Buddhism and Politics

Burma' monks on the march

In the Jataka, the Buddha had given to rules for Good Government, known as 'Dasa Raja Dharma'. These ten rules can be applied even today by any government which wishes to rule the country peacefully. The rules are as follows:

1) be liberal and avoid selfishness,
2) maintain a high moral character,
3) be prepared to sacrifice one's own pleasure for the well-being of the subjects,
4) be honest and maintain absolute integrity,
5) be kind and gentle,
6) lead a simple life for the subjects to emulate,
7) be free from hatred of any kind,
8) exercise non-violence,
9) practise patience, and
10) respect public opinion to promote peace and harmony.

Regarding the behavior of rulers, He further advised:

- A good ruler should act impartially and should not be biased and discriminate between one particular group of subjects against another.

- A good ruler should not harbor any form of hatred against any of his subjects.

- A good ruler should show no fear whatsoever in the enforcement of the law, if it is justifiable.

- A good ruler must possess a clear understanding of the law to be enforced. It should not be enforced just because the ruler has the authority to enforce the law. It must be done in a reasonable manner and with common sense. -- (Cakkavatti Sihananda Sutta)

In the Milinda Panha, it is stated: 'If a man, who is unfit, incompetent, immoral, improper, unable and unworthy of kingship, has enthroned himself a king or a ruler with great authority, he is subject to be tortured‚ to be subject to a variety of punishment by the people, because, being unfit and unworthy, he has placed himself unrighteously in the seat of sovereignty. The ruler, like others who violate and transgress moral codes and basic rules of all social laws of mankind, is equally subject to punishment; and moreover, to be censured is the ruler who conducts himself as a robber of the public.' In a Jataka story, it is mentioned that a ruler who punishes innocent people and does not punish the culprit is not suitable to rule a country.

Venerable K. Sri Dhammananda, What Buddhists Believe

HTML: http://www.budsas.org/ebud/whatbudbeliev/main.htm

PDF/Adobe Acrobat: http://www.buddhanet.net/pdf_file/whatbelieve.pdf


The lotus symbolizes the Buddhist way of life. It is bom in the depths of the impure mud. It grows through the unclean waters of the pond. It blossoms forth in all its multi petalled purity and glory on the surface of the pond. In spite of its unclean origin and surrounding its beauty pleases the eye, and its purity chastens the mind and spirit of the onlooker.

Even so the lotus of the individual unfolds itself in the pond of human society. The circumstances of his birth, of procreation and parturition, are impure and unclean. His growth and sustenance, his upbringing and education are associated with suffering and sacrifice, folly and frustration, poverty and privation, disappointment and discouragement, success and failure, gain and loss, fame and disrepute, praise and censure, and happiness and misery. These are the waters of life, the circumstances of the world. But the perfected being, the "arya sravaka", the true disciple of the Buddha, rises above these worldly waters and shines in all his impeccable purity and perfection.

This is the mission of the Master, the ministry of the Sasana, the purpose of the teaching and the function of the disciple. How do we cultivate the lotus-life?

Human life is two-fold - individual and social. The individual is as legitimate a part of life as is the mass of society. Society is the instrument of individual betterment and perfection. Society makes available to us the field for the cultivation of the seeds of the good life. Suffering is both individual and social. Life is indivisible. So is suffering and happiness. Personal salvation is certainly a contribution to the sum of human happiness, to the alleviation of universal suffering. But it is only a part, an insignificant fraction, of the universal sum.


We owe a duty both to ourselves and to the world around us. Wisdom or prajna helps us to save ourselves. But it is compassion or Karuna that impels us to save the rest of our fellows.

Wisdom is essential to us to help us understand the world in and around ourselves. We ought to be able to state our problems accurately before we could seek to solve them.

Objects, events and persons are governed by a causality which wisdom uncovers to our minds. It is causality that connects our past with our present and continues to bind our present to our unmanifested future. Life is a contiguous chain, an almost perpetual succession of psychophysical states, an almost unending cycle of births and deaths involving pain and suffering.

Our behavior in thought, word and deed is habitually impelled by likes and dislikes which are rooted in ignorance and which are continually determined, governed, influenced and directed by interests. Interests are but ill-concealed manifestations of selfishness sometimes albeit represented as enlightened self-interest. We are strangers to truth and reality as long as we are guided by likes and dislikes. Our actions must be guided by ideas pertaining to truth and error, if we seek to understand the causality that governs our lives.
The chain of life extends into the unmanifested future by means of ever new links forged in the crucible of the triple spring of unwholesome states, that is, avarice or greed, hatred or animosity and confusion or ignorance.

But the strength of the chain depends on the quality of its weakest link. And happily there is a weak link in the chain of life. This is greed and attachment. This is the link that connects two distinct psychological processes in the human mind. The initial process is natural and inevitable, essential to the process of sensory experience.

When stimuli from the external world impinge on the sense organs there is feeling consequent to sensory contact. The psychological process up to this stage is inevitable even in the case of the perfected being. But the next stage is not inevitable. It is avoidable because the connecting thread here is greed and grasping. This is the discovery of the Buddha, the essence of his enlightenment, and the raison d'etre of the teaching of the Dhamma. This then is the content of wisdom, the heart of sambodhi referred in the books of the Buddhists.

Wisdom brings to the individual his happiness and bliss and enables him realise the truth and reality of the universe and attain perfection.

But he has a debt to society. He must need discharge his duties by the world. This is the function of Karuna. The tree bears fruit for the enjoyment of birds, beasts and men. The perfected being bears his wisdom for the benefit of his society. He lives in the world but is not hampered by it. He is in the world but not of the world (loke thito lokena anupalitto). The man who seeks to perfect himself and goes out into the world to make others seek perfection for themselves is the bodhisattva. His function is to seek to elevate and to civilise human life at all times and everywhere. The bodhisattva is the true disciple of the Buddha, the preceptor and the exemplar of the life of the lotus.

Karuna makes us look at the world with different eyes. The vision of truth gives us a passion for service to mankind. We begin to recognise that the problems of the individual are causally connected with the problems of the world. We begin to dedicate ourselves to the noblest of all consecrations, namely, service to our fellow men. Our life is a constant pilgrimage to perfection and our sorrows are inextricably bound up with those of our fellows in society.

Inner change in head and heart is primary and necessary for individual perfection. But for social betterment inner change alone is not enough. We must also effect an outer change in our environment in terms of institutions.

There are two basic tendencies at work in the historical process. The first tendency makes us uphold and defend those institutions which are hallowed by age and tradition. But life is in flux and everything in our lives is subject to change. New social contexts make older institutions futile and outmoded. Our temptation to hold fast to established institutions makes us conservatives determined to perpetuate the status quo. This brings about the second tendency to react to the old order, to call its validity in question and to seek to overthrow it in one way or another. When these two tendencies come in conflict there is progress and betterment at the end of debate and discussion. This is the dialectics of history as taught by the Buddha in consonance with his dynamic view of social evolution and functional origin of the growth of society.

Change is a simple truth but full of profound possibilities. People change for better or for worse. Karuna gives us the determination and resolve to make every instance of change to manifest itself as a change for the better. The disciple of the Buddha sees in the doctrine of impermanence the fascinating possibilities for individual and social betterment. The conquest of the self leads the disciple to sacrifice his career for the common good of his society and community.

The Buddha is the living embodiment of the Dhamma. The Dhamma is likened to the lotus. The lotus dominates the symbolism of Buddhist art. The lotus represents the Buddha and his Dhamma at once. The Buddha statue rests on the lotus. The mural paintings in the Buddhist temple depict the lotus. The lotus is the simile and metaphor par excellence of the poets and writers who sing the praise of the Buddha and his Dhamma, The lotus is the flower par excellence which the devotee places at the feet of the Buddha in paying him homage and obeisance.

Professor W.S. Karunaratne


Sarvastivada Abhidharma

Sarvastivada Abhidharma A3 Poster_v2

Author: Venerable Professor KL Dhammajoti (法光)
Published in Hong Kong by Centre of Buddhist Studies, The University of Hong Kong 2007


昨晚是Dhammapada的第一堂,Ven. Dr. Kakkapalliye Anuruddha講了以下的章節。


Do not disregard evil, saying, "It will not come nigh unto me"; by the falling of drops even a water-jar is filled; likewise the fool, gathering little by little, fills himself with evil. 121.


Do not disregard merit, saying "It will not come nigh unto me"; by the falling of drops even a water-jar is filled; likewise the wise man, gathering little by little, fills himself with good. 122.


Just as a merchant, with a small escort and great wealth, avoids a perilous route, just as one desiring to live avoids poison, even so should one shun evil things. 123.


If no wound there be in one's hand, one may carry poison in it. Poison does not affect one who has no wound. There is no ill for him who does no wrong. 124.

這些章節都是來自Pàpa Vagga (Evil) ,教導人們應避免不道德或壞的行為。法師在講解以上的內容前,先談到佛教如何判斷一個行為的好壞,提出了四個準則:

1. 人的行為可分為「身」(physical action)、「口」(verbal action)和「意」(mental action) 三種,假若它們是受到「貪」(lust, greed)、「嗔」(anger, hatre)和「癡」(ignorance, misunderstanding)所影響,這行為便是壞的行為。佛教稱它們為「三毒」。

2. 行為是受到「意志」(will, intension)影響,我們做任何事情都是受到意志的驅使,假若心存「惡念」,所做的行為便自然屬於惡了,善惡只是一念之間。

3. 我們的行為除了影響自已外,更會對身邊的人 ,甚致社會造成影響,好的行為應是對自己和社會都是有益的。

4. 最後一項與孔子所說的「己所不欲,勿施於人」十分相似,我們不喜歡或厭惡某種事情發生在我們身上,我們亦不應這樣對待別人。

勿以惡小而為之,勿以善小而不為(《三國志》),積小成多,小惡日積月累可成大惡,小善可成大善。雖然我們未能照是看到善惡的影響,但它們會潛藏在我們腦的最下層(the lower layer of the mind),成為「業力」。



No to surrender to any form of evil powers


It is the duty of every cultured man to find all possible ways and means to settle disputes in a peaceful manner, without declaring war to kill his fellow men. The Buddha did not teach His followers to surrender to any form of evil power, be it man or supernatural being.

Ven. K. Sri Dhammananda,
What Buddhists Believe


The Eight Vicissitudes of Life

We are all confronted with the eight vicissitudes of life (attha loka dhamma): gain and loss, good repute and ill repute, praise and censure, pain and pleasure. It is hard to be undisturbed when touched by this welter of experience. But the man who cultivates equanimity is not upset. He does not waver. Amidst blame and praise, success and failure, he is firm as a solid rock. This, of course, is the attitude of the Arahats, the Consummate Ones. Of them it is said: "Truly the good give up longing for everything. They prattle not with thoughts of craving. Touched by pain or happiness, the wise show neither elation nor depression.”
Ven. Piyadassi, The Spectrum of Buddhism






志蓮凈苑將於星期四(20日)開課,今年會繼續修讀Dhammapada,相信法師Ven. Dr. Anuruddha應己從斯里蘭卡回來。



Kalama Sutta 卡拉瑪經

It is proper for you, Kalamas, to doubt, to be uncertain; uncertainty has arisen in you about what is doubtful. Come, Kalamas. Do not go upon what has been acquired by repeated hearing; nor upon tradition; nor upon rumor; nor upon what is in a scripture; nor upon surmise; nor upon an axiom; nor upon specious reasoning; nor upon a bias towards a notion that has been pondered over; nor upon another's seeming ability; nor upon the consideration, 'The monk is our teacher.' Kalamas, when you yourselves know: 'These things are bad; these things are blamable; these things are censured by the wise; undertaken and observed, these things lead to harm and ill,' abandon them.


卡拉瑪人!汝等勿信風說;勿信傳說;勿信臆說;勿信于藏經之教相合之說;勿信基於尋思者;勿信基於理趣者;勿信熟慮於因相者;雖說是與 審慮忍許之見相合亦勿予信;說者雖堪能亦勿予信;雖說此沙門是我之師亦勿予信之。卡拉瑪人!若汝等只自覺--此法是不善,此法是有罪,此法是智者之所 訶毀者。若將此法圓滿、執取之即能引來無益與苦--則卡拉瑪人!汝等於時應斷(彼)



Good and Bad

Good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance. The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which, a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed of. An apparently trivial indulgence in lust or anger today is the loss of a ridge or railway line or bridgehead from which the enemy may launch an attack otherwise impossible.

C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity


According to the seed that's sown,
So is the fruit you reap there from,
Doer of good will gather good,
Doer of evil, evil reaps,
Down is the seed and thou shalt taste
The fruit thereof.

Buddha, The Samyutta Nikaya


Try to Remember

Class 1998
Europe in the Twentieth Century, 1998

Try to Remember
Try to remember the kind of September
When life was slow and oh, so mellow.
Try to remember the kind of September
When grass was green and grain was yellow.
Try to remember the kind of September
When you were a tender and callow fellow.
Try to remember, and if you remember,
Then follow.

Try to remember when life was so tender
That no one wept except the willow.
Try to remember when life was so tender
That dreams were kept beside your pillow.
Try to remember when life was so tender
That love was an ember about to billow.
Try to remember, and if you remember,
Then follow.

Deep in December, it's nice to remember,
Although you know the snow will follow.
Deep in December, it's nice to remember,
Without a hurt the heart is hollow.
Deep in December, it's nice to remember,
The fire of September that made us mellow.
Deep in December, our hearts should remember
And follow


Three Dharma Seals 三法印


Every authentic teaching of the Buddha must bear three Dharma Seals: impermanence, non-self, and nirvana.

The first Dharma Seal is impermanence. Nothing remains the same for two consecutive moments. Heraclites said we can never bathe twice in the same river. Confucius, while looking at a stream, said, "It is always flowing, day and night." The Buddha implored us not just to talk about impermanence, but to use it as an instrument to help us penetrate deeply into reality and obtain liberating insight. We may be tempted to say that because things are impermanent, there is suffering. But the Buddha encouraged us to look again. Without impermanence, life is not possible. How can we transform our suffering if things are not impermanent? How can our daughter grow up into a beautiful young lady? How can the situation in the world improve? We need impermanence for social justice and for hope.

If you suffer, it is not because things are impermanent. It is because you believe things are permanent. When a flower dies, you don't suffer much, because you understand that flowers are impermanent. But you cannot accept the impermanence of your beloved one, and you suffer deeply when she passes away.

If you look deeply into impermanence, you will do your best to make her happy right now. Aware of impermanence, you become positive, loving and wise. Impermanence is good news. Without impermanence, nothing would be possible. With impermanence, every door is open for change. Instead of complaining, we should say, "Long live impermanence!" Impermanence is an instrument for our liberation.

The second Dharma Seal is non-self. If you believe in a permanent self, a self that exists forever, a separate, independent self, your belief cannot be described as Buddhist. Impermanence is from the point of view of space. When we look more and more deeply at the notions of self, person, living being and life span, we discover that there are no boundaries between self and non-self, person and non-person, living being and non-living being, life span and non-life span. When we take a step on the green earth, we are aware that we are made of air, sunshine, minerals and water, that we are a child of earth and sky, linked to all other beings, both animate and inanimate. This is the practice of non-self. The Buddha invites us to dwell in mindfulness in the concentrations (samadhi) of interbeing, non-self and impermanence.

The third Dharma Seal is nirvana, which means "extinction," the extinction of afflictions and notions. Human beings' three basic afflictions are craving, hatred and ignorance. Ignorance (avidya), the inability to understand reality, is the most fundamental of these. Because we are ignorant, we crave for things that destroy us, and we get angry at many things. We try to grasp the world of our projections, and we suffer.

Nirvana, the extinction of all afflictions, represent the birth of freedom. The extinction of one thing always brings about the birth of something else. When darkness is extinguished, light comes forth. When suffering is removed, peace and happiness are always there. Many scholars say that nirvana is annihilation, the extinction of everything, and that Buddhists aspire to non-being. They have been bitten by the snake of nirvana.

In many sutras, the Buddha says that although ascetics and brahmans describe his teaching as annihilation and non-being, that is not correct. The Buddha offers us nirvana to rescue us from attachment to the notions of impermanence and non-self. If we get caught by nirvana, how will we ever escape?

Notions and concepts can be useful if we learn how to use them skillfully, without getting caught by them. Zen master Lin Chi said, "If you see the Buddha on your way, kill him." He means if you have an idea of the Buddha that prevents you from having a direct experience of the Buddha, you are caught by that object of your perception, and the only way for you to free yourself and experience the Buddha is to kill your notion of the Buddha. This is the secret of the practice. If you hold onto an idea or a notion, you lose the chance. Learning to transcend your mental constructions of reality is an art. Teachers have to help their students learn how not to accumulate notions. If you are laden with notions, you will never be emancipated. Learning to look deeply to see into the tue nature of things, having direct contract with reality and not just describing reality in terms of notions and concepts, is the practice.

Thich Nhat Hanh





何 謂「三界」?根據人心的體驗、感受和認識,而有欲界、色界、無色界等三種範疇。欲界是五欲或名為七情六欲的層次,色界是禪定的層次,無色界是只有自我執著而已,沒有意識活動的深定層次。欲界耽戀於官能的享受和追求;色界執著於生命的貪戀及對自我價值的追求;無色界已沒有對於身心的貪戀和愛惜,心理活動已終 止,但仍有潛在的自我中心,維繫著對於「我」的執著。

三界都是水深火熱 的環境。 若以一般人的判斷,所謂眼不見為淨,耳不聞為淨,到了色界、無色界的程度,應該已是安樂的境界,怎麼說也是火宅?住於定中的人,人間的煩惱、自然的災害、社會的困擾,都不會影響到他,好像已得解脫。事實上凡有自我中心,出定之後,仍在欲界,依舊要接受人間環境的種種干擾,依舊有水深火熱似的煩惱。故云:「三界無安,猶如火宅。」

火宅是失火的房子,充滿了危險恐怖,但有 幼兒、愚人及盲人,身陷火宅,卻不知失火的危險恐怖。因此在《法華經》中有一寓言,以火宅為喻,是講一群貪玩的稚兒在失火的大宅院中,看見失火了還拍手大笑,看見小動物倉惶逃竄還當成好玩。可憐這些愚癡無知的孩子,站在父母或成年人的立場,要想辦法趕快把他們救出來。佛是眾生的大慈悲父,所以告訴一切眾生不要苦中作樂,趕快離開。