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Toward a Buddhist Paradigm of Peace Studies: Dependent Origination and Conflict Transformation (Working Paper)
  • Tatsushi Arai, SIT Graduate Institute

This study develops a theory of social conflict and a practical method of its transformation based on the worldview of early Buddhism. At the heart of Shakyamuni Buddha’s quest for establishing this faith tradition some 2,500 years ago was the commitment to find a solution to inescapable human sufferings associated with birth, aging, sickness, and death. His quest reached the realization that human life evolves through the law of dependent origination – a dynamic process of incessant change, inherent and pervasive in all aspects of life and the universe, through which various causes and conditions work together to give momentum to the rise and fall of a range of phenomena shaping and reshaping human life. Dependent origination, Shakyamuni realized, is the underlying force that ultimately causes suffering, through the human tendency to cling to deep-seated desires, but the same underlying force can be rechanneled and harnessed to generate momentum toward emancipating human beings from the roots of suffering that bind them. This study explores how dependent origination, a Buddhist theory of causality and inner transformation, contributes to transforming social conflict. It argues that human suffering is a manifestation of deep inner contradictions, or dilemmas, arising from unfulfilled desires. Social conflict, on the other hand, is a contradiction externalized between two or more human beings, each carrying his or her inner contradictions that help shape the way they approach inter-party conflict. Therefore, analysis of social conflict requires looking into an ever-evolving dynamic system of both internalized and externalized contradictions and understanding the interplay between these two levels. The goal of conflict transformation, from an early Buddhist point of view, is to transform the inter-party contradictions in such a way as to alleviate and eventually overcome inner contradictions – the ultimate source of suffering in life – experienced by each party.

Publication Date
July, 2012
Citation Information
Tatsushi Arai. "Toward a Buddhist Paradigm of Peace Studies: Dependent Origination and Conflict Transformation (Working Paper)" (2012)
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