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The Making of Buddhist Modernism$
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David L. McMahan

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780195183276

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195183276.001.0001

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A Brief History of Interdependence

A Brief History of Interdependence

(p.149) 6 A Brief History of Interdependence
The Making of Buddhist Modernism

David L. McMahan (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

The idea of interdependence has assumed a central role in contemporary Buddhism, especially in the West. This chapter traces the way by which dependent origination (pratitya-samutpada) in early Buddhism was transmuted from a causal chain binding beings to samsara—something to get free from—into contemporary interpretations of interdependence as a web of interconnected beings and events to celebrate, embrace, and become one with. The early conception of dependent origination is first reframed in the Mahayana, through ideas such as interpenetration in the Avatamsaka Sutra and the reverence for the natural world in East Asia. The concept then picks up western influences from Romanticism, Transcendentalism, systems theory, deep ecology, and popular accounts of quantum physics. The recent synthesis of these elements is a hybrid concept of interdependence unique to contemporary Buddhism that combines cosmology and world-affirming wonder with ethical, political, and ecological imperatives.

Keywords:   interdependence, nature, ecology, engaged Buddhism, dependent origination, Nagarjuna, Avatamsaka Sutra, Joanna Macy, Thich Nhat Hanh

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