Political impact of Buddhism: Religion and Ideology


Political impact of Buddhism: Religion and Ideology

Buddhism has always included politics. The Tipiṭaka, one of the oldest Buddhist writings, is full with references to and discussions about political rulers, princes, wars, and policies. Subsequent Buddhist teachings, written down to the present day, also advise kings on how to run their countries effectively, warn against the grave repercussions of doing so, and caution against becoming haughty and neglecting the needs of the ordinary people.

Let us discover the relationship between Buddhism and Politics. The values promoted by Buddhism are humane and stand for the common welfare.

The ethical tradition: Political Impact of Buddhism

 Political impact of Buddhism: Religion and Ideology

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Over the past two millennia, Buddhist kings have ruled Buddhist-majority realms throughout Southeast and East Asia at various points in time. Even now, many Asian countries recognize that their governments have an obligation to govern in a manner that is consistent with Buddhist principles.

Even if it isn’t directly included in the political structure, Buddhism is a significant ethical and religious tradition in many other Asian countries. Despite the lengthy history of the relationship between Buddhism and politics, there were two distinct phases of Western studies in the 20th century. The first was heavily influenced by Max Weber.

Political ideas

More complex discussions about how to understand the primary texts that do explicitly address topics like kings and laws, whether those texts reflect a normative preference for monarchy or republicanism, and the future direction of Buddhist political thinking have replaced the earlier controversy over whether Buddhism contains any political ideas at all.

Scholars are also concentrating on a number of more specific issues. Such as how “Buddhist” the legal and political systems are in nations whose governments are supposedly guided or inspired by Buddhism. Whether Buddhism and supposedly “Western” concepts like human rights and international law are compatible or incompatible. And how to comprehend the diverse ways that Buddhists are participating in politics today.

Buddhism and Politics

 Political impact of Buddhism: Religion and Ideology

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The intricate and ever-changing link between Buddhism and politics is evident in the wide range of Buddhist communities across Asia. Repressions against the people of Myanmar, the People’s Republic of China. And North Korea contrast with the greater freedom of expression experienced by citizens of Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Japan in majority-Buddhist nations.

The Pali Canon, a scripture consisting of three “baskets” or collections that all Buddhists recognize as primary, may contain the seeds of a political worldview. Despite the apolitical nature of Gautama Ṡākyamuni’s (the fifth-century BCE) teachings and the stereotype of a passive, non-aggressive dharma.

Idea of communal welfare: Political Values

The Buddha’s teaching on avoiding coarse craving and emotional cankers such as greed, hatred, and delusion affects not only the individual but also the community as a whole. Indulgence, aggression, and other spiritual dangers frequently disturb the balance of nations, regions, and the entire universe. There are other writings that provide a layperson’s code of conduct concerning the community they live in.

The exemplary society and polity they showcase cultivates moral behavior and represents a robust social ideal. Which subsequently directs the primary goals of the state.  The suggestions made in this and other canonical texts transcend the caste-based ideology. Ideology that underpins Hindu law codes and statecraft (Arthaśāstra). Regardless of caste or color, the Aggañña Sutta specifically advocates for equal rights and opportunities for everyone. It treats everyone as fellow human beings.

Role of a monarch

 Political impact of Buddhism: Religion and Ideology

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A characteristic shared by the majority of these instances is the role of the monarch. The role in purifying and uniting the Buddhist monastic order. As demonstrated by the union of the Sinhala saṅgha under Parakamabahu I. In contrast, Japan saw the emergence of strong Buddhist temples. And even armies of “priest-warriors” (sohei) under the reign of Prince Regent Taishi Shōtoku in Mahāyāna Buddhist Asia.  And his advocacy of the Saddharma-puṇḍarīka Sūtra (Lotus Sūtra) as an essential component of national identity.

Religious and political blending: Political Values

More intriguing instances of the centuries-long blending of religion and political structure may be found in the old Buddhist kingdoms of the Himalayas, including Tibet, Nepal, Sikkim, and Bhutan. In this sense, the royal family’s close ties to Hinduism have dominated Nepali politics for generations.

Politics in postcolonial era

Buddhism’s political stance at the close of colonialism led to events that had a lasting impact decades later and institutional arrangements. Following Sri Lanka’s independence in 1948, the country’s saṅgha immediately became involved in politics by announcing their intentions through the prestigious Buddhist seminary Vidyālankara.

The statement provided a general outline of what was expected of the saṅgha’s activities outside of the monastery. And further direction was provided by the Ven. Walpola Rahula in his widely regarded work Bhiksuvage Urumaya (Heritage of the Bhikkhu, 1946). Both argued that contemporary monks should view political participation as a duty. And aware of the Buddhist community’s waning influence in national politics.

Buddha dharma: Political Values

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Building governmental structures and forming new institutions is not the main goal of the Buddha Dhamma. In essence, it aims to address societal issues by transforming the individuals that make up that society. And by proposing some overarching ideas that can direct that society towards increased humanism, better member welfare, and more equal resource distribution.

A political system can only protect the well-being and prosperity of its citizens to a certain degree.  Buddhism and its philosophy has played a major role in the communal welfare. Its main motive was the common good. The idea was the collective growth. If one has achieved, then its the responsibility of an individual to assist the society to get there. Buddhism is known for its emphasis on understanding the nature of humans. The suffering i innate. It opines that humans cannot escape misery. But we change our psyche to overcome the internal conflicts.


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