Sulak is one of Thailand's most prominent social critics and activists, and one of the major contemporary exponents of socially engaged Buddhism.
Sulak Sivaraksa was born in 1933 and educated in England before returning to Thailand in 1961 to be a lecturer at Thammasat and Chulalongkorn universities. In 1963 he founded and for six years edited the Social Science Review, which soon became the most influential publication in Thailand. According to several testimonies, the Review played a crucial role in awakening the student awareness that led to the overthrow of the military regime in 1973.
He combines provocative intellectual work with continual grassroots organizing in Thailand. He has founded rural development projects as well as many non-governmental organizations dedicated to exploring, in Thailand and internationally, alternative models of sustainable, traditionally-rooted, and ethically- and spiritually-based development. Running through his work are two principal visions:
(i) a rejection of Western consumerist models of development in favour of an approach growing out of Thai (or, more generally, indigenous) culture; and
(ii) an emphasis on the importance of the spiritual and religious dimension of human life, rooted in his own deep Buddhist sensibility.
Sulak has had an uneasy relationship with Thai governments. In 1976, following a coup and the deaths of hundreds of students, Sulak was forced to stay in exile for two years. He has been charged with lese majeste (defamation of the monarchy) at least twice, again forcing him into exile. He was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in both '93 and '94.
Some of this prolific scholars works are:
- Siamese Resurgence: A Thai Voice on Asia in a World of Change (1985)
- Religion and Development (1986)
- A Socially Engaged Buddhism (1988)
- Siam in Crisis (1990)
- Seeds of Peace (an American edition by the Buddhist press Parallax, 1992)