Discussion of Political Topics is Wrong Speech

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Re: Discussion of Political Topics is Wrong Speech

Postby tobes » Sat Mar 08, 2014 12:00 am

Consider these two political statements:

1. I think David Cameron is a conservative twat. If you voted for him, you must also be a conservative twat.

2. I think all people should be judged according to their actions and merits, not according to their race, class or gender. Where institutions actively discriminate according to predicates of race, class or gender, I think they ought to be resisted and changed.

My claim: Statement 1 is problematic for all the good reasons Zhen Li has pointed out. However, statement 2 is both political and predicated on the dharma, thus demonstrating that there is no necessary contradiction between the two, and that they are not necessarily even contrary.

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Re: Discussion of Political Topics is Wrong Speech

Postby Zhen Li » Sat Mar 08, 2014 6:10 pm

Tobes wrote: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.

Tobes, I am sorry but that's not very polite to say, I simply don't read Tibetan, Chinese, or Japanese well enough to know texts from there by heart. While I know Sanskrit, I just can't think of many sutras in Sanskrit which address such worldly concerns and matters other than the Agamas, which in most cases are practically equivalent to the Pali Nikayas - they just, by and large, don't exist anymore. So I am not sure why you're claiming this.

I am also not making an argumentum ad verecundiam, I do not believe one need follow the Tripitaka's guidelines simply on the weight of its authority alone, but rather because they make sound sense, and I can see that they do lead to welfare and happiness in this life.
Tobes wrote: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.

This is why I would be reluctant to study with Bhikkhu Bodhi or go to his retreats. If political discussion arose in my Sangha as frequently as it does in Bhikkhu Bodhi's, I'd be out in a jiffy to another. Also, it doesn't matter how many scriptures you read or translate, what matters is that you do what is written and test it for yourself. As far as I am concerned, the Dharma dispensed by the Buddha is the path to a city long forgotten, but rediscovered again. I have no reason not to think this so far.
Tobes wrote: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.

Yes, politics only entails worldly matters. Ordination of women, for instance, has nothing to do with politics - it has to do with whether a woman can attain arhatship as well as a man; Ananda did not request the Buddha to admit women to spite the King; untouchables were not admitted to overthrow the caste system, by and large Buddhism outside of the monastery in both the Tripitaka and outside it maintained the caste system (which wasn't as strict as westerners believe today anyway).
Tobes wrote:1. I think David Cameron is a conservative twat. If you voted for him, you must also be a conservative twat.

See, this is just the kind of anti-compassionate speech that I am talking about here (I had to look up the word twat :o ). Alexander Berzin often makes the point that in the Holocaust, the people who we should have most compassion for are the camp guards - the victims aren't going to suffer any more since they were innocent, it's the camp guards who will be in the hell realms for aeons, and who acted out of ignorance and delusion, causing themselves untold misery.
Tobes wrote:2. I think all people should be judged according to their actions and merits, not according to their race, class or gender. Where institutions actively discriminate according to predicates of race, class or gender, I think they ought to be resisted and changed.

People do all sorts of irrational things, they're all ignorant. You have no hope of stopping ignorance other than through Nirvana, it's that simple. That's why the Buddha was a Buddha and not a Cakravartin. Politics can't do anything - it adjusts to the values of the present day. People treat races, classes and genders differently based upon conditioned and contextual values in place and time - treating them all equally can be just as harmful as treating them unequally in many cases: you can't think equivalent what is not, and making a woman be a firefighter for instance may endanger lives - but is it right to let her be a firefighter regardless of this? Well, that's a worldly question, it's conditional and contextual to time and place and ultimately comes down to preference and worldly desires, in this case envy, and the eight worldly dharmas, and it doesn't have to do with true happiness and welfare, to which all are privy and to which such matters are irrelevant.
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Re: Discussion of Political Topics is Wrong Speech

Postby tobes » Sat Mar 08, 2014 11:28 pm

Zhen Li wrote:
Tobes wrote: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.

Tobes, I am sorry but that's not very polite to say, I simply don't read Tibetan, Chinese, or Japanese well enough to know texts from there by heart. While I know Sanskrit, I just can't think of many sutras in Sanskrit which address such worldly concerns and matters other than the Agamas, which in most cases are practically equivalent to the Pali Nikayas - they just, by and large, don't exist anymore. So I am not sure why you're claiming this.

I am also not making an argumentum ad verecundiam, I do not believe one need follow the Tripitaka's guidelines simply on the weight of its authority alone, but rather because they make sound sense, and I can see that they do lead to welfare and happiness in this life.


Suvarṇaprabhāsa-sūtra, Edicts of Ashoka, Nāgārjuna's Ratnāvalī - to name but three canonical texts which are explicitly political.

I agree that the Tripitaka's guidelines make sound sense and lead to welfare and happiness in this life. The question I asked of you, is can you approach those texts hermeneutically as if we live in the same context as when they were written? If so, how? If not, what differences must we navigate?

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Re: Discussion of Political Topics is Wrong Speech

Postby tobes » Sat Mar 08, 2014 11:35 pm

Zhen Li wrote:
Tobes wrote: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.

Yes, politics only entails worldly matters. Ordination of women, for instance, has nothing to do with politics - it has to do with whether a woman can attain arhatship as well as a man; Ananda did not request the Buddha to admit women to spite the King; untouchables were not admitted to overthrow the caste system, by and large Buddhism outside of the monastery in both the Tripitaka and outside it maintained the caste system (which wasn't as strict as westerners believe today anyway).


It has nothing to do with your very narrow definition of what politics is. There are so many wonderful Bhikhuni's who see otherwise, and have published much on the matter. I suggest some research on this before you dismiss it.

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Re: Discussion of Political Topics is Wrong Speech

Postby tobes » Sat Mar 08, 2014 11:38 pm

Zhen Li wrote:
Tobes wrote:1. I think David Cameron is a conservative twat. If you voted for him, you must also be a conservative twat.

See, this is just the kind of anti-compassionate speech that I am talking about here (I had to look up the word twat :o ). Alexander Berzin often makes the point that in the Holocaust, the people who we should have most compassion for are the camp guards - the victims aren't going to suffer any more since they were innocent, it's the camp guards who will be in the hell realms for aeons, and who acted out of ignorance and delusion, causing themselves untold misery.


Which is why I wrote:

"My claim: Statement 1 is problematic for all the good reasons Zhen Li has pointed out."

Please read me carefully, otherwise, what hope is there of you responding to the argument I make?

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Re: Discussion of Political Topics is Wrong Speech

Postby Zhen Li » Sun Mar 09, 2014 3:35 am

tobes wrote:Suvarṇaprabhāsa-sūtra, Edicts of Ashoka, Nāgārjuna's Ratnāvalī - to name but three canonical texts which are explicitly political.

Well, firstly the Edicts of Ashoka, while they may have been written with a Buddhist perspective in mind, are not explicitly Buddhist, and aren't considered Buddhavacana. Also, I have addressed this issue, even in my OP. A king must do his duty, but we should have no pretences that they are doing the most Buddhist of things. HHDL said clearly that although monks who took up arms against rival sects or against the Chinese did so with a sense that they were justified, they had no pretences about the Buddhist nature of their acts, and dis-robed accordingly, and accepted that their fate would be aeons in hell if they killed anyone - Kings are the same. While Buddhist in late India did embrace killing and a science of self-defence, I am not claiming that Buddhists in India, let alone kings, did 'not' behave just as the Sutras suggest, certainly they did not at all. I am not making a historical claim, I am making a philosophical-moral claim - and to be honest I don't understand the logic of tantra, so I can't quite go that route as regards killing.

As for Suvarṇaprabhāsa and Ratnāvalī, I just don't know those by heart like I do much of the Nikaya/Agamas. That's why I didn't quote them, but feel free to quote them.
tobes wrote:It has nothing to do with your very narrow definition of what politics is. There are so many wonderful Bhikhuni's who see otherwise, and have published much on the matter. I suggest some research on this before you dismiss it.

Feel free to quote them and I will address their specific arguments. Broad statements, names, or titles don't really tell me anything.
tobes wrote:"My claim: Statement 1 is problematic for all the good reasons Zhen Li has pointed out."

Please read me carefully, otherwise, what hope is there of you responding to the argument I make?

Yes, you are maintaining that claim 1 can be justified: "However, statement 2 is both political and predicated on the dharma, thus demonstrating that there is no necessary contradiction between the two, and that they are not necessarily even contrary." Unless by the two you mean two of something else, perhaps politics and dharma? If so my apologies for misunderstanding.
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Re: Discussion of Political Topics is Wrong Speech

Postby tobes » Sun Mar 09, 2014 4:54 am

I grant you that the Edicts are too often treated glibly by Buddhists wishing to establish a tenable Buddhist influenced politics. There is probably much that is historical myth. However, you should note that what is distinctive about those claims are the renunciation of (state) violence, not the justification for it, and associated positive virtues such as the building of hospitals for animals.

A theory of justice from the Ratnāvalī: Just as deficient children are punished/Out of a wish to make them competent/So punishment should be carried out with compassion/Not through hatred nor desire for wealth.

Perhaps you could tell us why it is wrong to draw such a theory from Buddhist principles? And to articulate it - that is, put it into speech - as Nāgārjuna has done.

There is so much that could be drawn from the Suvarṇaprabhāsa - might the issue be that you do not accept Mahāyāna literature?? If so, I'm fine with that, but should we reframe the discussion to reflect that context?

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Re: Discussion of Political Topics is Wrong Speech

Postby tobes » Sun Mar 09, 2014 5:01 am

Zhen Li wrote:
tobes wrote:"My claim: Statement 1 is problematic for all the good reasons Zhen Li has pointed out."

Please read me carefully, otherwise, what hope is there of you responding to the argument I make?

Yes, you are maintaining that claim 1 can be justified: "However, statement 2 is both political and predicated on the dharma, thus demonstrating that there is no necessary contradiction between the two, and that they are not necessarily even contrary." Unless by the two you mean two of something else, perhaps politics and dharma? If so my apologies for misunderstanding.
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Indeed. The lack of contradiction or contrariness is in dharma and political, self-contained within statement 2. My apologies for the lack of clarity.

Now that this is clear, I wonder if you would care to address the argument? (Namely, that not all political statements are necessarily personal, and thus not all are necessarily expressive of wrong speech. Also, that there is no contradiction between drawing political statements from particular principles of Buddhist Dharma).

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Re: Discussion of Political Topics is Wrong Speech

Postby Zhen Li » Sun Mar 09, 2014 7:58 am

tobes wrote:I grant you that the Edicts are too often treated glibly by Buddhists wishing to establish a tenable Buddhist influenced politics. There is probably much that is historical myth. However, you should note that what is distinctive about those claims are the renunciation of (state) violence, not the justification for it, and associated positive virtues such as the building of hospitals for animals.

I think that the greater tendency in history has been towards a preference for Kautilyan principles in South and South East Asia and Confucian principles in East Asia. The Ashokan model collapsed almost immediately as it was effected, it was despotic and utopian, disrespecting established norms and principles that had been practised for centuries, attempting to remodel human behaviour by force under the ever watchful gaze of grand inquisitors. Note that the Buddha recommended in the Mahaparnibbanasuttanta that neither new laws neither be enacted or old ones abolished, but to proceed upon the precedent of ages and of aeons. Was Ashoka well intentioned? Yes, of course he was, he was deeply troubled by his past and spent his life's energy attempting to make up for it with what powers he had - and what great powers they were, albeit inherited from his father, who may, perhaps, be said to have been a more able statesman. Was he a good Buddhist? By and large, he was, and he was beneficial to the world at large, by having been the foremost spreader of the Buddha's dispensation up unto that point, and a facilitator of a council - albeit his favour was an immense influence at said council. But was he a good ruler? Unfortunately no, he did not actually proceed upon solid ground, he was a revolutionary, he was a dreamer, he was a utopian, and those are things which the Buddha didn't ask anyone to be except in a humorously mocking form within the Sangha itself, wherein principles of old were made topsy turvy and set to Dharmic aims, which Sangha, fundamentally, is the cattle-range of the Dharma, where it properly acts and behaves, where it functions most properly, efficiently, and without problem or error in either enactment or judgment - just as dandaniti is the duty of the king, dharma is the duty of the sramana - and a fierce duty that is, which no opponent can ever turn back, neither Sakra, nor Mara, nor Brahma - a claim to which even a Cakravartin cannot make stake.
tobes wrote:A theory of justice from the Ratnāvalī: Just as deficient children are punished/Out of a wish to make them competent/So punishment should be carried out with compassion/Not through hatred nor desire for wealth.

A theory of justice it is not, a theory of morals it is. Act out of compassion, every Buddhist knows that. That punishment should or should not be carried out is not within the scope of this verse.
tobes wrote:Perhaps you could tell us why it is wrong to draw such a theory from Buddhist principles? And to articulate it - that is, put it into speech - as Nāgārjuna has done.

I see neither need nor justification for assuming that I think something is wrong which I have not formally stated to be such.
tobes wrote:There is so much that could be drawn from the Suvarṇaprabhāsa - might the issue be that you do not accept Mahāyāna literature?? If so, I'm fine with that, but should we reframe the discussion to reflect that context?

Do I do myself such disservice to paint my own picture in such a light? :lol: No, I am a very happy Mahayanist who has taken the Bodhisattva vow and intends to be reborn in Sukhāvatī in a lotus upon death - if I am so fortunate.
tobes wrote:not all political statements are necessarily personal

Well that certainly would be an overstatement, to which I do wholeheartedly disagree. The issue fundamentally as far as personal concern is regarded is for the tendency for such statements to become personal. For instance, if one is a monarch, one's actions are moral or immoral, but neither necessarily either - yet it must be said that certain immoral, albeit necessary, actions are occasionally required of monarchs. However, if one is debating said actions outside of the realm of action, but in the realm of dispute, the issues are that one's opponent may automatically be taken to be ill-informed simply for not holding the view that one does oneself - for it must be said that all view their own opinions reasonable, and all act as they think proper, to do otherwise were folly or madness. Moreover, one's motivations for discussing such topics simply must be worldly, since otherwise one would be discussing the dharma, hence why anger arises and blood boils and one is prone to fits of tension upon the discussion of political topics. Thus, one who does engage in such discussion must be aware that it is somewhat like visiting a common bar or public house - while one may not drink alcohol, smoke where it is still permitted, argue, gamble, or speak foully, one is in an environment where one becomes more prone to do so, and thus people of respectable repute tend not to suggest them as locales of refinement and sophistication. But the fact that discussion of political matters tends in the due course of lengthy and heated or short and fierce conversation to personal disagreement is but a trifle in comparison with the weight and significance of some of the other problems with the matter. Fundamentally, we are talking here about soteriological concerns. But to be to a point, slightly offhand, I should say that no one but a completely and perfectly fully awakened Buddha perfectly upholds the principles of right speech, let alone action in general - even the arhats had wet dreams if you'll recall :lol: . One must, however, be aware that the advantageous is the advantageous and the disadvantageous is disadvantageous - for instance, I still read the news, even though it's full of negativity, and I also enjoy listening to opera, even though I know it tends to attachment to non-dharmic sound. The real point is that one is aware - then the karma is less for one can rectify one's deeds when the time comes for such appropriate rectification, when the requisites and conditions for our minds to be pure enough for such rectification to take proper effect have been procured. For one, this is why I am a pureland practitioner, I know that I will likely not overcome all of my attachments in this life - I don't have the conditions or bravery to ordain right now, but I have always hoped that in the future I may - but I am aware that they are attachments, if I wasn't aware of any of them, then I would think myself awakened and be haughtier than I already am, which is still too much to be said to be free altogether of pride - which is to be shunned. But recognise the right for the right, and the wrong for the wrong, and take requisite measures as you can.
tobes wrote:Also, that there is no contradiction between drawing political statements from particular principles of Buddhist Dharma

There doesn't have to be. The point here is wrong speech. One can believe in one's heart that all brigands are heroes and all soldiers are swine, and conclude so from Buddhist principles, but to engage in debate on such matters isn't going to get anyone to nirvana - which is what right speech is about. Right speech not only means speech that is kind and compassionate, but which is timely and necessary. If such a statement need be said, and the time is the right time, and it is necessary for someone's awakening, then that is the context in which such a statement is right speech. Otherwise it is wrong speech. Does one want to attain nirvana or Buddhahood at least? One should ask. If one does, then abandon wrong speech. It's a rather simple principle.
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Re: Discussion of Political Topics is Wrong Speech

Postby tobes » Sun Mar 09, 2014 12:28 pm

1. I grant you the point about Ashoka. It points to a more general problem in Buddhist inspired political thinking, which is roughly the problem of negative liberty.

2. The fact that Nāgārjuna is instructing a King that he ought to structure punishment to accord with Buddhist values means that it is indeed clearly political. He's not saying "the only thing that matters is you attaining nirvāṇa, anything more, we shall not speak of, lest we violate the logic of right speech." He's saying: "You should structure your polis like this, because that is the right thing to do for your subjects and your polis." Note that I gave you only one stanza of a treatise - there is far more expressively political advice on other matters. I'm not sure how one plausibly could only deny that the Ratnāvalī is filled with such content.

3. The crux of the issue between us is your unshakeable conviction that politics is immutably about people getting into passionate, deluded or aggressive conversations with each other. I grant you every countless example we have of this: it is everywhere, endless, and always a problem.

But,

You cannot find - anywhere - examples of people speaking and/or writing with prajñā (insight), vitarka (reason), and upāya (skillful means) in the name of karuṇā (compassion). Everything hinges on the claim that people can't gain these qualities, and use them compassionately to help beings in the world.

But they can! If there is one categorical thing that (discursively) the Mahāyāna denies, it is the thought that a practitioner should turn away from the world and focus only on their own attainment of nirvāṇa. Is this not precisely what you propose?

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Re: Discussion of Political Topics is Wrong Speech

Postby Malcolm » Sun Mar 09, 2014 5:00 pm

tobes wrote:there is far more expressively political advice on other matters. I'm not sure how one plausibly could only deny that the Ratnāvalī is filled with such content.



It's not that filled, it constitutes somewhat less than 10% of the total.
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Re: Discussion of Political Topics is Wrong Speech

Postby Zhen Li » Sun Mar 09, 2014 7:23 pm

Tobes wrote:The fact that Nāgārjuna is instructing a King that he ought to structure punishment to accord with Buddhist values means that it is indeed clearly political. He's not saying "the only thing that matters is you attaining nirvāṇa, anything more, we shall not speak of, lest we violate the logic of right speech." He's saying: "You should structure your polis like this, because that is the right thing to do for your subjects and your polis." Note that I gave you only one stanza of a treatise - there is far more expressively political advice on other matters. I'm not sure how one plausibly could only deny that the Ratnāvalī is filled with such content.

I made this point many times in the body of the thread and in the OP. The Buddha's or Nagarjuna's advice to kings was to them as individual actors who could choose right or wrong actions with their own fruits - political debate is not the same as making a choice in governing.
Tobes wrote:The crux of the issue between us is your unshakeable conviction that politics is immutably about people getting into passionate, deluded or aggressive conversations with each other. I grant you every countless example we have of this: it is everywhere, endless, and always a problem.

In my previous post I made clear that this is neither an unshakeable conviction, nor a conviction that I have, nor do I believe that it is immutably such a thing. I also made this clear in previous posts in the body of the thread, and I believe in the OP.
Tobes wrote:You cannot find - anywhere - examples of people speaking and/or writing with prajñā (insight), vitarka (reason), and upāya (skillful means) in the name of karuṇā (compassion). Everything hinges on the claim that people can't gain these qualities, and use them compassionately to help beings in the world.

But they can! If there is one categorical thing that (discursively) the Mahāyāna denies, it is the thought that a practitioner should turn away from the world and focus only on their own attainment of nirvāṇa. Is this not precisely what you propose?

I answered that already. You know it isn't. I don't understand how you gained this inference at all, I'm somewhat puzzled. You cannot find them anywhere... but you can? That doesn't quite make sense to me.
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Re: Discussion of Political Topics is Wrong Speech

Postby tobes » Mon Mar 10, 2014 8:06 am

Zhen Li, I think at this stage we are more or less talking past each other. In the name of right speech, perhaps we should move on?

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Re: Discussion of Political Topics is Wrong Speech

Postby tobes » Mon Mar 10, 2014 8:07 am

Malcolm wrote:
tobes wrote:there is far more expressively political advice on other matters. I'm not sure how one plausibly could only deny that the Ratnāvalī is filled with such content.



It's not that filled, it constitutes somewhat less than 10% of the total.


Well it's one of five chapters. Let's call it 20%.....

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Re: Discussion of Political Topics is Wrong Speech

Postby Zhen Li » Mon Mar 10, 2014 12:52 pm

tobes wrote:Zhen Li, I think at this stage we are more or less talking past each other. In the name of right speech, perhaps we should move on?

If you have a point to make, I don't mind if you continue.
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Re: Discussion of Political Topics is Wrong Speech

Postby muni » Thu Mar 13, 2014 11:28 am

Having no political skills, I think a way how politics and buddhism/insight in our nature is not going together is by promessing to purify the outer world for those who are voting for me.

:smile: Those who are not voting for me, are having afflictions. Only joking.
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Re: Discussion of Political Topics is Wrong Speech

Postby odysseus » Thu Mar 13, 2014 2:24 pm

Conclusion: It´s not important who´s the president. Dalai Lama said that and I agree. It´s mostly the same results and Buddha did´nt involve himself with politics, but gave teachings to rulers on how to prosper properly instead.

You could say it´s idle speech, but one has to deal with the reality of the world nonetheless.
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Re: Discussion of Political Topics is Wrong Speech

Postby Kim O'Hara » Sat Mar 15, 2014 2:20 am

Aussies will know these people :rolleye: but the quote is true everywhere.

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Re: Discussion of Political Topics is Wrong Speech

Postby Zhen Li » Sat Mar 15, 2014 7:50 pm

Well, in Australia you're all forced to participate, so I'm not quite sure how true that rings.

Nonetheless, that frequent misquote is actually as follows:
Plato, 347a-347d wrote:"[P]ay must be provided for those who are to consent to rule, either in form of money or honor or a penalty if they refuse.”
“What do you mean by that, Socrates?” said Glaucon. “The two wages I recognize, but the penalty you speak of and described as a form of wage I don't understand.”
“Then,” said I, “you don't understand the wages of the best men for the sake of which the finest spirits hold office and rule when they consent to do so. Don't you know that to be covetous of honor and covetous of money is said to be and is a reproach?”
“I do,” he said.
“Well, then,” said I, “that is why the good are not willing to rule either for the sake of money or of honor. They do not wish to collect pay openly for their service of rule and be styled hirelings nor to take it by stealth from their office and be called thieves, nor yet for the sake of honor, for they are not covetous of honor. So there must be imposed some compulsion and penalty to constrain them to rule if they are to consent to hold office. That is perhaps why to seek office oneself and not await compulsion is thought disgraceful. But the chief penalty is to be governed by someone worse if a man will not himself hold office and rule. It is from fear of this, as it appears to me, that the better sort hold office when they do, and then they go to it not in the expectation of enjoyment nor as to a good thing, but as to a necessary evil and because they are unable to turn it over to better men than themselves or to their like. For we may venture to say that, if there should be a city of good men only, immunity from office-holding would be as eagerly contended for as office is now, and there it would be made plain that in very truth the true ruler does not naturally seek his own advantage but that of the ruled; so that every man of understanding would rather choose to be benefited by another than to be bothered with benefiting him.

Which is precisely why I said that those who are aware of the "necessary evil" of politics are the better politicians - it is not a good thing to engage in politics, but it is a necessary thing. If anyone must discuss a political matter, it should be with reluctance, otherwise we should not see that person as worthy of office or of deciding on such a matter - eagerness and enthusiasm are to be avoided like the plague in such things, the Victorians knew this well, when they used enthusiasm frequently to mean a vain confidence and an ill-regulated or misdirected emotion, and extravagance in speculation, a meaning which we have sadly loss sight of in using the term in a positive sense. Also, a sentiment I also share with Plato is the principle of selecting a leader for their managerial capacities, something which democracy simply is not up to the task of achieving, not least because it tends to bring out the worst human characters - partly why I also in the past have advocated anonymous leadership. Hopefully, reducing the need to engage in political discussion in the world can make the world a more harmonious place as a whole.
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Re: Discussion of Political Topics is Wrong Speech

Postby tobes » Sat Mar 15, 2014 11:39 pm

Zhen Li wrote: Also, a sentiment I also share with Plato is the principle of selecting a leader for their managerial capacities, something which democracy simply is not up to the task of achieving, not least because it tends to bring out the worst human characters - partly why I also in the past have advocated anonymous leadership. Hopefully, reducing the need to engage in political discussion in the world can make the world a more harmonious place as a whole.
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Managerial qualities??

Plato clearly means: leaders who have developed the qualities of reason which can know reality. i.e. Philosopher kings. He also claims that it is possible - from such an epistemic standpoint - to govern in the best interests of the polis without any desire for power.

His critique of democracy is very connected to that epistemological possibility.

Whether we follow a Platonic politics or not, what's relevant to the topic at hand, is the question of whether this has any resonance with Buddhist epistemology.

Is it possible to develop qualities mind which can know reality? Is it possible to develop qualities of mind which can make decisions for the greater good?

Yes and yes, prajna and karuna.

I do not see how it is possible to acknowledge this as true - which it is, immutably - whilst denying that those qualities can be applied to political content.

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