Engaged Buddhism for an Engulfed World: New Perspectives on Humanistic Buddhism

Photo by truthseeker08.


Engaged Buddhism for an Engulfed World:
New Perspectives on Humanistic Buddhism

August 9 to 12, 2023

Hong Kong, China

International Conference

Abstracts Panelists Schedule


This conference is sponsored by the Glorisun Charity Foundation in Hong Kong, administered by the Glorisun Global Network for Buddhist Studies (https://glorisunglobalnetwork.org) and FROGBEAR (www.frogbear.org) at the University of British Columbia, and hosted by the University of Hong Kong. It will take place from August 9 to August 12, 2023 in Hong Kong.

Starting from the late 19th century, anti-religious movements such as ‘school-building on monastic properties’ 廟產興學 and the introduction of Western religions had posed an unprecedented crisis for Chinese Buddhism. This crisis weakened the economical foundation of the monasteries and even stripped some monasteries of their properties and possessions, making their normal functioning hard to persist. The traditional status of monastics was also severely challenged, forcing many monastics to return to lay life. Meanwhile, local religious activities centering around the monasteries also came to be seriously limited, while the overall development of Buddhism halted and even retrograded.

However, crisis also spurred reforms in Buddhist education, leading to the creation of many modern Buddhist colleges. In response to the crisis, some traditional Buddhist schools, such as Tiantai and Pure Land, also experienced renaissance. But perhaps the most notable outcome emerging from this crisis is the movement of Engaged or Humanistic Buddhism (Renjian Fojiao 人間佛教) led by Master Taixu 太虛 (1890-1947) which underpinned the renaissance of Chinese Buddhism in the 20th century.

Engaged Buddhism advocates the application of Buddhist philosophy in everyday life and the use of Buddhist practices for the sake of the betterment of oneself and the society. It promotes the sense of engagement and responsibility for the world and has led more and more Chinese Buddhists to regard the welfare of the society, and to contribute to charity, education, environment protection, and public health, among other social causes.

Engaged Buddhism also represents a modernized religious movement. It embraces modern values such as gender equality, diversity, individual freedom, and scientific and technological outlook; and is thus uniquely suitable for facilitating the dialogue between the Eastern and Western religions.

Buddhism itself promotes multiculturalism. Since its origin in India, it had taken up abode in many cultural and geographical areas in Central, East and Southeast Asia; and today, its influences continue reaching all around the world. Its successful transplantation in so many diverse cultures is indebted to its spirit of inclusivity. Buddhism is not hostile to other forms of thinking and in fact encourages its followers to respect the cultural and ideological diversity. This inclusive spirit revealed to be an advantage in the propagation of Buddhism on foreign soils. Secondly, Buddhism is highly adaptable, constantly letting itself be modified by host cultures. Moreover, Buddhist missionaries are often highly cultured individuals who possess the precious ability to communicate cross-culturally which is a quality strengthening the international appeal of Buddhism.

If we say Engaged Buddhism was birthed passively by the socio-historical circumstance at the time, then we must ask whether it could play a more active role in today’s world that is threatened by a reverse trend of globalization and the increasing hostility between some major cultures and states. It is thus worthwhile for scholars to study whether and how Engaged Buddhism could wield its cross-cultural capacity to contribute to the world peace and cooperation. For these reasons, we propose, though not exclusively, the following themes for discussion:

  • Engaged Buddhism and history;
  • Engaged Buddhism and regional studies (mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macao, Southeast Asia);
  • Engaged Buddhism: notable cases;
  • Engaged Buddhism: notable figures;
  • Engaged Buddhism and modernization;
  • Engaged Buddhism and globalization;
  • Engaged Buddhism and cross-cultural transmission;
  • Engaged Buddhism: its prospect.




Call for Proposals

The organizing committee for the international conference on “Engaged Buddhism for an Engulfed World: New Perspectives on Humanistic Buddhism” cordially invites the submission of related papers.

The organizing committee welcomes all paper proposals related to this conference theme. All conference-related costs, including local transportation, meals and accommodation during the conference period, will be covered by the conference organizers, who—depending on availability of funding—may also provide a travel subsidy to selected panellists who are in need of funding. Please email proposals and CVs to frogbear.project@ubc.ca by April 15, 2023.

A conference volume will collect all the papers in English, plus English translations of several papers written in languages other than English; a volume in Chinese will include Chinese versions for all papers not written in Chinese in addition to those papers contributed by our colleagues based in China. Only scholars who are confident in finishing their draft papers by mid-July and publishable papers by mid-November of 2023 are encouraged to apply.

This conference is planned as part of our annual International and Intensive Program on Buddhism.