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BUPH 22032 (Buddhist Social Philosophy - Ven. Dr. K.

Mahinda
!ature and the "#$ecti%e o& the Buddhist Social Philosophy (9. to 24.9.03)
There is only one ultimate ideal in Buddhism. Yet at the same time there could be any number
of secondary ideals. These secondary ideals while being subserient to the ultimate ideal hae
their releance to a ariety of things such as society! family and the world. Thus the nature
and ob"ectie of the Buddhist social #hiloso#hy are de#endent on its theory of reality and
world$iew.
The Buddha%s #rimary aim was not to introduce a systematic social theory but to reeal the
#ath of #urification. Therefore! his social thoughts are not found in one single #lace in the
Buddhist canon. &t is a #ossible to deci#her two trends in &ndian history. 'ne was dominantly
sacerdotal (clerical) conseratie! dogmatic and e(ternalist its s#o)e$men hae been Brahmin
from the time of *isittha! Bh+rad+"a! ,assa#a! Yannaa)ya and -an)hya. The other trends
were more liberal! rationalistic! critical and sub"ectie thin)ing. &ts s#o)e$men hae been
*edic s)e#tics! .ah+ira! .a))hali /hosala and the Buddha. &t is true to say that the Buddha
#re#ared the foundation of a more liberal and critical a##roach in method of sociology.
-ome historians and social scientists consider the Buddha as a democratic crusader against
ini0uities of caste system and em#ty #retension of Brahmanical theology. The social
#hiloso#hy of the Buddha is grounded on a basic conce#t of unity of man)ind. &t is a
uniersal a##eal. The Buddha considers all men are socially e0ual. 1e alued a #erson
according to his moral status not on any other basis. Buddhist social #hiloso#hy traces the
feasibility of serices rendered to society for the betterment of the entire human race. 2or this
there are some factors! which bring the social integration and co$ordination. The Buddha
critici3ed traditional &ndian social system! which se#arate the members in the society. 1e
based his teaching on man and inter#reted that it free from diine interention.
4erha#s! due to these reasons 5.5. ,osambi said Buddhism is the most social of all the other
religions. Buddhism strongly critici3ed Brahmin claims based on birth for their su#remacy in
society. The #erson who is assaulting one own$self (attu)amsana) and des#ising others
(#araam#ana) according to Buddhism should be regarded as an enemy of society. The
conce#t of e0uality also e(tended to women. 6omen were not treated as inferior to men with
regard to the #otentialities of s#iritual deelo#ment. 'nce the Buddha told ,ing 4asenadi
,osala (-amyuttani)aya! ol$ &! 4g$78) that a daughter well disci#lined and educated! it is
better asset than a foolish son. The Buddha also established membershi# to women in his
'rder. Thus Buddhist social #hiloso#hy does not recogni3e the su#eriority of a #erson by
birth or se(. 9ccording to his #hiloso#hy all are born e0ual.
9nother ob"ectie of Buddhist social #hiloso#hy is to create a balance society. The Buddha
had adised to aoid the e(tremes. &n his first sermon he des#ised a lu(urious life and also
self torture so also in other ogue of life. &f the economic! social and #olitical conditions are
stable! there we find a balance society. Therefore the Buddha here and there had mentioned
same factors related to economic which measures to reduce #oerty and #resented a #olitical
iew in which all sha#es of o#inions are allowed to be e(#ressed and utili3ed for im#ortant
decision ma)ing.
&n the *a"":agga of 9nguttarani)+ya the Buddha mentioned (;) conditions for the continuous
#ros#erity of *a"":ans.
<
<
These (;) conditions! what hae #racticed in the 8
th
B.= in *a""ian country are run as follows>
<. The #eo#le should habitually attend the formal assembly.
2. They should assemble in a s#irit of unity and harmony to discuss the matters
harmoniously and sole them harmoniously.
3. They should not ma)e any new law or abolish old one but should continue the old
manner.
4. They should honour and res#ect their elders #aying heeled to them.
?. They should not detain by force women or girls of their clans.
8. They should honour shrines in their country and continue with their former religious
offering.
;. They should #rotect and #roide for the 9rahants among them and admit new one.
These conditions are directly hel#ful to ma)e a balance society. The Buddha beliees that
eery community has deelo#ed their own tradition and institution. By #racticing these (;)
conditions one can #rotect and #romote them. Thereby the #rinci#le of e0ual res#ect can be
established.
9nother ob"ectie of Buddhist social #hiloso#hy is to establish a rational society. &n
Buddhism there is no sacramental mysteries or myths. &n Buddhism 5hamma is well o#en.
There is no secret. 'ne has to come and see. @eali3ation should be done by oneself. Aen the
words of the Buddha are to be acce#ted after due e(amination. B9s the wise test gold by
burning! cutting and rubbing it on a #iece of touch stone! so are you to acce#t my words after
e(amining them and not merely out of regard for me.C (,+l+masutta). The Buddha has stated
that all the statements claim to be the authentic teaching of the Buddha should be com#ared
with -utta and *inaya. (.aha#aarinibbana -utta of 5.D.&& <24).
9ccording to Buddhism rational faith (9)+raati saddh+) is the first ste# towards the
reali3ation. There are (2) sources for the arising of the right iew of life. That is the
#ro#aganda of others and critical reflection. (..D. *ol$&! 4g$294) Dormally rational faith
enable one to deelo# a hy#othesis and that can be tested through em#irical e(#erience.
6hile tal)ing about em#irical e(#erience and rational faith the Buddha re"ected all form of
authorities.
&n ,+l+masutta re"ection of authority can be studied in different ways. They are>
<. The diine reelation (+nussaena).
2. 9uthoritatie tradition (#aram#ar+ya).
3. 1earsay (iti)ir+ya).
4. The authority of sacred te(ts (#ita)a sam#ad+nena).
?. Basic logical format (ta))a hetu).
8. .erely on the iew that seems rational (naya hetu).
;. @eflecting on mere a##earance (a)ara #ariita))ena).
7. 9greement with considered iew (ditthi ni""hana))hattiya).
9. =onsidering the com#etence of a #erson (bhabbarE#at+ya).
<0. =onsidering that the recluse is our teacher (samano no garu).
These <0 #oints of course disturb one to reali3e reality in the world. These <0 #oints shed
light on the basic norm of Buddhist social #hiloso#hy. This sutta on the other hand clearly
shows that Buddhism acce#t the right of others to e(#ress their own iews. BFet recluses
from all directions come to Kesaputta and #roclaim their iews.C The freedom of e(#ression
is a ciil right. &t is considered as an essential factor of #ersonal libertyC. The address to
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,+l+ma clearly show that the Buddha wanted to create a society where there is freedom of
e(#ression is granted. 5eadatta! -ubhadda! =hanna! could oice their disagreement with the
Buddha.
The freedom of expression according to Buddhism would be significant only if certain facts
are there. Broadly s#ea)ing they coer a #ersonal dimension and social dimension.
<. 'n one conscience (att+dhi#ateyya).
2. 'n the world o#inion (lo)+dhi#ateyya).
3. 'n the doctrinal #oint of iew (dhamm+dhi#ateyya).
The Buddha asserts the e(#ression of freedom but it should be conditioned to these factors. &f
one e(amines the teaching of the Buddha it is a##earance to say that morality is the corner
stone of the Buddha%s teaching. &t is one of ethical uniersalism. The Buddha considers
morality as the essence of social harmony. The (?) #rece#ts hel# to reduce conflict with
others. They #oint the way to social harmony and ha##iness for all. Buddhist morality has a
#ractical nature.
@oughly s#ea)ing self$restrainment! tolerance! obedience! charity! loe! sym#athy!
forgieness are directly inoled in social harmony. 9ccording to @ahulo+da sutta!
instructions hae been gien to chec) one%s action whether it is affected for self$destruction
(9tt+bhayabhad+ya) or social destruction (4arabhayabhad+ya).
9s to the Buddhist #oint of iew the human beings as a social beings cannot be solely
interested in himself. 1e must reali3e that there are other beings and non$human beings who
are related to him directly or indirectly. This means eeryone has to do others regarding
irtue or social irtue as to cardinal irtues with regard to others.
Buddhism mainly teaches 4 Brahmaih+ras. This #ractice can create an altruistic society. &t is
a clear factor that thin)ing of #romoting one%s own welfare is not #ossible without cultiating
altruistic irtues. The moral goodness is identical with altruism. =haala sutta (9.D)
mentions 4 ty#es of #ersons. The Buddha said that the #erson who wor)s for the good of
oneself as well as that of other was the best (9tt+hit+ya ca #ati#anno #arahit+ya ca).
9ccording to Buddhism when a man tries to be good! controlling his #hysical and mental
deeds thereby he does others regarding action. The theory of 5e#endent 'rigination shows us
that eerything originates de#ending on eerything else. This mean eerything owes to
eerything else for each e(istence. The Buddha%s teaching of altruism is based on this nature.
The man is not a se#arate #erson. 1e is a #art of society. 1e has to res#ect and concern about
others. -ig+lo+da sutta! ,araniyametta sutta! nicely elaborated these #oints in details oice.
Alsewhere the Buddha states! BBy warding oneself mon)s! one wards others! by warding
others one wards himselfC (att+nam bhi))hae ra))hanto #aram ra))hati! #aram ra))hanto
att+nam ra))hati). Thus because of altruistic attitude one can create a sincere society.
9ccording to Buddhism sym#athetic action is #erformed because of altruistic #rinci#le. The
Buddha once e(#lains in the 9num+na sutta (..D)! altruistic action is based on inference
consciousness. The <
st
way is thin)ing of oneself in terms of others. The 2
nd
way is thin)ing
of others in terms of oneself. &n this way his action is not only benefited to himself but also
affect to others. Thereby #eo#le can establish harmony! #ros#erity and ha##iness in the
society. Through the Buddha%s teaching eerything is sub"ect to change. Because of this
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nature he did not insist that one should not deelo# his economical situation. 1e did not re"ect
economic security (9ttisuh)a)
The Buddha being a #ractical leader reali3es the necessity of economic actiity and
accumulation of wealth. There is an am#le eidence to #roe that from its ery ince#tion
Buddhism does not only concern on the disci#line but Buddhism also concern about the
material welfare of the laity. Therefore the Buddha had gien adice to lay society to earn
righteously! to s#end "udiciously and to lie irtuously. Through these #rinci#les he e(#ects to
create a #rogressie society.
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