Some interesting thoughts taken from Nyanaponika Thera's "The Roots Of Good And Evil" that focus on the kammic effects of abusing power. If only the Burmese junta, the Chinese government, Robert Magame's despotic rule of Zimbabwe and other such authoritatian establishments were more aware of the consequences of their actions... not just to others and their country, but to themselves as individuals as well.
May all beings be happy.
The Buddha (AN 3.69):
There are, O monks, three roots of the unwholesome:
greed, hatred and delusion.
Greed, hatred and delusion of every kind are unwholesome.
Whatever kamma a greedy, hating and deluded person heaps
up, by deeds, words or thoughts, that, too, is unwholesome.
Whatever suffering such a person, overpowered by greed, hatred
and delusion, his thoughts controlled by them, inflicts under false
pretexts upon another — by killing, imprisonment, confiscation
of property, false accusations or expulsion, being prompted
in this by the thought, ‘I have power and I want power’ — all
this is unwholesome too. In this manner, there arise in him many
evil unwholesome states of mind, born of and originating from
greed, hatred and delusion, caused and conditioned by greed,
hatred and delusion.
As our text vividly shows, the three roots of evil have dreadful
repercussions on society, as causes of cruelty and the infliction
of suffering. e Buddha speaks of the three as motives for the
unrestrained use of power, and the examples given in the text
make it clear that he refers to political power: a ruler’s abuse of
power whether in time of war against his country’s enemy, or in
peacetime towards its own population. During his lifetime, the
Buddha must have observed many cases of violence and oppression.
He also must have known that the false pretexts justifying
such abuses of power are used in war as well as in peace. False
propaganda against a country’s enemy, and slander of the chosen
victims in the ruler’s own country, obviously existed even 2,500
years ago. In fact, all those instances of violence and oppression
mentioned by the Buddha have quite a familiar ring today. And
of course, the driving forces behind them are still the same: greed,
hatred and delusion. In modern history, however, the central role
has shifted towards delusion, which runs beneath various aggressive
ideologies of a religious, political or racial character.
e Buddha may have been recalling his life as a prince at
his father’s court when he spoke those moving verses opening the
sutta called ‘e Use of Violence’ (Aṭṭa-daṇḍa Sutta):
The Buddha (Sn 935-36):
The use of violence breeds terror:
See the nation embroiled in strife!
How this has moved my heart,
How I was stirred, I shall now tell.
Seeing the crowds in frantic movement,
Like swarms of fish when the pond dries up:
Seeing how people fight each other,
By fear and horror I was struck.
Only rarely did the Buddha speak about those darker sides of
contemporary society, but these few texts show that he was a keen
and compassionate observer.
Generally, all three roots of evil operate in those acts of
violence and oppression which our text mentions. But in specific
cases any of the three might be dominant, though an element of
delusion, or ignorance, will always be present. In war, rulers might
be motivated chiefly by greed for territory, wealth, economic
dominance or political supremacy; but to make the war popular
among their own people, they will employ hate-propaganda to
whip up their will to fight. Delusion was a prominent motive in
the religious wars of the past, and in our present time it still crops
up in ideological wars and revolutions, as well as in religious,
political and racial persecutions within a country.
In all these cases, delusion produces hate, with greed too
often lurking in the background. Oppressive regimes, in their
acts directed against sections of their own people, share the same
motives. e interaction of the roots is sometimes quite complex,
as they grow in strength by feeding each other.
e Buddha understood well the psychology of the mighty,
which basically has not changed through the millenia. All those
wrongful acts, from killing down to expulsion of innocent victims,
are committed out of the lust for power — the enjoyment
of power, the wish to secure it and the drive to expand its range.
His power craze is, of course, an obsessive delusion intricately
bound up with authority. It threatens to overcome all those who
exercise authority over others, from the old style monarchs to
the modern dictator. Even the petty bureaucrat does not escape:
he too delights in wielding his own little share of power and
displaying his stamp of authority.