Discussion of Political Topics is Wrong Speech

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Re: Discussion of Political Topics is Wrong Speech

Postby tobes » Fri Feb 28, 2014 11:17 pm

Kim O'Hara wrote:
tobes wrote:I suppose the key question is this: Can you be political with wholesome volitions?

I claim: of course! The absence of greed, anger and delusion does not imply the absence of prajna and karuna. With prajna one can make sound (normative) judgements and with karuna one can be concerned with far more than one's own individual state of mind.

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Hi, Tobes,
I agree, as you might have expected by now, but I would like like to propose a parallel key question, and answer it:
Can you be apolitical with wholesome volitions?

I think the answer is "no". Further, I think that here on the Mahayana DW the only doctrinally acceptable answer is "no", since (as I see it) the bodhisattva ideal is diametrically opposed to walking away from suffering.

Am I going too far in saying that? I don't know ... but I'm sure someone will advise me. :tongue:

:namaste:
Kim


It is a bold claim, but I agree, albeit for slightly different reasons.

The bodhisattva vow (and here we must note that it is far stronger than a mere ideal - there are downfalls for breaching it) is predicated on awakening all beings, before ourselves.

A human being cannot awaken if they have no access to education, no political, economic or social security, no food or shelter.

Therefore, to be concerned to awaken all human beings (let us for the moment leave aside other kinds of creatures) is to be concerned that all human beings have these requisite conditions - not merely those privileged enough to be born in the first world, in the upper-middle class, in various Asian aristocracies.

Such a concern is immutably political - a concern for a fairer and more just world where all humans can have the conditions to realise their potential.

To turn away from this is to turn away from bodhicitta.

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Re: Discussion of Political Topics is Wrong Speech

Postby tobes » Fri Feb 28, 2014 11:26 pm

Indrajala wrote:
The Mahāyāna is universal in scope: do you not recognise the possibility for a genuine Buddhist inspired cosmopolitanism?


I doubt everyone could ever get along. Even looking at history nations heavily influenced by Mahāyāna Buddhism still went to war with each other. One prime example was the conflict between China and Goguryeo during the early Tang Dynasty:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goguryeo%E2%80%93Tang_War


Also, progress is not perpetual or irreversible. Rather than planning a utopia, better to deal with immediate conditions and try to work for the best with them.


I also doubt that everyone could ever get along. A Buddhist inspired cosmopolitanism would probably be far less 'utopic' than Kantian or Utilitarian versions - it could be premised on dealing with immediate conditions. Namely, that the all the robust ethnic, national, religious identifications are in reality mere conceptual constructs, and do not possess enough essence to justify separative ethnic, national or religious politics.

i.e. a Buddho-cosmopolitanism would emerge out of a dialectic of negation (that is, denying the false predicates of identity politics, and thus denying or resisting the various forms of self-interest which arise on their basis).

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Re: Discussion of Political Topics is Wrong Speech

Postby Jikan » Fri Feb 28, 2014 11:29 pm

Zhen Li wrote:Sorry, I must say I think the discussion of geography and politics as being a guarantor of stability is off topic.
Sherab Dorje wrote:A monarchist system does not guarantee that one will have an enlightened ruler. Or are you talking about an elective monarchy? Even in this case (normally) the candidate is normally chosen from a number of individuals belonging to specific family lineages.

To be fair to whoever is advocating that model, the term monarchy does not inherently imply any method of selection.
Kim O'Hara wrote:"The personal is political" was addressed to Reddust with particular reference to the question of what is political and what isn't. It is a way of saying that everything we do and say has political implications, in the broader meaning of "political" as referring to the structures and habits by which societies organise themselves.
It has nothing to do with "taking things personally" so your comment was OT. It also looks like an attempt to derail the whole discussion, something you often seem inclined to do, but perhaps I'm wrong this time and you just misunderstood the idiom.

Sorry, I am not sure what OT means, but I think that perhaps for purposes of civility we should try not to make personal comments, but rather talk about the subject matter at hand. I also do not think we should presuppose misunderstanding or understanding on the part of another, when we may simply be misunderstanding the other's comments ourselves, not everything we say is right and not everything said by those who disagree is wrong. Simply put, I am not certain it amounts to a misunderstanding of the notion that believing politics is personal to say that it is taking things personally, it does presuppose an awful lot of knowledge and universal certainty about the world that we simply cannot obtain without omniscience.
:anjali:


*Any historian can tell you that geography is a significant factor, not infrequently the decisive factor, in a nation's development and stability. To give a rather obvious example, do you suppose geographical considerations may have played a role in the USSR's defeat of the Third Reich? (Or why the Germans were interested in pursuing the eastern front as they did?)

*OT means "off topic."

*Responding to a comment or a claim made by a person is not a personal comment per se. It's an ordinary feature of conversation.

*
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Re: Discussion of Political Topics is Wrong Speech

Postby Sherlock » Sat Mar 01, 2014 12:02 am

Indrajala wrote:
Malcolm wrote:Political stability in Japan can be accounted for simply through its geographical isolation.


What are you talking about? The Yamato court was constantly at war with rivals and non-Japanese tribes (Hayato, Ebisu, etc.) until basically the 8th century. It later suffered decentralization which led to the Kamakura period and subsequent centuries of civil wars. Even in early centuries the Yamato court was at odds with Silla in Korea and invasion was a constant fear. There was a war between Japan against a Silla-Tang alliance in the 660s.

so where is this political stability you mentioned? They never had external invasions that's all.

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Re: Discussion of Political Topics is Wrong Speech

Postby Zhen Li » Sat Mar 01, 2014 12:15 am

Jikan wrote:*Any historian can tell you that geography is a significant factor, not infrequently the decisive factor, in a nation's development and stability. To give a rather obvious example, do you suppose geographical considerations may have played a role in the USSR's defeat of the Third Reich? (Or why the Germans were interested in pursuing the eastern front as they did?)

*OT means "off topic."

*Responding to a comment or a claim made by a person is not a personal comment per se. It's an ordinary feature of conversation.

*

Sorry Jikan, I am not sure if you are responding to me with your first point or not, not sure where that's coming from. And I wasn't actually referring to Kim's response as being what was personal, he said some things which were not responsive in nature. Hope that clarifies.
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Re: Discussion of Political Topics is Wrong Speech

Postby Kim O'Hara » Sat Mar 01, 2014 1:06 am

About being on/off topic ...
Zhen Li wrote:I believe that the proposition that discussion of political topics is wrong speech is probably correct. Out of ignorance and dullness I have overlooked this, and am at fault with regards to each of the points I am going to make. For these I repent. I am sharing my thoughts in the hope that it may be of use to someone. I don't claim by any stretch to have the correct or a better realisation of right speech than I had before, or than anyone else, these are probably just dull illusory ramblings out of my ignorance. But maybe there's some sense in them, let me know your thoughts.

The topic, then is Right Speech and the thread has drifted well away from it into discussion of political systems.
Zhen Li, the originator of the thread, is mostly responsible for the drift, I think, so maybe it's okay ... but I'd rather talk about Right Speech.

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Re: Discussion of Political Topics is Wrong Speech

Postby Zhen Li » Sat Mar 01, 2014 1:21 am

I don't recall raising the question of the significance politics or geography on stability, which is primarily what is off topic in this thread.
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Re: Discussion of Political Topics is Wrong Speech

Postby Kim O'Hara » Sat Mar 01, 2014 2:09 am

Zhen Li wrote:I don't recall raising the question of the significance politics or geography on stability, which is primarily what is off topic in this thread.

The slippage seems to set in with this post ... http://www.dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.php?f=111&t=15677&start=20#p218043 - Indarajala not Zhen Li.
:oops:

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Re: Discussion of Political Topics is Wrong Speech

Postby Zhen Li » Sat Mar 01, 2014 2:17 am

Well come now Kim. I really am not sure playing blame games is right speech, I'm inclined to think it isn't.

Let's just get back to the topic. :smile:
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Re: Discussion of Political Topics is Wrong Speech

Postby Rickpa » Mon Mar 03, 2014 12:56 pm

Like so many topics these days, different people have very definitions of key words, and so we have different threads going by the same name, and some of us... well me... aren't participating despite ... um... participating.

We might discuss:

Is discussion of Dharma (dharma?) politics is wrong speech?

Is discussion with a partisan agenda is wrong speech?

Is the discussion of social issues that divide us wrong speech?

Is assigning blame and engaging in speech, which may rightly justified, that is disparaging of a person, wrong speech?

Is assigning blame and engaging in speech that is disparaging of a subset of the population wrong speech?

Is speech that elevates a person, or group, above others as one to be embraced, or beneath others as one to be denounced, wrong speech?


I find that HH Dalai Lama is a great example of a Buddhist walking on the burning coals of politics. He has often brought out, and disccused the harms that have been inflicted on the Tibetan people by the Chinese occupation and in all of those times I don't recall a condemnation of a Chinese leader, the Chinese Communist Party, or even the Chinese military. HHDL has never stopped engaging, but has clearly renounced the partisanship to which we seem to cling, and justify by any means. If you want a paradigm for Buddhist engagement, I can't think of a better example than HH Tenzin Gyatso.
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Re: Discussion of Political Topics is Wrong Speech

Postby muni » Mon Mar 03, 2014 1:28 pm

Ha! Rickpa, a bell is ringing!

Because there is Mind Fulness (Awareness), there is no dividing speech, which cannot be other than based on suffering as being ignorance, hatred, jealousy, pride.
Because there is Mind-Fulness, there cannot be harm.

An independent self percieves other independent selves and classifies as enemy, friend or neutral. This is our suffering.
Some of these words spoken by His Holiness are coming in mind. But I write them a bit messy down.

This is what I find which need constant Awareness or the talk about whatever politics/other turns into the painful woods of thorn branches of own mind.
Also regarding whether or not respecting eachother, I think selfcenteredness is lacking such respect and again is suffering.
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Re: Discussion of Political Topics is Wrong Speech

Postby tobes » Mon Mar 03, 2014 11:48 pm

It's an interesting point, about friend-enemy distinctions.

Carl Schmitt, a German realist political philosopher who influenced the Nazi's, defined 'the political' in precisely those terms (i.e. the fundamental question: who is our friend, and who is our enemy?). Now he is easy to dismiss for the way that 20th century political history played out, but there has been a curious resurgence of his thinking in contemporary European political philosophy. Why? Because that kind of definition of 'the political' equally problematises Liberal and Marxist perspectives, and it offers a very cogent way of conceiving the nature of politics.

Now here's the salient Buddhist point: if you adopt that kind of Schmittian definition of the political, any kind of political speech or action is by necessity unwholesome. The political is a dirty sphere defined by (sovereign) violence/land appropriation. The only real solution is to avoid politics altogether, and operate in a purely moral or soteriological sphere. Some on this thread advocate precisely this position.

Yet - and this a big yet - is it not more important to reject this Schmittian conception of politics altogether, and to offer an alternative Buddhist inspired view of the political which is defined precisely as the transcendence or overcoming of friend-enemy distinctions? We have these tools. For me, it is a terrible oversight to let realists define the nature of the political, and then live in fear of that definition.

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Re: Discussion of Political Topics is Wrong Speech

Postby tobes » Wed Mar 05, 2014 5:20 am

Ah, the quietists have not responded! Very wise. Respect!

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Re: Discussion of Political Topics is Wrong Speech

Postby Kim O'Hara » Wed Mar 05, 2014 6:07 am

The quietists may not have responded because they are just that, but I didn't respond because I've been too busy being noisy. :tongue:
tobes wrote:It's an interesting point, about friend-enemy distinctions.

Carl Schmitt, a German realist political philosopher who influenced the Nazi's, defined 'the political' in precisely those terms (i.e. the fundamental question: who is our friend, and who is our enemy?). ...
For me, it is a terrible oversight to let realists define the nature of the political, and then live in fear of that definition.

:anjali:

And who are they, that dare to call themselves "realist"!? How can they claim that their "reality" is more real than mine!?
More seriously, Tobes, I think your last sentence needs quotation marks, thus: it is a terrible oversight to let "realists" define the nature of the political.
If you don't do that, you leave them holding the high ground in the conversation although they are not at all entitled to it in moral or logical terms.

is it not more important to reject this Schmittian conception of politics altogether, and to offer an alternative Buddhist inspired view of the political which is defined precisely as the transcendence or overcoming of friend-enemy distinctions?

Of course it is.
I will second Rickpa's suggestion, that HHDL is a great role-model in this endeavour. I'll add a non-Buddhist role model, another Nobel Peace Prize winner: Nelson Mandela.

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Re: Discussion of Political Topics is Wrong Speech

Postby tobes » Wed Mar 05, 2014 10:03 am

Generally the term 'political realist' is ascribed by others (i.e. not the thinker herself) and it is often a pejorative for 'war-mongering conservative.'

It doesn't necessarily mean they have stronger claims on reality or political reality - the sense of 'real' can be ontological (i.e. the Hobbesian claim that we are self-interested, atomistic monads driven by desire into necessary conflict), but is usually pragmatic or historical (i.e. Schmitt's claim that the history of sovereignty is a history of violent land appropriation).

There is a certain cogency in those kinds of claims - who can deny that self-interest abounds? Who can deny that sovereignty is, at root, the monopoly of legitimate violence (i.e. what maketh a nation-state, if no military to enforce external order and no police force to enforce internal order)?

Maybe our job as Buddhists is to recognise (and point out) that those kinds of claims actually construct a certain kind of reality rather than merely representing it, and that it need not be the case.

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Re: Discussion of Political Topics is Wrong Speech

Postby Zhen Li » Thu Mar 06, 2014 12:52 pm

tobes wrote:Yet - and this a big yet - is it not more important to reject this Schmittian conception of politics altogether, and to offer an alternative Buddhist inspired view of the political which is defined precisely as the transcendence or overcoming of friend-enemy distinctions? We have these tools. For me, it is a terrible oversight to let realists define the nature of the political, and then live in fear of that definition.

It doesn't matter what you call it. In democratic politics you can't proceed without identifying an opponent. Like I said, from the Buddhist perspective, not encouraging others to do evil, and encouraging them to do good, does not necessitate political activity. The good and evil are universal to all spheres of life, and to encourage one to uphold the good does not require pointing out the faults of another.
Kim O'Hara wrote:I will second Rickpa's suggestion, that HHDL is a great role-model in this endeavour. I'll add a non-Buddhist role model, another Nobel Peace Prize winner: Nelson Mandela.

I really don't take HHDL as the best role model in this case, and you must understand that any and all Buddhists who follow my line of reasoning will not be 'known' for it, by nature of the fact that it is a negative suggestion and there is no action to be seen from it. The reason why I don't think he's the best role model for all Buddhists is that HHDL is not a purely spiritual leader, he must be a political leader - so he actually is entirely different from all other Buddhists and Buddhist teachers except for the Kings of existing Buddhist kingdoms in this respect.

Also, Nelson Mandela is really not a good example for Buddhists to uphold either, because he was an unrepentant terrorist responsible for hundreds of murders, as president he increased military spending far beyond that of the apartheid regime, and endorsed other terrorist leaders and dictators who consistently violated human rights. Moreover, under his management, the conditions of black South Africans worsened immensely, and the country is far worse off now than it was 20 years ago as a result of his actions, if you follow the news on SA any day, you'll know what nonsense goes on there on a daily basis. So I really can't agree with your suggestion that he's anything admirable from the Buddhist perspective. Being photogenic and a good arouser of pathos a good Buddhist does not make.
tobes wrote:Maybe our job as Buddhists is to recognise (and point out) that those kinds of claims actually construct a certain kind of reality rather than merely representing it, and that it need not be the case.

Getting rid of adversarial politics also means getting rid of democracy.

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Re: Discussion of Political Topics is Wrong Speech

Postby tobes » Thu Mar 06, 2014 11:13 pm

Zhen Li wrote:
tobes wrote:Yet - and this a big yet - is it not more important to reject this Schmittian conception of politics altogether, and to offer an alternative Buddhist inspired view of the political which is defined precisely as the transcendence or overcoming of friend-enemy distinctions? We have these tools. For me, it is a terrible oversight to let realists define the nature of the political, and then live in fear of that definition.

It doesn't matter what you call it. In democratic politics you can't proceed without identifying an opponent. Like I said, from the Buddhist perspective, not encouraging others to do evil, and encouraging them to do good, does not necessitate political activity. The good and evil are universal to all spheres of life, and to encourage one to uphold the good does not require pointing out the faults of another.


What I find strange (and untenable) about this position is that you assume that all political judgements must be personalised. i.e. If you hold position A, it requires that you criticise or point out the faults of people who hold position B.

But this does not follow.

If I hold certain normative political values to be good, and I thus commit to them politically, it does not mean that I must denounce or refute all those who do not adopt my commitments.

For example, let us say that I am committed to the value of education for all. This is a political commitment because it requires resources to be distributed in a certain way to achieve those aims, and society and economy to be organised in such a way to facilitate that.

Let us say that a group of people have more hedonistic values, and just want to live a life of pleasure seeking.

I may articulate and pursue my political commitments, and justify why I think it is good or necessary, whilst absolutely respecting those who do not hold that view. I have no need or desire to point out the faults of hedonism or of those people who practice a life of hedonism; I can simply provide my reasons for why universal education is a political good.

The hedonists can provide their reasons why it is not a political good.

Everyone else can follow both arguments, and decide for themselves.

The key point: If there is a pointing out of faults, it is in the domain of political reasoning. Not people.

Your position denies that people can make reasoned judgements about political content; it assumes that all political thinking degenerates into ad hominim attacks.

If Buddhists can reason about metaphysics, ethics, soteriology and epistemology, why can they not reason about politics?

i.e. 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?

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Re: Discussion of Political Topics is Wrong Speech

Postby tobes » Thu Mar 06, 2014 11:22 pm

Zhen Li wrote:
tobes wrote:Maybe our job as Buddhists is to recognise (and point out) that those kinds of claims actually construct a certain kind of reality rather than merely representing it, and that it need not be the case.

Getting rid of adversarial politics also means getting rid of democracy.

:anjali:


There is no necessary connection between democratic models and adversarial politics. If you have in mind contemporary liberal-democracies which are often defined by a bi-partisan structure (i.e. two major parties such as Democrats and Republicans), the adversarial nature of politics stems from the bi-partisan structure - not the logic of democracy. In fact, I would argue that such structures totally preclude any kind of real democratic process.

Getting rid of adversarial politics might well be the best means to achieve democracy.

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Re: Discussion of Political Topics is Wrong Speech

Postby Zhen Li » Fri Mar 07, 2014 2:33 am

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." (AN 10.69)
Tobes wrote:There is no necessary connection between democratic models and adversarial politics. If you have in mind contemporary liberal-democracies which are often defined by a bi-partisan structure (i.e. two major parties such as Democrats and Republicans), the adversarial nature of politics stems from the bi-partisan structure - not the logic of democracy. In fact, I would argue that such structures totally preclude any kind of real democratic process.

Well, you can make any argument work if you shift accepted definitions. I'll just use a special word called "demotist" for the kinds of government I have in mind, which at least in practice and theory resort to the demos to make political decisions. You can use democracy as a special word for what you're thinking of - in which case, I don't object to your argument or definitions.

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Re: Discussion of Political Topics is Wrong Speech

Postby tobes » Fri Mar 07, 2014 11:38 pm

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." (AN 10.69)


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?

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