Tung Lin Kok Yuen International Conference
Buddhist Canons: In Search of a Theoretical Foundation for a Wisdom-oriented Education
27 & 28 November, 2021 (HKT) | Online & On-site at HKU
Jin Y. Park
Professor and Chair
Department of Philosophy and Religion
American University, Washington
Jin Y. Park is Professor and Department Chair of Philosophy and Religion at American University. Park specializes in East Asian Buddhism (especially Zen and Huayan Buddhism), Buddhist ethics, Buddhist philosophy of religion, Buddhist-postmodern comparative philosophy, and modern East Asian philosophy. Park employs Buddhist tradition to engage with contemporary issues with a special focus on gender, justice, and ethics. Park’s research on modern East Asian philosophy examines the dawn of philosophy in East Asia and the East-West encounter in that context. Park published numerous articles on Buddhist philosophy, Buddhist-postmodern ethics, gender and justice, and modern East Asian philosophy. Her books include Women and Buddhist Philosophy (2017); Reflections of a Zen Buddhist Nun (trans. 2014); Makers of Modern Korean Buddhism (ed.2010); Merleau-Ponty and Buddhism (co-ed, 2009); Buddhism and Postmodernity (ed.2008), Buddhisms and Deconstructions (ed. 2006). Park currently serves as the President of the North American Korean Philosophy Association (2016-present). Park also served as the President of the Society for Asian and Comparative Philosophy (2018-2019), was on the Board of Directors (2013-2015) of the American Academy of Religion. She was also the Founding Director of the International Society for Buddhist Philosophy (2001-2018).
Buddhism and Engaged Citizenship
Democracy is an admired value of modern society. It arrived in Asian societies along with modernization, and together with it came modern Western education. Most of Asian thought traditions and their relevance to either the ideas of democracy or of public education were brushed off when Asian societies eagerly adopted Western models. The Buddhist community was not completely without responsibility in this situation. Trapped in the binary logic of the East versus West, which identifies the former as pre-modern (and traditional) and the latter as modern (and advanced), most of the Buddhist schools and followers in different regions of Asia were busy just making claims for its relevance to modern society, and their visions for these claims, if any, fell short of having significant impact on the development of Asian educational systems or democracy in the modern world.
Recent developments in the social and political situation in the United States have testified to major shortcomings of the modernist approaches to democracy, education, and citizenship. The rights discourse, which has been a backbone of democracy, has revealed its bare face: As much as the rights discourse aims to protect individuals’ freedom, equity, and humane treatment, it can be and has been used to justify self-centered interpretations of the situations at hand, revealing a lack of concern for other people. On the other hand, some American Buddhists take Buddhist teachings, such as no-self, a discovery of one’s mind, and compassion, as integral parts of their mode of challenging racist America and the structural oppression of the society.
This paper examines a possible role that Buddhist teaching can play in envisioning a more equitable and inclusive society with the understanding that a fundamental power of change comes from education, both in formal and informal ways. The paper first examines some of the basic ideas of democracy and their pitfalls. It then proposes a Buddhist vision of wisdom-based education. Finally, it will discuss some case studies and conclude with possible projects to implement wisdom-based education for a more equitable society and engaged citizenship.