Concepts, Values and Practices Common to Buddhism and Social Work
1) Social Welfare
All civilized societies throughout the globe continue to work for the well being of mankind. In both social work and Buddhism, social welfare is considered as the work done in different forms intended for the benefits of humankind. Such work ranges from simple individual acts of charity, teaching and training to organized services in different forms for the betterment of the community, which are also common areas of social work intervention.
The precepts in Buddhism and social work values are very similar to each other. Non-violence; not committing theft; refrain from sexual misconduct; always speaking truth; and refraining from abusing drugs or alcohol are some of the common concerns. Gandhiji strongly propogated some of the values and teachings found in Buddhism such as self-sufficient villages, celibacy, nonviolence and truth.
3) Social Services
The Buddhist monks and nuns from the monasteries are doing social service along with and for the common people. Both Buddhism and social work provide social services to the members of the society to enable them to develop optimally and help them to function effectively and to lead a life of decency, dignity and liberty. These services have been rendered to all the members of the society, irrespective to their religion, caste, race, language, culture etc.
4) Social Work Values and Conditions in Buddhism
Both social work values and Buddhism teach the individuals to understand their responsibility towards oneself, the family, and the society. Buddhism and social work values caution the social worker not to neglect himself/herself, his/her family and the society in which he/she is living while he/she is discharging his/her professional duties. Both Buddhism and social work teach the people to respect and obey elders and superiors; respect, worship and honour all religions; honour and respect all people irrespective of their caste, creed or gender; respect the worth and dignity of each individual and respect women in general.
5) Upliftment of Oppressed
Upliftment of oppressed in society have been taken into consideration by both social work and Buddhism. Both are against the caste based social inequality and emphasized social equality and justice for the oppressed mass, especially for the scheduled caste. They are aimed at the rejection of untouchability and favoured the participation of the oppressed castes towards undertaking more social and political activities for their liberation from the exploitative force.
The Buddhist way of life is compassion, equanimity, tolerance, concern for self reliance and individual responsibility which are similar to social work. The social worker’s compassion is the prerequisite for effective social work practice. Both Buddhists and social workers empathize with others. They willingly join with and enter into the pains of those who are distressed or troubled. Both believe in self reliance; dignity of each individual; cultivate spirit of openness, co-operation, goodwill and equality.
7) Community Welfare Services
Buddhist communities are reaching and training community members in general and running hospice for the terminally ill, providing an information and advice center on a wide range of personal and social problems for the terminally ill, for the people of the local community and assisting in various aspects of a socially deprived local community. Similarly, a number of professional social workers are engaged in providing welfare services to the communities. Various community developmental activities have been initiated by Buddhists. After care services have also been provided by Buddhist group to those who are mentally or emotionally ill.
8) Empowerment of Women and Development of Organizational Skills
Buddhism and social work has a very positive and revolutionary attitude towards women. Both believe in equal benefits for men and women. Both in Buddhism and social work women are able to indulge in activities outside the home, including proselyte, development of organizational skills, and above all, an atmosphere where they could experience a sense of accomplishment.
Buddhists have also made numerous endowments to the university at Nalanda for spreading education. Tibetan Buddhists are also pre- occupied with social work in various fields like education, hospice services, prison activities etc.
9) Buddhist Movements
Several Buddhist movements were aimed at the welfare of the community. One of the Buddhist inspired movement for community development was the Sarvodaya Shramadan Movement of Sri Lanka. Similarly, social movements are highly significant for social work because they bring about desired changes in the social structure, eradicate social evils and prevent abuse and exploitation.