pilgrim wrote:There may be some basis to such claims. If you look at countries such as Mongolia in the past, Myamar , etc where a significant portion of the population joined the sangha, then surely there will be some impact upon the resources going into defence and the resources for productivity. However, we should bear in mind that strength and wealth is measured using a very modern yardstick using the assumption that GDP growth and Balance of Payments is the supreme measurement of success.
So we also should ask what is the best model for society, a peaceful, non-greedy one or one which focuses totally on the pursuit of wealth and power. Today we have 2 Buddhist Countries that we can compare. Bhutan which deliberatedly rejects many components of modernisation and emphasises Gross National Happiness and Cambodia which has fully embraced industrialisation and commerce. It may be too early to call which country will provide a better place to live for its citizens but it makes one think whether a strong but high pressured society is preferable over a weak Utopia. Buddhism unlike other religions, does not seek to establish a dominant theological state. It may seem like a weakness now, but it is possible that over a longer period of time, people will get tired of wars and competition and see value in living in world inspired by Dhamma values.
The Buddha of the Pali Canon acknowledged the importance of economic well-being as a basis for spiritual development. If society is poverty-stricken, people can hardly support the sangha, and they will not be in a good position to cultivate sila either. "First grub, then ethics," as Brecht said.
Chinese (Mahayana) Buddhism has picked up on this theme as well -- contemporary teachers such as as Hsing Yun write at some length about the Buddhist way to a prosperous life. Indeed, not to be a shocker here, but I saw "wealth guru" Suze Orman on TV awhile back and a great deal of what she was saying seemed to have been lifted from the dhamma.
If you look at the history of the Buddhist world there were economic high points as well as lows; the Khmer Empire was very powerful, for example. This cycle affects all societies whether Buddhist or not, and we might also look at factors such as colonialism and transition between economic and political systems. Or just our old friend anicca.