These folks plan to form a coalition of Buddhists all across America to implement the kind of social and political action they believe is right. Greg Snyder said, “Then those local movements can connect to each other and create a national movement. I would like to see a coalition come out of this. If something like that were to happen nationally, it would be an important move for the moral authority of the religious community, generally. The Buddhist voice is important.”
So, the Moral Majority gets replaced by the Moral Authorities.
The Great Awokening of the last several years has inspired many fantasies of collective action for a better world, and it would seem that an updated form of Engaged Buddhism is part of that trend. But in Zen Buddhism and Its Influence on Japanese Culture, D.T. Suzuki stressed what he saw as the amoral nature of Zen practice:
Zen has no special doctrine or philosophy with a set of concepts and intellectual formulas, except that it tries to release one from the bondage of birth and death and this by means of certain intuitive modes of understanding peculiar to itself. It is, therefore, extremely flexible to adapt itself almost to any philosophy and moral doctrine as long as its intuitive teaching is not interfered with. It may be found wedded to anarchism or fascism, communism or democracy, atheism or idealism, or a political or economic dogmatism.
Few Western practitioners would recognize Buddhism as a mere technique for achieving a certain perspective, devoid of any ethical content. A basic acceptance of the Noble Eightfold Path, along with a reasonable understanding of Right Speech, Right Action, and Right Livelihood, would seem to be inherently incompatible with politics as typically practiced in a liberal democracy, to say nothing of totalitarianism. Then again, if you were to reverse the scenario and imagine an Asian Christian who had only ever read about Christianity in books and been impressed by the Ten Commandments or the Sermon on the Mount, you could also easily imagine them being shocked and appalled at how little those principles seem to matter to most Western Christians in practice. It’s likely no different in Asia, and lay, nominal Buddhists are probably just as lazy and hypocritical about their religion as we are. Whatever the case, Buddhism in America is largely becoming just another accoutrement of lifestyle leftism, another way of absorbing the whole world into our endlessly fascinating, comfortingly familiar navels. Suzuki’s perspective is, if nothing else, a salutary reminder that capital-T Truth, assuming such a thing can be approached, might reveal itself to be far more alien and amoral than we typically imagine, an eerily grinning unknown.