… Joseph Goldstein. All rights reserved. Within this fraternity, individuals were equal, whatever their social class or caste origins. 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 … Consequently, we paid little attention to the changes taking place in the world outside. Thich Nhat Hahn ; 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. Abstract Buddhism in Asian countries has seen diverse expressions in the public arena at various stages of their political process, development, and nation-building. What is that way of life and … Strive on, untiringly, for your own liberation.”, With Stephen Batchelor, Sharon Salzberg, Andrew Olendzki, and more. There is a difference between freedom in the world and freedom from the … Courtney Wittekind reviews a new book on Buddhism and political thought by Matthew J. Walton. 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. [1] [2] Though some historic … There are many advantages to such a step and it will enable us to become a true and complete democracy. Pema Chödrön The peaceful revolutions in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe have taught us many great lessons. I, for one, truly believe that individuals can make a difference in society. "Democracy's Dharma" connects these noteworthy … Did the Vrijjis show respect and veneration toward their shrines? We have recently embarked on changes that will further democratize and strengthen our administration in exile. This kind of pluralistic approach, in which individuals themselves are responsible, is very much in accord with a democratic outlook. Help us share Buddhist teachings and practices by donating now. 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. The only slight difference in status depended on seniority of ordination. 7. 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. Recognising that human beings differ widely in their needs, dispositions and abilities, it acknowledges that the paths to peace and happiness are many. We hardly noticed when India, one of our closest neighbours, having peacefully won her independence, became the largest democracy in the world. What we have to aim at is the common cause of our society. Did the Vrijjis respect and honor their elders and think it worthwhile to heed their advice? An arhat was an enlightened person, or even simply someone advanced along the path, possibly including even non-Buddhists. 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 … Modern democracy is based on … Buddhism too recognises that human beings are … He sent his minister Vessakara to meet the Buddha in Rajgir at Vulture Peak, where the Buddha often taught. 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. 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. Over the years, therefore, we have tried through various means to achieve a model of true democracy. 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. 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. Although none of our Buddhist societies developed anything like democracy in their systems of government, I personally have great admiration for secular democracy. Such acts are contrary to the essential human spirit. It has flourished in a diversity of forms, while repeatedly renewing, through study and practice, its roots in the teachings of the Buddha. No system of government is perfect, but democracy is closest to our essential human nature. 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. 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. By continuing, you agree to Tricycle’s Privacy Policy and Terms of Service. Not only do we all desire happiness and seek to avoid suffering, but each of us has an equal right to pursue these goals. Tara Brach The Buddha saw that life’s very purpose is happiness. I first came across a reference to this … Did the Vrijjis assemble and disperse from these assemblies peacefully, and did they conduct affairs in concord? But if we are prevented from using our discrimination and creativity, we lose one of the basic characteristics of a human being. 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 familiarity of all Tibetan exiles with the word 'democracy' shows this. 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. It looks at the role of Buddhism and democracy… 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. The values of this practice align with an open, fair, and just democracy. 5. Therefore, the political, social and cultural freedom that democracy entails is of immense value and importance. 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. 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 … The hundreds of thousands of people who marched in the cities of Eastern Europe proved this. So it is in all our interests that those of us who already enjoy democracy should actively support everybody's right to do so. 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 … 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. Here I have laid out the Buddha’s seven questions and have attempted to show how they might be applied to our times. 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. Today, it is clear which is winning. 1. 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. Therefore, those who practice deception and use force may achieve considerable short-term success, but eventually they will be overthrown. The Dalai Lama 2. 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. They will naturally be happy. However, because people have an innate desire for freedom, the forces of liberty and oppression have been in continuous conflict throughout history. 12 First published in 1993, reprinted … 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. Did the Vrijjis refrain from abducting women and maidens of good families and from detaining them? It is also an attitude. 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 more we - as nations or as individuals - depend upon others, the more it is in our own best interests to ensure their well-being. Thank you for subscribing to Tricycle! 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.”. 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. Did the Vrijjis hold frequent and regular assemblies, and were these meetings well attended? Please check your email to confirm your subscription. We’re sorry, there was an error. Individual freedom, exemplified by liberation or enlightenment, was the primary focus of the entire community and was achieved by cultivating the mind in meditation. 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. 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. To me it is then quite clear that, however important I may feel, I am only one, while others form the majority. Jains had their own arhats. The Buddha’s questions are a litmus test for the health of a nation and are worth asking again today. They simply expressed the human need for freedom and democracy. B Buddhism in a Democratic World Prof. Kurt F. Leidecker uddhism is a way of life. And yet the development of human society is based entirely on people helping each other. For John Dewey, the ultimate aim of the democracy was the … 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. 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. Stephen Batchelor The future head of the Tibetan Government must be someone popularly elected by the people. Once we have lost the essential humanity that is our foundation, what is the point of pursuing only material improvement? Thus, the Sangha served as a model for social equality, sharing of resources and democratic process. 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. 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. 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. 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. The institution the Buddha established was the Sangha or monastic community, which functioned on largely democratic lines. His condemnation of aggression against women does bear repeating in our MeToo era. Recently, many successful freedom movements have been based on the true expression of people's most basic feelings. Subscribe for access to video teachings, monthly films, e-books, and our 29-year archive. Design by Point Five. Although the Tibetans outside Tibet have been reduced to the status of refugees, we have the freedom to exercise our rights. It is not enough, as communist systems have assumed, merely to provide people with food, shelter and clothing. In the present circumstances, no one can afford to assume that someone else will solve our problems. For thousands of years people have been led to believe that only an authoritarian organization employing rigid disciplinary methods could govern human society. 3. 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. When Tibet was still free, we cultivated our natural isolation, mistakenly thinking that we could prolong our peace and security that way. Explore timeless teachings through modern methods. Did the Vrijjis proceed in accordance with their ancient constitution and not enact new laws or abolish existing ones? Each … It is also the only stable foundation upon which a just and free global political structure can be … Bhikkhu Bodhi), in other words, treat her as an equal. Buddhism and Democracy Washington, D.C., April 1993 1. These qualities are the ultimate source of human happiness, and our need for them lies at the very core of our being. A goal to be attained by men and women alike. In present-day terms, do we have a functioning parliament (or Congress) with regular and well-attended sessions? 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. If we do not know someone or do not feel connected to a particular individual or group, we simply overlook their needs. 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, Democracy and Identity in Thailand 10. Universal responsibility is the real key to human survival. Tricycle is a nonprofit that depends on reader support. Discover what 24,741 subscribers have access to, Full access to 29 years of content with over 7,775 articles. Although communism espoused many noble ideals, including altruism, the attempt by its governing elites to dictate their views proved disastrous. Brute force, no matter how strongly applied, can never subdue the basic human desire for freedom. By Courtney Wittekind 5 June 2017 With Buddhism, Politics, and Political Thought in Myanmar, … Communism failed utterly because it relied on force to promote its beliefs. Would you like to sign up for our other mailing lists? Their demands had nothing to do with some new ideology; they were simply expressing their heartfelt desire for freedom. In addressing the fundamental problem of human suffering, it does not insist on a single solution. The Buddha saw that life's very purpose is happiness. Subscribe now to read this article and get immediate access to everything else. If society as a whole is well off, every individual or association within it will naturally gain from it. 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 … Democracy and Hindu Nationalism 9. 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. 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. From these two features stems the uniqueness of Buddhism in the world. Take an online Buddhism course at your own pace. Therefore, those of us in exile have had a responsibility to contemplate and plan for a future Tibet. 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. Between 1919 and 1949 … Without any apparent centralized  authority Buddhism has endured for more than two thousand five hundred years. There is so much Buddhism that can be found in the conceptual framework of democracy in the philosophy of John Dewey. In Buddhist accounts Ajatashatru himself was brutally murdered by his own son, Udayabhadra, some eight years later. We all desire freedom, but what distinguishes human beings is their intelligence. 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 Buddha’s questions are thus a litmus test for the health of a nation and are worth asking again today. The Buddha saw that life's very purpose is happiness. 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