Toward a Buddhist Theory of Conflict Transformation: From Simple Actor-Oriented Conflict to Complex Structural Conflict
This paper presents a working theory of conflict transformation informed by Buddhist teachings. It argues that a Buddhist approach to conflict transformation consists of an integrated process of self-reflection on the roots and transformation of suffering (dukkha), on the one hand, and active relationship-building between parties, on the other. To overcome a deeply structural conflict in which parties are unaware of the very existence of the conflict-generating system in which they are embedded, however, Buddhist-inspired practice of conflict transformation requires building structural awareness, which is defined as educated consciousness capable of perceiving a complex web of cause and effect relationships in which one’s well-intended action can inadvertently generate the suffering of others. A Buddhist approach to the transformation of structural conflict builds on such awareness. This approach advocates for constructing social systems and practices that actively and continuously promote compassion (karuna), nonviolence (ahimsa), and creative problem-solving. These insights presented in this paper build on thirty-seven interviews with experienced Asian Buddhist practitioners, mostly Burmese, as well as four Buddhist workshops that examined the author’s main argument. Given its unique focus, this paper contributes to diversifying and globalizing the discourses of peace and conflict studies outside the prevailing mode of western thinking.
Buddhism, Myanmar, peace, conflict, structure, reflective practice
"Toward a Buddhist Theory of Conflict Transformation: From Simple Actor-Oriented Conflict to Complex Structural Conflict,"
Peace and Conflict Studies: Vol. 24:
2, Article 5.
Available at: https://nsuworks.nova.edu/pcs/vol24/iss2/5
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