Does Buddhism Offer Basis For Democracy?
Buddhism does not necessary offer the foundation for democracy. Individuals err when they strive to relate religion with politics. Religion has its foundation on morality, purity, as well as faith. On the contrary, politics thrive on acquisition of power. Although democracy is a just political system that can guarantee basic human rights, people should not struggle to seek ultimate political systems where they would be completely free. If Buddhist political players are involved in excluding religious minorities from engaging in the democratic process, then Buddhism could be termed as an authoritarian force that does not practice equality. Buddhists leaders are sometimes incapable of challenging the existing political structures; hence cannot be trusted in cultivating morals in society. Additionally, some monks do not engage in political actions to avoid being tarnished by political influence.
Buddhists live according to the directives of Buddha, who is their emperor. The humane king protects the Buddhists because he has the same power with the Buddha. Being humane illustrates the capacity to be compassionate, tolerant, and considerate. Buddha’s commands are equated to the highest power that directs individuals’ actions, hence, capable of protecting the state. The humane king utilizes the perfect wisdom to safeguard the state. Buddhists can manage to restrain their emotions at all times despite the situations. Buddhists are supposed to be aware of the exact nature of the world so that they can understand its interconnectedness and impermanence. No individual can manage to order the world without striving to understand it. Each person is quite different from another, even when individuals come from the same family. Therefore, individual’s disposition can help him/her to bear good or bad situations.
Being wise in Buddhism is more essential than worshiping the native gods. Even Confucian morality, which is built on an organized approach to self-cultivation, does not supersede wisdom, since wisdom is a product of mediation and morality. Wisdom and meditation are co-related and exists in unity. It does not matter how modernized individuals are, or how science has transformed individuals’ mind, because what Buddha has taught does not change, as long as the world is still driven by the notion of cause-effect. If an individual believes on compassion, wisdom dictates that an individual should seek peace within him/herself. Children can become unfaithful to their parents, but being unfaithful to Buddha is lack of wisdom, which should not be encouraged.
Universalistic and egalitarian trait of Mahayana Buddhism illustrates that democracy is part of Buddhism. The notion that people can live together, and become responsible for each other is an aspect of egalitarianism while universalism is the belief that individuals can collectively be saved. Buddhists believe that life’s sole purpose is to attain happiness while modern democracy purports that all human beings should have equal rights to life and happiness. The elementary principle behind democracy is exercising the freedom, as well as being equal before the law. No individual can be free unless he/she is capable of pursuing happiness without being restricted by class or caste. The Buddha does not support slavery of any kind. Instead, he emphasizes on the golden rule that directs individuals to live a life that does not harm others.
Egalitarianism is a concept that emphasize on equality and fairness for all people, regardless of their sex, gender, age, or social status. Equality portrays the normal state of humanity, even when individuals are condemned for being cruel to animals and other individuals. Buddhism encourages reasoning and being fair to others, as individuals are only judged by their deeds and that if an individual commits offense karma, he/she would not evade falling into the hells. Equality is driven by the golden rule, which advises people to act fairly to others.
Buddha extends salvation to all beings, as he perceives salvation as universal. Since Buddha’s presence is expanded throughout time, then salvation should benefit every individual. Salvation should also occur to women because the definitive purpose of knowing the truth is to liberate all human beings. Many religions perceive women as the cause of all evils; hence, they have to undergo a process of reincarnation before they are permitted to attain salvation. However, Buddhism has allowed women to accomplish a full religious life. Women are capable of developing and purifying their minds to realize the delight of Nibbana (the Buddhist path), just like men. The aspect of equality forms the best foundation in terms of salvation.
The law that directs men is supposed to be universal, although it should not be final. In this case, universal means “being applicable to all,” hence, no individual should be spared in the application of the law. A king has to ensure that he does not disobey the Law of Buddhism as doing so attracts punishment. However, if the king chose to remain faithful to the law, Buddha allows him to experience infinite blessings. The Law of Karma purports that every individual is responsible for his/her own action, and should be ready to bear the consequences of such action. If good actions are rewarded, then unwarranted actions should not go unpunished
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