An arhat was an enlightened person, or even simply someone advanced along the path, possibly including even non-Buddhists. He also saw that while ignorance binds beings in endless frustration and suffering, wisdom is liberating. Modern democracy is based on the principle that all human beings are essentially equal, that each of us has an equal right to life, liberty, and happiness. The Buddha saw that life's very purpose is happiness. It is also an attitude. Universal responsibility is the real key to human survival. The practice of compassion is not just a symptom of unrealistic idealism, but the most effective way to pursue the best interests of others as well our own. Help us share Buddhist teachings and practices by donating now. By Mark Drought Published 11:00 am EST , Wednesday, December 9, 2020 Monks from the Drepung Gomang Monastery … In present-day terms, do we have a functioning parliament (or Congress) with regular and well-attended sessions? Mark Drought (opinion): Applying tenents of Buddhism to democracy. Therefore, those who practice deception and use force may achieve considerable short-term success, but eventually they will be overthrown. There are many advantages to such a step and it will enable us to become a true and complete democracy. A goal to be attained by men and women alike. Nevertheless, day to day relations were conducted on the basis of generosity, consideration, and gentleness towards others. I have long looked forward to the time when we could devise a political system, suited both to our traditions and to the demands of the modern world. Over the years, therefore, we have tried through various means to achieve a model of true democracy. Take an online Buddhism course at your own pace. The Mahaparinirvana Sutra (Pali, Mahaparinibbana Sutta) a part of the Digha Nikaya, the collection of the Buddha’s long discourses, was in fact his last discourse before his passing. From these two features stems the uniqueness of Buddhism in the world. As we approach the end of the twentieth century, we find that the world has grown smaller and the world's people have become almost one community. Tibetan Buddhism (also Indo-Tibetan Buddhism and Sino-Indian Buddhism) is the form of Buddhism practiced in Tibet, where it is the dominant religion.It also has adherents in the regions surrounding the … Each of us must learn to work not just for his or her own self, family or nation, but for the benefit of all humankind. Buddhism in Thailand has been characterized as a ‘revolutionary’ force, since rationalist Buddhist teachings offer considerable support for progressive and democratic political ideas. I believe that to meet the challenge of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. Each … What we have to aim at is the common cause of our society. We hardly noticed when India, one of our closest neighbours, having peacefully won her independence, became the largest democracy in the world. Ajatashatru was a ruthless, ambitious ruler who had murdered his own father, King Bimbisara, but had, strangely enough, absolute faith in the Buddha’s wisdom and integrity. I first came across a reference to this discourse, the Mahaparinibbana Sutta, in a copy of A. L. Basham’s The Wonder That Was India, a dog-eared copy of which I picked up at the Daryaganj book market in Old Delhi. Practical Advices for Attending the Teachings in India, Closing Address by His Holiness the Dalai Lama to the Global Buddhist Congregation 2011, Bring Quality Back into Buddhist Pursuits, 1st International Conference on Buddhism and Literature, His Holiness's Keynote Address at the Buddhist Conference in Delhi, A Collaboration Between Science and Religion, Sakyadhita International Conference on Buddhist Women in Taiwan, Ordination in the Tibetan Buddhist Tradition, 52nd Anniversary of Tibetan Uprising Day Statement, Short Biographies of the Previous Dalai Lamas, All Content Copyright © The Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. This is a valuable reminder that truth itself is still seriously lacking in much of our political life. A democracy that has nonviolence and peace at its roots. Although communism espoused many noble ideals, including altruism, the attempt by its governing elites to dictate their views proved disastrous. He sent his minister Vessakara to meet the Buddha in Rajgir at Vulture Peak, where the Buddha often taught. He also believed that the first effective line of defense for a republic was in the vigilant and scrupulous maintenance of its democratic customs and institutions. We are clear that those values, along with how we treat … Democracy Reporting International is a non-partisan, independent, not-for-profit organisation registered in Berlin Some of Sri Lanka’s Buddhist monks have become influential critics of the ongoing constitutional reform process by drawing red lines around core reform issues, including the status of Buddhism … For thousands of years people have been led to believe that only an authoritarian organization employing rigid disciplinary methods … Did the Vrijjis proceed in accordance with their ancient constitution and not enact new laws or abolish existing ones? Modern democracy is based on the principle that all human beings are essentially equal, that each of us has an equal right to life, liberty, and happiness. They will naturally be happy. The relationship between Buddhism and democracy has a long history with many scholars claiming the very foundations of Buddhist society were democratic. Ultimately, human nature was unable to sustain the suffering it produced. Did the Vrijjis assemble and disperse from these assemblies peacefully, and did they conduct affairs in concord? Explore timeless teachings through modern methods. In Thailand, where "the state manipulated Buddhism in order to subordinate citizens" (McCargo, 2004, p. 167), Buddhism serves as a source of identity and provides the ground for nation … In that sense, Buddhism is a democratic religion and Ambedkar, eventually found in this religion the societal values he had tried to promote via political democracy. Modern democracy is based on … There is so much Buddhism that can be found in the conceptual framework of democracy in the philosophy of John Dewey. Joseph Goldstein. Thus, the Sangha served as a model for social equality, sharing of resources and democratic process. However, they did not live in total isolation. We know that the Buddha himself was born in a republican tribe, the Shakyas, where his father, Suddhodana, held for a term of twelve years the title of raja, which appears to have been an elected presidency or chairmanship of sorts and not a hereditary kingship. Jack Kornfield Buddhism too recognises that human beings are … Within this fraternity, individuals were equal, whatever their social class or caste origins. Our deeper nature requires that we breathe the precious air of liberty. The emergence of peoples' power movements, overthrowing dictatorships of left and right, has shown indisputably that the human race can neither tolerate nor function properly under tyranny. Subscribe now to read this article and get immediate access to everything else. 2. Later, we learned the hard way that in the international arena, as well as at home, freedom is something to be shared and enjoyed in the company of others, not kept to yourself. By Courtney Wittekind 5 June 2017 With Buddhism, Politics, and Political Thought in Myanmar, … 4. His condemnation of aggression against women does bear repeating in our MeToo era. We all desire freedom, but what distinguishes human beings is their intelligence. Seven questions from the canon for testing the health of a nation. In addressing the fundamental problem of human suffering, it does not insist on a single solution. However, because people have an innate desire for freedom, the forces of liberty and oppression have been in continuous conflict throughout history. I first came across a reference to this … We have recently embarked on changes that will further democratize and strengthen our administration in exile. As a nonprofit, we depend on readers like you to keep Buddhist teachings and practices widely available. I think the Buddha was asking not whether the Vrijjis never enacted new laws or never abolished existing ones, but whether they were careful about such things and did not amend their constitution frequently or capriciously. We are also being drawn together by the grave problems we face: overpopulation, dwindling natural resources, and an environmental crisis that threaten the very foundation of existence on this small planet we share. Then I ask myself, 'Whose interests are more important?' It read as follows: The Buddha himself, though a friend of kings, seems to have had a deep affection for the old republican organization, and in a remarkable passage he is said to have warned the Vrijjis shortly before his death that their security depended on maintaining their traditions and holding regular and well-attended folk-moots. Once that goal was fulfilled, however, such rigidity had very little to contribute to building a truly cooperative society. The peaceful revolutions in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe have taught us many great lessons. For John Dewey, the ultimate aim of the democracy was the … Democracy and Hindu Nationalism 9. He wanted honest feedback on his military plans and instructed his minister to tell the Buddha of his intention to wage war on the Vrijjis, adding: “Whatever the Blessed One should answer you, keep it well in mind and inform me; for Tathagatas [‘ones who are thus gone’] do not speak falsely.”, After paying homage to the Buddha, Vessakara informs him of King Ajatashatru’s plans. Therefore, those of us in exile have had a responsibility to contemplate and plan for a future Tibet. Brute force, no matter how strongly applied, can never subdue the basic human desire for freedom. Once we have lost the essential humanity that is our foundation, what is the point of pursuing only material improvement? At a time when many democracies around the world are under threat, a discourse the Buddha gave before his great passing may provide inspiration for a response. Recognising that human beings differ widely in their needs, dispositions and abilities, it acknowledges that the paths to peace and happiness are many. One is the value of truth. Their custom of begging for alms only served to strengthen their awareness of their dependence on other people. When Tibet was still free, we cultivated our natural isolation, mistakenly thinking that we could prolong our peace and security that way. Most of the … These governments went to tremendous lengths to control their societies and to induce their citizens to work for the common good. It is not enough, as communist systems have assumed, merely to provide people with food, shelter and clothing. During the three years as the president, he was engaged in the visit by the 14th Dalai Lama to Japan three times for academic exchanges between Japanese Esoteric Buddhism and Tibetan Buddhism. Without any apparent centralized  authority Buddhism has endured for more than two thousand five hundred years. Therefore, the political, social and cultural freedom that democracy entails is of immense value and importance. Discover what 24,741 subscribers have access to, Full access to 29 years of content with over 7,775 articles. Did the Vrijjis hold frequent and regular assemblies, and were these meetings well attended? The Vrijjis (Skt. The Buddha’s questions are thus a litmus test for the health of a nation and are worth asking again today. Buddhism, Democracy and Identity in Thailand 10. Churches and the Consolidation of Democratic Culture: Difference and convergence in the Czech Republic and Hungary Buddhism, Democracy … We’re sorry, there was an error. Especially in the conduct of international relations we pay very little respect to truth. Courtney Wittekind reviews a new book on Buddhism and political thought by Matthew J. Walton. To encourage myself in this altruistic attitude, I sometimes find it helpful to imagine myself, a single individual, on one side and on the other a huge gathering of all other human beings. The latest from Tricycle to your inbox and more, A weekly update on everything you need to know on tricycle.org, Buddhist teachings to your inbox every Thursday, Course announcements, offers, and events from our partners, Weekly updates and guided meditations from a Buddhist teacher throughout the month of March, Opinion: Buddhists Can Be Happy Trump Lost. Do the Vrijjis make proper provisions for the safety and welfare of arhats, so that arhats may feel welcome to the Vrijjian land? Here I have laid out the Buddha’s seven questions and have attempted to show how they might be applied to our times. This book explores the remarkable religious renaissance that has reformed, revitalized, and renewed the practices of Buddhism and Daoism in Taiwan. The Buddha made it clear that his followers were not to take even what he said at face value, but were to examine and test it as a goldsmith tests the quality of gold. It is also the only stable foundation upon which a just and free global political structure can be … Buddhism and Democracy Washington, D.C., April 1993 1. The hundreds of thousands of people who marched in the cities of Eastern Europe proved this. In contemporary political language are we reasonably “nonpartisan” in our politics? It looks at the role of Buddhism and democracy… It might be noted that nowhere in his discourse did the Buddha advise the Vrijjis to follow the path of nonviolence and not resist Ajatashatru’s planned invasion. There are two different accounts of how the Buddha answers: In one, the Buddha does not respond directly to the minister but turns to the Venerable Ananda, his disciple, cousin, and principal attendant, and asks him seven questions. In our time we might ask whether we listen to senior statesmen, experts, scholars, historians, and—in the context of our current health crisis—even “medical experts.”. 3 If the Buddha were speaking in our time, he would probably be saying that we should welcome scholars, scientists, and religious leaders from other countries, perhaps in the way the United States welcomed Thomas Mann and Albert Einstein before World War II. Design by Point Five. We have become so engrossed in its pursuit that, without even knowing it, we have neglected to foster the most basic human needs of love, kindness, cooperation and caring. The Buddha’s questions are a litmus test for the health of a nation and are worth asking again today. Copyright 2020. Our democratization has reached out to Tibetans all over the world. Every individual has a responsibility to help guide our global family in the right direction and we must each assume that responsibility. Please try again. In another discourse, the Sigalaka Sutta (DN 31), the Buddha tells a householder not to disparage his wife but to honor her and “give her authority…”(trans. I believe that future generations will consider these changes among the most important achievements of our experience in exile. Buddhism and Democracy secular one, ruled that the government was to be a democracy with the power vested in the "free" citizens who would be the ones to make the Jaws and enforce them. The biggest hurdle to democracy contained within Buddhism is probably its insistence on making oneself free of the physical world. 1. Bhikkhu Bodhi), in other words, treat her as an equal. The only slight difference in status depended on seniority of ordination. … Upaya has long been a platform for Socially Engaged Buddhism. B Buddhism in a Democratic World Prof. Kurt F. Leidecker uddhism is a way of life. Subscribe for access to video teachings, monthly films, e-books, and our 29-year archive. "Democracy's Dharma" connects these noteworthy … 7. 5. [1] [2] Though some historic … Individual freedom, exemplified by liberation or enlightenment, was the primary focus of the entire community and was achieved by cultivating the mind in meditation. He also saw that while ignorance binds beings in endless frustration and suffering, wisdom is liberating. Their demands had nothing to do with some new ideology; they were simply expressing their heartfelt desire for freedom. The Buddha appeared on account of democracy at a time when autocracy was prevalent in India. In the present circumstances, no one can afford to assume that someone else will solve our problems. Between 1919 and 1949 … Tricycle. By pursuing the homeless life, monks detached themselves from the concerns of property. Strive on, untiringly, for your own liberation.”, With Stephen Batchelor, Sharon Salzberg, Andrew Olendzki, and more. In the past, the simple expression of truth has usually been dismissed as unrealistic, but these last few years have proved that it is an immense force in the human mind, and, as a result, in the shaping of history. Irrespective of whether we are rich or poor, educated or uneducated, belonging to one nation or another, to one religion or another, adhering to this ideology or that, each of us is just a human being like everyone else. Although none of our Buddhist societies developed anything like democracy in their systems of government, I personally have great admiration for secular democracy. The Buddha saw that life's very purpose is happiness. Burma is not yet a democracy -- the army and the ruling junta still dominate the government -- but the president, Thien Sein, is groping his way towards a more liberal political system. Did the Vrijjis refrain from abducting women and maidens of good families and from detaining them? Truth is the best guarantor and the real foundation of freedom and democracy. Edward Carpenter (1844–1929), Towards Democracy Preface There are at present 100,000,000 Untouchables in India, the vast majority of whom are underprivileged in every sense of the term. All rights reserved. Thank you for subscribing to Tricycle! Buddhism is essentially a practical doctrine. But if we are prevented from using our discrimination and creativity, we lose one of the basic characteristics of a human being. However, if society as a whole collapses, then where can we turn to fight for and demand our rights? Seventeen years after the Buddha’s passing, the Vrijjian confederation fell prey to “treachery and discord” instigated by agents (including a prostitute and a fake astrologer spreading disinformation) planted by the minister Vessakara. Pema Chödrön Somewhere around 468 BCE, the principal clan of the Vrijji confederation was defeated by Ajatashatru’s powerful army. It does not matter whether you are weak or strong or whether your cause has many or few adherents, truth will still prevail. The Buddha understood that the Vrijjis had to fight to preserve their freedom. It has flourished in a diversity of forms, while repeatedly renewing, through study and practice, its roots in the teachings of the Buddha. For thousands of years people have been led to believe that only an authoritarian organization employing rigid disciplinary methods could govern human society. The more we - as nations or as individuals - depend upon others, the more it is in our own best interests to ensure their well-being. This urgent need for cooperation can only strengthen mankind, because it helps us recognize that the most secure foundation for the new world order is not simply broader political and economic alliances, but each individual's genuine practice of love and compassion. See Kawanami, H. (2012) ‘Sangha and … Modern democracy is based on … CONCLUSION There is a very affinity between Buddhism and Democracy. As a Buddhist monk, I try to develop compassion myself - not just from a religious point of view, but from a humanitarian one as well. Not only do we all desire happiness and seek to avoid suffering, but each of us has an equal right to pursue these goals. The values of this practice align with an open, fair, and just democracy. Abstract Buddhism in Asian countries has seen diverse expressions in the public arena at various stages of their political process, development, and nation-building. Would you like to sign up for our other mailing lists? Recently, many successful freedom movements have been based on the true expression of people's most basic feelings. It is also the only stable foundation upon which a just and free global political structure can be built. So it is in all our interests that those of us who already enjoy democracy should actively support everybody's right to do so. The familiarity of all Tibetan exiles with the word 'democracy' shows this. In a modern secular nation, the equivalent of such shrines might be public institutions such as museums, libraries, universities, and scientific foundations that demonstrate our confidence in our society and the endurance of our nation. Within the community decisions were taken by vote and differences were settled by consensus. Buddhism too recognises that human beings are entitled to dignity, that all members of the human family have an equal and inalienable right to liberty, not just in terms of political freedom, but also at the fundamental level of freedom from fear and want. The Buddha saw that life’s very purpose is happiness. The … Our brothers and sisters in Tibet, despite being in their own country do not even have the right to life. After Ananda replies affirmatively to each one, the Buddha comments, “So long as this is the case, Ananda, the growth of the Vrijjis is to be expected, not their decline.” In another account, the Buddha presents to Vessakara “seven principles for a nation’s welfare.” At the end of the discourse, the minister concludes: “No harm, indeed, can be done to the Vrijjis in battle by Magadha’s king, Ajatashatru, except through treachery or discord.”. ; Pali, Vajjis) were a confederation of republican tribal states and one of the principal sixteen major nations in North India during the time of the Buddha. This kind of pluralistic approach, in which individuals themselves are responsible, is very much in accord with a democratic outlook. If society as a whole is well off, every individual or association within it will naturally gain from it. No system of government is perfect, but democracy is closest to our essential human nature. We might even say that the Buddha was calling here for public participation, which right now, for Americans at least, would mean to get out and vote. Inevitably, weaker nations are manipulated and oppressed by stronger ones, just as the weaker sections of most societies suffer at the hands of the more affluent and powerful. Thich Nhat Hahn 3. Continuous new writings from leading Buddhist teachers and New York Times bestselling authors, including: Sharon Salzberg As free human beings we can use our unique intelligence to try to understand ourselves and our world. They simply expressed the human need for freedom and democracy. Jains had their own arhats. There is a difference between freedom in the world and freedom from the … In either telling, the Buddha lays out seven qualities that lead to a republic’s prosperity. Bon, Buddhism and Democracy The Building of a Tibetan National Identity by Per Kværne and Rinzin Thargyal Nordic Institute of Asian Studies NIAS Report series, No. At a time when many democracies around the world are under threat, a discourse the Buddha gave before his great passing may provide inspiration for a response. The institution the Buddha established was the Sangha or monastic community, which functioned on largely democratic lines. It is the best foundation for world peace, the equitable use of natural resources, and the proper care of the environment. 1 Buddhism and politics in Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and Thailand Presented at the Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand Summer School, Asia Pacific Week 2006 on the 30 th January 2006 Martin … Clearly the Buddha was saying that women should not be abused and should be treated with respect. As Buddhists, we Tibetans revere human life as the most precious gift and regard the Buddha's philosophy and teaching as a path to the highest kind of freedom. Rigid organisation may have been necessary at first to overcome previously oppressive regimes. While the Buddha’s advice for political well-being may be cogent and apt, another lesson from the Mahaparinirvana Sutra—in fact, his last words—appears to supersede it: “Bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things must come to an end. He also saw that while ignorance binds beings in endless frustration and suffering, wisdom is liberating. 6. The Dalai Lama Just as the introduction of Buddhism to Tibet cemented our nation, I am confident that the democratization of our society will add to the vitality of the Tibetan people and enable our decision-making institutions to reflect their heartfelt needs and aspirations. Do we allow free participation, discussion, and criticism, without suppressing opposition? This paper interrogates as to how caste-based differentiation exists among the Sinhalese in Sri Lanka despite the near absence of the economic structures that initially underpinned the caste system. We are told at the outset that King Ajatashatru of Magadha was planning to wage war on the Vrijjis and intended to annihilate them. And yet the development of human society is based entirely on people helping each other. Overviews There are at least three separate issues that scholars investigate under the title “Buddhism and politics”: (1) the normative political content of Buddhist texts and practices, as … Did the Vrijjis respect and honor their elders and think it worthwhile to heed their advice? Stephen Batchelor Consequently, we paid little attention to the changes taking place in the world outside. Did the Vrijjis show respect and veneration toward their shrines? I, for one, truly believe that individuals can make a difference in society. These qualities are the ultimate source of human happiness, and our need for them lies at the very core of our being. I hope that these moves will allow the people of Tibet to have a clear say in determining the future of their country. No system of government is perfect, but democracy is closest to our essential human nature. In Buddhist accounts Ajatashatru himself was brutally murdered by his own son, Udayabhadra, some eight years later. Buddhism, Human Rights and Constitutional Reform in Thailand - Volume 2 - Andrew Harding Skip to main content Accessibility help We use cookies to distinguish you from other users and to provide you … What is that way of life and … Tricycle is a nonprofit that depends on reader support. Tara Brach By continuing, you agree to Tricycle’s Privacy Policy and Terms of Service. Today, it is clear which is winning. As a spiritual community its cohesion has sprung from a unifying sense of brotherhood and sisterhood. Such acts are contrary to the essential human spirit. Please check your email to confirm your subscription. Although the Tibetans outside Tibet have been reduced to the status of refugees, we have the freedom to exercise our rights. If we do not know someone or do not feel connected to a particular individual or group, we simply overlook their needs. The future head of the Tibetan Government must be someone popularly elected by the people. The idea that people can live together freely as individuals, equal in principle and therefore responsible for each other, essentially agrees with the Buddhist disposition. For many reasons, I have decided that I will not be the head of, or play any role in the government when Tibet becomes independent. Communism failed utterly because it relied on force to promote its beliefs. 12 First published in 1993, reprinted … To me it is then quite clear that, however important I may feel, I am only one, while others form the majority. People do not like to be bullied, cheated or lied to by either an individual or a system. Despite the rapid advances made by civilization in this century, I believe that the most immediate cause of our present dilemma is our undue emphasis solely on material development. Strengthen our administration in exile have had a responsibility to contemplate and plan for a future Tibet Vrijji was... Of democracy at a time when autocracy was prevalent in India individual has a responsibility to help guide global! Have attempted to show how they might be applied to our essential human spirit many great lessons in! Especially in the cities of Eastern Europe proved this ” in our?... Collapses, then where can we turn to fight to preserve their freedom people Tibet... Foundation, what is the best foundation for world peace, the political, social and freedom! Do the buddhism and democracy respect and veneration toward their shrines that someone else will solve problems... 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