Monday, 28 March 2011

Emphasis of Individual and Social Welfare in Equal Terms


Emphasis of Individual and Social Welfare in Equal Terms

The individual and society are two phenomena that are related to each other and support each other too. There is no a society without individuals. There is no protected and organized individual life without the society. Therefore, these two phenomena cannot exist separate from each other. Some scholars who studied Buddhism have named Buddhism as an asocial religion. Max Weber popularized this idea in his book named ‘Religions in India’. For such conclusions, the scholars used the sources in Buddhism that encourage solitary life. The KhaggavisANasutta in Sn of KN admonishes monks to live alone as a rhinoceros.

Just by looking at one sutta like this, it is errorness to give a conclusion that the entire teaching is asocial. There are may other suttas given by the Buddha which emphasized individual welfare always together with his social life. Such discourses are ßigAlovAdasutta of DN, µaGgalasutta of Kp of KN, ParAbhavasutta, Vasalasutta and ∂hammikasutta of Sn of KN, Vyaggapajjasutta of AN, KUTadantasutta of DN. Because of the social significance of Buddhist discourses, E.F. Schumacher in his momentous work named ‘Small is Beautiful’ says that Buddhist teachings are the best for a healthy human society in constructive development of human society as well. He says “(according to Buddhism) development does not start with goods, it starts with people and their education, organization and discipline.” According to this scholar, in the present society dominated by capitalists socio-economic structure the competition has become a dangerous evil, competition could be seen in every nook and corner of social life causing unhappiness and damage to human beings, human society and natural environment. Buddhism, which encourages not the competition but the co-operation, is seen as the most suitable solution to the up rising economic social and political unrest.

Buddhism does not deviate individual welfare from social welfare, it emphasizes that individual, social and spiritual welfare have to go hand in hand in creating a world happy for all beings. This philosophy of Buddhism can be better studied from the teachings of the five precepts, which is the fundamental code of ethic in Buddhist moral path. The first precept among the five respects the right of life of every individual; it aims the preservation of lives of all human beings, non-human beings and of other living things as well. The second precept respects the right of property of each member of the society; next to one’s life, his property is dear to every being, if individuals’ properties are not protected beings feel no safety of their living, therefore, Buddhism takes this as second important precept. The third precept respects the right of personal life; every individual in the society likes and wants his personal life (sexual and family life) not to be disturbed by any other in any way. Therefore, Buddhism assigns third place to this fact of life and establishes third moral precept of refraining of sexual misconduct. The fourth precept is refraining from faulthood, it relates to verbal discipline of the being, the ability of expression naturally inherited by man should not be misused in a way that it disturbed oneself and others, that principle is taught by this fourth precept. The fifth precept is refraining from intoxicants, physical and mental activeness and alertness are essential for successful individual and social life. Intoxicants intoxicate man preventing the use of best ability that lie in human personality, in order to prevent that Buddhism admonishes this fifth precept of refraining from all forms of intoxicants. The five precepts given here and their application surely are effective not only for individual welfare but also for the welfare of entire society.

The path of purity begins with these five precepts; the social significance of the five precepts is further seen from the fact that the CakkhavattisIhanadasutta of DN says that the wheel rolling monarch (cakkhavattirAja) gets other countries under his control by admonishing with these five precepts.

PANo na hantabbao, adinnaM nAdAtabbaM, kAmesumicchA na caritabbA, musA na bhAsitabbA, majjaM na pAtabbaM, yathA bhuttaJca bhuJjatha.

=Lives should not be killed, what is not given should not be stolen, adultery should not be committed, lies should not be told, intoxicants should not be drunk and enjoy as you are used to.”

      With this admonition, the monarch emphasizes the five precepts to be the basic law and moral principles of the country for they are so important for the welfare of social life.

The ßigAlovAdasutta of DN records the Buddha’s following advice to householder ßigAla.

Yatho kho gahapatiputtA ariyasAvakassa cattaro kammakilesA pahINa honti. CatUhi thAnehi pApakammaM na karoti. Cha ca bhogAnaM apAyamukhAni na seveti. so evaM cuddasapApakApagato chaddisApa icchAdi ubho lokavijayAya paTipanno hoti. tassa ayaM ceva loko Araddho hoti paro ca loko. so kAyassa bhedA parammaraNA sugatiM saggaM lokaM uppajjati.

=O householder! Indeed, the noble disciple has given up four defilements of action (killing, stealing, adultery and faulthood). He does not do evil deeds in four ways (chandA-desire, dosa-anger, bhaya-fear, moha-delusion), he does not associate the six ways of downfall of wealth. He thus refrains from fourteen evils and protected from six directions, he has entered for the victory of both worlds. It is the world and next world are accomplished. He will be born on the heaven after in the breaking of holy and death.

In the Vyaggapajjasutta of AN, both the personal and spiritual development has been emphasized in equal terms for the well-being of this worldly life, four things are recommended
1. üTThAnasampadA - vigilance,
2. ĀrakkhasampadA - protection,
3. KalyAnamittata - good friendship
4. ßamajIvikata - balance  life.

Vigilance is one of the essential factors for the progress of personal life; it is the quality contrary to letherginess and laziness. One who lives with these two negative qualities can never progress in his own efforts, having abandoned them one should be vigilant in the following five ways.

1.  ∂akkho – clever
2.  ånalaso – active (not lazy)
3.   TatrUpAya vimamsAya samannAgato – clever in performing acts according to time and situation
4.  ålaM kAtuM – capable of doing
5.  ålaM saMvidhAtuM – capable of organizing

The second principle is ĀrakkhasampadA or protecting what one has earned, it is difficult earning wealth, money, resources or fame. One should be very careful in using what one has earned so that what is earned not to be destroyed carelessly. To much indulgence to enjoyments, bad companionship etc could be evil forces to destroy what one has earned. Not spending at all what one has earned and too much expenditure are equally harmful; therefore, the protection of earned wealth is very significant for a successful worldly life.

The third principle given here is the association of good friends, evil friends always make harm economically, spiritually and emotionally. Therefore, in the progress of life the association of good friends becomes bliss to the one who wishes the progress of this worldly life. Therefore, one should associate with good friends and should be always very selective in choosing friends.

The fourth principle given in the Vyaggapajjasutta is leading a balance or even life with a simile the Buddha illustrate how one should live a balance life, if there is a tank to which water is supplied with four doors and water sent out with four doors. If one closes, the doors that water come the tank will be empty, if only the doors that take water away are closed, the water could be over flown and wasted, so the doors should be opened and closed with lot of care in order not to destroy the tank.

The four qualities recommended in the sutta for spiritual advancement are saddhA (confidence), sIla (morality), cAga (generosity) and paJJA (wisdom). These four qualities are recommended for the spiritual advancement of the person.

The Buddha says if the economic life and moral life of the individual and society are not well organized surely the results could be disastrous. When the individuals in society are lacking with economic stability and moral security there will be theft, looting, assassinations and property destruction. Therefore, it is the duty of the king or the state to organize for proper economy and proper morality. When the country is thus organized people will be happy and manage the things well in their happy way of life.
“Te manussA sakammapasutA raJJo janapadaM na vihethessanti. mahA ca raJJo rAsiko bhavissati. KhemaTThitA janapadA akaNThaka anuppīlA manussA ca mudA modamAnA apAratagharA maJJe viharissanti.
                                                                                                (KUTadantasutta, DN)

=Those men also busy with their works will not disturb the king’s state. The king will be with a great treasury, protected country free from disaster and harassment and happy and contended people will live with opened doors.”

These information given from suttas show that not only Buddhism emphasizes individual welfare but also social welfare, therefore, Buddhism is not an asocial religion bit it is a social religion which emphasizes the individual welfare both materially and spiritually as well. That’s why it has become the religion of a vast majority world’s population even 2549 years after its birth.

Additional note

1. PANAtipAtA killing being
2. ådinnAdAnA stealing what is given
3. KAmesumicchAcArA engaging in sexual misconduct
4. µusAvAdA telling untruth

Catuhi ThAnehi pApakamma nakaroti
1. Canda desire
2. ∂osa anger
3. Bhaya fear
4. µoha dilution

Cha bhogAnaM apAyamukhAni
1.   Being  indulged in intoxicants
2.   Being indulged to women
3.   Being indulged to games (where money is batted)
4.   Being indulged to constant sleeping
5.   Being indulged to wondering the street for enjoyment
6.   Being indulged to laziness

µAtApitA disA pubbA AcariyA dakkhiNAdisA
puttadAra disApacchA mittAmttA ca uttarA
dAsakammakArA heTThA uddhaM samaNabrahmaNA
ete disA namsseya alamattho kule gihI
= The direction east is mother and father, teacher (students) are in direction south
Wife and children are in direction west, friends are in direction north
Workers and slaves are in down, recluses and Brahmins are in up
 This is the directions should pay homage, in lay family benefit are.

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