In my previous post about my objections to Buddhist philosophy, my newly minted PhD friend Danny pointed it out to me that my question wasn’t refined enough. And that there was much to potentially dig into. Instead of objecting to potential Buddhist impotence as far as political philosophy is concerned, I should rather direct my enquiry towards what could a Buddhist political philosophy look like. But embarking on this query is likely a multi-year endeavor that asks me to not only dig deeper into my understanding of Buddhist philosophy and its more political moments in history, it also asks me to understand the intricacies of politics.
So, here are the questions I’ll be ruminating on:
Given disarming concepts in Buddhist philosophy like emptiness, not-self, and impermanence, what kind of political system would come out of this? Especially since these are counter to fundamental ideas in the capitalist world view.
Ideas of agency, how are they different? Do Buddhist consider agency in the same way a Abrhamaic follower does and a capitalist does? How is it different and how do they create legal systems differently as a result.
What do successful Buddhist political entities look like in history? From Akbar, who converted to Buddhism after experiencing a life of bloodshed, to Emperor Wu of Liang, who promoted Buddhism in China, and the founding of Japanese society on explicit Buddhist principles molded with Confucian ones, there are plenty of examples of Buddhist politics in the past. What light do they shed on modern politics, especially when modern Buddhism encounters modern ideas.
How does the monastic order, its rules, systems, and especially intents, translate into modern secular society. Can a society be built on similar principles? More importantly, what is the Buddhist approach to leadership? Especially given that masters are respected, ideally, for the level and quality of their realization. Is this at all different from the Platonic philosopher king?
What role does meditation play in building a political system? Does it prioritize meditation as a prerequisite to rule? Or a key part of diplomatic and policy decisions? How does it thus view other governments without this priority?
These are just a few of the questions I’m curious about as I explore this large area. There are certainly books pertaining to Buddhist ethics, economics, and even politics, but I believe there hasn’t been a concerted effort in the books that I’ve seen, as study of Buddhist thought by Westerners is still nascent.