Mindful Politics – Buddhism and Politics


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Buddhism is not a religion and in the Buddhist countries the Buddhism is sometimes called “Buddha Sasana”, or simply “dhamma”. The word “Dhamma” is one of the most important terms in the Buddhist canonical literature, which has over hundred meanings and when it is used in the sentence, the context must be understood in which the word “dhamma” is used to understand its meaning.

This is an important teaching device in the scheme of Buddha’s teachings as it means that we have to be on guards even when the word “dhamma” is come across though it is uttered so many times, each time, we have to be aware of its meaning in the context. We have to watch the words and understand the words in the context to avoid misunderstanding.

As Buddhism is not a religion, what Buddhism really is, is, therefore, an important point to discuss.

Buddhism is anything that lifts human beings and human societies to the higher planes of existence and creates harmony within and in the society.

This can entail that though Buddhism is not the “ultimate” in the sense of the word ultimate, it addresses the fundamental problems and questions facing humanity.

That is the reason why Buddhism can commune and communicate with all the disciplines to offer its understanding of the fundamental human problems and predicaments.

Politics deals with the organization of society for the betterment of each and every being, but as we know that politics is also a quest for power in which one group of people try to overpower another group of people.

Mindful Politics – Can Buddhism teach anything to politics?

In the course of the history of Buddhism, Buddhism learned as much from politics as it taught to politics. The Buddha Sangha was modeled on the basis of republics of that time in which the democratic principles were forged to make the Sangha a collective body of the people dedicated to living enlightened community life. It was communism in the highest form of democracy as the keystone of it.

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The Buddha appreciated the principles of social organizations that people in the Republic of Vajji practiced and taught the same principles to his Sangha to make it stronger and cohesive.

The Buddha loved the democratic republic of Vaishali. After the advent of emperor Ashoka, Buddhism started guiding Ashokan politics, and though the Ashokan kingdom was not “technically” democratic, nevertheless, it was a republic aimed at creating highest good for that was living.

What can Buddhism teach to the contemporary politics, particularly to the Indian politics, is an important issue from many points of views?

Buddhism is the only indigenous movement that not only sought the liberation of individuals, but also the liberation of the society from hierarchy and superstitious practices.

The Buddha offered a logical and analytical critique of the caste system and Brahminism.

The Buddha did not only offer the critique but also created the society that was devoid of the caste discrimination and gender discrimination.

In India, there are many social movements, and they must try to at least look at the Buddha’s critique of the caste system and Brahminism. It can become an important argumentative platform against rising fundamentalism in India.

As India is a political democracy and India is far away from becoming a social and economic democracy, Buddhism, as the founding father of Indian democracy, Babasaheb Ambedkar saw, can become an important method to realize the social democracy.

Buddhist methods can help to organize the social movements so that they become more effective and mettaful – Mindful Politics.

Author – Mangesh Dahiwale, Human Rights Activist

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