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The Great Awakening: A Buddhist Social Theory

by David R. Loy


Book Description


The most essential insight that Buddhism offers is that all our individual suffering arises from three and only three sources: greed, ill-will, and delusion. In The Great Awakening, scholar and Zen teacher David Loy examines how these three qualities, embodied in society’s institutions, lie at the root of all social maladies as well. The teachings of Buddhism present a way that the individual can counteract these destructive influences to alleviate personal sufffering, and in the The Great Awakening Loy boldly examines how these teachings can be applied to institutions and even whole cultures for the alleviation of suffering on a collective level.

This book will help both Buddhists and non-Buddhists to realize the social importance of Buddhist teachings, while providing a theoretical framework for socially engaged members of society to apply their spiritual principles to collective social issues. The Great Awakening shows how Buddhism can help our postmodern world develop liberative possibilities otherwise obscured by the anti-religious bias of so much contemporary social theory.

Editorial Reviews

Professor Christopher S. Queen, Harvard University, editor of Engaged Buddhism in the West:
"In this daring work, Loy exemplifies the rise of socially engaged Buddhism and this new vehicle of spiritual practice."

"David Loy in this magnificent text opens up to us by facing three crucial issues facing us in our modern times, the three poisons the Buddha called hindrances to practice. Ignorance, anger, and greed. These are the source of all suffering not just for individuals, but entire societies and even companies. This book addresses such issues with Loy's brilliant social theory on Buddhism.

Loy takes aim at big business in this work, showing his skepticism in saying that corporations and the globalization of world trade are certainly not realities which seem to be motivated by love and compassion (as politicians will have us believe); rather, they are motivated by greed. And it's a regrettable truth, that companies are out for two things: more profit, and more power. Of course, these companies are not the only problem. Because where you have a profiteering business, you find consumers. These consumers, especially those in Western culture, are in many ways like the hungry ghosts of Buddhism. Buddhism, as do most religious traditions, faces the reality of greed head on. It emphasizes the need to control it.

Who's accountable for this pressure on growth? Consumerism has taken over with a life completely of it's own. Many people are probably either oblivious to it or don't really want to face this subtle but all too apparent truth. Everyone is to blame, and therefore it must be tackled individually. The only way this can be accomplished is by eradicating our own innate tendency to support it all. The lack of responsibility, in short, embodies what is both happening today and why things are not changing. There are not many individuals standing up to take action. The world is basically in the hands of, in the current era, big business. This is scarecly a new insight for you and me. But the point of all of this, Loy stresses, is that somewhere for a breaking away of such practices to occur, we must have individuals willing to make sacrifices in order to accomplish such a task. That calling is for you and me."

Steven A. Smith
This book is not just for Buddhists. Anyone who wishes to see clearly the moral hole we have dug for ourselves here in the West, especially economically and politically, will profit from reading this important book. Gets to the root of the corruption plaguing our global system.

David Loy is a Participating Scholar of The Religious Consultation on Population, Reproductive Health and Ethics.

Other articles by David Loy on this website:

Buddhism and the Market

A Buddhist Perspective on New Holy War Against Evil

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