Justice in Buddhism

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism

Justice in Buddhism

Postby Hanzze » Sun Jan 23, 2011 9:21 am

JUSTICE IN BUDDHISM

Ven. Dr. M. Vajiragnana

Head of the London Buddhist Vihara and Sangha Nayaka of Great
Britain.


The word 'Justice' is wrongly interpreted and improperly un-
derstood today. The powerful man is regarded as just, and the
weak as unjust; the victor or the winner is just, and the
defeated is unjust. After a war, war criminals are all on the
defeated side; those who are on the victorious side have not com-
mitted any crime. This is how justice and injustice are inter-
preted today. The winners decide what is right and what is wrong.
Therefore, the defeated are said to be unjust and criminals. This
is a fact.

The concept of justice can be considered on two levels - that
of the individual and that of society.

On the individual level Buddhism teaches us that we are en-
tirely responsible for the consequences of our own actions and
indeed, that our present circumstances are the just consequences
of actions which we have performed in the past. "If one speaks or
acts with a defiled mind, then suffering follows on even as the
wheel follows the hoof of the draught ox...... If one speaks or
acts with a pure mind, happiness follows one as one's shadow that
does not leave one." (Dhp. 1/2) This is the concept of Kamma,
which is a Pali term more widely known by its Sanskrit equivalent
- Karma. This means literally "action" and refers primarily to
volition, which is then translated into acts of mind, speech and
body.

Not everything that happens is the result of Kamma, but Kamma
is one of the five Laws of Cosmic Order (Niyama Dhamma). It is a
natural law like the force of gravity, the changing of the
seasons or the growth of a tree from a seed. These take place
whether we want them to or not. Kamma operates without the inter-
vention of any external, independent, ruling agency. Wholesome
actions produce wholesome effects, unwholesome actions produce
unwholesome effects. It is a natural law of justice, which has
nothing to do with the idea of punishment or reward meted out by
an omniscient and omnipotent law-giver, or even an all-
compassionate Buddha. The cause produces the effect, the effect
explains the cause. Action causes reaction. Kamma is always just,
never unjust, it neither loves nor hates, is never angry with us
or pleased. Kamma knows nothing about us; it is like fire - just
burns.

Thus, we ourselves are entirely responsible for the state we
are in. "By oneself the evil is done, and by oneself one be-
comes pure. The pure and the impure come from oneself; no man can
purify another." (Dhp. 16). We are free to mould our present and
our future. This is neither fatalism, nor predestination. The
past influences the present, but does not determine it. We build
our own heavens and we build our own hells, but justice does
prevail.

Turning now to the concept of justice in its broader, social
context, Buddhism gives the term an unusually wide and deep mean-
ing when it comes to settling world issues. Buddhism never admits
any means which justifies violence in any form or bloody revolu-
tion to bring about a just social order. It clearly defines as
just those deeds that are free from violence and conducive to the
welfare and happiness of the individual and society.

Man is responsible for society. It is he who makes it good or
bad through his own actions. Buddhism, therefore, advocates a
five-fold disciplinary code for man's training in order to main-
tain justice in society. This code is to be observed on a volun-
tary basis by individuals as the minimum moral obligations of lay
Buddhists.

These are complete abstention from all acts of violence, from
destruction of any form of life; abstention from all forms of
breach of trust, bribery, corruption, cheating and misappropia-
tion; abstention from sexual offences; abstention from falsehood,
slander, defamation, gossip, false information; and abstention
from intoxicants which cause disorderly behaviour. These five
which are known as precepts are extremely important fundamental
principles for promoting and perpetuating human welfare, peace
and justice.

Buddhism advocates that one should always take into considera-
tion the example to be learned from the experience of others,
"Here am I, fond of my life, not wanting to die, fond of pleasure
and averse to pain. Suppose someone should rob me of my life
(fond of life as I am and not wanting to die, fond of pleasure
and averse to pain), it would not be a thing pleasing or delight-
ful not wanting to die, one fond of pleasure and averse from
pain, it would not be a thing pleasing or delightful to him. For
a state that is not pleasant or delightful to me must be so to
him also: and a state that is not pleasing or delightful to me, -
how could I inflict that upon another? As a result of such
reflection he himself abstains from taking the life of creatures
and he encourages others so to abstain, and speaks in praise of
so abstaining. Thus, as regards bodily conduct he is utterly
pure." (Kindred Saying v, P. 308) So as regards conduct in speech
and mental attitude he makes himself pure and encourages others
to do so. Thus, Buddhist five precepts alone, if practised con-
sciously, are capable of establishing justice and fair-play in
society.


We must all abide by the rules of social obligations to main-
tain a just society. Each one of us has a role to play in sus-
taining and promoting social justice and orderliness. The Buddha
explained very clearly these roles as reciprocal duties existing
between parents and children; teachers and pupils; husband and
wife; friends, relatives and neighbours; employer and employee;
clergy and laity. (Sigala-sutta, Digha Nikaya, No. 31). No one
has been left out. The duties explained here are reciprocal and
are considered as sacred duties, for - if observed - they can
create a just, peaceful and harmonious society.

The Buddha was very clear on political matters which concern a
just government. According to him, if a country is to have peace
and justice, the ruler should have a high standard of moral
virtue.

There are ten qualities explained in Buddhism which make a
ruler of a government just. They are called the tenfold
governing-qualities (dasarajadhamma) for they make a ruler or a
government just. Generosity (dana) is the first. The ruler should
not crave for wealth and property, but should give it away for
the welfare of his subjects. It is this quality which makes him
work for the wellbeing of the people, introducing tax relief for
the needy and subsidised schemes where necessary. A high moral
integrity (sila) is the second quality, which means that he
should not destroy life, steal and exploit others, commit adul-
tery, utter falsehood and take intoxicants. This keeps him free
from corruption. The pure moral character of a leader gives him a
position of high authority and his subjects maintain full con-
fidence in him. A sense of commitment (paaiccaga) is the third
one, which makes him sacrifice his personal comfort, name and
fame, even his life, in the interest of the people. Honesty and
integrity (ajjava) is the fourth one. All his dealings must be
carried out without any trace of fear of favour. He must be sin-
cere in his intentions, and he must not deceive the public. Kind-
ness and gentleness (maddava) is the fifth quality, which makes
him refined in his manners and free from arrogance, so that
people can approach him. The sixth quality is self-control (tapa)
which makes him lead a simple life and be considerate in making
decisions. Not being easily moved by anger (akkodha) is the
seventh quality. He should bear no grudge against anybody. Non-
violence (avihimsa) is the eighth quality which helps him take a
harmless attitude in settling all issues. Also, this quality in-
duces him to promote peace by avoiding and preventing war, and
anything which involves violence and destruction of life. For-
bearance (kanti) is the ninth quality, which makes the person un-
derstanding and toleraant. He must be able to bear hardship, dif-
ficulties and insults without losing his temper. The tenth
quality is non-vindictiveness (avirodhata), which makes him free
from taking revenge on those who criticise him or oppose him. He
should rule in harmony with his people. These are the qualities
which make a ruler or a government just.



"All that we are
is the result of
what we have thought.
"
(BUDDHA)
Just that! *smile*
...We Buddhists must find the courage to leave our temples and enter the temples of human experience, temples that are filled with suffering. If we listen to Buddha, Christ, or Gandhi, we can do nothing else. The refugee camps, the prisons, the ghettos, and the battlefields will become our temples. We have so much work to do. ... Peace is Possible! Step by Step. - Samtach Preah Maha Ghosananda "Step by Step" http://www.ghosananda.org/bio_book.html

BUT! it is important to become a real Buddhist first. Like Punna did: Punna Sutta Nate sante baram sokham _()_
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Re: Justice in Buddhism

Postby Kim OHara » Sun Jan 23, 2011 10:37 am

Excellent, except for the first paragraph which basically a series of negative over-generalisations.
:namaste:
Kim
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Re: Justice in Buddhism

Postby Hanzze » Tue Jan 25, 2011 1:30 am

_/\_
Last edited by Hanzze on Wed Feb 02, 2011 1:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Just that! *smile*
...We Buddhists must find the courage to leave our temples and enter the temples of human experience, temples that are filled with suffering. If we listen to Buddha, Christ, or Gandhi, we can do nothing else. The refugee camps, the prisons, the ghettos, and the battlefields will become our temples. We have so much work to do. ... Peace is Possible! Step by Step. - Samtach Preah Maha Ghosananda "Step by Step" http://www.ghosananda.org/bio_book.html

BUT! it is important to become a real Buddhist first. Like Punna did: Punna Sutta Nate sante baram sokham _()_
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Location: Cambodia

Re: Justice in Buddhism

Postby ajahndoe » Tue Jan 25, 2011 5:02 am

Is not "justice" a desire of the mind for good to be rewarded and evil to be punished? When our view of justice is disturbed, for instance by someone getting away with murder, we suffer greatly because of it. The world does not conform well to such desires, and so some have taken to viewing karma as the final arbiter of justice; this is not so. Either belief may be held for a time, but will not remain when the mind is awakened to the true Dharma.
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Re: Justice in Buddhism

Postby Hanzze » Tue Jan 25, 2011 5:17 am

_/\_
Last edited by Hanzze on Wed Feb 02, 2011 1:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Just that! *smile*
...We Buddhists must find the courage to leave our temples and enter the temples of human experience, temples that are filled with suffering. If we listen to Buddha, Christ, or Gandhi, we can do nothing else. The refugee camps, the prisons, the ghettos, and the battlefields will become our temples. We have so much work to do. ... Peace is Possible! Step by Step. - Samtach Preah Maha Ghosananda "Step by Step" http://www.ghosananda.org/bio_book.html

BUT! it is important to become a real Buddhist first. Like Punna did: Punna Sutta Nate sante baram sokham _()_
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Hanzze
 
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Location: Cambodia

Re: Justice in Buddhism

Postby Kim OHara » Tue Jan 25, 2011 5:31 am

Hanzze wrote:Dear Kim,

only the first paragraph has the essence what might be difficult to understand. What does make "right" in a Democracy, truth or the a bigger collective acceptance (majority)? What makes something "unright", the truth or the bigger collective disacceptance (majority)?

Deeds is the key, I guess.

Hello, Hanzze,
It is not difficult to understand, but is full of statements which are wrong in very basic ways. I'll try to explain:

The word 'Justice' is wrongly interpreted and improperly understood today. Who by? Unless the writer tells us 'everyone' or 'the government of England' or some other group, we can't logically agree or disagree. We are implicitly asked to say 'by everyone', but that is clearly not true.
The powerful man is regarded as just, and the
weak as unjust; the victor or the winner is just, and the defeated is unjust.
Same problem.
After a war, war criminals are all on the
defeated side; those who are on the victorious side have not committed any crime.
That is not true, and any thoughtful person knows it is not true. If he meant this is the way the winners talk, perhaps he should have said that.
This is how justice and injustice are interpreted today.
The winners decide what is right and what is wrong. Therefore, the defeated are said to be unjust and criminals.
Same problem as first sentence.
This is a fact. No, it is a matter of opinion.

The whole paragraph is unnecessary, IMO. It's just an important-sounding attention-getter and the article is actually better without it.
That's my feeling, anyway. I don't demand that you agree, but I do hope that you now understand why I said I didn't like it in the first place.
:namaste:
Kim
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Re: Justice in Buddhism

Postby Hanzze » Tue Jan 25, 2011 5:39 am

_/\_
Last edited by Hanzze on Wed Feb 02, 2011 1:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Just that! *smile*
...We Buddhists must find the courage to leave our temples and enter the temples of human experience, temples that are filled with suffering. If we listen to Buddha, Christ, or Gandhi, we can do nothing else. The refugee camps, the prisons, the ghettos, and the battlefields will become our temples. We have so much work to do. ... Peace is Possible! Step by Step. - Samtach Preah Maha Ghosananda "Step by Step" http://www.ghosananda.org/bio_book.html

BUT! it is important to become a real Buddhist first. Like Punna did: Punna Sutta Nate sante baram sokham _()_
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Re: Justice in Buddhism

Postby Kim OHara » Tue Jan 25, 2011 7:00 am

Hanzze wrote:Dear Kim O'Hara

The whole paragraph is unnecessary, IMO. It's just an important-sounding attention-getter and the article is actually better without it.

To leave the illusion untouched? To feel nice and good?

The agreed is "right" and the "disagreed" is wrong, isn't it like that? But that is not Buddhadhamma and the way to peace, it is just a battle of arguments, or weapons, or ethic state of mind of the collective.

Real justice is JUST - no history, no future - no fear, no hope - no law, no judgment. JUST-ice is the way to come to the point. We could say JUST - COOL as just - cold is not the point that should be reached, I guess :jumping:

No, Hanzze!
:thinking:
When you say, "The agreed is "right" and the "disagreed" is wrong," you are speaking just like first paragraph of the article. Maybe that's why you don't notice the problem. In fact, "the agreed is not always right and the disagreed is not always wrong," just as "the word 'Justice' is not always wrongly interpreted and improperly understood today." You know that, don't you?
If you said, "In many people's minds, the agreed is "right" and the "disagreed" is wrong," your statement would be true.
Now do you see the problem?
:namaste:
Kim
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Re: Justice in Buddhism

Postby Hanzze » Tue Jan 25, 2011 11:44 am

_/\_
Last edited by Hanzze on Wed Feb 02, 2011 1:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Just that! *smile*
...We Buddhists must find the courage to leave our temples and enter the temples of human experience, temples that are filled with suffering. If we listen to Buddha, Christ, or Gandhi, we can do nothing else. The refugee camps, the prisons, the ghettos, and the battlefields will become our temples. We have so much work to do. ... Peace is Possible! Step by Step. - Samtach Preah Maha Ghosananda "Step by Step" http://www.ghosananda.org/bio_book.html

BUT! it is important to become a real Buddhist first. Like Punna did: Punna Sutta Nate sante baram sokham _()_
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Hanzze
 
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Location: Cambodia

Re: Justice in Buddhism

Postby Kim OHara » Tue Jan 25, 2011 11:07 pm

Yes, Hanzze - much better. :clap:
The problem arises when an opinion, whether it is the writer's own opinion or someone else's opinion, is presented as a fact. Politicians do it all the time, and then use the "fact" as an excuse for actions that are really not justifiable.
:namaste:
Kim
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