Joan Halifax Roshi: Peace and Engaged Buddhism

Beliefnet interviews the Zen priest on how the principles of Buddhism can benefit the world's pursuit of peace.

BY: Interview by Jennifer E. Jones

Roshi Joan Halifax
Joan Halifax Roshi has dedicated her life to peace, compassion and engaged Buddhism. The Zen priest and author has studied all around the world and is sharing her insight and wisdom at The Newark Peace Education Summit conference in Newark, New Jersey, May 13th through 15th. Beliefnet caught up with the Buddhist teacher to discuss the Summit and its significance to actualizing peace.

Q. What are your thoughts about participating in the Newark Peace Education Summit?

A. I feel very joyful, honored and I also feel grateful to have the opportunity to interact with His Holiness in the context of peace and with two such extraordinary women as [Shirin] Ebadi and [Jody] Williams. It affords the world a great opportunity to look at issues in relation to human rights and world peace. So, I’m very excited about this conference. It happening in Newark is important, because Newark is a place that has been very socially vulnerable in the past, and to bring this kind of energy into Newark is a visionary idea.

Q. How will you be bring your years of study to the Summit?

A. My work has been in the field of engaged Buddhism. That is my own practice, which began in 1965 that formed the base for the work I was doing in the civil rights and anti-war movement. I feel that my perspective is about bringing a Buddhism that is applied into the world in terms of not only personal transformation, but also social transformation and in an endeavor to really address issues related to structural violence.

Q. You’ve gone through times of personal struggle. How did Buddhism help restore you?

A. For me, Buddhism is a psychology and a philosophy that provides a means, upayas,  for working with the mind. Through my own developmental struggles -- which seem from one point of view unending, but certainly were more critical in my 30s than they are now --  Buddhism was a raft that brought me to the shore of sanity and stability. It’s also provided a means for me to intentionally cultivate more empathy and compassion, more kindness and also more courage in my life.

Continued on page 2: How Buddhism is accessible to all... »

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