Zhen Li wrote:
Tobes wrote:The great Buddhists, starting with the Buddha, have had no troubles pointing out the faults in alternative paths or views. Why make politics a special category in which this kind of activity must be suspended?
Actually, I did address this issue in the OP from many different sides. I'm claiming that they are different kinds of discussion - the Buddha discusses politics only in as far as moral behaviour is concerned, not political positions, and not strictly discussion of political topics. And as far as discussing political views and opinions, these are concerns with worldly matters, and inferior to the speech that is defined as 'proper conversation'* - once again, addressed in the OP.
"There are these ten topics of [proper] conversation. Which ten? Talk on modesty, on contentment, on seclusion, on non-entanglement, on arousing persistence, on virtue, on concentration, on discernment, on release, and on the knowledge & vision of release. These are the ten topics of conversation. If you were to engage repeatedly in these ten topics of conversation, you would outshine even the sun & moon, so mighty, so powerful — to say nothing of the wanderers of other sects."
I suppose if you wish to follow verbatim and literally everything that is stated in the Pali canon (whilst excluding much that is written in the Sanskrit, Tibetan, Sino-Japanese canons), then the matter may be resolved in the neat way you suggest.
However, if you wish to interrogate more deeply the relation between the political and Buddhist dharma, you ought to consider the following:
1. Are the statements of the Buddha in the suttas independent of time, history and change? If they are not, then how are they established as such? If they are, then surely it follows that we have the task of recognising that our cultural, historical and political conditions are vastly different from India 2,500 years ago. Perhaps the foremost English translator of the Pali suttas, Bhikkhu Bodhi, clearly recognises this fact, and it is no coincidence that he has argued (very robustly) that one of the most primary differences between then and now are shared global institutional conditions. We cannot pretend that Buddhism and Dharma occurs in some imagined vacuum where these conditions are not so. It is also no coincidence that he was at Occupy Wall Street, and has given lectures on the topic. Can we really pretend that we are in Ancient India, and apply normative moral advice as if those conditions are still such? That is surely a terrible deception.
2. Does 'the political' only
entail 'worldly matters' of kings, wars and other such gossip? Here a very particular definition of the political is given, which is Other to the dharma. But surely we must consider the political implications of Buddhism itself, inclusive of its Dharma, as it unfolded
. And here you need not go any further than the time of the Buddha and what he established:
The ordination of women: political.
The organisation of the sangha: political.
The rejection of caste: political.
The rejection of materialism: political.
The normative aim of non-harm: political.
The metaphysics of selflessness: political.
It is a very curious blindness to not see any manifest political implications of the Buddha, his teachings and his sangha. The subsequent history of Buddhism in its varied cultural contexts has profoundly shaped the political history of South, North and South-East Asia - not always with distinction, but often in very positive ways. Why on earth should Buddhists be silent about this, when there are so many other doctrines preaching political division, greed, hedonism, self-interest?