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Buddhism and Conflict Resolution


We live in volatile times. The global climate crisis is well under way, with humanity’s future mortgaged on the ongoing destruction of the planet’s ecological habitability. The coronavirus is one of many considerable challenges to worldwide health and the international economy, which is buckling under populist surges across continents, potential flare-ups for conflict in multiple regions, and demagogic governments. All of these factors have led and will lead to significant multi-dimensional conflict.  

In legal contexts, conflict resolution refers to the desired outcome of “mediation,” in which a neutral party assists two antagonists through constructive discussion and negotiation to reach a mutually acceptable conclusion. Note the condition “mutually acceptable.” The law profession understandably sees this framing as the most ideal and practicable way forward to resolving conflicts. Yet we must also ask the question of whether, just because two parties might agree to such a conclusion, it is the most ethical, moral, or satisfactory outcome. We also need to broaden what we mean by conflict resolution because, unlike in court, conflict almost never involves only two parties: its manifestations are interconnected, with multiple competing interest groups, and the big problems of our age, such as environmental conflict, political conflict, and others, will need a big tent under which dialogue and mediation can be conducted. 

With this appreciation for our interconnectedness in mind, Buddhistdoor Global’s special issue for 2020 explores some of the most complex conflicts now unfolding, from political and religious unrest across the world to clashing interests in the final decade we have left to mitigate climate disaster. We analyze the root causes and propose ways forward that, while keeping feasibility in mind, does not become attached to a technocratic vision of managing conflict, instead allowing the Buddhist heart of compassion and wisdom to challenge all parties to envision greater possibilities. 

Explore our Special Issue for 2020 (updated quarterly)

How Sexual Misconduct Shatters Spiritual Communities:

Lessons for Buddhists

By Barbara Gray, Katheryn Wiedman, and Leslie Hospodar – 16 December 2020

Profesional consultants offer advice for teachers, students, and entire organizations that might be dealing with abuuse and other breaches of trust. The path forward is a difficult one, but with openness, honesty, and compassion, the work can bring great benefit to all.

Read more . . .

Thich Nhat Hanh. From

Cultivating Peace: Buddhist-Inspired Approaches to Conflict Resolution

By Nina Müller – 25 November 2020

Buddhism is often seen as a spiritual tradition of the mind, but with the awareness that the inner mind and the outer world or society are inseparable, Buddhism has also developed approaches to conflict resolution and advocating for improved, authentic inter-personal relations. This article explores some of them. 

Read more . . .

Metta’s Hard Stare

By Mettamorphsis – 31 August 2020

What does it mean to have “tough love?” Does it lie in the hard stare, the resolute smile, the unwavering commitment to “show, don’t tell?” If loving-kindness does not mean being a doormat, how do we stand firm when conflict arises or is foisted on us?

Read more . . .

Photo by Ratnadevi

Doing Conflict Better

By Ratnadevi – 26 June 2020

A reflection on the roots of our conflict-prone minds.

Read more . . .


Revolution and Counterrevolution in Contemporary India

By Mayura Choudhari – 20 March 2020

India is in turmoil. Mayura Choudhari argues that this conflict has always been present, manifest at different points in Indian history, and now manifesting in the Hindutva agenda of the BJP. The conflict between Brahmin-inspired “majoritarian” Hindu nationalism and the secularist ideals of pluralistic India came to a head with protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act and National Register of Citizens.

Read more . . .

Rev. T. Sumiththa Thero. Image courtesy of Poorna Jayasinghe

A Buddhist Approach to Interreligious Conflict and Harmony

By Rev. T. Sumiththa Thero – 20 March 2020

Religious conflict has troubled the human conscience for millennia. The Buddha himself had to engage with diverse rival schools and critiques of his Buddhist order and teachings of the higher truth or reality. The Buddha’s criteria for engagement and emphasis on education point the way to an approach that sees conflict and argument as the catalyst toward greater understanding rather than conflict.  

Read more . . .

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