It continues to be a major religion in the Asian region, where Buddhism is the predominant religion. This has consequences for national politics and their destinies. Buddhism is closely linked to cultural norms and worldviews. It cannot be separated from politics, either historical or current. Buddhism is a living organism that responds to the political conditions of a specific culture, time, and place. Its history is a reflection of the struggles of childhood, adulthood, and old age. Sometimes, it has changed to adapt to changes in its environment.
Buddhism’s history was one of synthesis and adaptation. It split into three great branches (Theravada Mahayana and Vajrayana), as well as a multitude of schools and movements. This entry examines the relationship between Buddhism and politics from four perspectives. The first examines the Buddhist understanding of political life and faith. It also explores the extent to which Buddhists view the two as distinct spheres. It then shows the historical development of religious and political power in the Buddhist tradition. This demonstrates the sometimes complementary, sometimes rival interaction of these forces.
The article also examines the way this interaction is still resonating in the Buddhist world at present. The article concludes with a brief overview of the effects of modernization and socioeconomic changes on Buddhism’s interconnection with politics. Buddhism has tried to adapt to changing situations throughout history and sought to protect and grow its position in the world it serves, even the sometimes polarizing and spiteful world of politics.
In a Buddhist context, defining Religion and Politics
This article will describe politics as the science and art of government and state management. The state is a political organization. Nationalism has been a major factor in many political causes. This slippery concept can be described as a devotion sometimes chauvinistic to an ethnic, religious, or political community with a concomitant drive to advance its interests, traditions, and often at the expense of other communities. We might venture to say that Buddhism in all its forms includes at least two features. In Pali, one of its traditional classical languages (the second being Sanskrit), these include the “church” and doctrine (dhamma, Sanskrit: dharma).
Another, more modern characteristic of Buddhism is its “culture” (e.g. Sinhala: Bauddha sanskrutiya). Buddhism’s goal is to help people find meaning and purpose in their lives. Although the religion has an institutional structure (Monastic Sangha in Sanskrit is for monks and nuns as well as other sects or Nikayas), it is fundamentally a religion that teaches a way to be, a state of mind. Its doctrine does not focus on political systems, social reform, or any other issues that are irrelevant to salvation (Gombrich p. 30). History shows that Buddhism has been used to advance political or sectarian goals. Some politicians even use it to promote ethnically-based, exclusive nationalism.
It is a complicated relationship between Buddhism, religion, and politics, which varies greatly among Asia’s many Buddhist communities. The politics in majority-Buddhist nations range from the relative freedom of expression in Sri Lanka, Thailand, Japan, to the oppression imposed on citizens of Myanmar, China, and North Korea. The fifth-century-ce Buddha Gautama Sakyamuni’s teachings are apolitical. Despite the stereotype of a passive, non-aggressive Dharma, one can argue that the Pali Canon contains the seeds of a political worldview. This scripture is composed of three “baskets”, or collections that all Buddhists recognize as the primary source.
The political meaning of later Mahayana texts is also evident. For example, the Saddharmapundarika Sutra served as the core text for the Japanese Soka Gakkai, a society that promotes value creation, while the Suvarnabhasottama Sutra explains the duties of a righteous ruler. In addition, “chronicles” that purport to provide historical insight, such as Sri Lanka’s Mahavamsa and Myanmar’s Glass Palace Chronicle of the Kings of Burma which offer more detail on the Buddha’s missionary travels to India, or Myanmar’s Glass Palace Chronicle of the Kings of Burma give an often deep religious conviction that links the dharma with a state.
While the primary scriptures of Buddhism do not contain a clear political philosophy, a multisemous analysis of the Pali Sutta Pitaka shows a political ideal that compliments the soteriological teachings from the Buddha. This soteriology is based on the central problem that is painfulness (dukkha, Sanskrit Duhka ), and Buddhism offers a practical solution. It is centered on living in the present. The Buddha does not have any otherworldly goals or eschatological dilemmas. His teachings focus primarily on the facts of life and eliminating superstition through reason and analysis. There is an epistemological foundation to Buddhist teachings, but there is also a social dimension. The Buddha asks not only how and what we know but also what we should be doing for the common good.
The Buddha’s warning against coarse craving (tanha) and emotional cankers of greed, hate, and delusion is not just for the individual but has implications for the whole community. Intenseness and aggression, as well as other spiritual dangers, regularly disrupt the equilibrium of individuals, countries, and the entire world. Several texts, such as the Sigalovada Sutta or Digha-Nikaya 3.180, outline a layperson’s code of conduct, with respect to the society in which he/she lives. Two of the most significant sutras dealing with what might loosely be described as political responsibility are the Cakkavattisihanada-sutta and the Agganna Suttas (Digha-Nikaya 3.58, 80). These texts deal with the development and origin of the state, as well as the rights and obligations of monarch and citizens. These texts present a model society and polity that encourages ethical behavior and embodies strong social ideals, which guide the main objectives of the state. Digha Nikaya 3.62 describes an ideal world ruler, the Celestial Wheel-turning King. He uses his civil authority for righteousness and security. These and other canonical passages go beyond the caste-based worldview that underlies Hindu statecraft and laws codes ( Arthasastra). Particularly, the Agganna Sutta calls for equal rights and opportunities for all persons regardless of their caste or ethnicity (see also Majjihima Nikaya 2). 85, 151, Digha-nikaya 1.99).
These texts suggest that Buddhism imposes on the state and citizens the responsibility for ensuring economic and social equality. Although it is not clear whether these texts are a complete political philosophy, they do indicate that the state should not restrict freedom of thought and that citizens, as well as the whole polity, must be allowed to grow and mature. This is consistent with the Buddha’s teaching that nothing is permanent, nor should anything rest on the basis of authority alone (Anguttara-Nikaya 1. 189; both principles are applicable to the state. Some scholars tried to extrapolate the Buddha’s rule for his monastic order (“samgha”)–citing practices like the pooling resources–to arrive at a proto-socialistic understanding of Buddhist political doctrine in general. In which similar communal principles would guide the state as a whole, this is more controversial.
Others highlight the democratic nature of the Samgha and argue that its traditions poured over into various forms and administrations in villages (see Joshi p. 33). The Vinaya Pitaka is a clear example of an early Indian community made up of mendicants, organized according to “socialist” or even “democratic” lines. However, it cannot be considered a model for lay society. The traditional Buddhist Samgha did not focus on politics. However, the Pali Canon may contain a political philosophy derived from the Buddha’s advice to rulers as well as citizens. This philosophy is based on the idea of peaceful coexistence between the former and the former.
Although Buddhism and politics are recognized as distinct entities in canonical scriptures, the relationship between religion and state changed subtly with Asoka’s rise (c.250 ce). A. L. Basham explains this by writing: “Instead of the traditional policy territorial expansion [Asoka] substituted for conquest by Righteousness, as we here inadequately translate by the very pregnant term dharma ).” (1954. p. 54).
The conversion of the monarch to Buddhism and subsequent widespread promotion of its values, which included respect for and oversight of the Samgha, created an important model of a Buddhist State and its relationship with the Buddhist monastic order. The Samgha attempted to give legitimacy to the state. A new, three-fold “refugee” emerged in the Buddhist world, to supplement the traditional refuges (Sarana) of Buddha, dhamma, and samgha. This new, unavoidable political “refugee” was composed of country, national identity, and religion. Or as Cambodia’s 1993 Constitution stated, “nation religion king”.
Historical Development Of Buddhist Political
Buddhism has been historically seen as having developed more in harmony with political power than it did in conflict. Trevor Ling coined the term “royal Buddhism”, to describe the growing symbiotic relationship of samgha with the monarchy in medieval times (though it was not without antagonism, see p.133). The relationship between Samgha, laity, and the clergy has been described as causing a “masspolitization” of the Buddhist population. (See Bechert 1978, p. 16).
The Theravada polities of South and Southeast Asia provide good examples of this symbiosis of Buddhism and political authority. In addition to the well-developed Mon kingdoms of southern Burma and the central plain of the Chao Phraya (e.g., Dvaravati), Sri Lanka serves as an excellent example, with its celebrated story of the early Buddhist ideal “warrior-king” Dutthagamini (c. 150 bce). According to legend, he asked five hundred monks for protection and blessings in order to repel the Tamil invaders. He also carried a relic from the Buddha on his spear as an amulet (see Alice Greenwald, Bardwell Smith 1978, p. 13).
In ninth through 13th-century Cambodia, the Khmer court extravagantly supported a cult Hindu-Buddhist divinity kingship. It reached its peak during Jayavarman VII’s reign (1181-c. 1215), who modeled the Buddha’s image in the Angkor temple at Bayon after himself. In 1218, he died and was given the title Mahaparamasaugata (or “the great, supreme Buddhist”) (see Coedes p. 172). Burma’s Pagan period, c. 800-1200 ce, was the golden age of Buddhism’s monarchical ideal. It was represented by the Ananda Temple ( Zedi) built by King Kyanzittha (1084-1113). Michael Aung Thwin writes about this kingdom which was located around the upper Irrawaddy.
[T]he state’s protective capacity in the thirteenth and twelveth centuries of Burma was strong. It was not a chaotic or violent society, but one that was ordered and hierarchical. It was concerned not with individual happiness but with social order. The sovereign ruled over his officials and was pacified by his [Buddhist] primeate. (p.96)
The fourteenth through eighteenth-century Lao kingdom of Lao (Lan Xang) was legitimized by the sangha. In return, they demanded that the king follow their rules of just rule (dhammaraja ). The respected king Rama Kamheng of Sukhothai, middle Thailand (1230-1378 ce) was a precursor to the royal Buddhism associated with the great Ratnakosin Dynasty (1782-1778 ce). In which the monarchs are both the principal sponsors of Buddhism but also the symbols of national unity,
The monarch’s function
The common feature of all these examples is their use of the monarch as a purifier and unifier for the Buddhist monastic order. This was exemplified in the amalgamation of Sinhalese sangha, which took place between 1153 and 1186 ce. Japan, however, experienced the rise in Mahayana Buddhist Asia’s Buddhist temples and armies of “priest warriors” starting with the time of Prince Regent Taishi Shotokan (c. 600 CE). His reforms, which were made possible by the Buddhist monk Nichiren (c. 1270 CE), and his promotion of Saddharmapundarika Sutra(Lotus Sutra) as an intrinsic part of national identity and of himself as a messiah resulted in a unique situation in which “much religiopolitical capital was made out of his inheritance in subsequent generations” (see Harris p. 15). Sa skya Pandita was made vice-regent of the Mongol Khan Godan (1246 CE) and the Tibetan Buddhist monk (lama), as a political ruler. This concept was reinforced when the head of the Due lugs pa sect, the lama Sodnams Gyamtsho, received the honorific Dalai Lama from the Altan khan in 1578.
The Himalayan Region
Interesting examples of the merging religion and political order are also found in the traditional Himalayan Buddhist kingdoms, Sikkim (Tibet), Nepal (Sikkim), and Bhutan. This is why Nepal’s polity has been dominated for centuries by strong connections between the royal house of Hinduism and the royal family. The Constitution used the term “the Hindu kingdom in Nepal” as a reference to 1962. Although the 1990 Constitution does not use this language, the king, traditionally revered as an incarnation or Visnu, is still the “symbol for the nation.”
While the majority of Nepal’s population is Hindu, Buddhism has been a significant part of Nepal’s unique culture for at least a millennium. Rose and Fisher (1970), p. 9, reflect on the many immigrations that have impacted Nepal over the centuries. Their combined impact is “encrusted in mythological lore.” Many holy places in Nepal are associated with the great Buddhist saint Milarepa (1050 CE).
Tibetan Buddhism has clearly dominated entire communities, notably the high mountain peoples, Sherpas and Tamangs, and the Newar in the Valley of Nepal. It is striking to see the close theological relationship (yogic practices, iconography, and Buddhism) between Hinduism and Buddhism. This was noted by Hsuan Tang in the seventh century ce. The contribution of Buddhism is evident in many historical structures, including the Swayambhunath Temple outside of Kathmandu, and in the leading figures of today’s Nepal, such as Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, the Nyingmapa -terton, the “discoverer and founder of Shechen temple”.
The government of Nepal does not permit politicization or disrespect for Buddhism. Given the dominance of Tibetan forms of Buddhism in Nepal (other sects are present but of modest significance), and the always-sensitive proximity to China, no promotion of Tibetan Buddhist political rights, or public veneration of the Dalai Lama for that matter, is permitted. To the dominant Hindu communities and to the regional superpowers, any suggestion of a panHimalayan Buddhist revival is alarming. Except for the occasional exception (e.g., a Tibetan Buddhist exile presence in Mustang), Buddhism does not have any political role in contemporary Nepal.
Sikkim, the neighboring Himalayan Buddhist polity, is the smallest. It has been ruled by an absolute Buddhist monarchy linked to the Namgyal family. This rulership, which dates back to the ninth century Minvang Dynasty in eastern Tibet’s Chumbi Valley, is now the most recent. Nyingmapa Buddhism, which was the religion of early Tibetan migrants to Sikkim’s Bhutia people, became the state religion. Phuntsok Namgyal was a Minvang prince who became Sikkim’s King. His last lineage member was the twelfth Chogyal, Palden Thandup Namgyal who died in 1982.
Other indigenous communities, such as Lepcha and Gurung, accepted the Namgyal Dynastic Rule and Buddhism over time. India annexed Sikkim in 1975 after years of interference with its affairs and alarm by ongoing border problems with China. The era of Buddhist cultural dominance in India was already weakened by the long-standing migration of Hindu Nepalis. This began during the British period and has not stopped. Indian sovereignty has not destroyed Sikkim’s Buddhist spirit and cultural identity. New Delhi supports the preservation of Sikkimese chortens (stupas), and other sites of historical and spiritual significance to Sikkim. Bhutan has been left the last Himalayan Buddhist kingdom by Sikkim’s collapse as a monarchy and is, in a sense curator of a once popular religio-political worldview and civilization.
Legend has it that Padmasambhava, an Indian saint, converted Bhutan (Druk Yul), to Buddhism in the eighth century ce. Guru Rinpoche, a great Nyingmapa teacher from Tibet, strengthened the faith. Ngawang Namgyal, a Tibetan Kagyupa monk took the title Shadrung (“at the feet, one submits”), and a specific Buddhist polity was created in the seventeenth century. He established a legal system and encouraged the creation of religious structures.
A Buddhist statue was established that operated for 270 years on the basis of a shared rule between a religious leader (je Khenpo) and a secular authority (the Debraja). The British presence in 1864 was minimal and the country avoided any colonial interference. A monarchial system was established in 1907 to address the political needs of both civil and religious leaders.
An Erastian Buddhist polity was established by the Wangchuck family’s hereditary kings. Although the kings were capable rulers, an advisory national assembly was established in 1951 when the prime minister was assassinated. However, it was never replaced. In 1972, Jigme Sigye Wangchuck, fourth Druk Gyalpo was consecrated as the monarch. The king, like his predecessors, wears as part his regal clothes a saffron scarf or cable (the mark of a Buddhist ruler and an item that is only shared with the Je Khenpo).
The Bhutanese royal house seems educated and aware of the modern pressures, unlike the Nepali monarchy that was destabilized. In the middle of the 20th century, Bhutan was isolated from counter-culture visitors and backpackers. Through prudent foreign policy, it has kept India at arm’s length and has aggressively attacked Indian secessionist groups that seek refuge within Bhutan’s borders.
There are still many challenges, including widespread illegal immigration and imports of political ideas that are not in line with a traditional Buddhist monarchy. This type of government has had its benefits in Bhutan. One commentator noted that King Jigme Sengye Wangchuck had “enlightened, but constrained attitudes toward progress and development”. (Crossette 1995, p. 182). This, together with a sangha actively involved in welfare and development activities suggests a successful and enduring Buddhist state.
Colonial Experience, Political Power
A key feature of this period of history is Buddhist nationalism within the context of colonial experiences. While nationalism is often associated with political events in Europe of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Buddhist nationalism was born in Asia very early.
Heinz Bechert writes that “in this way,” a form of nationalism was born in ancient Ceylon. It is very similar to modern nationalism’s conceptions of a united country with common linguistic and cultural traditions. Steven Kemper (p. 17) shows that a “full-fledged set of identities” was in place in Sri Lanka a thousand years before the colonial era and that some of the same conditions applied as well to the “theater states” and “galactic polities” of premodern South and Southeast Asia. Nearly all these cases show that Buddhism played an important role in fostering national identity.
The advent of colonialism brought confusion and doubt to the autonomous Buddhist world. British intrusions into the subcontinent occurred in the eighteenth century, and French hegemony was established in Indochina in the following century. Different forms of Buddhism were introduced to these countries by the Japanese colonial expansion in Korea, Manchuria, and Formosa (1895-1945).
Although a takeover by Buddhist Japan caused less culture shock than Victorian Christian imperialism, it also hampered the developing sense of national uniqueness in British-occupied Asian nations and disrupted the close and still evolving connection between Buddhism, political identity, and Buddhism. Pye, p.91. In many cases, religious identity fed political reactions to the rise of imperialism. In general, the faith retained its hold over the majority of believers, contributing to a religious revival that nurtured struggles for independence. Siam (Thailand), was the only country to escape foreign subjugation. This was largely due to the statecraft of three perceptive monarchs who ruled between 1851-1925: Mongkut (later Rama IV), Chulalongkorn, and Vajiravudh.
These monarchs were pragmatic realists who recognized the necessity to modernize their country and accepted foreign technologies and values. They also centralized the polity as well as the sangha. This brought the religion under the direct control of what was rapidly becoming a modern nation-state (see Ishii at p. 47).
The government of Burma was, however, long an introverted and isolationist, and completely unprepared for the intellectual and ideological challenges of colonialism, modernization, and the ideologies that accompanied them. Burma-centrism was supported by a mythological worldview, which had led to a “disproportionate overestimation” of Burmese power (Sarkisyanz p. 99).
Buddhism was the only foundation on which Burmese nationalism could be built. Various nationalist groups including “heritage preservation” (athin), and monks like U Wissera or U Ottawa assumed quasi political leadership roles. Buddhist millenarian expectations–centered around the set kya min or Restorer of the Golden Age, the future Buddha who would reestablish the perfect society–accompanied Burmese nationalism, as did elements of magic and sorcery such as the notion of yadaya chay, or “outwitting fate by prompt action.” These ideas have persisted well into the 21st century and still resonate in the corridors of political power in Myanmar.
The British originally considered it politically feasible to give state protection to Buddhism in Ceylon (later Sri Lanka), but Christian missionary agitation forced the crown to withdraw this protection in 1853. The sangha was left with an immediate vacuum. Only in the latter part of the nineteenth century did Sinhalese Buddhism assume a proactive posture, under such individuals as Anagarika Dharmapala (1864-1933) and the American convert Col. Henry Steel Olcott (1832-1907), who inspired a Buddhist political renaissance.
Buddhism and Politics in the Postcolonial Era
The political position of Buddhism after the colonial era led to institutional arrangements that continue to resonate decades later. The sangha of Sri Lanka, which gained independence in 1948, directly entered politics, issuing a declaration via Vidyalankara. This was a prominent Buddhist seminary. This declaration outlined the expectations for the Singha’s activities beyond the monastery and the Ven. Further guidance was provided by Walpola Rahula’s Bhiksuvage (Heritage of the Bhikkhu 1946). Both agreed that the modern monk should view political engagement as a responsibility, being aware of the decline in Buddhist influence in national affairs.
Tessa Bartholomeusz called it a “marriage between religion and ethnicity”. This marriage led to the formation of several Sinhala Buddhist societies and nationalist (derhapremi) groups that have sometimes had a significant influence on state affairs. Without jeopardizing their power, no Sri Lankan head-of-state could afford to marginalize Buddhism. Some people framed their political goals in grandiose religiopolitical language. President J. R. Jayawardene’s 1978 dharmishta (or righteous policy objectives) was one example. Ranasinghe Premadasa (1989) used Sri Lanka’s royal past as a way to legitimize their authority by symbolically sitting on the once-royal dais at Kandy’s Temple of the Tooth.
Religio-cultural issues also run deep in Myanmar, wherein in 1962 a rogue military junta seized power from the pro-Buddhist government of Prime Minister U Nu, who had styled himself as the Mahathammada or true leader of Buddhism. The long-autonomous Singha was forced to submit to government control by the new dictatorship. Burmese political leaders rewarded monks who were cooperative, and the ruling party frequently “makes merit” by staging large public demonstrations of support for the faith. This was to justify its rule to an apathetic and downtrodden society.
The sangha often expresses its sympathy for Aung San Suu Kyi, but it is not always heard. In 1990, monks “turned the begging bowl” (Patta ni Kauzza na_kan) to military personnel as part of a political protest. This was an exceptional manifestation of Buddhism’s peaceful influence, even in times of military tyranny. Vietnam was a country where French colonialism had led to a society split between Roman Catholics and Buddhists.
The 1930s saw a Buddhist revival that was accelerated by the struggle for independence. This occurred in particular after the defeat at Dien Bien Phu, May 1954. President Ngo Dinh Diem’s overt partiality to Catholicism at a time of intense nationalist fervor alienated Buddhists, who were refused a public voice. Although the sangha of Vietnam never called for a Buddhist government, their actions helped to awaken nationalist and humanitarian consciousness. In June 1963, Ven. To draw attention to the sufferings in Vietnam, Thich Quang Duc committed suicide in Saigon. Similar ritual deaths were performed by other monks, which many consider acts of heroism.
Thich Nhat Hanh noted that “in every Buddhist, the ideas of Buddhism, as well as nationalism, are intertwined” (p. 45-107). Ho Chi Minh’s triumphant Communist Party in Vietnam sought to harness Vietnamese nationalism for its own ideology. Buddhism was silenced by the claim of a monopoly over politics and Vietnamese consciousness. The government tried to control Buddhism by creating a single state-sponsored Vietnamese national Buddhist Singha (Giao Hoi Phat Giao Viet Nam).
Although communist governments in Vietnam, China, and North Korea continue to tolerate Buddhism, they never invite it to play a role either in political power or in defining official national ideology. Thailand, Sri Lanka, and other non-communist nations have often enshrined Buddhism into their constitutions. However, this was only to protect or patronize it or to ensure its place in “Buddhist secularism” (p. 5). As in communist countries, there is no active role for Buddhism and its clergy.
B. Ambedkar, the father of India’s Constitution and a pioneer of India’s democracy, was born in India. R. Ambedkar believed Buddhism was a democratic religion, which led him to convertand to the founding of the Navayana school. Ambedkar made the following statement in an All-India Radio broadcast speech, 3 October 1954:
Positively, you can say that my Social Philosophy is enshrined with three words: Liberty Equality Fraternity. Let no one, however, say that I have borrowed my philosophy from the French Revolution. I haven’t. My philosophy is rooted in religion, not political science. I have derived them from the teachings of my Master, the Buddha. His philosophy saw liberty and equality as having a place. (…) He placed fraternity at the top of his list as the best safeguard against denials of liberty, equality, or fraternity. This was another name for brotherhood and humanity.
Ambedkar also reminded us of the existence and benefits of democratic practices in Buddhist brotherhood.
“The Bhikshu Sangh had a most democratic constitution. He was only one of the Bhikkus. He was at most, a Prime Minister in the Cabinet. He was not a dictator. He was twice asked by the Sangh to appoint someone to lead it before his death. But each time he refused saying that the Dhamma is the Supreme Commander of the Sangha. He refused to be a dictator, and refused to appoint one.
14th Lama believes that both Buddhism and Democracy share a common viewpoint saying “not only are Buddhism and democracy compatible but they are also rooted in a common understanding of the equality and potential of every individual. ” He believes the ancient Sangha was democratic.
Mipham Chokyi Lodro, the 14th Shamar Rinpoche, wrote a book, “Creating a Transparent Democracy” in 2006. Shamarpa advocates a transparent democracy in which citizens are empowered and self-reliant through decentralized government. Instead of a top-down system in which power flows from the national to the state to the city, this system builds from the village level upwards. The system is built from village to village levels. It does not have a top-down control system in which power flows down from national, to state, to city. Transparency, self-reliance, and honesty are Buddhist values. However, Shamarpa’s proposal is also universal. Protections are given to the Earth, natural environment humans, and animals. The Earth serves as a model for ideal government and it is the responsibility of the international community to protect the environment.
David Kaczynski believes that Buddhism and Democracy need each other saying:
With its emphasis on inclusiveness, process, and human dignity, the West’s ideal of democracy is imbued in many of the insights and qualities of the dharma …. Can there be truly democratic politics without the dharma? What is more important in public life than the Dharma?
Globalization and Modernization: The Impacts
R. N. Bellah explains that modernization does not just involve the adoption of new technologies, but also the “modernization” of the soul (1965, p. 196). In early-twentieth-century Asia, Buddhists often adopted concepts imported from the West, such as social welfare or socialism, and adapted them to their own countries’ circumstances, endowing them with a distinctive, indigenous vigor. The Japanese Soka Gakkai lay sect Nichiren Buddhism is an example of this process. Its influential Leftist Clean Government Party (Komeito) pushes for the creation of a welfare state to ensure the material and health well-being of the lower social classes.
What is now referred to as “engaged Buddhism” has its roots in the late nineteenth century; in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, “engaged” Buddhist thinkers and activists such as Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi, Tibet’s Dalai Lama, Thailand’s Sulak Sivaraksa, and Sri Lanka’s A. T. Ariyaratna have used the faith to respond to a host of issues brought on by modernization and globalization.
Some monks in Thailand have “ordained” trees that are not to be felled as a response to the destruction of their country’s environment. Other issues Buddhism must deal with include rampant consumerism and the flood of Western pop culture. Political tyranny is also a problem, which is often ignored or supported by the international community. It’s not an exaggeration for us to say that Buddhism in modern Asia requires energetic engagement with political and social issues and crises as much as monastic or meditation withdrawal. (Queen. p.ix).
Thich Nhat Hanh, referring to Buddhism’s long association in a variety of cultures, governments, and regimes, is certain to be correct when he states that “the forms must change so that Buddhism’s essence remains unchanged.” (p. The religion is still open to criticism and political guidance, but it does not seek theocratic power nor adhere to any dogmatic fundamentalism.
How did Buddhism affect politics?
Buddhism has had a long history of politics. In the realm of politics, Buddhism has been influencing governments since the time of Siddhattha Gotama, the historical Buddha (Sanskrit: Siddhartha Gautama).
Does Buddhism support democracy?
Democracy and Buddhism are compatible. They are also rooted in a shared understanding of each individual’s potential and equality. The Vinaya rules that regulate the conduct and life of Buddhist monastic communities are consistent with democratic traditions.
What type of government did Buddhism have?
Many scholars claim that the foundations of Buddhist society were democratic. This is a long-standing history of the relationship between Buddhism, democracy and Buddhism. Although some Buddhist societies were considered feudalistic in their history, the relationship between landowners and peasants was often voluntary.