Thursday, 31 March 2011

Inter-personal Relationships in Human Society as Given on Buddhist Ethics


The man naturally is a social being no man can live without social relationship. The individual is commended or commented when there is a related society. In that way, always the validity is added to human life with social living. When others praise a person he will attempt to do more praiseworthy things. When the society criticizes on individual behavour the individual and society has deeply been emphasized in Buddhist ethics. As a whole Buddhism says that the individual blossoms in the pond of society. This is not only seen in human beings, but also among others beings.
      This society is a convention. It is the collection of people. Individual units make up the society. When the individuals are set apart the convention of society disappears. Therefore society well being depends on individual.
      Social relationships are equally important both in lay society and religious society. Both these forms of social life would be truthful and valuable when the elated individuals are committed to a proper living. With this purpose Buddhism highlights individual relationship in human society. Buddhism teaching gives enormous value to each individual human being in society, in recognizing that validity human life. Buddhism considers no criterion of race, creed, colour, cast, language, wealth or power. For the classification of individual, Buddhism uses ethical criteria. The entire Buddhist society thus divided into four sections as bhikkhu, bhikkhunI, upasaka and upasikA. This classification solely depends on ethical advancement of the individuals.
      There are a number of discourses preached by the Buddha of social relationships of the individual. The ∂IghanikAya bears suttas, like ßigAlavAdasutta, åggaJJasutta, CakkavatisIhanAdasutta, while åGguttaranikAya has Vyaggapajjasutta, ånaNasutta and Kulasutta of this caliber. The ßuttanipAta of the KhuddakanikAya contains µaGgalasutta, Vasalasutta and ParabhAvasutta with a Lange amount of teachings on individual and social. All these discourses pay their attention for the individual welfare in social life and strengthening the healthy relationship between and among individual.
      Even the Buddhist monk’s life, although aims at supra-mundane goals has no considerable, infect on society. The noble friendship is an indispensable path in Buddhist monastic life. The Kosambiyasutta of the MN says of six doctrinal factors, namely ßImIcidhamma which are very helpful for the maintenance of noble friendship.

1.  µettena kAyakammena – with bodily action of loving-kindness.
2.   µettena vacIkamma – with the verbal action of loving kindness
3.  µettena manokamma – with mental action of loving kindness
4.  ßAdhAraNa bhogI – sharing equally
5.  ßIlasAmaJJagatA hoti – be equal in moral behaviour
6.  ∂iTThisAmaJJagatA hoti – be equal in view.

The sutta further says the following on these six principles.
îme kho cha sArANIyA dhammA piyakaraNA, garukaraNA, saGghAya avivAdAya sAmaggiya ekI bhAvAya saMvattanti

=These six memorable factors exist for proper understanding, honoring, treating, prevent arguments co-existence and one-ness (of good friend). These ethical rules are fundamental for friendship at any level.
      Buddhist moral behaviour recommends to develop some qualities for the development of which society is essential.
      Among them the four Sublime states (cattAro brahmavihAra), which is also called four Illimitable (catu appamaJJA) are very significant with relevant to individual relationship to the society.
1.  µettA – loving kindness
2.  KaruNA – compassion
3.  µuditA – sympathetic joy
4.  üpekkhA – equanimity

      These four qualities are considered in Buddhism to be noblest human qualities. Developing them more develops real humanity and lacking of them displays inhumanity. It was in the ßigAlavAdasutta of DN that “brahmAti mAtApitaro (parents are similar to the BrahmA). Parents are having these four qualities towards own children in genuine. Therefore, the Buddha says to consider, regard and treat the parents as Brahmin does to the Buddha. The Buddha relates these four noble qualities to the best being that, then Indian could think of. This emphasis of the Buddha clearly highlights the value of these qualities. The other important factors in them there must be a parallel another group of human being towards whom these qualities are to be developed. 

      Loving kindness (mettA) is the qualities in human mind that shows love, care, and respect for others. Accordingly other’s rights, dignity, and value include this thought. Further with these qualities the human beings can wish the welfare and the happiness of all the other beings. The opposite quality to mettA is anger (dosa). 

      KaruNA is compassion. The Buddha is called µahAkAruNika (the great compassionated one). Commentaries explain karuNa as follows.
Paradukkhe sati sAdhUnaM hadyakampanaM karotIti karuNA
                          (ParamatthadIpanI, com. On the KhuddakapAtha)
=Compassion is the sympathy born in good one’s heart. When there is suffering in others.

      µuditA is the altruistic joy. The opposite quality is jealousy. µuditA means being happy on other’s happiness.

      üpekkhA (equanimity) means treating other human being in equal state. This means man should not disregard or disrespect other man on conventional grounds such as race, colour, castes and creeds. 

      These four qualities can not be developed without fellow human beings and other beings.

      In Buddhism the code of five precepts (paJcasIla paTipadA) is given as basic set of disciplinary behaviours. They are also called ‘niccAsIla” (the very day morality). 
1.  PANAtipAta veramaNi sikkhApadaM samAdiyAmi – I promise the precept of refraining from killing living beings.
2.  ådinnadAna veramaNi sikkhapadaM  samadiyAmi – I promise the precept of refraining from taking what is not given.
3.  KAmesu micchacAra veramaNi sikkhapadaM samadiyAmi – I promise the precept of refraining from unethical sexual misconduct.
4.  µusavAda veramaNi sikkhapadaM samadiyAmi – I promise the precept of refraining from falsehood.
5.  ßurAmeraya majjapamAdaTThAnA veramaNi sikkhapadaM samadiyAmi – I promise the precept of refraining from taking intoxicants which cause lethargy and heedlessness.

These five precepts emphatically represent five needs that are essential for human life, namely, right of life, right of property, right of personal life and emotional, right of personal security and right of psycho-physical. When we analyze the content of these presents they are based on fact of life. These precepts are having universal value. Their timeless significant is to be credited and considered irrespective of conventional barriers, this significant given to social life. If man is not a social being, who is living with others these precepts will be not of any value. These are directly related only to social life. They have their moral effects on the individual, yet the social benefits are much greater. Other basic codes of religious ethics especially in theistic religions are only important. In the followers of that particular religion, yet the Buddhist precepts are universally applicable.

      In Buddhism these precepts are never taught as precepts of sole individual benefit. They have an indispensable social diamension. The VeludvArasutta of SN says three cornered purity (tikoti pArisuddhi) with refraining to each precepts. 

åttanA ca pANAtipAtA paTivirato hoti, paraJca pAnAtipAtA veramaNiyA samAdapeti, pAnAtipAtA ca veramaNiyA vannAM bhAsati. evamassAyaM kAyasamAcAre tikotipArisuddho hoti

=One self refraining from killing learns things cause others to absorb refraining from killing living things praises refraining from killing living things. Thus his bodily behaviour purifies in three aspects. From these three purities one is related to the individual, two are related to others or to the society.

Therefore, the VeludvArasutta is a clear indication of the social value of Buddhist precepts. 
      Buddhism never encourages the attainment of ñinbbAna disregarding society in which he lives. Both before and after the enlightenments, the Buddhist has a lot of commitment towards his follower beings and the society at large. Therefore the entire Buddhist practice became meaningful only in given social context. In Buddhism this is given with an apt simile. It says society is like a pond and the individual is like lotuses. The individual value is made in a given social context. Nor a great being has come into being without the influence of particular society where he was born. The ßigAlavAdasutta of DN shows the widest presentation of the social life of individual. According to Buddhist teachings, this particular sutta which is a set of instruction given to the young house holder called ßigAla, says that there are six social groups to which individual is related. And these contexts are instructed.

µAtApitA disA pubbA AcariyA dakkhinA disA
puttadArA disA pacchA mittAmattA ca uttarA
dAsa kammakArA heTThA uddhaM samaNabrAhmaNA
ete disA namasseyya alamattho kule gihI
= The lay man who wishes prosperity, at household may worship these directions.
East – parents
South- teachers
West – spouse and children
North – friends
Zenith – recluses
Nadir – workers and servants.   

      In the gAthA mentioned about to show the respectful treatment towards given social groups the term ‘namasseyya is used. What it says is that the person has the respectfully treat even to workers. Here the Buddha gives the Buddhist interpretation to one of the age old family custom in ancient India. In his interpretation, new evaluation is given to those social groups who were neglected under brahmanic ethics. 

      According to brahmanic custom a highly respectful state was assigned for the teacher, who definitely was a Brahmin, the duty and respect of the pupil towards the teacher, were unchallengeable and unquestionable. The entire student life depends on the sympathy of the teacher. In no where brahmanic ethic says that the teacher should be respectful towards student. Under this situation the destiny of the pupil depended on the will of teacher. In this ethical background, the Buddha says even the teacher should act respectfully and with the responsibility towards the pupil.

      According to brahmanic ethics the status of woman was very low. In respect of nothing she was important in social value. The woman’s life was confined to the area inside the house wall. She was not allowed to take part in political, economical, religious or social activities. So the destiny of wife depended on the will the husband. In this social background the Buddha says that the husband should work respectfully towards the wife and her dignity should not be disregarded.

      The idea in the ßigAlavAdasutta on employer- employee relationship is most interesting. In the society when the Buddha was born, the social status of slaves and servants were decided at birth. Those women and men who were born to suddas caste were either slaves or servants. Their statuses were inferior than woman of high-caste. At other occasion Hindus sacred texts interprets sudra to be the lower than even to animals. Buddhism does not considered this situation as was done by Brahmanism. According to Buddhism every man is similar in this human quality and dignity. So the Buddha says “birth make no a person, npble or an out-caste” (na jaccA vasalo hoti, na jaccA hoti brahmaNo), Vasalasutta of Sn. This view of Buddhism again emphasizes in the ßigAlavAdasutta of DN by saying that the employer should act respectfully towards the employee.

      The few factors mentioned about clearly show the new ideas presented by Buddhism for social behaviour in sixth century BC. The Buddha was not only concerned about society, but instructed to reform it. The social conventions that were inhumane were severally criticized to bring up a just and fair society. On the other hand, if he was to observe any healthy custom he reinterpreted them in Buddhist terms in order to alleviate the suffering of the masses. This social concern and ideas were challenging the traditional, social assumption which promoted some Brahmins to work against the Buddha. Yet, encouraged by the responses of the majority of people in society the Buddha and his immediate disciple went on their new theories and practices and thereby the Brahmin society was changed to a Buddhist society.   

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