The Liberal Buddhist: an introduction

The Liberal Buddhist blog’s mission is to provide a forum for the exploration of the overlapping values of Buddhism and liberalism.  All of the posts published here will share the single overarching goal of highlighting the ways in which these two systems of thought – one ethical, the other political – complement one another.  On a more granular level, each individual post will concern itself with one or another of the multitude of philosophical and/or societal issues that challenge us today, with the specific goal of teasing out from the combined tenets of liberalism and Buddhism a potentially useful and possibly unique perspective on the topic being considered.

The purpose defined above rests on two specific convictions that have long been held by this blogger:  first, that Buddhism – with its focus on the interconnectedness of all beings and its exhortation for every being to practice the threefold virtues of generosity, compassion, and wisdom – offers the most viable (and, perhaps, the only viable) path for resolving our current national and global problems effectively and humanely; and second, that liberalism – with its long history of focusing on the welfare of all members of society, and especially on the welfare of the least-advantaged among us – offers the most natural (and, perhaps, the only natural) home for a politically engaged Buddhism.


6 thoughts on “The Liberal Buddhist: an introduction

  1. Hi Tom!

    I know just what you mean (in so far as we can ever know what somebody else means!) but the word ‘liberal’ has come to grate a little in UK at least after the ‘Liberals’ sellout to Toryism. But you’re quite right about a theoretical dedication to the welfare of the many. Here now that’s represented by Jeremy Corbyn, a true Socialist.


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    1. Your comment about the unfortunate connotation that’s come to be associated with the word ‘liberal’ in the UK really strikes home for me, Colin. Here in the US, the relentless assault on liberalism and liberal values by the conservative movement for the past four decades (beginning in earnest with Ronald Reagan’s election in 1980) has rendered the word ‘liberal’ all but toxic even to those of us who espouse those very values. So toxic indeed that it’s become standard for the American left to substitute the word ‘progressive’ for ‘liberal’. I’ve recently come to understand the negative unintended consequence of this semantic shift – that it unintentionally validates the false charges that conservatives have leveled against liberalism. Hence my deliberate choice to name this blog “The Liberal Buddhist” (and not, as I originally intended to name it, “The Progressive Buddhist”).

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  2. Hi! Buddhism and liberalism have absolutely nothing to do with one another.

    You can search over 3 million words in the Tipitika, find plenty that contradicts liberalism and nothing which supports it.

    To try to fuse the two is a practice of self-deception, but does not deceive real Buddhists.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your comment! I have no doubt that you’re correct in your assertion that the three million words in the Tipitika (what I know as the Pali Canon, in the Theravada tradition in which I practice) have plenty to say that contradicts the tenets of liberalism. But I must disagree with the second half of your assertion, that those same three million words contain nothing that supports those tenets. I would argue that three words in particular, which appear consistently throughout the canon – “generosity”, “compassion”, and “wisdom” – are clearly aligned with the principles of liberalism. Genuine political liberals and genuine Buddhist practitioners alike, in my view, are guided in their speech and in their actions by these three virtues.

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  3. Your ‘overlapping’ of liberal values and Buddhist precepts seem apposite and accurate to me Tom? I will look forward to reading your posts. The recent Extinction Rebellion protests seem to me to be an example of compassionate action, responsible action, wise action and liberal values ( if we can call concern about the future of the planet liberal!)

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    1. Thanks for your comment, Eric! As you may have seen from one of the previous comments on this page, not everyone agrees with my contention that liberalism and Buddhism have much in common, so I’m especially glad to have your support! I’ll look forward to your future comments. And please keep me informed about your continuing engagement with the Extinction Rebellion protests – although I’m not familiar with them, they would seem to be very well aligned with the values I’m writing about on this blog.

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