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Socio - economic perspectives of Buddha’s teachings

rohan l. jayetilleke

At the very sight of the phrase “Applied Buddhism’ you will be curious. In examining the teachings of the Buddha, the expression ‘Applied Buddhism’ is the right new expression for interpreting the teachings of the Buddha in the context of modern socio-political complexities, which are basically based on attachment, enmity and ignorance (lobha, dwesha and moha). the Tripitaka (Sutta, Vinaya and Abhidhamma) consists of the Buddha’s guidelines, most practical for the building of moral character and awakening of human intellect. Although, the modern society is supposed to be more civilized and comparatively of a high standard of scientific advancement, the dignity of mankind is not flourishing with ‘terrorism’ being the order of the day in every country so, at the present time of disorder and economic calamity, the applicability of the Buddha’s teachings is becoming and indispensable factor for the socio-economic and political development.

The Buddha’s thoughts were influenced by the socio-economic environment in the 6th century B.C. Though the Buddha did not express theoretically an economic system his discourses and advice led to the development of human consciousness and the resultant development of the socio-economic structure of society. In the Kutadanta Sutta of the Digha-Nikaya, the Buddha says that stealing, plundering, killing, harassment and disorder would not be stopped fully by giving punishment like imprisonment, fine and beheading. The ways and means to bring about permanent peace in the kingdom. The Buddha in this Sutta says by turning out regularly: (i) To give seed paddy to the farmers for the benefit of cultivation (ii) To assist by giving financial resources to the men who are capable of trading and wish to engage in business (iii) to appoint those who wish to serve in the government service with proper remuneration for the alleviation of unemployment.

Animal slaughtering

The Buddha further said, if every man is appointed to his own work, there will be no unemployment in the country, ; then peace, law and order will be revived. The royal treasury will be filled at times by collecting taxes. The Buddha also said that animal slaughtering is not the real worship to gain help from gods but he promoted animal husbandry. In the Chakkavattisihanada-sutta the Buddha defined the duties of the king. The duties are to protect the people with justice and equality; not to promote people in the kingdom to do injustice; to provide work to the poor for earning a living; to acquire knowledge about duty or non-duty from the honest Sramana or Brahman of the kingdom and the king to perform his duties according to these advice. It was on a proper study of the Buddha’s teaching that the prominent Indian historian Damodar Dharmananda Kosambi (1907 - 1966) wrote: “It is a modern opinion likely to startle political economics. In the time of the Vedic worship, society was starting to conquer the ancient forest, it was the most highly intellectual achievement to preach such a type of opinion for that society. This new philosophy of the Buddha gave self control power to the mankind”.

In order promote economic development and stability the Buddha mentioned four factors in the Vyagghapajja Sutta. The first, a man should be skilled, efficient, earnest and energetic in whatever profession he is engaged in, and he should master it effectively (Uttama-sampada) : the second, he should protect his income which he has thus earned righteously, with the sweat of his brow (Arakkha-sampada); the third, he should associate with good friends. (Kalyana-mitta), who are faithful, learned, virtuous, liberal and intelligent, who will help him along the right path away from evil; the fourth, he should spend reasonably in proportion to his income, neither too much nor too little, i.e., he should not heard wealth avariciously nor should he be extravagant, in other words, he should live within his means (sama-jivikata).

In applying these basic principles to the present day economic collapse in the US and Europe, the only justifiable explanation for it is that conspicuous consumption, promotion and production of wherewithal not conducive to economic growth and billions upon billions of dollars being pressed into genocidal wars in the Middle East by the US and European countries to strengthen their bigeminy over these countries, in order to orchestrate the oil markets of these oil rich Middle East countries.

Economic theories

The economic theories of capitalism, Marxism-Leninism centrally controlled economic theories of state partnership of sources of production and distribution, have totally failed, as they are not geared to equality and humanity. The Buddha in Anguttara Nikaya, forbids trades in weapon, animals, meat wine and poison. But the world today is pursuing these forbidden trades. Ven. late Madihe Pannasiha Maha Nayaka Thera, of the Amarapura Maha Sangha Sabha Gem of Buddhist Wisdom/ The Buddhist Way to Economic Stability” says: “ In recent times many books have been written on the subject of economics and economic theory, all of them either from the capitalist or socialist view point. Neither of these systems pays attention to, nor considers the inner development of man as an important factor in the growth society”.

I would be seen from the teachings of the Buddha, the world peace will be ushered in only on the development of man’s latent potential of peace and harmony. In the Sigalovada Sutta the Buddha says, “if a householder expands his income into four apportionments, then he will be happy. One-forth of his wealth for the earning of his living, two fourths for investment in trade and business, the rest one fourth for saving for any emergency. Today the via media for progress is to apportion all earnings for the multiplication of the income and finally, in case of emergency, or in the fall of a share market, the country or man becomes a destitute.

However, the Buddha, propounded the basics of equality and human dignity in the following manner. The Buddha in his first year as a recluse having met with King Bimbisara of Magadha, described his family background in the following manner. “There is a prosperous country, Sire, and vigorous, right up against the foothills of Himslays, inhabited by Kosalans, whose race is named after the Sun (Surya), whose lineage is ‘Sakyan’.

The royal dynasty of Sakyans was the most prestigious in India then, and for a king to be consecrated he had to be betrothed to a Sakyan princess. This was even followed in Sri Lanka, during that time (6th century B.C.). when Prince Panduvasdeva, who was a refuge in Pandya, he being a Sakyan, during the last year of the Buddha, when the enraged illegitimate son of King Pasenadi of Kosala kingdom, off a slave-girl, Vidhudhabha, was refused the hand of a Sakyan princess. In his third and final attempt invaded Kapilavastu and massacred the Sakyan totally. Those who escaped the invasion fled to Sankass, (Uttar Pradesh), Pandya, Kaling kingdoms, in the southern quarter in India as well as Sri Lanka. Princess Bhaddhakaccayana who too was a blood relation of the Buddha from Kapilavastu too had taken refuge in Pandya and came over to Sri Lanka to be the queen of Panduvasdeva, as the consecration tradition demanded the betrothal of the new king to a Sakyan princess.

The Buddha, formed the Sangha which included persons from various sectors of society, race, language, caste and even professions. However, in inculcating them a deep sense of equality, the Buddha addressing the Sangha said, “Just as all the great rivers, the Ganges, the Yamuna, the Aciravati, the Sarabhu and the Mahi, give up their former names and identities when they reach great ocean, and they come to be reckoned one with the great ocean itself, so there are these four castes, the warrior-noble khattiyas, the brahaman priests, the burgess vessas and the plebeian suddas, and when they have gone forth from the house life into homelessness in the Dhamma and Discipline (Vinaya) declared by the Perfect One, they gave up their former name and clan to be reckoned one with the bhikkhus who are sons of Sakyans”.

In fact, King Asoka of India of the third century B.C., who embraced Buddhism repeats this Sakyan concept of equality, in his Maski and Rupanath Minor Rock Edict One, seven statements, in which the 1st and second statements read as, “A proclamation of Devanampiya Asoka : Two and a half years or somewhat more have passed since I am a Buddha Sakya.

To be continued.

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අධි වෙසක් අමාවක පෝය මැයි 13 වන දා බ්‍රහස්පතින්දා පූර්ව භාග 07.08 ට ලබයි.
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2010 පෝය ලබන ගෙවෙන වේලා සහ සිල් සමාදන් විය යුතු දවස

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