Then he went on to teach four things that lead to long-term benefit: confidence,
generosity, moral discipline and wisdom
Political teachings of the Buddha
Before he renounced the throne
to be religious seeker the Buddha must have
gained extensive experience in government administration.
And although he became a religious teacher, he frequently came
into contact with kings and officials of the various states
in which he moved and taught. As well, his disciples include
a number of kings.
The Buddha had
disciples from both the republican states that existed in
northern India as well as the monarchies. He gave
teachings impartially to all, not advocating one
form over another. Rather he taught that whatever the
form of the government, the guiding principle of the state
should be the Dhamma, the law of righeousness. The sovereign
body of the state does not have the right to use its power
for its own advantage, because it is subject to a higher
law — the ethical law of Dhamma.
Thus the Dharma — this moral, spiritual principle of
— becomes the governing standard of all the particular
forms of government — the standard against which we can measure
all the laws passed by a state, all the lines of conduct undertaken
by a ruler. And to rule in accordance with the Dharma the government
must provide for the material welfare of its citizens, and
it must also establish conditions that promote their
moral and spiritual development.
The Buddha does not stop at generalities. He
lays down specific ways for the ruler to substantiate
the Dhamma in its administration.
One formula he gives is the four evil motives to be avoided:
Partiality or favoritism — showing attachment to
certain people or ideas
Anger or hatred — intense aversion toward people
Delusion — to be confused, dull-minded
Fear — to act out of fear and timidity
On the positive side, the Dhamma teaches that the government,
especially the ruler, should observe ten standards — the
ten royal virtues. These are often illustrated in the Jataka
tales, the stories of the Buddha’s past lives.
Generosity — A ruler should be generous, should be
ready to distribute the wealth of the kingdom to the people.
He should make sure that everyone has the basic necessities
of life, that no one should be depreived of a place to live,
proper food and clothing.
Self-discipline — A ruler should be well disciplined
in his conduct. He should observe the five precepts (not
to kill, steal, commit adultery, lie, misuse intoxicants).
Self-sacrifice — A ruler should ready to sacrifice
himself for the good of the kingdom, ready give up everything
for the benefit of his subjects, even to give up his own
Justice — A ruler should administer his realm
with justice, with equality towards others, not with favoritism
Gentleness — A ruler should be gentle, loving, and
kind to all the people.
Austerity — A ruler should be austere in his own
way of life; he shouldn’t be addicted to luxurious
enjoyments. He should live simply, content with the basic
Kindness — A ruler should be free from enmity, from
hatred and ill will.
Non-violence — A ruler should rule with non-violence.
He shouln’t conquer by violence, he shouldn’t
be disposed to afflict violent punishment on others.
Patience — A ruler should not rule from anger and
should remain persistent despite difficulties.
Non-opposition — A ruler should not oppose the will
of the people but always follow their will when it accords
with what is right.
The Buddha's approach to war
The Buddha teaches clearly and explicitly that to rule in
accordance with Dhamma, the ruler has to avoid aggressiveness
and attempts to conquer by violence.
Time and again the Buddha teaches in one way or another that
violence must be avoided, that peace can never be established
by force and conquest The Buddha says that when one side
conquers another the conqueror only breeds resentment in the
one who is defeated, while he himself must live in constant
anxiety worrying that he will be defeated in turn. Neither
side really wins the battle; the conqueror also loses, as
he can never find happiness or be free from worry and
anxiety through his victory.
The Buddha teaches that there are four kinds of conquests
a ruler should make:
Conquer the evil person by goodness.
Conquer the liar by truth.
Conquer the stingy by giving generously.
Conquer the hostile nan by love and by goodness.
For it is only by love, the Buddha teaches, never by hatred
and violence, that hatred can be brought to sooth? It
is only by peace, by patience, by kindness and compassion that
the cycle of violence and revenge can be brought to a stop. Dhammapada
quote here ? " Hatred is never appeased by hatred in this world.
By non-hatred alone is hatred appeased. This is a law eternal."
Bhikkhu Bodhi - Since this is "Ashoka" might we add something
about King Ashoka's rule as a manifestation/representation
on the social dimension on the Buddha's teaching?