Buddha – Perspective on Good Governance

Buddha has been considered to be mostly a philosopher and an ethical teacher and not preoccupied with political or state-related issues. But in contrast to that, many recent scholars have analysed (from the historical context of Buddha’s life) that he was both a ‘social reformer’ and political philosopher.

Ancient Indian society had begun to change when Buddha attained Enlightenment. Historically, that period was known as Vedanta (end of Vedas). During that time as the commerce with other states began, there came a new merchant class in the territory who expressed interest in Buddha’s teachings. Buddha challenged the divine origin concept from a very simple and acceptable viewpoint: i.e., that the Brahmins like the other varnas had a common human birth. This would make the Brahmins essentially equal to the others. It should be mentioned here that even in the Buddhist literature, there was scant mention of political attitudes.

The word “Dhammappasasana” in Pali means Good governance. (Dharamprasasana in Sanskrit)

  • Dhamma: – virtue/law/Righteous
  • Pasasana: – governance

Buddha as a Social Reformer and a Political Thinker

  1. The Buddhist expression of the concepts of rule of law and good governance are manifested in “Dasa Raja Dharma”
  2. Basic structure of governance in Buddhism
    Dhamma+ Vinaya =Nirvana
    a) Dhamma- truth
    b) Vinaya- rules ideals and standards of behavior.
    c) Nirvana- freedom from exploitative relationships. Free from personal ill motives and desires harmful for himself + others.
  3. Middle path approach continues to inspire us towards new paradigm of sustainable development and peaceful societies.
  4. Uplift the spirit of humanity.
  5. In Buddhist philosophy it is emphasized that evil and the good of a people depends on the behavior of their rulers.
  6. The king can be overthrown from kingship if he is later known to be immoral or incapable.
  7. Buddh denied biased nature. (Biased because of – like, dislike, delusion, stupidity and fear)

Buddha’s thoughts about the King can be summarized as :-

  1. Never regarded as incarnation of one and supreme creator.
  2. God only in public opinion.
  3. To be selected on account of their righteousness and ability.
  4. People have full freedom to choose the most virtuous and able man.

The 10 royal Virtues (Dasa Raja Dharma) of the king were :

  1. Dana:- Charity
  2. Sila :- (Morality) Being good example for others
  3. Parriccaga: – (Altruism) Being generous and avoiding selfishness.
  4. Ajjavan: – (Honesty) Absolutely straight forward.
  5. Majjavan/Maddava:- Gentleness
  6. Tapan:- (Composure) follow the middle path , Rulers must keep the five senses under control
  7. Akkodha:- Non-anger, Non-Hatred
  8. Avihimsa:- Non-violence
  9. Kanti:-Forgiveness
    1. denied barbarity towards prisoners.
    2. socio-political attitude based on non- violence and compassion.
  10. Avirodhna: – Uprightness. Respecting others opinions also.

If we look deeply we find many similarities between today’s and Buddhist governance concept. Some of these being:

  1. Participation
  2. Rule of law –Sila (Morality) refers to the law or constitution as well as other rules and regulation.
  3. Honesty – Ajjava(transparency)
  4. Responsiveness – must see the suffering of poor peoples.
  5. A consensus oriented approach (Buddh denied absolute power to monarch.)
  6. Equity and Inclusiveness – fair and impartial decision for every person (gender, caste, religion).
  7. Effectiveness and efficiency – corresponds to self-sacrifice.
  8. Accountability.

When we look at Buddha’s life we find that there were many reasons for considering Buddha as a Political thinker. This was because of the need for good governance due to :

  1. Complexities- advent of market economy, globalization, revolution
  2. Incapability- lack of knowledge
  3. Corruption

Buddha had approached the problem by applying scientific method. Finding the root cause of suffering as craving and misconception, the result being the emergence of training, meditation and wisdom

– –  Guest Post by Student of RMISG

Ms. Dinshaw

Renaissance in India – A Fact or Misnomer

Renaissance in India

European Renaissance characterized by discovery and triumph of humanism and re-emergence of man to the center of history with sensitivity to his creative ability, reflected in his achievements in past was different from Modernity in India. Indian renaissance which had its origin not in indigenous intellectual and cultural churning but in the influences disseminated by colonial state and its agencies.

Clientele of this modernity were the newly emerging middle class linked with colonial administration and thus exposed to Western culture, which idealized west, adopted a Western-modern way of life and subjected tradition to critical inquiry and the relationship between traditional and “colonial-modern” was one of domination.

What emerged out of this dynamic were the socio-religious reforms (witnessed in 19th century India), which were an attempt to reconcile cultural world of the middle class with the demands of the new way of life. As a result, unlike in Europe, reformation took precedence over renaissance in India. Indian intelligentsia had to undergo a long period of incubation before it  could try to redefine renaissance by exploring it’s cultural and intellectual roots. Such an inquiry, however, got enmeshed in religion, leading to sectarian consciousness, which in turn undermined core value of renaissance – “religious universalism”.

What reformers such as Ram Mohan, Devendranath Tagore, Keshab Chandra Sen and Narayana Guru did to propagate monotheism and unity of godhead was indeed significant. But in a multi-religious society, invocation of Vedanta as source of inspiration adversely affected principle of universalism which all of them upheld. Imitation rather than ingenuity became dominant feature of modernity that renaissance sought to usher in.

The very term renaissance to describe what happened during colonial era is, therefore, a misnomer, not because it was far removed from European phenomenon but because most of its ideas were either borrowed from West or uncritically invoked from sectarian religious sources.

Almost all reformers referred to Vedas, Upanishads or Quran; but none of them invoked syncretism of Bhakti or Sufi movements. What Indian society witnessed was socio-religious reform, which was caught between tradition and colonial modernity, and thus could not fulfill its historic mission. The intelligentsia involved in this effort, ranging from Ram Mohan to Narayana Guru, valiantly struggled to realize their vision of a humane society but found them defeated by forces over which they had no control.

Their tragedy was that they either trusted the benevolence of colonialism, as Ram Mohan did, or overlooked it as in the case of Narayana Guru. Their inability to confront cultural ideological domination of colonialism made them increasingly irrelevant. As a consequence, when political struggles gained ground, movements for social reform were marginalized.

By 20th century, Brahmo Samaj and Prarthana Samaj increasingly lost their appeal, Arya Samaj ceased to be a social force, Satya Shodak Samaj could not sustain its radicalism, and Sree Narayana Movement had given up its concern for reform. The social space thus vacated by these movements have been colonized by conservative and obscurantist forces, giving way for the return of the socio-religious practices that reformation had tried to eliminate.