In September 1991, Sulak Sivaraksa was accused of lese majesty for remarks made at Thammasat University in Bangkok which were critical of Thailand’s authorities. Under threat of arrest by Thailand’s military junta, Sulak—as he is known—fled his country and has since been in exile from Siam (the country’s original name, which Sulak insists on using). One of Asia’s leading social activists, Sulak is the founder of the International Network of Engaged Buddhists. He has taught all over the United States, and his most recent publication is Seeds of Peace (Parallax Press). In April, he was interviewed at the Tricycleoffice by editor Helen Tworkov.
Tricycle: Although you are of the Southeast Asian tradition of Theravada Buddhism, your life seems to exemplify the Mahayana bodhisattva tradition of selfless action. The term” engaged Buddhism” has become identified in this country with Buddhist-inspired social activism. Is there a difference between an engaged Buddhist and a bodhisattva?
Sulak: Yes and no. The term “engaged Buddhism” was coined by Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese Zen master. But he has recently come more and more to appreciate the Pali Canon, which is the foundation of all Theravada teaching.
Tricycle: Is there something unique about the Bodhisattva Vow that is absent from the Theravada tradition?
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