Buddhism in non-democratic countries

Discuss the application of the Dharma to situations of social, political, environmental and economic suffering and injustice.
smcj
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Re: Buddhism in non-democratic countries

Post by smcj » Tue Mar 17, 2020 3:32 pm

When he was a young prince Buddha did not follow in his father’s footsteps and become ruler. Presumably he could have used that position to reform society however he wished.

He had seen old age, sickness, and death. In his story he specifically embarks to solve those problems. The answer was within himself, not reforming society.

Had he continued on as King and been a good king he would have been forgotten long ago. What he did instead still benefits people—us—today.

**********

That being said, if you see suffering and injustice and are able to alleviate it, by all means go right ahead. Just understand you’re giving a medicine that treats a symptom and not a medicine that treats the underlying disease.
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1.The problem isn’t ‘ignorance’. The problem is the mind you have right now. (H.H. Karmapa XVII @NYC 2/4/18)
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Lama: Even If you had died the 3 Jewels would still have protected you. (DW post by Fortyeightvows)

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PeterC
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Re: Buddhism in non-democratic countries

Post by PeterC » Thu Mar 19, 2020 6:00 am

Aemilius wrote:
Tue Mar 17, 2020 12:34 pm
It is kind of interesting that almost simultaneously in India and in the Roman Empire the democratic republic was gradually lost to kingship or to emperorship.

There are teachings for kings in the Mahayana sutras:

The Humane King Sutra (Chinese: 仁王經; pinyin: rén wáng jīng; Japanese: 仁王経; rōmaji: Ninnō-gyō; Korean: 인왕경; romaja: inwang-gyeong; Vietnamese: Kinh Hộ Quốc) is found in Taisho No. 245 and 246. Many scholars have suspected this sutra to be composed in China but not all scholars agree with this viewpoint. There are two versions: the first is called the Humane King Perfection of Wisdom Sutra (仁王般若波羅蜜經), while the second is called the Humane King State-Protection Perfection of Wisdom Sutra (仁王護國般若波羅蜜經), more idiomatically the Prajnaparamita Scripture for Humane Kings Who Wish to Protect their States. Both sutras are found in the prajnaparamita section of the Taisho Tripitaka.

This sutra is unusual in the fact that its target audience, rather than being either lay practitioners or the community of monks and nuns, is the rulership (i.e. monarchs, presidents, prime ministers, etc.). Thus, for example, where the interlocutors in most scriptures are arhats or bodhisattvas, the discussants in this text are the kings of the sixteen ancient regions of India. The foregrounded teachings, rather than being meditation and wisdom, are "humaneness" and "forbearance" or "ksanti", these being the most applicable religious values for the governance of a Buddhist state. Hence today in some Chinese temples, the sutra is used during prayers on behalf of the government and the country.
There's an above-average chance that that particular text is a Chinese composition (though that alone does not invalidate it as Buddhavacana). The themes are very consistent with mainstream Tang thinking on the authority of rulers - e.g. Li Shimin's famous 民为水君为舟 水可载舟亦可覆舟, and various other contemporary writings that demonstrate the idea that the ruler-ruled relationship is a two-way street.

There is a well-established tradition of advice to rulers on how to fulfill their responsibilities in accordance with the Dharma, for instance Nagarjuna's Ratnavali. As an aside, this tradition would make good reading for a lot of people in positions of authority, whether political or otherwise, today.

What I'm not seeing in this, again, is a tradition of advice to *practitioners* about any obligation they might have to oppose an unjust ruler. Actually I would go further and say that given the pervasive theme of withdrawing from the world to practice - settle your affairs, find a cave, etc. - the implied advice is that one should in general not do this.

Although I don't see a right/obligation to replace a bad ruler in Dharma texts, that idea definitely existed in Chinese philosophy long before the Tang. The mandate of heaven is very different from the divine right of kings - it reflects the competence and capability of the ruler. A ruler who can't do the job loses the mandate, and therefore is, in historical terms, fair game, and this provides a mechanism to overthrow a bad ruler and then justify it as necessary. Various signs are usually cited to demonstrate this - famines, natural disasters, etc. - to give additional heavenly legitimacy to the new dynasty. This is, interestingly, an idea that never made it to Japan. The language of the mandate of heaven was excluded from the legal codices that they adapted from China, and legitimacy to rule came from lineal descent.

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Aemilius
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Re: Buddhism in non-democratic countries

Post by Aemilius » Thu Mar 19, 2020 1:24 pm

I find it hard to believe that it would not be a sutra that appeared in India. It doesn't know that China and its emperor even exist. After the 16 Great Countries the sutra mentions 500 middling and 100 000 small countries in Jambudvipa. The sutra speaks of Mahakala deva as a heterodox practice, it is definitely an Indian or hindu religion that is referred to. Edward Conze obviously didn't doubt its authenticity, if he had, he would not have translated it. It was translated into chinese twice, and Kumarajiva mentions working from a sanskrit original (according to the wikipedia article footnote). As Conze was working from the translations found in Taisho, all the disasters (mentioned in the Benevolent Kings sutra) are still there in the japanese versions of it. What about Nichiren and his views about the national disasters in relation to the Buddhadharma and the Japanese emperor?

The meaning is that practicing the Noble Eightfold Way necessarily has an effect on the society. Even if you are living in the mountains or in a forest, you are still part of the society in many ways. You are affecting it naturally by your presence, by your mere existence.

The idea and ideology of a Ruler or King is part of Buddhism from the very beginning. In it we have the tradition of a Cakravartin, a virtuous world ruler, which is mentioned and referred to in numerous sutras and commentaries.
svaha
"All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.
They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
Sarvē mānavāḥ svatantrāḥ samutpannāḥ vartantē api ca, gauravadr̥śā adhikāradr̥śā ca samānāḥ ēva vartantē. Ētē sarvē cētanā-tarka-śaktibhyāṁ susampannāḥ santi. Api ca, sarvē’pi bandhutva-bhāvanayā parasparaṁ vyavaharantu."
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 1. (in english and sanskrit)

Presto Kensho
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Re: Buddhism in non-democratic countries

Post by Presto Kensho » Thu Mar 19, 2020 6:19 pm

I am thankful to live in the United States, where there are more Buddhists than in any country outside Asia. This is due to America being a nation of immigrants, as well as the freedom of religion written into our founding documents. It's easy to take our freedoms for granted if you've never lived under a truly authoritarian regime.

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PeterC
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Re: Buddhism in non-democratic countries

Post by PeterC » Fri Mar 20, 2020 6:52 am

Aemilius wrote:
Thu Mar 19, 2020 1:24 pm
I find it hard to believe that it would not be a sutra that appeared in India. It doesn't know that China and its emperor even exist. After the 16 Great Countries the sutra mentions 500 middling and 100 000 small countries in Jambudvipa. The sutra speaks of Mahakala deva as a heterodox practice, it is definitely an Indian or hindu religion that is referred to. Edward Conze obviously didn't doubt its authenticity, if he had, he would not have translated it. It was translated into chinese twice, and Kumarajiva mentions working from a sanskrit original (according to the wikipedia article footnote). As Conze was working from the translations found in Taisho, all the disasters (mentioned in the Benevolent Kings sutra) are still there in the japanese versions of it. What about Nichiren and his views about the national disasters in relation to the Buddhadharma and the Japanese emperor?

The meaning is that practicing the Noble Eightfold Way necessarily has an effect on the society. Even if you are living in the mountains or in a forest, you are still part of the society in many ways. You are affecting it naturally by your presence, by your mere existence.

The idea and ideology of a Ruler or King is part of Buddhism from the very beginning. In it we have the tradition of a Cakravartin, a virtuous world ruler, which is mentioned and referred to in numerous sutras and commentaries.
It's not an either/or question on authenticity of texts. A lot of the Chinese canon didn't come from India as complete texts but was assembled/edited/expanded in China, often in Sanskrit. There were multiple scriptoria in what is now Western China copying and editing sanskrit texts. There are those who think that unless a text had a complete sanskrit original traceable to India, it's not Buddhavacana. I don't hold that view, I think there's a lot of texts that are either composites or composed/attributed in China that are the Dharma.

Now if we're talking about Nichiren, we're already half a millenia later than the Tang, and there's been a lot of water under the bridge in cultural and political thought, not to mention development of East Asian thought about the Dharma. The 大宝律命 was, I think, based closely on the 唐律 which predated it slightly, but there were changes made around references to 天命, because the Japanese imperial family was nominally descended from Kami. But we're getting into a complex area here, because although the Tang went out of its way to be deferential to older Han Chinese traditions, not all dynasties were Han. Indeed the Li family themselves weren't really Han, along with a lot of other dynasties over the years who may have had different ideas on these issues (the Jurchens, Mongols, etc.), yet for these purposes we have to consider them all Chinese. Moreover Nichiren's own position on this was highly controversial at the time and almost got him killed - though I believe a lot of the history of that period comes from Nichiren's own accounts, including the miraculous events that halted his execution. So I'm not sure we can take him as a normative view on political thought in Japan at the time, and definitely not China, a country he never visited.

Anyway, I'm not disagreeing with your comments above around the way that the Sutras recognize and comment on the existence of a ruler. What I'm not seeing is references to a positive obligation for practitioners to denounce or oppose an unjust ruler. That's been my fundamental point throughout this discussion.

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Aemilius
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Re: Buddhism in non-democratic countries

Post by Aemilius » Sat Mar 21, 2020 2:14 pm

PeterC wrote:
Fri Mar 20, 2020 6:52 am
Aemilius wrote:
Thu Mar 19, 2020 1:24 pm
I find it hard to believe that it would not be a sutra that appeared in India. It doesn't know that China and its emperor even exist. After the 16 Great Countries the sutra mentions 500 middling and 100 000 small countries in Jambudvipa. The sutra speaks of Mahakala deva as a heterodox practice, it is definitely an Indian or hindu religion that is referred to. Edward Conze obviously didn't doubt its authenticity, if he had, he would not have translated it. It was translated into chinese twice, and Kumarajiva mentions working from a sanskrit original (according to the wikipedia article footnote). As Conze was working from the translations found in Taisho, all the disasters (mentioned in the Benevolent Kings sutra) are still there in the japanese versions of it. What about Nichiren and his views about the national disasters in relation to the Buddhadharma and the Japanese emperor?

The meaning is that practicing the Noble Eightfold Way necessarily has an effect on the society. Even if you are living in the mountains or in a forest, you are still part of the society in many ways. You are affecting it naturally by your presence, by your mere existence.

The idea and ideology of a Ruler or King is part of Buddhism from the very beginning. In it we have the tradition of a Cakravartin, a virtuous world ruler, which is mentioned and referred to in numerous sutras and commentaries.
It's not an either/or question on authenticity of texts. A lot of the Chinese canon didn't come from India as complete texts but was assembled/edited/expanded in China, often in Sanskrit. There were multiple scriptoria in what is now Western China copying and editing sanskrit texts. There are those who think that unless a text had a complete sanskrit original traceable to India, it's not Buddhavacana. I don't hold that view, I think there's a lot of texts that are either composites or composed/attributed in China that are the Dharma.
Thanks for the thoughtfull reply. I agree that there can be genuine sutras that have appeared in China (because of the Trikaya). But I'm still sure that for example the Benevolent Kings Sutra is an in-India originated text. For the reasons already stated, and to give one more ground for my view: You can compare it to the situation that we have today. How would you react if you heard that Ole Nydal or Ken Wilber has discovered a new Tantra and is giving an oral transmission of it? In fact, how do you react to these people, and others like them? There seems to be no limit to the wrath of some people toward both of them. What would happen if they began teaching their new and genuine Sutras and Tantras ?!
svaha
"All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.
They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
Sarvē mānavāḥ svatantrāḥ samutpannāḥ vartantē api ca, gauravadr̥śā adhikāradr̥śā ca samānāḥ ēva vartantē. Ētē sarvē cētanā-tarka-śaktibhyāṁ susampannāḥ santi. Api ca, sarvē’pi bandhutva-bhāvanayā parasparaṁ vyavaharantu."
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 1. (in english and sanskrit)

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PeterC
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Re: Buddhism in non-democratic countries

Post by PeterC » Sat Mar 21, 2020 4:21 pm

Aemilius wrote:
Sat Mar 21, 2020 2:14 pm
PeterC wrote:
Fri Mar 20, 2020 6:52 am
Aemilius wrote:
Thu Mar 19, 2020 1:24 pm
I find it hard to believe that it would not be a sutra that appeared in India. It doesn't know that China and its emperor even exist. After the 16 Great Countries the sutra mentions 500 middling and 100 000 small countries in Jambudvipa. The sutra speaks of Mahakala deva as a heterodox practice, it is definitely an Indian or hindu religion that is referred to. Edward Conze obviously didn't doubt its authenticity, if he had, he would not have translated it. It was translated into chinese twice, and Kumarajiva mentions working from a sanskrit original (according to the wikipedia article footnote). As Conze was working from the translations found in Taisho, all the disasters (mentioned in the Benevolent Kings sutra) are still there in the japanese versions of it. What about Nichiren and his views about the national disasters in relation to the Buddhadharma and the Japanese emperor?

The meaning is that practicing the Noble Eightfold Way necessarily has an effect on the society. Even if you are living in the mountains or in a forest, you are still part of the society in many ways. You are affecting it naturally by your presence, by your mere existence.

The idea and ideology of a Ruler or King is part of Buddhism from the very beginning. In it we have the tradition of a Cakravartin, a virtuous world ruler, which is mentioned and referred to in numerous sutras and commentaries.
It's not an either/or question on authenticity of texts. A lot of the Chinese canon didn't come from India as complete texts but was assembled/edited/expanded in China, often in Sanskrit. There were multiple scriptoria in what is now Western China copying and editing sanskrit texts. There are those who think that unless a text had a complete sanskrit original traceable to India, it's not Buddhavacana. I don't hold that view, I think there's a lot of texts that are either composites or composed/attributed in China that are the Dharma.
Thanks for the thoughtfull reply. I agree that there can be genuine sutras that have appeared in China (because of the Trikaya). But I'm still sure that for example the Benevolent Kings Sutra is an in-India originated text. For the reasons already stated, and to give one more ground for my view: You can compare it to the situation that we have today. How would you react if you heard that Ole Nydal or Ken Wilber has discovered a new Tantra and is giving an oral transmission of it? In fact, how do you react to these people, and others like them? There seems to be no limit to the wrath of some people toward both of them. What would happen if they began teaching their new and genuine Sutras and Tantras ?!
That’s not quite the same. With revealed teachings there is always a problem of authority, the fact that it’s been around for a while doesn’t make it authentic, and that it’s recently revealed doesn’t make it suspicious - indeed people prefer to practice recent terma where the lineage is still relatively uncontaminated. Some of the most widely practiced terma cycles today were viewed with suspicion when they were first revealed.

But one never really escapes the need for judgement. If, let’s suppose, the Sakya Trichen announced that he’d revealed a terma, I think everyone would accept it as genuine. Ole Nyadhal - maybe not so much.

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Nicholas Weeks
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Re: Buddhism in non-democratic countries

Post by Nicholas Weeks » Mon Mar 23, 2020 3:19 am

Here is part of what happened to Buddhism in Tibet, thanks to Chinese Communist Party.

May all seek, find and follow the Path of Bodhicitta.

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PeterC
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Re: Buddhism in non-democratic countries

Post by PeterC » Mon Mar 23, 2020 3:25 am

Nicholas Weeks wrote:
Mon Mar 23, 2020 3:19 am
Here is part of what happened to Buddhism in Tibet, thanks to Chinese Communist Party.

Thank you for the off-topic comment. From your repeated comments on this topic, I’m guessing you have no personal experience on this issue

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