Buddhism is a way of life. What is mainly essential, according to the noble philosophy of Sakya Muni the Buddha is to follow the Eightfold Path leading to complete emancipation- Nibbana. But it is wrong to conclude that Buddhism is interested only in such lofty ideals and high philosophical thought ignoring the social, economic and political welfare of the people. Buddha was a marvellous repository of loving kindness (metta) and compassion (karuna) towards all beings and was greatly interested in the happiness of not only the mankind but of all other beings as well.To him happiness was not possible without leading a pure life based on moral and spiritual principles.

In Kutadanda Sutta (Digha Nikaya) Buddha explains that in order to eradicate crime, the economic condition of the people should be improved. The relationship between the employer and the employee should be made cordial mainly by the payment of adequate wages, gifts and incentives. The kings (governments) should take this fact into serious consideration and keep the people happy and contented, so that consequently the country would be peaceful and crime free. Not only did the Buddha teach non-violence and peace, He was perhaps the first and only religious teacher who went to the battlefield personally to prevent the outbreak of a war. Buddha diffused tension between the Sakyas and the Koliyas who were about to wage war over the waters of Rohini. the blessed one also dissuaded King Ajatasattu.The Buddha discussed the importance and the prerequisites of a good government and showed how the country could become corrupt, degenerate and unhappy when the head of the government becomes corrupt and unjust. Buddha spoke against corruption and how a government should act based on humanitarian principles. The Buddha once said, ‘When the ruler of a country is just and good, the ministers become just and good; when the ministers are just and good, the higher officials become just and good; when the higher officials are just and good, the rank and file become just and good; when the rank and file become just and good, the people become just and good.'( Anguttara Nikaya ) In the Cakkavatti Sihananda Sutta, the Buddha said that immorality and crime, such as theft, falsehood, violence, hatred, cruelty, could arise from poverty. Kings and governments may try to suppress crime through punishment, but it is futile to eradicate crimes through force. In the Kutadanta Sutta, the Buddha suggested economic development instead of force to reduce crime. The government should use the country’s resources to improve the economic conditions of the country. It could embark on agricultural and rural development, provide financial support to entrepreneurs and business, provide adequate wages for workers to maintain a decent life with human dignity.The Buddha also advocated the maintenance of peace and cordiality throughout, which was absolutely essential for spiritual development and had shown how a country could become corrupt and unhappy when the heads of its government become corrupt and unjust. For a country to be happy, it must have a good and just government. How this form of just government is evolved is detailed in his recommendations entitled “Ten Royal Virtues”. (“Dasa-Raja Dhamma”). These ten rules can be applied even today by any government which wishes to rule the country peacefully.The ‘Ten Royal Virtues’ are as follows:

  1. Dana: liberality, generosity or charity. The giving away of alms to the needy. It is the duty of the king (government) to look after the welfare of his needy subjects. The ideal ruler should give away wealth and property wisely without giving in to craving and attachment. In other words he should not try to be rich making use of his position.
  1. Sila: morality – a high moral character. He must observe at least the Five Precepts, and conduct himself both in private and in public life as to be a shining example to his subjects.This virtue is very important, because, if the ruler adheres to it, strictly, then bribery and corruption, violence and indiscipline would be automatically wiped out in the country.
  1. Comfort Pariccaga: Making sacrifices if they are for the good of the people – personal name and fame; even the life if need be. By the grant of gifts etc. the ruler spurs the subjects on to more efficient and more loyal service.
  1. Ajjava: Honesty and integrity. He must be absolutely straightforward and must never take recourse to any crooked or doubtful means to achieve his ends. He must be free from fear or favour in the discharge of his duties. The Buddha states in a stanza in ‘Sigalovada Sutta ” If a person maintains justice without being subjected to favoritism, hatred, fear or ignorance, his popularity grows like the waxing moon”
  1. Maddava: Kindness or gentleness. A ruler’s uprightness may sometimes require firmness. But this should be tempered with kindness and gentleness. In other words a ruler should not be over – harsh or cruel.
  1. Tapa: Restraint of senses and austerity in habits. Shunning indulgence in sensual pleasures, an ideal monarch keeps his five senses under control. Some rulers may, using their position, flout moral conduct – this is not becoming of a good monarch.
  1. Akkodha: Non-hatred. The ruler should bear no grudge against anybody. Without harbouring grievances he must act with forbearance and love.
  1. Avihimsa: non-violence. Not only should he refrain from harming anybody but he should also try to promote peace and prevent war, when necessary. He must practice non- violence to the highest possible extent so long as it does not interfere with the firmness expected of an ideal ruler.
  1. Khanti: Patience and tolerance. Without losing his temper, the ruler should be able to bear up hardships and insults. In any occasion he should be able to conduct himself without giving in to emotions. He should be able to receive both bouquets and brickbats in the same spirit and with equanimity.
  1. Avirodha: Non – opposition and non- enmity. The ruler should not oppose the will of the people. He must cultivate the spirit of amity among his subjects. In other words he should rule in harmony with his people.

King Ajatasattu, the king of Magadha wanted to invade the Vajji territory in order to bring it under his sovereignty. He sought the advice of the Buddha by sending his chief minister Vassakara, to get the necessary instructions. The Buddha’s admonition was that the Lichchavis, rulers of Vajji could not be suppressed and defeated until they adhered to the seven Dhammas which were not conducive to defeat (Sapta aparihaniya Dhamma)

(i) They held regular meetings to discuss matters pertaining to the day-to-day administration.

(ii) They met, worked and dispersed as a team.

(iii) They strictly followed the law of the country.

(iv) They were submissive to the elders.

(v) They respected the women-folk and condemned the oppression of women.

(vi) They followed the religious customs and protected them.

(vii) They respected the clergy and held them in veneration.

The kingdom of Lichchavis was known as Vajji and it comprised of number of rulers.The capital was Vesali or Visala.The unity among the rulers was the main force behind the unity and integrity of the Vajji kingdom.

Regarding the unity & behavior of rulers, the blessed one further advised:

– A good ruler should act impartially and should not be biased and discriminate between one particular group of subjects against another.

– A good ruler should not harbor any form of hatred against any of his subjects.

– A good ruler should show no fear whatsoever in the enforcement of the law, if it is justifiable.

– A good ruler must possess a clear understanding of the law to be enforced. It should not be enforced just because the ruler has the authority to enforce the law. It must be done in a reasonable manner and with common sense, states Cakkavatti Sihananda Sutta.

In the Milinda Panha, it is stated: ‘If a man, who is unfit, incompetent, immoral, improper, unable and unworthy of kingship, has enthroned himself a king or a ruler with great authority, he is subject to be tortured‚ to be subject to a variety of punishment by the people, because, being unfit and unworthy, he has placed himself unrighteously in the seat of sovereignty. The ruler, like others who violate and transgress moral codes and basic rules of all social laws of mankind, is equally subject to punishment; and moreover, to be censured is the ruler who conducts himself as a robber of the public.

Emperor Asoka, a sparkling example of this principle, resolved to live according to and preach the Dhamma and to serve his subjects and all humanity. He declared his non-aggressive intentions to his neighbors, assuring them of his goodwill and sending envoys to distant kings bearing his message of peace and non-aggression. He promoted the energetic practice of the socio-moral virtues of honesty, truthfulness, compassion, benevolence, non-violence, considerate behavior towards all, non-extravagance, non- acquisitiveness, and non-injury to animals. He encouraged religious freedom and mutual respect for each other’s creed. He went on periodic tours preaching the Dhamma to the rural people. He undertook works of public utility, such as founding of hospitals for men and animals, supplying of medicine, planting of roadside trees and groves, digging of wells, and construction of watering sheds and rest houses. He expressly forbade cruelty to animals.

Sometimes the Buddha is said to be a social reformer. Among other things, condemned the caste system, recognized the equality of people, spoke on the need to improve socio-economic conditions, recognized the importance of a more equitable distribution of wealth among the rich and the poor, raised the status of women, recommended the incorporation of humanism in government and administration, and taught that a society should not be run by greed but with consideration and compassion for the people. Despite all these, Buddha’s contribution to mankind is much greater because the blessed one took off at a point which no other social reformer before or ever since had done, that is, by going to the deepest roots of human ill which are found in the human mind.

May all beings be well & happy and attain the fruits of Nibbana.

Advertisements