wales, with his Irish wife Noragh.
He passed away in 2015.


Religion & Spirituality,Religious Studies,Ethics,Sociology,Politics & Social Sciences,Social Sciences,Social Work

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Comment List (Total:6)

  •     This book is a sophisticated synthesis of modern Western-style Buddhism with 60s mythology and the desire to `save the world.' It's a scholarly work, filled with facts, quotes, references, and interesting observations. But personally, as a novice of Buddhism, I just don't know if I can buy into the premise of the book. One thing I didn't see mentioned in 240 pages of this book was Mara's third temptation. Gautama was tempted by fear, desire, and the call to social duty. But he was unmoved by all three temptations, and so he was prepared for his final awakening.Buddha spoke metaphorically of teaching people to open their third eye. Ken Jones believes we should begin thinking in terms of a fourth eye; a socially conscious eye. He speaks of `developing an intellectually adequate Buddhist social theory' and an `overarching strategy for radical social change' (p184). I see this move in the context of Sixties mythology, and the counter-culture that has become part of our current culture. It was a crusade to overthrow Western oppression in all its forms. Sixties mythology is partly responsible for the attraction of Buddhism and Eastern religions in the first place. So the book makes sense in a way - as a description. But in another way, as a call to action, it just doesn't make sense to me.Joseph Campbell once said that `people think they're going to change the world by shifting the rules around. The only way you're going to change the world, he says, is by teaching people how to live in it.' That is how the Buddha did it --as a teacher, not as a political activist.But take nothing away from this book. It's a marvelous overview, and required reading for anyone who is serious about these two converging movements.
  •     It's a very interesting book for someone that wants know more about the social aspects of Buddhist practice. I recomend it.Leandro - Brazil
  •     This text calls us to contemplate deeply on the nature of Right Action as the Buddha taught it, and thus offers a truly remarkable look at the Buddhist way of life, both early and modern, in company with several of it's most demanding perspectives. Author Ken Jones instructs us how important it is to develop altruistic intentions and carry them out in this modern society, extending our scope of compassionate reaction to the world community at large. Buddhist morality is a morality of intention, after all, and the consequences of what we do in this world can be very far reaching. You have heard the old saying, "It only takes a spark to light up a forest." While the phrase has become somewhat of a cliché, it quite obviously rings home as true when we are willing to reflect on it. Unless you understand the intricacy of Buddhism, it's a real challenge to apply Buddhist teachings to your life meaningfully.Ken Jones covers the precepts and our calling to action as Buddhist's in a socially engaged society quite skillfully, like a carpenter chipping away at a block of wood. The breadth of knowledge and insight offered to us in this work is breathtaking, and I now invite you to come along on this journey of discovery with Ken Jones. It's a very eye opening experience. Enjoy the book.
  •     Speedy.
  •     As Jones notes, traditional Buddhist teachings tend to lack much in the way of social teachings other than basic injunctions to kings on how to rule justly. This has much to do with the social and historical context in which Buddhism originated, where there wasn't really any traditional of social theory (though Buddhism did develop highly complex psychological theories). In this day and age of major social crises, Jones argues we can no longer afford to pay attention to the ethical implications of our actions only for that group of people we meet face-to-face--we must consider the ethical implications of our actions for the whole world. He discusses some of the history of socially engaged Buddhism in Asia and the West, then sets out to develop his own Buddhist social theory.He notes that engaged Buddhism comes in many varieties, from emphasizing bringing meditation practice into daily life, to social service work, to political activism. It tends to be this last that gets the least emphasis among socially engaged Buddhists, especially in the West, and it is an activist Buddhism that Jones focuses on. He does not try to argue for it from traditional texts, as some have done, but to take the basic Buddhist existential teachings--the four noble truths, the noble eightfold path, no-self, etc.--and use them to understand our current social situation in what he calls a socioexistential approach. He is critical of thos Buddhist social theories that simply try to take Buddhist psychological theories and somehow turn them into social theories, such as calling capitalism institutionalized greed. Social structure can not be understood using just psychological theories. Instead, Jones synthesizes traditional Buddhist psychology with phenomonological sociology. (If this sounds intimidating, don't worry--Jones presents it in a way that is quite clear.) He describes how we have inherited past social forms, which we recreate every generation as we continue to accept them. These social forms take on a life of their own and shape the psychology of their members--which means some societies, such as capitalist and totalitarian ones, tend to cultivate more mental defilements in their members than others. Because society is ultimately something we create and recreate though, we can change it.I agree with Jones up to here. It's after this that I start to disagree with some of his points. He is critical of what he calls the social fallacy that you can find in much modern social theory, such as some forms of Marxism, which sets up society over the individual and argues that individual consciousness is entirely shaped by social structures. While I agree with this critique, Jones falls into the opposite trap of asserting the primacy of the psychological over the social, instead of seeing them as equally important and interacting dialectically. From here, this leads him to argue that, while political activism (in the Gandhian tradition of militant but loving nonviolence) is important, ultimately spiritual transformation is more important. We need to work on creating a culture of awakening that will cultivate the mental conditions for everyone to awaken. Creating such a culture is important, but I would lay equal stress on transforming social structures. Finally, I think it's a bit naive to expect everyone to be interested in spiritual transformation. While everyone has the capacity for it, there will always be many people who will have no interest in it, at least in this lifetime--which makes Jones' program for stopping social injustice through a culture in which everyone is awakened unrealistic. Certainly we can work for a just society which encourages people to engage in spiritual practice, but it must be one that rests on the frailties of ordinary human beings, not the virtues of awakened bodhissatvas.
  •     Jones's treatise of the sometimes contentious subject of socially engaged buddhism is well-researched and constructed. This is a great book for experienced practitioners as well as beginners. I highly recommend this book any buddhist or socially concerned individual.

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