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History of Indian Thought

Term paper
Buddhist management of Sangha community and Thai democracy

Submit to Dr. Kajornpat Tangyin By Pharktanat Pattararittisak

Introduction Buddhism is a religion with large groups of ecclesiastics living and practicing together and became a community. It is interesting to learn how Buddha as the leader of Buddhist community managed a large group of people. Buddhist monk society is in overall considered a large society, in 2008, there are 251,997 Buddhist monks in Thailand alone, especially when included all the Buddhist monks around the world. (Tumsrivichai, 2011) Even though the Buddhist communities are separated in many countries, they still hold similar belief and occasionally gather for a meeting. Though each community has their own leaders or abbots, 227 monk rules still have never changed. However, different Buddhist sects, such as Theravada and Mahayana,

interpret some rules differently and adjust some rules, such as fasting rules, suitably to the cultures and environments. Theravada tend to preserve traditional conduct from Buddhas era easier due to a closer culture and climate to India than Mahayana which dominate in countries like China, Korea and Japan (Buddhanet, 2011). Though some rules might be changed due to health circumstances, other main behavioral rules are still maintained especially the five precepts for all men and rules of defeat or Parajika for monks. If the Buddha had made the Silas flexible and adaptable to the wishes of the masses, they would not have been consonant with the nature of perfect justice (The Wandering, 2011). Buddhist rules are made to constrain humans from indulging to redundant natural inclination or kilesa as it is an enemy to the practice of dharma. The first five precepts or sila are the universal law or natural law of all human beings that protect righteous for everyone. It is believed that by merely following these five precepts, a society would be in harmony. For other rules or precepts, it is dedicated to the practice of ones mind. In general, from outside the Buddhist community is known as a peaceful and harmonized society. Every temple holds similar rules and activities with slightly different in schedule according to circumstances as well as the monks who is governed by the rules and assigned duty. A Buddhist monk has a clear duty and task to follow so he would not astray from the path to the goal of Buddhism. The Buddha had constructed a system and structure that can govern and run by itself without an existent of the leader or the Buddha as we have observe its performance for the last 2,500 years. Unlike in political scheme, the constitution of Thailand has constantly been argued for changing for so many times since Thailand has turned into a constitutional democracy in 1932. Perhaps it has only been around 80 years to find the best solution for this conventional society with the hope that one day Thai people

will have the most suitable constitution. However, in conventional world, Thai law does not even provide citizen a feeling to true justice since persons in a powerful position often stay above the law. It is a pity that those who hold more power than the law are the decider of constitutional approval. If the leaders of administrative

officers of all ranks were also interested in the Silas, if they were prepared to abide by them and not to discharge their duties in harmful ways but in a manner beneficial to the peoples welfare, if every sector of the community were to concur in maintaining such good behavior, the standard of morality would surely improve, because the basis of each individuals mind desires to be good, so people readily see the advantages of the Siles. (Mahidol, 2011). The Buddha offered natural laws that is justice unarguably justice for all and he set a great example to all disciple. The Buddha frequently made the following comments: I myself am just a member of the sangha and I do not govern, the Dharma governs. The Buddha never considered himself the leader, rather he let the truth govern (Hsing Yun, 2006). The Buddha did not set his power above Dharma, he knew that Dharma is the consistent and eternal and what else could be stronger than the truth. He considered himself just as the founder of what is already existed and can be referred to the pure philosophy. People are innate to have to faith in the truth, as we are all displeased to be deceived. What could be the Dharma in the real political world that can govern the country in a replacement for the politicians? It might just be an ideal world to imagine Thai politicians to act according to the true duty of being in charge of the governor of the democratic country. In the next section, I will begin with an observation of Thai democratic system and problems.

Issue of democracy Preliminary, the definition of democracy, refers very generally to a method of group decision-making characterized by a kind of equality among the participants at an essential stage of the collective decision-making (Standford, 2011). Another definition from Merriam-webster (2011) is government by the people; especially: rule of the majority. From these two definitions, we can see that the wheel in running the country is the decision of the majority of the population in which the theory regards everyone as equal in the quality of making decision. During an election process, apart from nationality and age identification, there is not other qualification required to represent the voice. In fact, first of all it is important for democracy to learn to

respect people from all ranges. Everyone has the right to vote and there should not be any discrimination on other peoples choices. Indeed, democracy sounds as the

fairest system for any society for all people, however since people are so varied in cultures and tradition, this system might not be suitable for every society. There are some critics mentioned about democracy and culture that Western liberal democracy is not suitable for countries of the East since it is perceived to be an integral element of a cultural tradition alien to the traditions of Eastern cultures (Soraj, 1995). It is the democratic system that must be adapted to fit the culture not vice versa because the culture is rooted deeply in every person and society so it would be more difficult to change. It reminds me of how the Buddha teaches different person to end suffering that he used different techniques and methods to clarify his Dharma to each person with different background. Though literally Western practice of democracy may be distinct from the Eastern way, there can be a solution that enhances Eastern style of democracy.

Thai culture and political problems Thai culture is constructed uniquely from other countries with the domination of the elite court overclouded the whole culture. At present, when the description `the Thai culture' is used, Thais are often reminded of cultural practices of the elite members of the court, consisting of elaborate dances, dramas, literature written in ornate language, and so on. An ordinary Thai would not think of folk dances performed by peasants in the North, for instance, as the best example of Thai culture, since the cultural practices of the court represent the "essence" of the culture, so to speak. (Soraj, 1995). This phenomenon does not only exist in Thailand but also in some other countries as well, but there is an untouched line that separate Thai elite group from the rest of the people clearly in the past which make an obvious distinction from many Western societies. With this culture, although lessen than before, still rooted deeply in Thai society and somehow became an obstacle in practicing the same democratic system as in the West. Even though Thailand tried to create its own style of democracy by which indicating the democracy with the King, Thai citizen still seems to be loss of Thai democratic system since the constitution mentioned clearly that the royal family has no power to dictate the government. If so, then the system itself should not be much different from the Western one meaning that there is not much adaptation of a system to Thai culture. The fundamental

problem of the Thai political system is that most of the money is in Bangkok and most of the votes are outside of Bangkok, Mr. Jackson said, describing the impasse (Bernstein, 2010). From this quote, it could mean that the elites who lives in Bangkok do not respect rural peoples voice. Some elites raised an issue that those people in the rural area are not well educated, if so there should also be an educational background check in an election as well. Commonly in every country, the population of rich people is smaller than the rest of the other classes so it is certain that the rich in other countries respect the voice otherwise democracy would lost its system. We as the citizen are far covered from the truth of what are the reasons of conflicts in Thai politics, but fairly speaking the highest power should not be on a group of politicians or anyone, but on the law as the Dharma of the Buddha.

Justice in man We could hardly search for the justice from human beings since humans, according to Buddhism, is formed by five aggregates, corporeality, feeling, perception, mental formation and consciousness (S.III.47; Vbh.1). In these five

aggregates, feeling is an aggregate that would lead to Agati or prejudice. There are four types of prejudice, which are prejudice caused by love or desire (Chandagati), by hatred or enmity (Dosagati), by delusion or stupidity (Mohagati), and by fear (Bhayagati) (D.III.182,228; A.II.18). If someone have power above the law, that would be the disaster of democracy because people are more prone to make judgment with Agati, but all in all it also depends on the personality of a person. Related back to a political case in Thailand, as most of the Thai people know that bad Thai politicians often used power in the wrong ways and pull themselves and relatives out of the convictions. The cause of that behavior is from Chandagati in which they decided to ignore the righteousness and the significance of the law to do according to their will for the love ones showing the weakness of Thai powerful people. Unfortunately, most Thai citizens have already got familiar with this kind of unrighteous habit and lost faith and trust in the law practitioners, such as Thai polices and the judicial courts. Without light faith in the law, it increases a tendency of harmful behaviors in the society, and that is what occurring at the moment. It is obvious that Thai superior groups value the benefit of their groups more than the principle of law and democracy. Referring to the Republic of Plato, when Thrasymachus says, justice is nothing other than the advantage of the stronger,

though it sounds as it lost the true sense of justice, it could be a description for Thai justice (The Republic, Book I, 338c-339a). In addition, the story of the gold ring from Glaucon raised an arguable issue of what is the point of being injustice and justice if the result is the same (The Republic, Book II, 360d). Why should one be moral if there is no punishment from anything? Essentially, according to Buddhist teachings, the ethical and moral principles are governed by examining whether a certain action, whether connected to body or speech is likely to be harmful to one's self or to others and thereby avoiding any actions which are likely to be harmful. (Buddhanet, 2011). The answer is very simple that the reason why one should be

moral and sympathizes other living beings is to restrain from hurting other people. There is also justice in the nature of politics in term of fame, which I believe it is a reward for a great ruler, for whoever does well for the country and people would be posit in an eternal hall of fame. Thus, fame is the result of good action and it is considered as eternal not impermanent.

Buddhist equality The Buddha teaches that all sentient beings have Buddha nature and that all humans are inherently equal. The Karma Assembly system was the highest authority governing monastic life. The goal of the system was to promote a democratic way of life (Hsing Yun, 2006). The Buddha regards everyone as having an equal human rights especially the right to live peacefully. Thus, it should be forbidden to violate other people rights to live in harmony. This belief entails many Buddhist precepts for Sangha community to be a safeguard for ones rights. An intelligent connection in Buddhist teachings, for instance the doctrine of cause and effect, provides the goal for holding the precepts to all Buddhists. The goal is very important as people can step on the right path to reach the goal. A part of the Buddhist path urges the Buddhist to hold on to the precepts, at least the first five for laymen. For the conventional law, some people might follow to be a good person while some just fear of punishment, but a vital for conventional law should be for a peaceful society whereas holding the Buddhist percepts leads to peaceful in oneself. As a matter of fact, both the Buddhist and society goals are equally provided for everyone. Everyone, regardless of rich or poor, has freedom to behave morally and being happy. The happiness that can be obtained by acting morally is, by nature, the one without any cost. Generally, people feel happy when they receive something

from others or self-purchasing since they get the feeling of ownership. To "own" a thing means simply that you get to decide how that thing is used which is to say how, where, and when its potentials are applied. In principle, any concept, which can serve as a noun in language can be owned, provided you can establish a chain of physical command from your decisions all the way down to the applications of the thing's potentials (Cybernetic, 2001). By being able to control, a person would obtain a sense of freedom in directing things as one wish. For instance, an owner of a car can drive freely as well as a ruler of a state who has utmost power to give order. This natural feeling of ownership produces the desire that motivates the eagerness of human beings to search and acquire for good. Consequently, a conflict would arise when a persons want to own the same things that exist externally from the mind. In this case, the Buddha pointed out to different direction as he can see the suffering from owning things. According to The four Noble Truths, the cause of suffering is Tanha or craving, thus the Buddha taught people to learn how to give and bestow. The real freedom should not arrive from controlling external matters but to control the inner self.

Conclusion In conclusion, by a democratic practice in managing large group of Sangha, the community has survived throughout 2,500 years from the day Buddha was preaching. From a large perspective of the culture and characteristic of Thai

community, many problems arose from the wrong understanding of democracy by some groups of people and the weakness of powerful persons who cannot set a good example to the majority. The judicial law in which should be the highest judgment for all is underused and gradually weakened its credit. People who have close

relationship with the powerful elite gain tremendous benefit even sometimes unrighteously due to the foundation of prejudicial function in each persons mind. A danger is not only from prejudice but also from immorality. However, though a ruler is immoral, that ruler might be hesitating to cheat in the case that the law of a country is so sharp that can punish everyone equally. Therefore, the society would truly benefit from the respect people give to the law since the law can be a fair judge and hope of justice. No ruler should have the idea of owning the country because that shows the true meaning of democracy is being dismissed. Then, democracy would

only be a term to deceive the world an uncivilized political system with full of injustice.

References Internet 1) Bernstein, Richard (2010). The Failure of Thailand's Democracy. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/26/world/asia/26iht-letter.html?_r=1 on 27.02.11 2) Buddhanet (2011). Buddhist Ethics. Retrieved from http://www.buddhanet.net/elearning/budethics.htm on 24.02.11 3) Cybernetic (2001). The nature of Ownership. Retrieved from (http://sifter.org/~brandyn/ownership.html on 28.02.11 4) Venerable Master Hsing Yun (2006). A Buddhist Approach to Management. Retrieved from http://www.blia.org/english/publications/booklet/pages/35.htm on 27.02.11 5) Mahidol (2011). Sila Moral Conduct. Retrieved from http://www.mahidol.ac.th/budsir/sila-moral.htm on 24.02.11 6) Merriam-Webster (2011). Dictionary Democracy. Retrieved from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/democracy on 25.02.11 7) Standford (2011). Democracy. Retrieved from http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/democracy on 25.02.11 8) Soraj Hongladarom (1995). Democracy and Culture: A Case for Thailand. Retrieved from http://pioneer.chula.ac.th/~hsoraj/web/Dem.html on 26.02.11 9) The Wandering (2011). Enlightenment, Moral Conduct, and Buddhism. Retrieved from http://www.angelfire.com/indie/anna_jones1/sila.html on 24.02.11 10) Tumsrivichai (2011). Buddhist Sangha population. Retrieved from http://www.tumsrivichai.com/index.php?lay=show&ac=article&Id=538727310& Ntype=56 on 24.02.11 Original Text 1) Plato. (1997). Republic. G.M.A. Grube. The United States of America: Hackett Publishing Company