Dr. Sallie B. King
Non-Judgement and Justice


Profesor and Head, Department of Philosophy and Religion, James Madison University (Harrisonburg, Virginia). Formerly President, Society for Buddhist - Christian Studies. Co-clerk, Harrisonburg Friends Meeting. Co-editor, Engaged Buddhism: Buddhist Liberation Movements in Asia.


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Theme: Non-Judgement and Justice

Does forgiveness require redress of grievances? Does true justice demand retribution or atonement? What are the implications of the Buddhist concepts of non-attachment and non-judgment for the pursuit of social justice and human rights? These are just a few of the questions we’ll take up with Sallie King, one of the foremost experts on Buddhist social engagement. Sallie argues that while Buddhists generally regard “human rights” as an important concept, many think that the notion of “justice” is not so useful, since it is often seen as a prerequisite – and therefore an impediment – to finding peace.


Sallie will offer a Buddhist critique of popular notions of justice, with special attention to topics including:
• Identity politics—the sense of victimhood, which nourishes suffering and keeps it going generation to generation.
• Righteous Indignation—the angry sense that we are justified and the others are wrong.
• Revenge—the linking of the concept justice to retribution, which merely perpetuates conflict.


Excerpt from Thriving in the Crosscurrent: Clarity and Hope at a Time of Cultural Sea Change (Jim Kenney, Quest Books 2010), p. 225:
Theologian Walter Wink, as we’ve noted, offers an evocative “new story” flourish to the peace-culture paradigm. Human societies since prehistory, he argues, have most often lived by the myth of redemptive violence, the story, told in countless variants, of good overcoming evil. That victory, however, is always accomplished through violence. It’s a story that dominates the literature and imagery of our own modern society, the tale of the villain who just needs killing. Now, however, Wink and many others see a new myth taking shape, already emergent in some ways, still horizonal in others. It’s the myth of restorative justice, the powerful new story that recognizes the interrelated values of peace, justice, and sustainability and teaches the lesson that peace can often be secured by restoring the missing leg of the tripod.

Further Reading:

Sallie King’s article, “Being Benevolence: the Social Ethics of Engaged Buddhism”