Is it good to be king?

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Is it good to be king?

Postby lotus_in_the_hills » Mon Mar 01, 2010 6:18 pm

I've been wondering about Buddhist kingship lately, and how scholars of Buddhist Studies have made much of the parallel between the Buddha as both "world conqueror" and "world renouncer", and the strong and not altogether wholesome link between Buddhism and kingly power in Southeast Asia. I've heard it said time and again that Buddhism became a useful legitimizing tool for kings in Southeast Asia because of the exalted place Buddhism accords to the cakkavatti. Be that as it may, as is usually the case, nothing is so simple. I immediately think of Jātaka stories like the Mūga-pakkha Jātaka (no. 538) in which the Bodhisatta recognizes that kings, by virtue of being kings, must do thinks like punish and execute criminals, for which they bring upon themselves, or at least potentially bring upon themselves, rebirth in hell. The Mahā-Paduma Jātaka (no. 472) says that in order to reign successfully, a king can neither be too gentle nor too severe. Presumably, a king who does not punish criminals is too gentle. In any event, the message that we get from Jātaka stories like the Mūga-pakkha (which unfortunately is the only one that currently comes to mind, but I do remember finding similar cases elsewhere in the Jātakas) is worlds apart from what Dharmaśāstra texts like the Manusmṛti tell us about kings incurring fault by not punishing criminals and upholding the law. I would be very interested to hear what others think! :)
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Re: Is it good to be king?

Postby Fede » Mon Mar 01, 2010 6:55 pm

As I have no intention of being crowned any time soon, nor do I have any plans to ever be, and as far as I know, I am not heir to any type of kingdom, modest or otherwise, I'm not really sure what the relevance is....
However, it's possible this can be "reduced" down to being a Director of your own company, or being a Manager in charge of staff....
So I think adherence to the Eightfold Path and 5 Precepts is worth consideration.
Any person in authority will have unpleasant tasks to consider.
Fortunately, probable punishment by execution isn't on the agenda. but dismissal might well be.

Consider all permutations and possibilities within the parameters of employment law, and practise compassion skilfully and with wisdom.

is there any more the commoner can do?

:namaste:
"Samsara: The human condition's heartbreaking inability to sustain contentment." Elizabeth Gilbert, 'Eat, Pray, Love'.

Simplify: 17 into 1 WILL go: Mindfulness!

Quieta movere magna merces videbatur. (Sallust, c.86-c.35 BC)
Translation: Just to stir things up seemed a good reward in itself. ;)

I am sooooo happy - How on earth could I be otherwise?! :D


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Re: Is it good to be king?

Postby lotus_in_the_hills » Mon Mar 01, 2010 10:22 pm

Fair enough, Fede :) Another message with modern relevance that can be drawn from the Mūga-pakkha Jātaka, though, is against corporal punishment. Along the same lines, we see examples of what fate might await torturers and executioners in the Usuloma and Asīsaka Suttas of the the Saṃyutta Nikāya.
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Re: Is it good to be king?

Postby Fede » Mon Mar 01, 2010 10:46 pm

Corporal punishment cannot be equated with torture and execution.

Corporal punishment, whilst disagreeable, is not unheard of, even in Buddhist monasteries.
"Samsara: The human condition's heartbreaking inability to sustain contentment." Elizabeth Gilbert, 'Eat, Pray, Love'.

Simplify: 17 into 1 WILL go: Mindfulness!

Quieta movere magna merces videbatur. (Sallust, c.86-c.35 BC)
Translation: Just to stir things up seemed a good reward in itself. ;)

I am sooooo happy - How on earth could I be otherwise?! :D


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Re: Is it good to be king?

Postby lotus_in_the_hills » Mon Mar 01, 2010 11:29 pm

Whoops! I meant capital punishment! sorry!
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Re: Is it good to be king?

Postby Fede » Tue Mar 02, 2010 6:58 pm

All the Buddhists i have come across are opposed to capital punishment.
That's it.

The only time taking a life might be debatable would be if the killing happened in self-defence.
That would be the moral dilemma a Buddhist might face.
And I would surmise the likelihood of that (although certainly not unheard of) is probably, and more often than not, so rare as to be not worth really worrying about to any great degree.
"Samsara: The human condition's heartbreaking inability to sustain contentment." Elizabeth Gilbert, 'Eat, Pray, Love'.

Simplify: 17 into 1 WILL go: Mindfulness!

Quieta movere magna merces videbatur. (Sallust, c.86-c.35 BC)
Translation: Just to stir things up seemed a good reward in itself. ;)

I am sooooo happy - How on earth could I be otherwise?! :D


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Re: Is it good to be king?

Postby PeterB » Fri May 14, 2010 4:36 pm

Capital punishment was actually fairly common in pre Revolutionary Tibet..just for the record.
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Re: Is it good to be king?

Postby gavesako » Fri May 14, 2010 5:09 pm

Reflecting on it from the point of view of kamma...
The Buddha teaches about 4 types of kamma:

1. Black kamma, black result
2. White kamma, white result
3. Kamma that is both black and white, giving results both black and white
4. Kamma which is neither black nor white, with results neither black nor white, which leads to the cessation of kamma -> Nibbana

The third kind of kamma is probably the most common one: mixed, some good and some bad, somewhere in the "grey zone". A practical example of the black-and-white kamma would be: Suppose somebody is threatening your family with violence, so -- because you love them -- you go ahead and do something violent to him in order to remove the source of danger. Here, both kinds of intention (cetana) are involved: positive and negative.

The fourth kind is quite different, because it leads out of the whole cycle of Samsara in which beings are caught -- going up and down, here and there, spinning around with no end in sight. That means it is the path of practice which is aimed not just at pleasant results in this or the next life, but rather at transcending the whole sphere of Samsara by realizing its drawbacks. This is only possible by cultivating the mind and gradually reducing identification with all aspects of the 5 khandhas which we take to be "me and mine".

One teacher described ordinary beings as leaving "magnets" all over the place through their actions in the world. Later, they will be drawn to those places where they acted by the "magnetic force" of kamma, so they cannot escape.
Bhikkhu Gavesako
Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

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Re: Is it good to be king?

Postby Pannapetar » Sat May 15, 2010 2:49 am

gavesako wrote:One teacher described ordinary beings as leaving "magnets" all over the place


I must have left a big magnet in Thailand. :D Anyway, never liked those German winters.

What concerns "kings" or leaders, it seems to be somewhat of an oversimplification to make them responsible for all of the consequences of their decisions, because many of these are out of their direct control. For example, Bush is responsible for going to war with Iraq. That does make him responsible for the state of war. It does not make him responsible for each atrocity committed in this war. The kamma for such a decision is (if kamma is indeed retibutive -- of course, I am speculating here) to be reborn in war-torn places, where one experiences the consequences of violent conflict.

Cheers, Thomas
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Re: Is it good to be king?

Postby gavesako » Sat May 15, 2010 1:30 pm

Well, we just had fresh snow up in the Swiss mountains -- middle of May! :offtopic:

I was talking with a Buddhist group in Zurich this week about social structures & Buddhism, and they were very interested in it (they never discussed it before). Some of them are working for Swiss banks, so they have a banker's point of view and understanding of politics. Interestingly, they said that even from the economic point of view, an "enlightened monarchy" is better than a typical democracy, because in most countries the politicians buy their voters by making cheap promises without long-term perspective. On the other hand, a king is concerned for the long-term prosperity of his dynasty. For sure, it is not easy to be a king...
Bhikkhu Gavesako
Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

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Re: Is it good to be king?

Postby gavesako » Wed Jun 02, 2010 11:53 am

Democracy and Buddhism by Piyadassi Thera:

http://www.lakehouse.lk/budusarana/2004 ... Budu13.pdf
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Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

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Re: Is it good to be king?

Postby gavesako » Fri Jun 04, 2010 7:18 am

Interesting article from the Nation, it shows clearly some of the assumptions that Thai people make about religion and the state:

Is anyone here thinking of His Majesty the King?
By Thanong Khanthong
The Nation

http://www.nationmultimedia.com/home/20 ... 30873.html

Thailand is part of the broader "Suvarnabhumi", a fertile land rich in natural resources. Suvarnabhumi covers a vast territory that includes Burma, southern China, Indochina and the Malay peninsula. Thailand is the nucleus of this "Golden Land". It is a sacred land of Buddhism, known as "Buddhabhumi". Suvarnabhumi is a land where Buddhism has prospered since the passing of the Lord Buddha more than 2,500 years ago. When the next Buddha, or Maitreya, is born to this world again, he will choose Suvarnabhumi as his birthplace, to show the way for mankind, so that we may escape the cycle of suffering. Equally important, Thailand is blessed with the world's longest-serving monarch, 82-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who has reigned over this sacred land of Suvarnabhumi for more than 60 years.

The combination of chat (nationhood through the sacred land of Suvarnabhumi), sasana (religion through Buddhism) and phra mahakasat (monarchy through King Bhumibol) makes Thailand a unique country. Together, chat, sasana and phra mahakasat form a perfect trinity. Thailand can't be Thailand if we lose chat, which represents our land and our way of life. We'll lose our pillar of faith and the great purpose of life if we no longer have Buddhism. And we'll lose our soul and identity if we lose the monarchy. As the old Thai saying goes: Raja pen sa-nga haeng khwaen (our king is the dignity of the land).

King Bhumibol is a philosopher-king in the Platonic ideal, and a universal monarch in the grand tradition of ancient Thai kings, who aspire for Buddhahood. He strictly practices the Ten Royal Virtues as follows (see www.lankalibrary.com): (...)
Bhikkhu Gavesako
Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

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