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APPLIED BUDDHISM AND

GLOBALIZATION

ANKUR BARUA, M.A. BASILIO

The Centre of Buddhist Studies, The University of Hong Kong &

Buddhist Door, Tung Lin Kok Yuen, Hong Kong

Address of Corresponding Author:

Dr. ANKUR BARUA

BLOCK – EE, No. – 80, Flat No. – 2A,

SALT LAKE CITY, SECTOR -2,

KOLKATA – 700 091

WEST BENGAL, INDIA

Tel: +91-33-23215586

Mobile: +919434485543

Email: ankurbarua26@yahoo.com
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APPLIED BUDDHISM AND

GLOBALIZATION

Abstract

Globalization is the latest expression of a long-standing strategy of development based

on economic growth and liberalization of trade and finance. Globalization leads to the

globalization of economy and the homogenization of culture. It can undermine local

cultures and disrupt traditional relationships in a society with the assumption that free

trade will also to lead to a more democratic society.

Modern Buddhism has become an intrinsic part of a globalized world. With its

philosophy of the way of life, it takes special place in human and cultural identity.

Buddhism in modern times had already incorporated either other genuine Asian

traditions or Western traditions and merged with the socio-cultural backgrounds of many

countries across the world. Buddhism stresses the principle of interdependence which is

also the foundation of globalization in economic interest.

Key words: Buddha, Globalization, Buddhism, Applied.

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APPLIED BUDDHISM AND

GLOBALIZATION

Introduction

The issue of globalization is directly or indirectly affecting all our lives. Globalization

leads to the globalization of economy and the homogenization of culture. It can

undermine local cultures and disrupt traditional relationships in a society with the

assumption that free trade will also lead to the formation of a more democratic society.

Unfortunately, the effects of the globalization of business and trade are often disastrous

for underdeveloped nations. These nations provide the raw materials and cheap labor

which are necessary to make globalization prosperous for the more developed nations.

Though there are successes in the process of globalization, there is much unrest in the

poor and underdeveloped nations which are deep in debt and suffer internal conflict,

poverty, droughts and famines.1,2

The concept of globalization is important for Buddhism because Buddhism is a global,

world faith. Buddhism in modern times had already incorporated either other genuine

Asian traditions or Western traditions and merged with the socio-cultural backgrounds of

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many countries across the world. Buddhism stresses the principle of interdependence

which is also the foundation of globalization in economic interest.1,2

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A Buddhist Perception of Globalization

The Buddha emphasized that we all have both unwholesome and unwholesome traits

(kusala / akusalamula). The important issue is the practical matter of how to reduce our

unwholesome characteristics and develop the more wholesome ones. This process is

symbolized by the lotus flower. Although rooted in the mud and muck at the bottom of a

pond, the lotus grows upwards to bloom on the surface, thus representing our potential

to purify ourselves.5 Our unwholesome characteristics are usually summarized as the

"three poisons" or three roots of evil: lobha - greed, dosa - anger and moha - delusion.

The goal of the Buddhist way of life is to eliminate these roots by transforming them into

their positive counterparts: greed into generosity (Dāna), anger into loving-kindness

(metta), and delusion into wisdom (prajna).3,4

Globalization is the latest expression of a long-standing strategy of development based

on economic growth and liberalization of trade and finance. This results in the

progressive integration of economies of nations across the world through the

unrestricted flow of global trade and investment. The mainstream approach is generally

rooted in the underlying assumption that globalization brings jobs, technology, income

and wealth to societies. In order to make this strategy of globalization successful, all the

societies must be willing to submit to the principles of the free market—limiting public

spending, privatizing public services, removing barriers to foreign investment,

strengthening export production and controlling inflation. However, this is very difficult

task to achieve within a short span of time. As a result, most often, globalized

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production has led to a litany of social and ecological crises: poverty and powerlessness

of the majority of people, destruction of community, depletion of natural resources and

unendurable pollution.1,2,3

Our obsession with economic growth seems natural to us because we have forgotten

the hierarchy of "needs" that we often take for granted. We project our own values when

we assume that a person must be unhappy by presuming that the only way to become

happy is to start on the treadmill of a lifestyle increasingly preoccupied with

consumption. However, the importance of self-limitation, which requires some degree of

non-attachment, is an essential human attribute to remain happy according to

Buddhism. This is expressed better in a Tibetan Buddhist analogy. The world is full of

thorns and sharp stones (and now broken glass too). What should we do about this?

One solution is to pave over the entire earth, but a simpler alternative is to wear shoes.

"Paving the whole planet" is a good metaphor for how our collective technological and

economic project is attempting to make us happy. Without the wisdom of self-limitation,

we will not be satisfied even when we have used up all the earth's resources. The other

solution is for our minds to learn how to "wear shoes," so that our collective ends

become an expression of the renewable means that the biosphere provides.3,4,5

From a religious perspective, when things become treated as commodities they lose

their spiritual dimension. The commoditized understanding induces a sharp duality

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between humans and the rest of the world. All value is created by our goals and

desires. The rest of the world has no meaning or value except when it serves our

purposes. This now seems quite natural to us, because we have been conditioned to

think and live this way. For Buddhism, however, such a dualistic understanding is

delusive. The world is a web; nothing has any reality of its own apart from that web,

because everything is dependent on everything else. The concept of interdependence

challenges our usual sense of separation from the world. The feeling that ‘I am here and

the world is out there’, is at the root of our Dukkha and it alienates us from the world

where we live. This non-dual interdependence of things was experienced by the Buddha

when he became enlightened. The Buddhist path works by helping us to realize our

interdependence and non-duality with the world and to live in harmony with it.3,4,5,6

Conclusion

Modern Buddhism has become an intrinsic part of a globalized world. With its

philosophy of the way of life, it takes special place in human and cultural identity. Some

scholars recommend ‘Post-Buddhism’ as a proper term for the new infusion of ideas

and practices in an increasingly globalized world. However, modern Buddhism has

showed its potential to transcend the crucial problems of modernity.

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References

1. Quang, T.T. 2009. Buddhism and Globalization. Bliss and Growth. Blag Biz.

2. Loy, D. 2007. A Buddhist View of Globalization. Buddhist Peace Fellowship.

Japan: Bunkyo University.

3. Payutto, P.A. 1994. Buddhist Economics: A Middle Way for the Market Place.

(translated by Dhammavijaya and Bruce Evans) Second Edition. Bangkok:

Buddhadhamma Foundation.

4. Sizemore, R.F., Swearer, D.K., ed. 1990. Ethics, Wealth and Salvation: A Study

in Buddhist Social Ethics. Columbia, South Carolina: University of South

Carolina.

5. Hodge, H.N. 2009. Buddhism in the Global Economy. Berkeley, US: ISEC.

6. David R. Loy, "The Religion of the Market" in Visions of a New Earth: Religious

Perspectives on Population, Consumption and Ecology, edited by Harold Coward

and Dan Maguire (Albany, New York: State University of New York Press, 1999.