Buddhism and state, or Buddhist anarchism?

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Buddhism and state, or Buddhist anarchism?

Postby Aemilius » Thu Jun 20, 2013 11:03 am

Buddhism is dependent on larger organisations like sovereign states and their laws, book companies and capitalism, peoples and languages, ethnic units like families, universities and the interests of science, armies and the military powers. There is of course the organisation of Sangha, or the Four Sanghas (of laypeople, monks and nuns), but do they really have an independent status? That they would be independent of the biological organisations of family, state, education system, social class, etc.?
I mean that Sangha is not a tool for the interests of biologically defined organisations.
There is an article in Wikipedia about Buddhist Anarchim. It is not excellent, but maybe it will stay there, because it is not something spectacular. Anything good or excellent will soon be truncated (in Wikipedia). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhist_anarchism
Out of necessity we always belong to several organisations, we have several identities and selves based on the biological evolution on this planet, based on the cultural evolution of humanity on different continents, based on what we did in our youth and our education, social status etc..
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Re: Buddhism and state, or Buddhist anarchism?

Postby Zhen Li » Thu Jun 20, 2013 11:28 am

Buddhism is dependent on larger organisations like sovereign states and their laws, book companies and capitalism, peoples and languages, ethnic units like families, universities and the interests of science, armies and the military powers. There is of course the organisation of Sangha, or the Four Sanghas (of laypeople, monks and nuns), but do they really have an independent status? That they would be independent of the biological organisations of family, state, education system, social class, etc.?

It would seem to me that due to dependent origination, one can't speak of any compounded thing as being independent of anything else.

The virtue I see in anarchism is simply non-harm. This is also the impression I got from the article. And I am surprised how many anarchists there are on Dharmawheel.

At the same time, this is to be utopian, and I think that one can also judge how to reduce harm as much as possible with states.

But from what I have experienced, advocating the "big changes" usually doesn't have as much effect as advocating for the small ones.

Take for example Master Hsing Yun, who does not go to China and lecture to the Communist Party how oppressive they are. But rather, gives them beautiful calligraphy which has messages of harmony and compassion. He inspires rather than lectures - in fact you can see this in his talks, he doesn't go on about terse points, but touches your heart and moves you with stories.

A true teacher inspires.
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Re: Buddhism and state, or Buddhist anarchism?

Postby muni » Thu Jun 20, 2013 11:45 am

Aemilius wrote:Buddhism is dependent on larger organisations like sovereign states and their laws, book companies and capitalism, peoples and languages, ethnic units like families, universities and the interests of science, armies and the military powers. There is of course the organisation of Sangha, or the Four Sanghas (of laypeople, monks and nuns), but do they really have an independent status? That they would be independent of the biological organisations of family, state, education system, social class, etc.?
I mean that Sangha is not a tool for the interests of biologically defined organisations.
There is an article in Wikipedia about Buddhist Anarchim. It is not excellent, but maybe it will stay there, because it is not something spectacular. Anything good or excellent will soon be truncated (in Wikipedia). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhist_anarchism
Out of necessity we always belong to several organisations, we have several identities and selves based on the biological evolution on this planet, based on the cultural evolution of humanity on different continents, based on what we did in our youth and our education, social status etc..

http://www.flickr.com/photos/34866649@N08/3259783540/

The clinging thought, is always an undesirable state of suffering. (my sangha, nationality, status, culture, this, that...)
In the beauty of nonclinging, is the Perfect Diversity of Natures' Equanimity.

An example regarding the variety/diversity of Buddhism by Kongtrul Rinpoche :
"The difference between the wise Buddhist and the sectarian Buddhist
is like that between the vastness of space and the narrowness of a vase."

Maybe it is so for all? Dependent on own clinging mind or Vast Mind/Nature?
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Re: Buddhism and state, or Buddhist anarchism?

Postby Indrajala » Thu Jun 20, 2013 1:16 pm

We should always understand that value systems are never universal.

So, what works well in one place will not necessarily be applicable elsewhere. Likewise, for a specific purpose one thing might be optimal, but for another not so much (don't bring a shaving razor when you need a hammer).

Anarchism works for some people in some contexts. Likewise, democracy works for some people in some context. Elsewhere, a community might need firm and heavy policing in order for social stability and for basic infrastructure to exist and function. Mendicant sadhus who don't make great use of state services probably don't need the state or their laws.

In our present day anarchism is difficult because every inch of land is claimed by some state. You can't just go out and build your own state-free self-organized community based on mutual interests out in the bush. I think up until relatively recently you could in places like North America and maybe Siberia. How can you really adhere to the values of anarchism while being a beneficiary of the state in the forms of infrastructure, policing, sanitation and so forth? In the old days many communities could and would get by without anything tangible from the state, but that's not so much possible any longer.

The Buddhist anarchist argues that both the state and capitalism generate oppression and, therefore, suffering. The former, the state, is an institution that frames the desire for power, and the latter, capitalism, the desire for material wealth. Trying to control other human beings, in the view of Buddhist anarchists, will only cause them to suffer, and ultimately causes suffering for those who try to control. Trying to hold on to and accumulate material wealth, likewise, increases suffering for the capitalist and those they do business with. Buddhism can also be viewed as inherently at odds with capitalism when the need to consume goods on an individual level is considered unnecessary and ultimately destructive.


One issue is that oppression and violence, both directly inwardly and outwardly, is an extension of political processes. Any society will have a degree of social instability that is remedied with recourse to violence. The state secures its authority by having a monopoly on violence. In situations where there is a power vacuum, policing is done by organized crime which enjoys all the low hanging fruit as a reward for their services. Surprisingly, in the absence of state there can still be law and order, though this is generally carried out under feudal-like conditions.

We can be idealistic and think we can get by without a state and still be decent towards one another, but that's naive unless you live somewhere with a low population density and little risk of intruders (like on some island or on the frontiers of Canada in the 19th century).

A state exists as a means of solving problems. There is a payoff for compliance such as government services, defence and so forth. Buddhist institutions will generally make great use of these. They don't have to exercise violence in their own backyard as a means of self-defence when they got the police and military to do that on their behalf. This is how it is has generally worked in history, too. You don't have to kill anybody to defend your land. You get others to suffer that karma. Likewise, state issued currency facilitates trade and Buddhists historically always benefit from increased trade. Buddhists historically have depended in many cases on the support of merchants to sustain and promote themselves, especially in India and Central Asia where the alternatives often put merchants at a lower position in society (Brahmanism for example tries to put secular and economic power in the hands of elite Brahmans for instance).

That being said, I still personally lean toward anarchism as applicable to me on a personal level. I find the absence of hierarchy refreshing. I find simple living easier on the mind than having a lot of possessions. I prefer not having to resort to authority to solve problems. In a Buddhist context I think deference to authority leads to fossilization of forms with all the flaws rather than organic development and adaptation. Decentralized communities are optimal because each can respond accordingly to their situations as they see fit rather than conforming to a single prescribed paradigm, which may or may not actually work out optimally.

The participants in small communities will inevitably have their leadership, but on a small scale it generally remains rational leadership because the lack of resources will probably mean there's no material interest in hanging around if you don't like the way the place is being run. If you think your guru has your best interests at heart, then you follow him or her because it seems rational to do so. You defer to them based on having the experience that they know more about a given subject or way of life than you do. This is different from deferring to ecclesiastical authority simply because everyone else suggests it is a good idea or under duress (or the fear of going to hell for questioning unquestioned authority).

But that kind of paradigm won't work with a modern society with millions of people and a hypercomplex economy and infrastructure. Whether as a citizen you like it or not, you are forced to comply with certain activities from which you'll generally benefit immensely from (taxation for infrastructure and border defence for example).

So maybe anarchism is applicable to Buddhist society, but not the greater society which hosts it. Being an anarchist in a modern society is kind of a luxury ideology enabled by the state. If you see how India works, you understand why there is such heavy internal policing. Severe violence flares up if it isn't there in most regions. I think overpopulation is chiefly responsible for this, but promoting anarchism in a place like India is like slitting your own throat. Without a strong state a lot of tensions boil over and people lose their lives.
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Re: Buddhism and state, or Buddhist anarchism?

Postby Nilasarasvati » Thu Jun 20, 2013 5:53 pm

That being said, I still personally lean toward anarchism as applicable to me on a personal level. I find the absence of hierarchy refreshing. I find simple living easier on the mind than having a lot of possessions. I prefer not having to resort to authority to solve problems. In a Buddhist context I think deference to authority leads to fossilization of forms with all the flaws rather than organic development and adaptation. Decentralized communities are optimal because each can respond accordingly to their situations as they see fit rather than conforming to a single prescribed paradigm, which may or may not actually work out optimally.


I really thoroughly agree!

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche says that, in his exposure to Western culture, he thinks the greatest contribution we have made as westerners to human thought is not science, technology, etc. but what he labels "the Good Anarchism."

He talks about how Gandhi had to re-learn Ahimsa by going reading Tolstoy and Thoreau, who learned it from orientalist Europeans who found it in Hindu writings.
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