Buddhism and politics

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Re: Buddhism and politics

Postby Dhammanando » Fri Jun 19, 2009 1:58 pm

Hi Jechbi,

Most of your comments are off target.

Firstly, you seem to have overlooked the remark in my opening post: "The most political Buddhist text of all —the Mahasupina Jataka— reads almost like a manifesto of classical western conservatism (though not of what goes by the name of 'conservatism' in contemporary Britain or America)."

"Classical western conservatism" is generally understood as referring to Burke and his followers in the Anglo-Saxon world, and to the likes of Joseph de Maistre on the Continent. So your bringing up the policies of the so-called Neo-cons etc. is a bit beside the point.

Secondly, what Kirk refers to as the imprudent ideologies of "liberals and radicals" (in his book, The Politics of Prudence) are the rationalism of the French philosophes, the moral skepticism of Hume and Rousseau, the utilitarianism of Bentham, the positivism of Auguste Comte's school, and the collectivistic materialism of Marx and other socialists. In other words, he was taking a rather longer historical view than you seemed to be supposing in your reply.

Jechbi wrote:So what if we state the converse? As in:
The non-conservative believes that no enduring moral order exists. There is no order made for man, and man is not made for any order. Human nature is inconstant, and moral truths are impermanent. ...
Which seems like an unworkable premise in politics in any context.


I would say that it's ultimately unworkable, but that hasn't been an impediment to its being adopted by non-conservatives, either across the board (as, for example by Marxists and Nazis) or in an issue-specific fashion (as, for example, with the feminist support for abortion).

Best wishes,
Dhammanando Bhikkhu
    ...and this thought arose in the mind of the Blessed One:
    “Who lives without reverence lives miserably.”
    Uruvela Sutta, A.ii.20

    It were endless to dispute upon everything that is disputable.
    — William Penn Some Fruits of Solitude,
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Re: Buddhism and politics

Postby Individual » Sat Jun 20, 2009 8:06 am

One might also consider the similarities between Anarchist Communism and the early model of the Sangha...

...All simply friends, without any money, working voluntarily and selflessly towards mutual benefit.

I can't imagine any Conservative -- modern or not -- creating such a thing. On the contrary, wouldn't it be unconservative for the Buddha to be such a radical social reformer (of the Hindu caste system, animal sacrifices, etc.)? From a Burkean POV, it would've been ludicrous for the Buddha to oppose such things, because the traditions developed "organically" in reaction to the particular conditions.
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Re: Buddhism and politics

Postby Jechbi » Sat Jun 20, 2009 6:45 pm

Hello Bhante,

Politics and religion. Time to tread carefully.

Dhammanando wrote:... you seem to have overlooked the remark in my opening post: "The most political Buddhist text of all —the Mahasupina Jataka— reads almost like a manifesto of classical western conservatism (though not of what goes by the name of 'conservatism' in contemporary Britain or America)."
Despite how it may appear to you, I didn't overlook your remark. But my post was not a direct response to your remarks. Rather, I was responding in the context of this discussion to the 10 conservative "principles" espoused on the above-referenced Kirk website.

Dhammanando wrote:Most of your comments are off target.
Is that so? The OP stated, in part, "... I personally can't really see how Buddhism and conservatism would ever be compatible." In response, the Kirk principles were offered as an example of how conservatism (according to Kirk's definition of it) is comaptible with the Buddhadhamma. With regard to your remarks, you seem to imply that if the Buddha were involved in politics, he would be a conservative.

The Kirk "principles" are presented in the context of "conservativism" as it is practiced in the modern world. The Kirk Center website includes photos of Kirk with the likes of Reagan and William F. Buckley, Jr. The Kirk Center website describes its programs in the following terms:
The Russell Kirk Center wrote:They celebrate and defend the “permanent things” — all that makes human life worth living, particularly the bedrock principles that have traditionally supported and maintained the health of society’s central institutions: family, church, and school.
Frankly, I think it's absurd to argue that the Kirk approach somehow shares a close affinity with the Buddhadhamma.

We can quibble over what the term "conservative" actually means. One might say that the modern understanding of "conservative" bears no relationship at all to what the term actually means, as defined by individuals such as Kirk. In that case, Kirk's "principals" can't really be held out as exemplifying "conservativism" in a discussion about real-world politics. Alternatively, one might say that the modern understanding of "conservative" bears some relationship to what the term actually means, as defined by individuals such as Kirk. That appears to be the underlying assumption here.

Regardless, if one wishes to get an understanding of "conservativism," the 10 principles are of very little use, because they are not principles at all. Rather, they are a blend of platitudes and generalizations.

In the real world, the difference between "conservative" and "progressive" comes down to this: Members of society find themselves in the churning waters of real life. The conservative principle is, "Sink or swim." The progressive principle is, "Here, put on these water wings." Neither approach is going to calm the churning waters. Both approaches have their merits depending on the context of the situation. So which approach bears greater affinity with the Buddhadhamma? I guess that will depend on whether one is focused more on metta or more on adhitthana. In other words, it depends.

But I would be very reluctant to hold Russell Kirk out as a conservative whose political views reflect principles taught by the Buddha.

Metta
:anjali:

edited: to fix spelling error
Last edited by Jechbi on Sat Jun 20, 2009 8:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Buddhism and politics

Postby Individual » Sat Jun 20, 2009 7:02 pm

Reading over Kirk's ten principles, I'd add that they seem to be such broad virtues that they could apply to any ideology. Furthermore, in the Mahasupina Jataka I see nothing to justify any political view because the Buddha is describing virtues, not political notions, even if he is using a political background to make his point. Of the sixteen virtues he describes (like not accepting bribes, not being a pedophile, honoring your parents etc.), none are exclusive to Conservatism, but all would be accepted by a follower of virtually any ideology. If anything, I think that the social conservatism among Asian Buddhist monastics has more to do with Confucius than Buddha, because it was actually Confucius who was a conservative in the classical western sense, and he had a very massive influence even on his schools' opponents.
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Re: Buddhism and politics

Postby gavesako » Tue Jun 23, 2009 6:18 pm

I listened to a talk between Ajahn Chah and a group of visitors headed by Sanya Dharmasakti (Chief Privy Councillor). Ajahn Chah was talking about the principle of kamma. Then one of the visitors, a military officer, asked about "doing one's duty" which might mean using violence sometimes. Ajahn Chah's reply was very direct: no matter if you call it "your duty" or not, if you use violence to kill living beings, it is definitely bad kamma. He emphasised that Dhamma and worldly laws are quite separate, that the law of kamma operates outside of the conventions of society. He kind of paused a little, because his visitors were high ranking Bangkok civil servants and officers, but then stressed again: you can't say that you haven't committed bad kamma by calling it "your duty". It may be necessary in order to keep law and order in society to use some harsh methods, but it is nevertheless within the sphere of kamma. He didn't make any flattering comments to them because of their social rank, he just gave them straight Dhamma using some down-to-earth similies.
Bhikkhu Gavesako
Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

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Re: Buddhism and politics

Postby gavesako » Wed Jun 24, 2009 7:11 am

Buddhism and Socio-Economic Development

The Setting

From the earliest days of history, when human beings began to organize themselves into society, there has been an inter-play of two powerful agents of control, namely, State and Capital. The State is the focus of politics and political organisations; and Capital in the focus of business or economics, and economic manipulation. In the pre-Christian era of the sub-continent, in the days of the Buddha, these factors exerted a great control over society. Prince Siddhartha himself was part of the group linked to the first-named factor, the State, hailing from the princely house of the Sakya. Similarly, the money factor, Capital, exerted an immense influence over the thinking of the masses, and brought about, that initially stirred the thinking of Gautama, and then led him on to discover of the Arya Satya, the Four Noble Truths.

However, as the Venerable Santikaro Bhikkhu of Thailand points out, there is always a third powerful player in the dynamics of cities and states, namely, religion, the reference is the organised religion, which has been playing a balancing role between the competing interests of state and capital. True, Buddhism is not a 'religion,' as per the generally accepted notion of religion: God, sacrifice and intermediaries such as priests. Yet, in common parlance, Buddhism serves the role played by religion, especially in countries where the Buddhist population is dominant. Examples are Thailand, Burma [Myanmar], or even Sri Lanka or Tibet. (...)

http://www.rakhapura.com/articles/buddh ... opment.asp


Perhaps also relevant to the topic.
Bhikkhu Gavesako
Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

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Re: Buddhism and politics

Postby Popo » Wed Jun 24, 2009 3:34 pm

Jechbi wrote:It's a reverse strawman phenomenon, wherein the "conservative" defines the parameters of social discourse in such a way that a statement of the converse will sound unreasonable.


To be fair, the type of conservative he is (and the type of "liberal" most of us would describe ourselves as) is a hodge-podge taking in insights from many different thinkers.. The classic conservative excepts the liberal's argument for progress and the classic liberal accepts that tradition carries insight (JS Mill wrote a lot on prudence in government, and he was certainly a liberal.) Most of us (non-radicals) except most of the Ten Principles as sane - especially with his addendums.

The big difference between liberals and conservatives, in that author's opinion, is at the end:

No, on one side of that line are all those men and women who fancy that the temporal order is the only order, and that material needs are their only needs, and that they may do as they like with the human patrimony. On the other side of that line are all those people who recognize an enduring moral order in the universe, a constant human nature, and high duties toward the order spiritual and the order temporal.


So he's basically bringing up the Stoic versus Epicurean debate from ancient times. :)
Is morality and political order something we create for our own mundane benefit. Or, is morality grounded in a higher reality that should be pursued for it's own sake.

Sorry if I'm rambling, I took theraflu and I'm kind of dizzy.

best wishes

Esteban
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