Valuing Diversity: Buddhist Reflections on Equity and Education


Presented as the Keynote Address at the 2013 Annual ASIANetwork Conference in Bloomingdale, Illinois, this essay uses  three of Buddhism's central insights to forward a qualitatively robust conception of diversity and to substantially revise what we mean by equity. The first insight, is that all things arise and are sustained interdependently. Interdependence is not a contingent, external relation among essentially separate entities; it is internal or constitutive. As Fazang (643-712), one of the leading Chinese Buddhist philosophers of the 7th and 8th centuries put it: interdependence entails interpenetration. A second, core Buddhist insight is that our conflicts, troubles and suffering can only be sustainably addressed on the basis of things yathabhutam or “as they have come to be,” and not simply as they are at present. This insight calls into question the “time-space compression” (Harvey: 1990) that characterizes the postmodern lifeworld, the contemporary fixation on immediacy, and the erasure of temporal depth that results from the near equal proximity granted to all information by the light-speed connections of the internet. Finally, the world of human experience is irreducibly dramatic or meaning-laden. Stated in more explicit Buddhist terms, our histories and the experiences out of which they are woven are at root a function of karma. According to this teaching, if we pay sufficiently close and sustained attention, we will witness a meticulous and dynamic consonance between the complexion of our own values, intentions and actions and the patterns of outcome and opportunity we experience.


Buddhism, Education, Diversity, Equity

How to Cite

Hershock, P.D., 2015. Valuing Diversity: Buddhist Reflections on Equity and Education. ASIANetwork Exchange: A Journal for Asian Studies in the Liberal Arts, 22(1), pp.2–12. DOI:


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Peter D. Hershock (East-West Center)



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