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Valuing Diversity: Buddhist Reflections on Equity and Education


Peter D. Hershock

East-West Center, US
About Peter
Peter Hershock is Director of the Asian Studies Development Program at the East-West Center in Honolulu, Hawai'i.  Alongside his work designing and implementing faculty development prorams aimed at globalizing undergraduate humaniities and social science curriculua, his reserach has focused on using Buddhist conceptual resources to address contemporary issues.  His books include: Liberating Intimacy: Enlightenment and Social Virtuosity in Ch'an Buddhism (1996); Reinventing the Wheel: A Buddhist Response to the INformation Age (1999); Technology and Cultural Values on the Edge of the third Millennium (edited, 2004); Chan Buddhism (2005); Buddhism in the Public Sphere: Reorientiing Global Interdependence (2006); Changing Education: Leadership, Intervention, and Development in a Globalizing Asia Pacific (edited, 2007); Educations and their Purposes: A Conversation among Cultures (edited, 2008); Valuing Diversity: Buddhist Reflection on Realizing a More Equitable Global Future (2012); and Public Zen: A Buddhist Introduction (2014).
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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.

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:
Published on 10 Apr 2015.
Peer Reviewed


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