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Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Ancient India


Sunken Priesthood

essay is numbered as Chapter III in the file of the Ancient Regime and contains 16
foolscap-typed pages. This Chapter also seems to be left incomplete.—

priestly profession in the ancient Aryan Society was monopolised by the Brahmins. None
except a Brahmin could become a priest. As custodians of religion, the Brahmins were the
guides of the people in moral and spiritual matters. They were to set the standard for
people to follow. Did the Brahmins act up to the standard? Unfortunately,
all the evidence we have, shows that the Brahmins had fallen
to the utmost depth of moral degradation.

Shrotriya Brahmin was supposed not to keep with him a store
of provision lasting for more than a week. But they had systematically trampled upon this rule and were addicted to the use of the
things stored up ; stores, to wit, of foods, drinks,
clothing, equipages, bedding, perfumes, and curry-stuffs. The Brahmins were addicted to
visiting shows such as :—

Nautch dances (nakkam).

Singings of songs (gitam).

Instrumental music (vaditam).

Shows at fairs (pekham).

Ballads recitations (akkhanam).

Hand music (panisaram).

The chanting of bards (vetals).

Tam-tam playing (kumbhathunam).

Fair scenes (sobhanagarkam).

Acrobatic feats by Kandalas (Kandala-vamsa-dhopanam).

Combats of elephants, horses, buffaloes, bulls, goats, rams,

and quails.

Bouts at quarter staff, boxing, wrestling. (13-16)
Sham-fights, roll-calls, manoeuvres, reviews.


were addicted to games and recreations; that is to say,

Games on boards with eight, or with ten rows of squares.

The same games played by imagining such boards in the air.

Keeping going over diagrams drawn on the ground so that one-steps only where one ought to

Either removing the pieces or men from a help with one’s
nail, or putting them into a heap, in each case without shaking it. He who shakes the
heap, loses.

Throwing dice.

Hitting a short stick with a long one.

Dipping the hand with the fingers stretched out in lac, or red dye, or flour water, and
striking the wet hand on the ground or on a wall, calling out `what shall it be?‘ and showing the form
required—elephants, horses .

Games with balls.

Blowing through toy pipes made of leaves.

Ploughing with toy ploughs.

Turning summersaults.

Playing with toy windmills made of palm leaves.

Playing with toy measures made of palm leaves. (14, 15) Playing with toy carts or toy

Guessing at letters traced in the air, or on a playfellow’s back.

Guessing the playfellow’s thoughts.

Mimicry of deformities.


were addicted to the use of high and large couches ; that is
to say:

Moveable settees, high, and six feet long (Asandi).

Divans with animal figures carved on the supports (Pallanko).

Goat’s hair coverings with very long fleece (Gonako).

Patchwork counterpanes of many colours (Kittaka).

White blankets (Patika).

Woollen coverlets embroidered with flowers ( Patalika).

Quilts stuffed with cotton wool (Tulika).

Coverlets embroidered with figures of lions, tigers, & c.,

Rugs with fur on both sides (Uddalom).

Rugs with fur on one side (Ekantalomi).

Coverlets embroidered with gems (Katthissam).

Silk coverlets (Koseyyam).

Carpets large enough for sixteen dancers (Kittakam). (14-16) Elephant, horse and chariot rugs.

Rugs of antelope skins sewn together (Aginepaveni).

Rugs of skins of the plantain

Carpets with awnings above them (Sauttarakkhadam).

Sofas with red pillows for the head and feet“. The
Brahmins were addicted to the use of means for adorning and beautifying themselves; that
is to say : Rubbing in scented powders on one’s body, shampooing it, and bathing it, patting the limbs with clubs
after the manner of wrestlers, the use of mirrors, eye-ointments, garlands, rouge,
cosmetics, bracelets, necklaces, walking-sticks, reed cases for drugs, rapiers, sunshades,
embroidered slippers, turbans, diadems, whisks of the yak tail and long-fringed white
robes. The Brahmins were addicted to such low conversation as these :

of kings, of robbers, of ministers of state ; tales of war,
of terrors, of battles ; talk about foods and drinks,
clothes, beds, garlands, perfumes ; talks about
relationships, equipages, villages, towns, cities and countries ;
tales about women, and about heroes ; gossip at street corners, or places whence water is
fetched ; ghost stories ; desultory talk ; speculations
about the creation of the land or sea, or about existence and non-existence. The Brahmins
were addicted to the use of wrangling phrases: such as:

don’t understand this doctrine and discipline, I do.” “How should you know about
this doctrine and discipline?” “You have fallen into wrong views. It is I who am
in the right.” “ I am speaking to the point, you
are not.“You are putting last what ought to come
first, and first what ought to come last.

you’ve ex-cogitated so long, that is all quite upset.”
You are proved to be wrong.” “ Set to work to
clear your views.” “ Disentangle yourself if you

Brahmins were addicted to taking messages, going on errands, and acting as go-betweens; to
wit, on kings, ministers of state, Kshatriyas, Brahmans, or young men, saying: Go there, come hither, take this with you, bring that from

Brahmins were tricksters, drone out (of holy words for
pray), diviners, and exorcists,
ever hungering to add gain to gain.’

Brahmins earned their living by wrong means of livelihood, by low arts, such as these:

Palmistry—prophesying long life, prosperity, & c.,
(or the reverse from marks on a child’s hands, feet, & c.)

Divining by means of omens and signs.

   (3) Auguries drawn from thunderbolts and
other celestial portents.

Prognostication by interpreting dreams.

Fortune-telling from marks on the body.

Auguries from the marks on cloth gnawed by mice.

Sacrificing to Agni.

Offering oblations from a spoon. (9-13) Making offerings to gods of husks, of the red
powder between the grain and the husk, of husked grain ready
for boiling, or ghee and of oil.

Sacrificing by spewing mustard seeds, & c., into the
fire out

one’s mouth.

Drawing blood from one’s right knee as a sacrifice to the


Looking at the knuckles, & c., and, after muttering a
charm, divining whether a man is well born of luck or not.

Determining whether the site for a proposed house or pleasance,
is luck or not.

Advising on customary law.

Laying demons in a cemetery.

Laying ghosts.

Knowledge of the charms to be used when lodging in an earth house.

Snake charming.

The poison craft.

The scorpion craft.

The mouse craft.

The bird craft.

The crow craft.

Foretelling the number of years that man has yet to live.

Giving charms to ward off arrows.

The animal wheel.

Brahmins earned their living by wrong means of livelihood, by low arts, such as these:

of the signs of good and bad qualities in the following things and of the marks in them
denoting the health or luck of their owners : to wit, gems,
staves, garments, swords, arrows, bows, other weapons, women, men, boys, girls, slaves,
slave-girls, elephants, horses, buffaloes, bulls, oxen, goats, sheep, fowls, quails, iguanas, herrings, tortoises, and other animals.

Brahmins, earned their living by wrong means of livelihood by low arts such as soothe
saying, to the effect that,

chiefs will march out.

home chiefs will attack and the enemies retreat.

enemies’ chiefs will attack, and ours will retreat.

home chiefs will gain the victory, and ours will suffer defeat.

foreign chiefs will gain the victory on this side, and ours will suffer defeat.

will there be victory on this side, defeat on that. The Brahmins, while living on food
provided by the faithful, earn their living by wrong means of livelihood, by such low arts
as fore-telling:

There will be an eclipse of the Moon.

There will be an eclipse of the Sun.

There will be an eclipse of a star (Nakshatra).

There will be aberration of the Sun or the Moon.

The Sun or the Moon will return to its usual path.

There will be aberrations of the stars.

The stars will return to their usual course.

There will be a jungle fire.

There will be a fall of meteors.

There will be an earthquake.

The god will thunder.

There will be rising and setting, clearness and dimness of the Sun or the Moon or the
stars, or foretelling of each of these fifteen phenomena that they will betoken such and
such a result.

Brahmins earned their living by wrong means of the livelihood, by low arts, such as these:

an abundant rainfall.

a deficient rainfall.

a good harvest.

scarcity of food.



a pestilence.

a healthy season.

on the fingers.

without using the fingers Summing up large totals.

ballads, poetising.


The Brahmins, while
living on food provided by the faithful, earn their living by
wrong means of livelihood by low arts, such as:

Arranging a lucky day for marriages in which the bride or
bridegroom is brought home.

Arranging a lucky day for marriages in which the bride or bridegroom is sent forth.

Fixing a lucky time for the conclusion of treaties of peace (or using charms to procure

Fixing a lucky time for the outbreak of hostilities (or using charms to make discord).

Fixing a lucky time for the calling in of debts (or charms for success in throwing dice).

Fixing a lucky time for the expenditure of money (or charms to bring ill luck to an
opponent throwing dice).

Using charms to make people lucky.

Using charms to make people unlucky.

Using charms to procure abortion.

Incantations to keep a man’s jaws fixed.

Incantations to bring on dumbness.

Incantations to make a man throw up his hands.

Incantations to bring on deafness.

Obtaining oracular answers by means of the magic mirror.

Obtaining oracular answers through a girl possessed.

Obtaining oracular answers from a god.

The worship of the Sun.

The worship of the Great One.

Bringing forth flames from one’s mouth.

Invoking Siri, the goddess of Luck. The Brahmins earned
their living by wrong means of livelihood, by low arts, such as these:

Vowing gifts to a god if a certain benefit be granted.

Paying such vows.

Repeating charms while lodging in an earth house.

Causing virility.

Making a man impotent.

Fixing on lucky sites for dwellings.

Consecrating sites.

Ceremonial rinsing of the mouth.

Ceremonial bathing.

Offering sacrifices.

Administering emetics and purgatives.

 (15) Purging people to relieve the head (that is by
giving drugs to

make people sneeze).

Oiling people’s ears (either to make them grow or to heal

sores on them).

Satisfying people’s eyes (soothing them by dropping

oils into them).

Administering drugs through the nose.

Applying collyrium to the eyes.

Giving medicinal ointment for the eyes.

Practising as an oculist.

Practising as a surgeon.

Practising as a doctor for children.

Administering roots and drugs.

Administering medicines in rotation.


Continuity and Change in the Economic Ethics of Buddhism:
Evidence From the History of Buddhism in India, China and Japan

Gregory K. Ornatowski

Boston University, ISSN 1076-9005


Buddhist economic ethics–that is Buddhist values with regard to wealth
and economic activity, either within society or within the sangha–are
often slighted in Western scholarly studies of Buddhism even though they
play a significant role as a part of overall Buddhist philosophy regarding
social life and even enlightenment itself. This is due perhaps partly to
an implicit interpretation of Buddhism among some scholars as being a religion
focused primarily upon an individualistic pursuit of enlightenment rather
than also a set of practiced social, political, and economic ethics. To
an extent of course this characterization holds true, for at least a part
of both the Theravaada and Mahaayaana traditions. Yet it also ignores clearly
developed Buddhist attitudes and values toward economic activities, some
explicitly expressed in the various Vinaya codes for monks, others less
explicitly, but still clearly enough, in various stories and suutras which
lay out general
principles of behavior for lay believers.

This paper offers an outline of the development of Buddhist economic
ethics using examples from early Theravaada Buddhism in India and the
Mahaayaana tradition as it evolved in India, medieval China, and medieval
and early modern Japan, in order to illustrate the pattern of continuities
and transformations
these ethics have undergone. By “economic ethics” the paper refers to four
broad areas: (1) attitudes toward wealth, i.e., its accumulation, use, and distribution,
including the issues of economic justice and equality/ inequality; (2) attitudes
toward charity, i.e., how and to whom wealth should be given; (3) attitudes
toward human labor and secular occupations in society; and (4)
actual economic activities of temples and monasteries which reflect the lived-practice
of Buddhist communities’ economic ethics. By “Buddhist,” the paper refers to
mainline Buddhist thinking in history, as represented by the various Vinaya
codes, suutras and stories, and economic activities of major sects, monasteries,

Since I will be dealing with a range of “Buddhisms” as they developed
in various times and places, I have relied upon previous scholarly work
to help define what the general trends of the economic ethics of these
various “Buddhisms” were. This approach assumes that there was no one
Buddhist economic ethic for all of these different times and places,
just as there is no one “Buddhism.” Yet through an examination of the
economic ethics of these different “Buddhisms,” certain continuities and differences between
them become clear. Moreover, the presence of these continuities would
seem to allow us to make a number of tentative conclusions about what
the development and nature of these various Buddhist economic ethics
as a whole might share. These
can be summarized as follows:

(1) Buddhist soteriologies affect Buddhist economic ethics in fundamental
ways. By defining how enlightenment is achieved, what enlightenment is
and what has ultimate value, Buddhist soteriologies set the parameters
for what Buddhist economic ethics will be in any particular tradition
or school of Buddhism.

(2) Within these soteriologies, the major Buddhist concepts of karma, anaatman, “suunyataa and pratiitya­samutpaada (dependent
coorigination) each help determine the shape of the Buddhist economic
ethics of any particular school. However, the impact of these conceptions
ultimately is ambiguous and depends to a large extent upon the interpretation
them within the particular sociocultural and historical situation.

(3) Contrary to the common image of monk and laity ethics being two
completely separate realms with little commonality, the ideal economic
ethics of monks and laity share a common overall principle (that of nonattachment
to wealth). Yet, they still differ in both specifics (rules regarding
wealth, labor, and the like) and specificity (how explicitly they define
the proper
attitudes and morals regarding wealth, labor, and so on).

(4) The development and evolution of Buddhist economic ethics within
Theravaada and Mahaayaana reveal both lines of continuity between
these traditions (e.g., lay ethics emphasizing sharing of wealth with
others) as well
as clear transformations in ideas (e.g., Zen attitudes toward monk labor).
Transformations usually are traceable to the influence of indigenous thought
or of other historical peculiarities in the way Buddhism was accepted in the
new country where it entered (e.g., China and Japan).

(5) Buddhist economic ethics tend not to be just the reflection of religious
attitudes toward the economy but also religious attitudes toward the
state (polity). This latter relationship (Buddhism and the polity) usually
was characterized by interdependence and reciprocity, that is, state
support for the sangha in return for the sangha’s spiritual protection
and legitimization of the state. The implication of this relationship
for Buddhist economic ethics was that they usually (a) did not challenge
or question the existing economic distribution of wealth but emphasized
instead religious giving to the sangha
(daana) as the ideal social action; and (b) relied upon secular authorities
(the king or state) to help define the specifics of lay Buddhist economic ethics,
along with guidelines given in various suutra. (6) Buddhist economics ethics
for the laity were not inherently antagonistic to the development of capitalism,
but in fact supported a primitive capitalism among the merchant classes in early
Buddhist India, and medieval China and Japan. This could be seen in both merchant-type
lay ethics, which encouraged the accumulation of wealth along with certain restraints
on consumption of this wealth, and direct economic activities by Buddhist monasteries
themselves, which led to innovations in business practices and implicit support
for commercial
tendencies in society as a whole.

(7) Issues of economic equality and distributive justice were dealt
with in Buddhist economic ethics primarily through the ideas of karma,
religious giving
(daana), and compassion (karu.naa) and focused less on changing
the overall existing distribution of wealth than on cultivating the proper ethical
attitudes toward wealth and giving. At the same time, in the occasional use of
Maitreya by revolutionary and other protest movements, there were the beginnings
of the development of a more socially activist and transformative economic ethic
focusing on ideas about economic and political justice.

In the remainder of this paper, I will examine the above themes in more
depth, beginning with evidence from early Theravaada and then moving
on to Mahaayaana in its main forms in India, China, and Japan. Given
the space limitations, only the major trends of both teachings and actual
economic practices will be discussed. Together however, these offer sufficient
evidence to form an overall picture of Buddhist ethics as they evolved
over time, as well as some tentative conclusions about the relationship
between Buddhist economic ethics and such issues as the development of
capitalism and concepts of economic

Theravaada Buddhist Economic Ethics

The economic ethics of Theravaada Buddhism, especially attitudes toward
wealth, poverty, charity, and labor cannot be understood without understanding
something about Buddhist soteriologies (i.e., theories of how a person
achieves enlightenment). The earliest Buddhist soteriology was summarized
in the Four Noble Truths: (1) suffering exists; (2) the cause of suffering
is craving (attachment); (3) there is a way out of this suffering; and
(4) this way is the Eightfold Path. This Eightfold Path consisted of three
types of activity: (1) moral conduct; (2) mental discipline; and (3) wisdom.
Moral conduct in turn included three of the eight components of the Path:
(a) right conduct; (b) right speech; and (c) right livelihood, each of
which involved various prescriptions for behavior, attitudes, and mental

Early Buddhist soteriologies must also be understood by examining the
concepts of karma, anaatman, nirvana/sa.msaara and pratiitya­samutpaada (dependent
coorigination) to see how they helped define such soteriologies. Karma, for example
was understood to apply to all actions including moral ones and implied that
a person’s present situation was the result of past acts, thoughts, and feelings
in this life and previous ones. It also taught that the effects of a person’s
actions carry on beyond the present life into future lives. Therefore, meritorious
acts in the present life will result in rewards in future lives. Karma thus can
be conceived of as a Buddhist basis for justice in the sense that through it
each individual received what he or she deserved in life based upon past actions.
This of course included the economic realm with the implication that one’s economic
position (i.e., wealth) was the result of one’s actions in this or previous lives-with
good ethical actions leading to a better position in terms of wealth and bad
ethical actions leading to a worse position. In this way, karma offered a rational
explanation for social, economic, and political inequalities while also implying
that economic justice already was achieved, i.e., persons economically
have what they deserve, at least to start off. Karma thus contributed to a strong
sense of morality as conditioning one’s existence and to a stress on individual
responsibility rather than social forces as the cause of one’s
present situation.

In addition to karma, the Buddhist concepts of nirvana and sa.msaara
were also central to understanding Buddhist soteriologies and had important
implications for views toward poverty and wealth. In early Theravaada
Buddhism, for example, nirvana and sa.msaara were viewed as far apart-nirvana
being the “unborn” and “unbecome”-and defined in terms of what sa.msaara
was not. The soteriological goal was to escape sa.msaara through escaping
craving, and to do this through practicing the Eightfold Path. Only
when a person had escaped sa.msaara could they attain nirvana, whether
was conceived of as an ethical state or also as a metaphysical one.
The implication for early Theravaada Buddhist believers was that to
nirvana right ethical behavior
was a key.1 Another implication was that since sa.msaara had little value,
economic activities (which generally were associated with the realm of sa.msaara)
could never have genuine religious significance.

The concept of pratiitya­samutpaada was a third major concept
that helped determine Buddhist soteriology. It did so by pointing to
the interdependence of all things and actions. In ethical terms, this
implied that although the individual was ultimately responsible for his
own karma, since all sentient beings are connected and since compassion
is a virtue, helping one’s fellow sentient beings also had value, including
help of a material nature. Thus there was a strong moral basis for giving
and not withholding material or
spiritual assistance to others.

Finally, the concept of anaatman implied that since no eternal
unchanging aatman (self) existed, there was no reason to withhold
to others, or to hoard wealth, since there was no “I” that needed to be protected
or defended more than others. Yet, the idea of anaatman also held a potential
paradox. That is, if there was no self, then what individual or personal moral
obligation could exist? Could ethics even be possible if there was no self? The
most common early Theravaada Buddhist answer to this was that whether there was
a self or not, karma continued to exist and wrongful moral actions led to negative
karma while right actions led to positive karma. Thus the nonexistence of self
did not imply that actions and their results, or ethical responsibility, could
not exist.2

The above discussion highlights the correspondence between the key concepts
of Theravaada Buddhism and attitudes toward wealth, poverty, and ethical
action. Based upon this, in the earliest Buddhism most kinds of economic
behavior of monks (e.g., labor, agricultural production, and possession
or accumulation of
wealth outside of one’s robe and begging bowl)3 were proscribed,
and monk economic ethics were mainly negative. With the passage of time, however,
some Vinayas were relaxed. Individual monks were allowed to keep money, and monasteries
were allowed to sell or use for profit goods donated to them, as well as lend
out money and collect interest-as long as the profits went to the benefit of
the Three Treasures, i.e., the sangha, the Buddha, and the Dharma. Economic activities
undertaken by individual monks for personal profit, however, as well as monk
labor (whether it involved agriculture or commercial activities), continued to
be proscribed.4

In contrast to these early monk economic ethics, early economic ethics
for the laity appeared clearly different since they allowed the laity
to hold wealth and even praised the creation of wealth through diligent
work following one’s chosen or given occupation. However, lay economic
ethics also stressed the avoidance of craving or attachment to such wealth
and that it must be shared with the sangha and with family and friends.
In addition, early lay economic ethics praised the value of labor and
devotion to most secular occupations (with
some exceptions).

Such a more lenient attitude toward lay accumulation of wealth and labor
was not simply the result of monks trying to ensure their own material
support from the laity. It was also the result of a clear and consistent
logic in the early Buddhist view of reality that what had ultimate value
for both monk and laity was the individual attainment of enlightenment.
Although best pursued as a monk, such attainment of enlightenment was
also possible for lay people. As a result, economic ethics, whether for
monk or for laity, ultimately were directed toward furthering this goal
of enlightenment. For both, the key to achieving this goal was overcoming
craving. As the laity needed to earn their living, accumulating wealth
was allowed and even encouraged as long as too much craving was avoided.
Since the monks were on a different point in the path toward nirvana
and required stricter discipline, it was considered better for them not
to accumulate or hold wealth at all. This system required that the laity
support the sangha in order to allow individual monks to devote themselves
to their own enlightenment, but also so that they could teach the Dharma
to the laity and give knowledge and understanding which furthered the
process of laity

enlightenment. Through giving to the sangha (daana), the laity earned
merit which would help them receive better karma; by avoiding economic activities
in favor of meditation and teaching, monks spread the Dharma and contributed
to the overall supreme goal of maximum progress toward enlightenment
for all.5

Lay economic ethics taught in early Buddhism thus focused upon three
areas: (1) accumulating wealth through hard work, diligence and setting
certain restrains on one’s own consumption; (2) choosing and pursuing
the right occupation (i.e., avoiding occupations such as killing animals,
trade in weapons, and the like); and (3) sharing wealth honestly acquired
with family, friends and the sangha. Such merchant-type values in early
Buddhist lay ethics contrasted sharply with the economic ethics of
Brahminism, which reflected the
patriarchal clan­based ethics of an agricultural society.6

Support for this influence of merchant-class values upon early Buddhist
lay ethics can be found in early Buddhist suutras and stories which refer
to lay wealth in a way which tends to assume a certain amount of wealth
already being held, and in the strong emphasis upon giving and receiving
rather than the high
value put in Brahmin ethics upon sacrifices.7 The influence
of merchant-class ethics is also apparent in the three main themes of such suutras
and stories: (1) diligence and honesty in acquisition of wealth; (2) restrain
of one’s own consumption in order to accumulate wealth; and (3) reinvestment
of this wealth to produce more wealth, merit and happiness for self
and others.

The best-known early suutra which exhibits these themes was the Singaalovaada
or Admonition to Singaala, sometimes referred to as
the Buddhist laymen’s Vinaya. In it an ethic of diligent accumulation
of wealth through hard work, restrained consumption, and reinvestment
of profits
into one’s business is stressed, as in the following passage:

What is particularly interesting about this passage is that it urges that
only a fourth of all one’s wealth should be consumed for daily living while
the other three-fourths should be saved, most of it to be reinvested in
one’s trade. This
reflects a merchant­based mentality which while perhaps not ascetic in the
same sense as the so­called Protestant ethic, does put a strong emphasis
on saving and reinvestment. The suutra goes on to give specific advice on how
to avoid squandering this accumulated wealth by avoiding such things as idleness,
bad friends, addiction to intoxicants, roaming the streets at odd hours, frequenting
shows, and indulging in gambling.9

Other early suutras emphasize strongly the virtue of nonattachment to wealth
as the foundation of all morals in society. This can be seen in both the Cakkavatti­Siihanaada and Kuu.tadanta
, in which the generosity of a righteous king for the destitute becomes
the basis for the establishment of virtue and prosperity in lay society. At
the same time, a lack of such generosity was presented as the beginning of
a steady expansion of vice
and evil and a steady decay of society.10 Suutras
such as the Mahaa­Sudassana Sutta, moreover, by stressing the impermanence
of all wealth and worldly possessions, no matter how great their extent, reinforced
the value of nonattachment to wealth.11

With the passage of time, the lay virtue of generosity and giving only became
more and more predominant. This was reflected in the many stories in the suutras
of unbridled generosity leading to good karma and spiritual advancement.12 At the same time, while suutras pointed out the dangers
of wealth in terms of creating craving, poverty was never advocated for the
but was viewed as a “suffering in the world for a layman.”13

Yet even though giving became the supreme lay virtue, there was a subtle difference
between the earlier suutras, in which giving to both the poor and the
sangha was urged, and later suutras, in which giving to the sangha was the
main theme. In this way daana (giving to the sangha) became the central
concept of lay economic ethics. By giving to the sangha, the individual not
only furthered his own soteriological quest and karma, but benefited society
and contributed to the betterment of others’ karma through supporting the educational
act of spreading the Dharma.14

The concept of daana along with the concept of karma also contribute
to a certain set of ideas about economic justice in Theravaada Buddhist economic
ethics. On the one hand, the notion of karma has been used to argue in favor of
an idea of justice existing in Theravaada Buddhist economic ethics, as

Such equality before the law of kamma resembles the West’s notion of procedural
justice . . . there is equality of opportunity in the sense that the law of
kamma treats all evenhandedly in rewarding virtue and punishing vice, and the
determining essence of virtue (the attitude of nonattachment) is presumably
an equal possibility for all.15

Economic inequalities existing in society thus can be viewed as the result
of past karmic acts and do not violate a sense of justice but in fact confirm

On the other hand, the concept of karma can also be used to argue against an
idea of justice in Theravaada Buddhism. This is possible through emphasizing
an interpretation of karma which implies that the way to nirvana is through
a slow accumulation of individual merit effected by religious giving and individual
acts of compassion rather than an interest in effecting social justice in the
Western sense of an equitable distribution of wealth:

. . . The law of kamma, with its all encompassing explanation of existing
inequalities, tends to do away with Buddhist perplexity over the plight of
the poor. Buddhist emphasis on the virtue of charity tends to outweigh interest
in justice and so ethical reflection is shifted away from evaluation of the
existing distribution of wealth.16

What both of the above arguments share is a tendency to regard the issue of
economic justice as one involving the need for greater economic equality and
redistribution of wealth from the rich to the poor. This of course is only
one interpretation of justice. If accepted, however, there is little clear
evidence in Theravaada Buddhism supporting redistribution of wealth, except
for the idea
of daana, which implied redistribution of wealth to the sangha and
not necessarily to the poor, and the idea of karu.naa, which implied more
individually-based acts of compassion toward one’s fellow sentient beings rather
than an overall program for social change.

Support for an idea of economic or social equality in the form of an economically
or socially classless society also never seems to have been envisioned in early
Theravaada Buddhism, at least for the laity. Instead, clear differences in
social, economic, and political levels seem to be assumed, a fact reflected
in the lack of a clear prohibition against ownership or use of slaves either
by layman or temple (though slave trading was proscribed).17 In addition while within the early sangha a large degree
of economic and to some degree political equality existed, this equality was
never extended beyond the sangha to a prescription for society as a whole.
Moreover even within the sangha, there was a class structure in the sense of
different levels of spiritual development and seniority which were acknowledged
affected how different monks were treated.18 Thus
equality in early Theravaada Buddhism seems to have been primarily a spiritual
ideal viewed in terms of equal potential for all to achieve spiritual
enlightenment. This conclusion is supported by the fact that in contrast to Brahminism,
almost all classes of people could and did enter the early Buddhist order of

Early Theravaada Buddhist economic ethics and ideas regarding social and economic
inequality were also strongly affected by various viewpoints of the proper
relationship between the sangha and the state or king. Although the earliest
Buddhism tended to view contact with the king as something to be avoided like
a poisonous snake, and kings were labeled among other disasters that might
occur to a person,20 by the
time of King A”soka and afterward, Buddhism began to develop a close relationship
with the state in most places where it existed, including India and Ceylon,
and later Southeast Asia, China, Japan, and Tibet. This relationship was
based upon the idea of the Cakravartin king,21 or the
ideal enlightened king who carried out the Dharma in society and supported
the sangha, in return for which he received the sangha’s spiritual protection
legitimization. The story of King A”soka of course seems to provide a major historical
context for this ideal, and the stone edicts left by his rule point to the close
and mutually beneficial relationship between him and the Buddhist sangha. These
edicts refer to social policies which have been referred to by some scholars
as a type of ancient “welfare state” in that various facilities for the poor,
sick, and indigent were constructed by the state, in addition to state support
for the sangha.22 Yet
closer reading of these edicts themselves makes clear that A”soka never intended
to change the fundamental economic and social structure of his society. Instead,
he focused his social activism more upon spreading the Dharma through charitable
works for the poor, sick, and imprisoned, religious giving to the sangha, and
encouraging meditation and proper treatment of one’s father and mother, teacher,
relatives, slaves and servants, priests and ascetics, and animals.23

>From the historical example of A”soka and other instances of sangha/state
cooperation, early Theravaada Buddhism developed and evolved its own concept
of the ideal relationship between sangha and state which, as two recent scholars
have termed it, was a “purposeful political strategy of adjustment and
accommodation” toward the state reflecting a “distinctly Buddhist understanding
of the possibilities for social change” through “gradual reform with emphasis
religious education.”24 In other
words, here was established the typically Buddhist amelioratory approach to social
change that would continue to affect both Theravaada and Mahaayaana traditions
later on. In this approach, the role of the enlightened king or state was to
formulate specific laws for society based upon general ideas and principles given
by the Buddha.25 At the
same time, the political role of the sangha was to teach the Dharma to the king
and support the state by obeying the laws of the land (and not challenge the
given economic distribution and social structure). In this way, while ideas about
social and economic justice did seem to exist in early Theravaada Buddhism, they
existed in the form of particular ideas about karma, daana and the state/sangha
relationship which were clearly different than most current Western ideas about
justice. Yet, this should not be surprising since current Western ideas are
themselves a product of a long evolution of concepts, and although related
to their predecessors
in Judeo­Christian ethics and Roman law, are still clearly different from

In conclusion, wealth and labor had value in early Theravaada Buddhist ethics,
but a value ultimately smaller than that given to the pursuit of enlightenment
for the monk and gaining merit through daana for the
laity.26 Wealth was never an evil in itself, either for laity or
monk, but was to be welcomed as the result of past merits, as long as one never
became attached to it. Giving was the way to avoid such attachment and for the
laity such giving increasingly became giving to the sangha (daana), rather
than directly to the poor or reinvesting into one’s secular business. Moreover,
in contrast to the Calvinist with his God of predestination, the Theravaadist
layman never was assured of his salvation, and constantly had to work to earn
it through the creation of additional merit through additional daana.
This led to an emphasis on investment in daana over investment in one’s
secular business, with the ultimate consequence for the Theravaada Buddhist
that his “proof of salvation” was found “not in accumulating and creating new
wealth, but in giving it away in the form of daana.”27 As a result, a type of Protestant asceticism emphasizing
the accumulation of wealth which was then invested into one’s secular business
and (according to Weber) contributed to the development of modern capitalism
the West, never was encouraged in the Theravaada tradition once the idea of daana became
dominant. Some scholars go even further and argue that this
very tradition of daana is an important reason for the slower development
of modern capitalism in countries with a strong Theravaada tradition.28 >

Early Indian and Medieval Chinese Mahaayaana Economic

Economic ethics in Mahaayaana
Buddhism show both continuities and differences with those in Theravaada
Buddhism. Many of the changes are related to transformations
in Mahaayaana understandings of nirvana/sa.msaara, enlightenment and the bodhisattva
ideal. For example, within Mahaayaana the absolute difference or separation between
nirvana and sa.msaara disappears. As a result, charitable activities within sa.msaara
grow to have more value in themselves and the bodhisattva idea becomes the ideal.
At the same time, a more positive view of sa.msaara tends to lead to an acceptance
of status
quo conditions “in the world,” while the primary focus of efforts toward enlightenment
are put upon epistemic change in one’s perception of things. This focus on enlightenment
as primarily a change in one’s way of perceiving things implied that the main
soteriological effort must be made towards effecting such epistemic change (through
meditation, and the like), rather than Theravaada Buddhism’s focus on change
in individual ethical/moral behavior leading to a
gradual betterment of karma.29

Another implication of these shifts in Mahaayaana versus Theravaada ontology,
epistemology and soteriology was a greater acceptance of economic activity
by the sangha. The most obvious instances of this were the increased economic
activities of the Buddhist monasteries in China and Japan and the acceptance
monk labor in the Ch’an/ Zen school. At the same time, in terms of lay economic
ethics, values toward wealth continued to remain focused upon religious giving
(daana), and accumulation and possession of wealth was “good” as long
as one remained nonattached to it. In terms of the Buddhist sangha’s relationship
with the state, the previous pattern of cooperation and an amelioratory approach
to social change, along with support for the status quo distribution of wealth,
remained the governing paradigms.

An excellent example of both these continuities as well as differences with
Theravaada ethics can be found in the Indian Mahaayaana work by Naagaarjuna
called the Jewel Garland of Royal Counsels. In this work Naagaarjuna
presents counsel to his friend and disciple, King Udayi, about the ideal Buddhist
state. In such a state the enlightened king begins with his understanding of
the truth of anaatman and based upon this understanding acts benevolently
and without “self” to carry out compassionate measures for the sick, elderly,
farmers, children, mendicants and beggars, based upon the karmic premise
that such giving of wealth will produce more prosperity and wealth for the
in the future. He also cooperates with the sangha to spread the
Dharma.30 In this way Naagaarjuna takes up the themes of karma, anaatman, compassionate
giving and sangha/state cooperation and puts them into an overall viewpoint of
how Mahaayaana economic and social ethics should be carried out by the benevolent
king. In the process, he also presents both the continuities and differences
between Mahaayaana economic ethics and those of Theravaada: the continuities
consisting of a common stress on sangha/state cooperation and similar ideas about
karma, anaatman, and the importance of giving; the differences being a
much greater stress on the importance of the initial epistemic change in an individual’s
thinking as the key to all later
benevolent actions.

In China, Mahaayaana economic ethics continued along similar lines of sangha/
state cooperation. However, the development of Mahaayaana Buddhist economic
ethics in China must also must be understood in terms of Buddhism’s entry into
China as a foreign religion and its efforts to accommodate itself to an already
existing Confucian heritage. This accommodation began with Buddhism’s introduction
in the first centuries of the Common Era and ultimately resulted in a Chinese
transformation of Buddhism which left Chinese Mahaayaana Buddhist ethics much
more Confucian and less Indian than they had been previously, although still
clearly recognizable as Mahaayaana Buddhist. Specifically, what this meant
was a greater emphasis on filial piety-the cornerstone of Confucian ethics-as
well as on the values of social harmony and hierarchical social relationships
between ruler and subject, husband and wife, teacher and student, and so on.
This Confucian influence was seen most strongly during the beginning of the
introduction of Buddhism into China, in the translations of Indian suutras
during the Later Han (25-220 C.E.) and Eastern Chin (317-420 C.E.) periods,
but continued even after Buddhism was established and accepted in the more
cosmopolitan atmosphere of the Sui (581-618) and T’ang (618-907) periods.31 As a result, filial piety, although not unknown in earlier
Buddhism and already praised as a virtue there, came to be much more emphasized
in the Chinese environment. For the Chinese Buddhist laity, this fit in well
with social expectations for behavior. For the monk, it presented a huge challenge
in terms of justifying such seemingly unfilial behavior as following the traditional
Buddhist ideal of leaving home and joining the sangha, in the process cutting
ties and obligations to parents.32

Buddhism’s position in China and the need for accommodation also led to a
greater emphasis upon those strands of earlier Buddhist ethics (for monk and
laity) referring to gratitude and loyalty, especially to family and sovereign.33 The ideal of harmony, so strong in Confucianism, was adopted
by Chinese Buddhists and applied to all social relationships, as well as
becoming the cornerstone of some Chinese Buddhist metaphysical systems, such
as the
Hua­Yen school established in the seventh century. In this way, both
Chinese Buddhist ethics and metaphysics were subtly transformed in the process
of assimilation
and accommodation to indigenous Confucian ideas, and as a result diverged
somewhat from their Indian Mahaayaana predecessors.

Along with such divergencies, however, there were also large areas of continuity
between Chinese Mahaayaana and earlier Indian Mahaayaana (and Theravaada) lay
and monastic social ethics. For example, giving to the sangha
(daana) remained the most virtuous and merit­making activity for
the laity. Also economic ethics for the monk in the form of Vinaya rules governing
economic matters generally were the same as in Indian Mahaayaana. Moreover,
both monk and laity karu.naa (compassion) as an individual virtue continued
to be an extremely important.

Yet in each of these areas and in the area of practiced economic ethics
in particular, Chinese Buddhist economic ethics took on new forms. These new
forms could be seen most clearly in various commercial activities of Chinese
temples which had not existed in Indian Mahaayaana, such as grain milling,
oil seed pressing, money lending, pawnshops, loans of grain to peasants (with
interest), mutual financing associations, hotels and hostelries, and rental
of temple lands to farmers in exchange for some percentage of the crop. In
other areas, Chinese temples carried over previously existing Indian Mahaayaana
commercial practices such as loans (with interest) against pledges, auction
sales of clothing and fabrics, use of lay servants within the monastery to
carry out commercial transactions on behalf of the sangha, and allowing goods
donated to the sangha which were not used by the monks to be sold or loaned
out to earn profits for the sangha. Even in these practices which were carryovers
from India, however, new forms developed in China as monks came to be allowed
to handle gold and silver and carry out commercial transactions including usury
on an individual basis. In most cases such transformations were less a result
changes in the Indian Vinaya than a disregarding of it in practice in China.34

Of all the commercial activities of the Chinese monasteries usury in one form
or another was clearly one of the most profitable. Part of such usury was
from loans to peasants in the form of grain at the beginning of the farming
with repayment of principal along with a 50 percent interest due at the harvest.
Other loans with interest went out in the form of cash to members of the
upper classes, soldiers and others, except in the case of those with whom the
had a close relationship (based upon lay giving), to whom loans could
be interest­free. Loans were also made to temple serfs attached to the monastery,
to whom interest was not charged due to the risk­free nature of such transactions
since serfs were bound to the temple lands anyway. Due to misuses of usury
(not only by monasteries but by other lenders) leading to hardships for peasants,
the government during the T’ang period (618-907 C.E.) put limits on interest
rates at 4 to 5 percent per month. Both private moneylenders and the temples
however often went beyond these limits.35

As time passed such usury was not only undertaken by the monastery itself
but by individual monks and became a major activity of many of them. Monasteries
apparently condoned such individual usury because even though it led to the
development of wealthy individual monks, these monks tended to practice religious
giving to the monastery, and after their death their assets usually were inherited
by the monastery.36 In this
way individual monk usury was justified in terms of its ultimate benefit to

As a result of such usury activities, as well as generous donations from wealthy
clans and the Imperial family from the fifth to the seventh centuries in
particular,37 Buddhist monasteries in medieval China became extremely
wealthy and the number of monasteries and monks increased considerably. Such
wealth resulted in turn in monasteries coming to wield a significant amount of
political power as well.

>From the state’s point of view, however, all of this brought about a considerable
loss of tax revenue due to the tax­free status of monastic lands, and
a considerable loss of corvee labor brought about by the huge increase in
(exempted from such labor), many of whom were former peasants. In addition,
there was an increasingly lavish consumption of wealth occurring in Buddhist
festivals and feasts and construction of temples, stupas, family mortuaries,
and statues. Urged on by Confucians and Taoists who decried these trends
as leading to the impoverishment of the empire, the state engaged in periodic
persecutions of Buddhism by forced laicization of monks, seizure of monastery
wealth (especially gold, silver, and copper) and placing limits on the number
of monasteries and temples. Major persecutions of this type occurred in the
years 446, 574, and 845. In each case the main goal was to shore up the finances
of the empire by forcibly returning monks to peasant life (some of whom had
taken up the tonsure to avoid taxes and corvee labor), converting some temple
lands to taxable status, and melting down some of the enormous numbers of
silver and copper Buddhist statues, the making of which had led to extreme
shortages of these materials available for coinage of money by the empire.38

Another reason behind some of the persecutions was the occasional political
involvement of monasteries in rebellions or intrigues against the state.
This occurred even though “official” Buddhism in the form of state­sponsored
temples and monasteries tended to support the state unequivocally. Smaller
regional temples and those tied to local great families, however, occasionally
got involved in political movements against the state and thus provided a
very different example of Buddhist/state relations than the traditional cooperative
sangha/state ideal.39 Also,
the occurrence of rebellions during the Sui, T’ang and later periods tied to
worshipers of Maitreya, the future Buddha, illustrated how particular Buddhist
sects or movements using Buddhist symbols for their own purposes could adopt
adversarial relationships with the state and use advocacy of greater economic
equality (or at least relief from onerous taxed) as part of their appeal for
rebellion against state authority.40

The establishment of so­called inexhaustible treasuries and merit-cloisters
in Buddhist monasteries were perhaps the best examples of “capitalist” innovations
in China originating from Buddhist practices. The practice of inexhaustible
treasuries was introduced from Indian Mahaayaana Buddhism and began in China
during the Liang Dynasty (502-557 C.E.). They consisted of permanent assets
of monasteries in the form of land, money or goods (such as an oil press
or flour mill) which were loaned out in exchange for a steady (and inexhaustible)
supply of income. These permanent assets usually entered the monastery in
form of donations, either small or large, which were then pooled and put
into the inexhaustible treasury. Although never used on more than a small
in India, in China such inexhaustible treasuries became major commercial
operations for monasteries with the income from them used for the support
of the monasteries
and monks, temple festivals, construction of new temples and various charitable
purposes. Some of the income also was used to acquire additional capital
in the form of land or more flour mills or oil presses. In this way, an initial
amount of capital in the form of permanent assets of the monastery was used
to produce profits which were then partly consumed and partly reinvested
new assets in order to produce additional profits and a larger business.
It was this type of productive use of capital to produce more capital on
the part
of Chinese Buddhist monasteries that led French scholar Jacques Gernet to
conclude that the Chinese Buddhist sangha was responsible for the introduction
of capitalist
practices in China.41

It is not entirely clear however whether it was the sangha who took the lead
here or whether they were only acting “no differently from the nobility and
rich and powerful families of the empire.”42 It also
can be argued that these practices were not pure capitalism in the modern sense
in that the gifts to the monasteries which provided the initial capital were
given not with the idea of producing wealth in a capitalist sense but with the
intention that such gifts would produce good karma for the donor. Garnet himself,
for example, points to the religious nature of the inexhaustible treasuries and
the fact that inexhaustible referred not only to an endless stream of income
but to an endless cycle of giving and receiving in a Buddhist
sense of daana and return of compassion to others.43 On the
other hand, it can also be argued that whatever the original intention of the
donations were, their actual use by the monasteries as common assets communally
managed to produce income to be reinvested in the “corporation” of the sangha,
supports the contention that such practices did indeed introduce a type
of “communal capitalism” into China that had not existed previously.

The practice of the merit-cloister in the T’ang (618-907) and Sung (960-1126)
periods was another example of a Buddhist practice which had commercial overtones.
It offers evidence that donations to the monasteries were not only made for
religious reasons, but sometimes were used by the wealthy as a form of “tax
shelter.” This was because the merit cloister offered the rich and powerful
a means to donate land to a monastery and thus avoid taxes on it, while still
keeping effective control over it by maintaining the right to appoint and
dismiss the monks who acted as supervisors over the land.44

The buying and selling of monk ordination certificates was also a commercial
practice which had a broad influence upon the Buddhist sangha in China. Begun
originally in the fifth century by the government as a means to raise money
for the state, it was later adopted by Buddhist monasteries themselves as a
way to raise money. Over time such certificates came to be traded in the marketplace,
with their value tied to the perceived economic gain accruing to the holder
in terms of tax and corvee labor exemptions and opportunities to engage in

In addition to the above monastic practices which all involved the accumulation
and use of wealth, there also occurred innovations in Chinese Buddhist monastic
attitudes and practices toward the value of monk labor, specifically in the
Ch’an school, that had not existed in India. This is because until Chinese
Ch’an, there was a clear prohibition against monk manual or productive labor-not
only in commercial activities but in agriculture or even gardening or watering
of plants.

The person who initiated these innovations was the eighth-century Ch’an monk
Pai­chang Huai­hai. Huai­hai justified monk manual labor over against
the clear prohibitions against it in the Vinayas by arguing in a Buddhist way
that if the intention behind the deed and not the deed itself was most important,
then monk labor was justified as long as it was for the benefit of the Three
Treasures. This justification and the practice of monk labor in many Zen monasteries
led to the famous saying in the Ch’an (and later Zen)
schools, “one day no work, one day no food.” Huai­hai used the term p’u­ch’ing meaning
collective participation to refer to monk labor,
with the idea that this implied “all monks in the sangha would work together
a basis of equality to achieve a common goal.”46

However, there is circumstantial evidence that this Ch’an innovation toward
monk labor also was driven at least partly by increasing criticism of the “parasitic” lives
of Buddhist monks and the increasing wealth of the monasteries which occurred
prior to this Ch’an innovation in the eighth century. Such criticism began
as early as the fifth century and by the ninth century was an important factor
in the massive Buddhist persecution of 845 under Emperor Wu. Due in part to
the relative economic self­sufficiency of Ch’an monasteries, supported
by monk labor, Ch’an was much better able to survive these persecutions than
the older more established schools which were heavily dependent upon wealthy
outside patrons.47 The
lasting significance of Ch’an attitudes toward monk labor lay in the religious
meaning Ch’an found in such labor. This meaning sprang from the selfless character
of such work and the experience of nonduality which combining such physical
labor and meditation in the meditation hall represented. As one Ch’an text

. . . In these instances of collective participation (p’u­ch’ing),
all should exert equal effort regardless of whether the task is important or
unimportant. No one should sit quietly and so contrary to the wishes of the
multitude. . . Rather, one should concentrate his mind on the Tao, and perform
whatever is required by the multitude. After the task is completed, then one
should return to the meditation hall and remain silent as before. One should
transcend the two aspects of activity and nonactivity. Thus though one has
worked all day, he has not worked at all.48

Performing manual labor in the right manner in this way became a religious
act in itself in its expression of the nonduality of worldly labor and Buddhist
meditation and thus ultimately sa.msaara and nirvana.

Ch’an emphasis on monk labor also could be viewed as a reflection of Chinese
indigenous ways of thinking about labor and the work ethic. That is, in China
the idea that all able bodied adults should perform productive work was a
strong part of general social ethics, while in India there was a greater acceptance
nonproductive activities focused on “world renunciation” as being of the higher
value than ordinary human labor. Such a difference in the value put on human
worldly labor also ultimately reflected the corresponding difference between
Indian and Chinese Mahaayaana views of the value of this world itself (sa.msaara),
with Chinese Mahaayaana tending to attribute more inherent value to worldly
activities than Indian Mahaayaana.49 In this
way Ch’an views toward monk labor were on the one hand the result of a combination
of Buddhist and indigenous Chinese ways of thinking about labor, and on the other
hand, an adaptation to the particular historical circumstances Chinese Buddhism
found itself in during the eighth to ninth centuries, which included increasing
public criticism of nonproductive monks.

In summary then, medieval Chinese Mahaayaana Buddhism exhibited both clear
continuities and discontinuities with earlier Theravaada and Indian Mahaayaana
economic ethics in terms of attitudes and practices toward wealth and monk
labor. Yet, it was the differences perhaps which constituted the more historically
important trends. The reasons for such differences undoubtedly sprang from
a multitude of factors, but three in particular can be pointed out here as
especially significant:

(1) A competition in giving to the monasteries on the part of the Imperial
family and aristocracy, especially between the fifth and seventh centuries,
led to massive transfers of wealth to the monasteries and in turn to a broad
introduction of lay commercial ethics and practices into the sangha.

(2) The favored economic status of monasteries and monks in medieval China
(in terms of taxes, corvee labor, and opportunities to produce wealth), along
with the fact that as time passed the Chinese monkhood increasingly was drawn
from the peasantry, combined to produce a monastic order which included many
former peasants who viewed the monkhood in terms of its economic advantages
as much as a place to pursue spiritual aims. Given the tremendous economic
advantages becoming a monk brought with it and given the life of a peasant
at this time, burdened as it was by heavy taxes and corvee labor, this situation
was understandable. The sale of ordination certificates of course only encouraged
this view of the monkhood as a place to reap wealth.

(3) The general character of Chinese ethical life that Buddhism encountered,
dominated as it was by a this-worldly Confucian philosophy that placed great
stress on happiness and prosperity in “this world,” also contributed to the
development of more commercially­minded monks and monasteries. These
three factors then seem to offer a coherent explanation why medieval Chinese
developed more commercially oriented and this-worldly economic ethics, ethics
clearly reflected in the commercial activities of its monasteries and monks
during the fifth to twelfth centuries.

Major Trends in Japanese Buddhist Economic Ethics

The development of economic ethics in Japanese Buddhism can be seen as a continuation
of tendencies begun in Chinese Buddhism in many ways. In Japan, however, rather
than Confucianism as the main indigenous influence on Buddhist ethical thought,
there were both Confucian and Shinto influences on Buddhist ethical thought in
Japan. The Confucian influence derived partly from the historical fact that Buddhism
was introduced to Japan from Korea and China (rather than directly from India)
and as a result the first Buddhist texts in Japan were all early Chinese texts
which reflected Confucianism in their
translation from Sanskrit.50 The
Shinto influence on the other hand derived mainly from Japanese Buddhism’s need
to accommodate itself to indigenous religious thinking, and was reflected in
such doctrines as the equating of Buddhist bodhisattva with Shinto kami
(honji suijaku), and the practice of the placement of Buddhist temples
and shrines in close proximity and an accompanying philosophy of Shin­Butsu
or “Shinto­Buddhism Synthesis.” Shinto thinking was also incorporated
by the inclusion of Shinto world­affirming tendencies, evidenced in the predominance
given the idea of hongaku shiso or original enlightenment in Japanese
Buddhism. In this way, Japanese Buddhist ethics from the beginning were a particular
mixture of Mahaayaana Buddhist metaphysics, Confucian social and political ethics
and indigenous Shinto world­affirming

What this meant for Japanese Buddhist ethics was that they have tended to
focus on social harmony (kokyo wago) and the concept of hoon,
or the need for an endless return of benefits from the individual to parents,
ruler, sentient beings and the Three Treasures. Social harmony of course was
central concept of Confucian social ethics.51 Hoon,
or the idea of return of benefits from individual to parents and ruler, moreover,
corresponds to the Confucian virtues of filial piety and
loyalty to the sovereign.52 Thus
it was only with the last two relationships, those between individual and all
sentient beings and individual and the Three Treasures that more specifically
Buddhist values became apparent.

Such a mixture of Buddhist and Confucian ideas in Japanese Buddhist social
ethics was clear in the Seventeen Article Constitution (604 C.E.) of
Prince Shotoku Taishi, the devout Buddhist nephew of Empress Suiko and a member
of the Soga clan. The Soga clan, of course, was mainly responsible for introducing
Buddhism into Japan over the objections of other rival clans who argued that
Buddhism would offend the local kami. Apart from any pietistic reasons, the
Soga clan introduced Buddhism because of its identification with higher Chinese
culture and in order to bolster their claims to Imperial power.
The Seventeen Article Constitution itself skillfully blended Confucian
ethical ideas with state support for Buddhism. Thus in this early state patronage
for Buddhism and its mixture with Confucian social ethics, the pattern was set
for much of the later institutional and ethical development of Buddhism
in Japan.

The pattern of state patronage of Buddhism can be seen especially in the history
of Zen, one of the two largest schools of Buddhism in Japan over the past
seven hundred years (along with Pure Land). The founders of the two main Zen
in the twelfth century, Eisai (Rinzai School) and Dogen (Soto School), both
viewed the laws of the state as corresponding to the rules of the monastery,
and identified the proper relationship between state and sangha as
one in which “Zen tradition and its magical formulae provide security for the
state while the state protects and patronizes Zen.”53 Both
also made use of this idea that Buddhism can protect the state in their efforts
to secure state patronage and support for their schools. Such efforts were successful,
especially in the case of Eisai’s Rinzai school, which came to be heavily patronized
by Japan’s military rulers from the thirteenth through the sixteenth centuries.
Rinzai Zen masters following Eisai such as Muso Soseki (1275-1351) and others
continued his tradition of close cooperation with the ruling authorities by playing
the roles of teachers and advisors to the Shoguns and major feudal lords, acting
as diplomats in international relations and even helping to quell unruly elements
among the populace from time to time.54

Zen’s close relationship with Confucian ethics, on the other hand, can be
seen in the way Zen monks were responsible for introducing Sung
neo­Confucianism into Japan in the thirteenth century and establishing the
first schools to teach it to the warrior class. As a result, Zen temples until
the seventeenth century dominated the teaching of Confucianism in Japan until
independent neo­Confucian schools finally were set up during the Tokugawa
period (1600-1868). Zen support for Confucian social ethics seems to have been
based upon the usefulness of Confucian ethics as an ethical teaching for Zen’s
primary sponsors, the samurai. Moreover, even after the new Confucian schools
in the Tokugawa period became increasingly critical of Zen and other Buddhist
schools and wrested control over Confucian studies away from the Zen temples,
Zen temples continued to teach Confucian ethics to the common people in the
so­called terakoya (temple schools), while Zen masters continued to
advocate Confucian social ethics in their writings. In this way, Zen has often
tied its own social ethics to those of Confucianism throughout its history.55

Of course in these patterns of both close cooperation with the state and adoption
of Confucian social ethics, Zen Buddhism was only following an earlier pattern
established in Chinese Buddhism. Thus it should not be surprising that in terms
of its economic ethics, Japanese Buddhism as a whole generally followed the
Chinese pattern and allowed monasteries to engage in such economic activities
as land ownership and rental of land for interest income, money lending, pawnshops,
sponsorship of guilds and local markets, and even leadership of trade missions
to China, all of which were allowed on the doctrinal basis that income from
them was to be used for the Three Treasures. Individual monks were also eventually
allowed to acquire personal wealth, as fourteenth to fifteenth century Zen
temple records show. One type of wealthy monk in
particular, the shosu or estate overseers, were able to receive as personal
income anywhere from 1 to 10 percent of the total income from the lands they

The Chinese pattern was also followed in the trend toward the accumulation
of wealth and power by Japanese Buddhist temples leading to various criticisms
of such wealth and power and periodic government efforts to control their growth,
beginning as early as the seventh century. In Japan, however, government repression
resulted in a fewer number of major persecutions than in China. The major ones
were generally restricted to the years 1570-1590 under the warlords Oda Nobunaga
and Hideyoshi Toyotomi (their purpose being to break the military and economic
power of the temples),57 and
those of the 1860s to1870s as a part of Meiji government policy to forcibly
separate Shinto and Buddhism and establish the superiority of the Shinto.58 In Japan also, up until the late sixteenth century the state
periodically shifted its support from one Buddhist school to another as earlier
schools were judged to have become too powerful, too corrupt, or too connected
to previous regimes. The ability of Buddhist temples to prosper in spite
of this and gain increasing wealth is shown by the fact that by the
mid­sixteenth century prior to Oda Nobunaga’s major persecutions, all Buddhist
temples as a whole controlled as much as 25 percent of the cultivated land
in the country, as well as holding extensive political control in many
local areas.59

In terms of lay economic ethics in pre­modern Japanese Buddhist
history, the formal teachings of the major schools generally stressed the importance
of observing the laws of the land, and equated (as with Eisai and Dogen), the
observance of secular law with the observance of Buddhist religious laws or
precepts. This was especially true of Zen, but also of the Pure Land schools
and the older Shingon, Tendai (T’ien T’ai) and Kegon (Hua­Yen)
sects.60 At the same time, beginning in the Tokugawa period, Zen
and Pure Land schools increasingly emphasized ascetic merchant-type lay economic
ethics centered on the values of frugality, diligence and the religious significance
of productive labor. For example, in Banmin Tokuyo or The Significance
of Everyman’s Activities
, Suzuki Shosan (1579-1655), a Zen monk during the
early Tokugawa period, expressed the religious value behind ordinary labor as

Every profession is a Buddhist exercise. You should attain Buddha through
your work. . . . Farming is nothing but a Buddhist exercise. If our intention
is bad, farming is a lowly work; but if you are deeply religious, it is the
saintly work of a Bodhisattva. . . Do hard work in the heat and in the cold;
regard as an enemy your own flesh overgrown with evil passions; turn up the
soil and reap in the harvest. . . Those engaged in trade should first of all
learn how to make as much profit as possible. . . Regard your trade as a gift
of Heaven. Leave yourself at the mercy of Heaven, cease to worry about gain,
and be honest in

In a similar way, Pure Land Buddhist lay ethics, specifically in the Jodo
Shin sect in the Tokugawa period, moved away from their earlier reliance
on pure faith alone and toward ethical action linked to faith. This ethical
consisted mainly of diligent work in one’s occupation, along with an ascetic
attitude toward consumption. Jodo schools also justified merchant
profit­making through the doctrine of jiri­rita or “profiting
both self and other.” For the Jodo Shin believer, devotion to one’s work or
occupation thus became an important means to aid his salvation.62

The Confucian strain in Japanese Buddhist social ethics, however, could make
for an antimerchant tendency in some teachings, as in Tokugawa Zen master Takuan
Soho’s criticism of merchants for their greed and lack of kindness.63 This was not surprising since in traditional Confucian social
ethics, the merchant was not highly evaluated and the economy itself was
seen as a zero­sum game where profits for the merchant implied a loss for others.
Takuan’s criticism, however, can also be viewed more as a criticism of the
misuse of profits or an improper way to accumulate them (through greed rather
than honest hard work) rather than as a criticism of profit­making

The Buddhist concepts of anaatman and original enlightenment
(hongaku shiso) also contributed important doctrinal aspects to Japanese
Buddhist social teachings and lay ethics in both the late medieval (1185-1600)
and early modern (1600-1868) periods. anaatman or muga in Japanese
tended to be equated by Zen Buddhists with absolute loyalty to one’s lord,
offering another example of the amalgamation of Confucian ethics into Japanese
Such a tendency was widespread in Japanese Buddhism throughout late medieval
and early modern periods, but especially so in Zen, due to its close connections
to the warrior class and the state. Zen advocacy of “loyalty to
one’s lord” has also continued to exist even into the modern period as many
Zen temples were able to identify anaatman (or muga) with loyalty
to the Emperor before and during World War II, and to identify it implicitly
directly with diligence and loyalty to the company in the post­war period
Zen meditation sessions held for Japanese company employee training programs.64

The concept of original enlightenment (hongaku shiso), on the other
hand, was used in Japanese Buddhism to refer to the idea that all sentient
beings already are originally enlightened and only need to get rid of their
delusion or ignorance in order to return to their original state. Although
this would seem to imply the basis for the equality of all humans, in Japan
it came to be used to affirm the world as it is and was used by at least
some Japanese Buddhists to explain and justify the status quo order of society,
existing social and economic inequalities. Thus the idea of “discrimination is
equality” (shabetsu soku byodo) or the “nonduality of all things” was
employed in the Meiji period by many Buddhists to justify the growing social
economic inequalities brought about by the rise of capitalism.65

Japanese Buddhist attitudes toward lay economic labor have traditionally relied
upon the concept of hoon or return of benefits and viewed labor as
an expression of one’s gratitude for benefits received from one’s master
or employer.
This was especially true in the pre­modern period (before 1868) when emphasis
was clearly placed on the individual’s strong obligations to their social nexus,
including their employer or master. With the development of Japanese capitalism
in the modern period (1868-present), however, the majority of Japanese Buddhist
temples continued to lean on this view of labor as return of benefits as the
basis for their view of labor­management relations. As a result most temples
were not that sympathetic to the labor movement when it began to develop in
the early twentieth century, and were not at all sympathetic to Japanese socialism,
which they labeled “bad equality.”66 Teachings
for the Buddhist laity also generally continued to urge support for state
economic and political policies, which focused on the national goal of
achieving a “rich country, strong army.”

Japanese Buddhist temples during the Meiji period (1868-1912) in particular
were supportive of government modernization policies because they wished
to find
favor with the government following the government­backed persecutions of
Buddhism in the 1860s and 1870s. These persecutions had been aimed at abolishing
Buddhist­Shinto syncretism and establishing Shinto, along with the Emperor
system, as the center of Japanese ethical and religious values.67 As a
result, most Buddhist temples hoped to protect themselves and their own positions
from further criticism by working hard to curry favor with the state.

The enthusiastic response of Buddhist temples to the Imperial Rescript on
Education (1890) and the Boshin Rescript (1908) reflected this strategy of
accommodation to government led “economic modernization.” These rescripts were
used by the government as a part of its program of moral education to foster
public support for state policies and goals. By enthusiastically supporting
these rescripts then Buddhist temples were in effect supporting
government­led economic modernization efforts. The same strategy of accommodation
could be seen in many Buddhist writings on socialism and the labor movement at
this time, problems to which the solution was seen as pursuing a
policy of “mutual assistance between the rich and poor,” based upon the ideal
that “managers should be paternal; [and] workers should ‘return the benefits’
received from their bosses and work out of ‘gratitude’.”68 Poverty
thus was viewed as a moral problem and a result of bad karma rather than the
result of economic factors or institutional problems. It is perhaps not surprising
then that Buddhist temple charity at this time was often done in the name of
benefiting the state.69

In conclusion, Buddhism’s role in Japan’s modern economic development and
the rise of modern capitalism in prewar Japan was a mixture of both positive
and passive support. Such support was positive in the sense that Buddhist
temples generally supported the values of diligence and hard work, honest
profit­making, a view of labor as “returning benefits” and obedience to state
policies of economic modernization. At the same time, Buddhism’s role was only
passively supportive in the sense that Buddhist believers and temples themselves
did not lead Japan’s modern economic transformation or even encourage its beginning.
Instead they initially were noncommittal to government modernization policies
and only later became more ardent supporters after the persecution of Buddhism
in the 1860s and 1870s. Thus, while there was a clear Buddhist role in the development
of such ascetic-merchant values as diligence,
hard work, and honest profit­making during the period preceding Japan’s
modernization and these values were certainly supportive of Japan’s modernization
once it got
started, it was neither Buddhist merchants nor Buddhist values which directly
led Japan’s modernization. Instead it was young patriotic samurai and their
ethical values based upon an intense nationalism or patriotism expressed toward
the person
of the Emperor and the nation itself.70 Moreover, even ascetic-merchant values themselves, as helpful
as they were, were less the result of Buddhist lay economic ethics alone than
a combination of Buddhist ideas with Confucian thought and values.71 In this way, it was more the values of “Japanese religion” rather
than “Japanese Buddhism” alone which provided the ethic of hard work, loyalty
to the state and subservient labor which helped enable the successful implementation
of modernization policies initiated by a central government dominated by samurai
values of loyalty to Emperor and state.


This paper has given evidence for both the continuity of Buddhist attitudes
toward wealth and labor, as well as the transformations in these attitudes
which occurred as the result of the interaction of Indian Buddhist values and
indigenous Chinese or Japanese ways of thinking. Continuities are most evident
on the lay side of Buddhist teachings in all three countries and in the
general trend toward acceptance of lay wealth (and economic inequalities), encouragement
of wealth accumulation (as long as by honest means and without attachment to
such wealth) and the importance put on giving away such wealth to support the
sangha and as a way to demonstrate lack of attachment to it. Transformations,
on the other hand, are shown most vividly in the changes in monastic Vinaya rules
and actual monistic practices over time. Compared to the original extremely restrictive
rules which prohibited almost any type of economic activity for either monk or
monastery, more relaxed regulations eventually developed as time passed, first
in India and later in various schools in China and Japan. Nowhere was this trend
more obvious than in the development of usury and the accumulation of individual
wealth by individual monks. Although such activities were never universal and
varied with historical time period, they still show the greater degree of transformation
that occurred in monk economic ethics compared to lay ethics for the three countries

Such changes in practiced monastic economic ethics reflect the influence of
indigenous ways of thinking upon the development of Buddhist ethics in China
and Japan. Buddhist ethics and practices themselves also influenced indigenous
ways of thinking in China and Japan, in particular in terms of the idea of
giving to
the sangha (daana) as a type of spiritual “investment” or
merit­making. Whether such giving by any individual was ultimately more for
religious or economic reasons, it contributed to the development of more advanced
forms of communal investment in countries where it was practiced, in particular
in the form of “inexhaustible treasuries,” and other innovative commercial practices
such as merit cloisters and pledge­based usury.

In the final analysis, however, Buddhist economic activities and economic
values never seemed to play a direct role in the development of a more modern type
of capitalism in any of the three countries examined (including Japan). This
is partly due to the inherently conservative and amelioratory tendencies in
Buddhist theories of political and social change and to the strong emphasis
on giving to the sangha (daana) as the best “investment” an individual
could make for their future. In this way it was not an absence of rationalizing
tendencies (in Weberian terms) in Buddhism which led to an inability to contribute
to the rise of a modern form of capitalism in Asia but an absence of an activist
and independent role vis-à-vis secular authorities and institutions, while
at the same time supporting consumption of surplus
capital in daana rather than lay investment of this capital in secular
businesses. At the same time, this conclusion does not intend to downplay the
political realities which existed in India, China and Japan which made such a
more activist and independent economic and political role by Buddhist temples
lay society difficult.72

Thus, while on the one hand Buddhism’s role in the economic development of
these three countries was to encourage lay accumulation of wealth and productive
labor, on the other hand, official doctrine seldom varied in ultimately viewing
such lay wealth and labor as less important (except perhaps in Zen and later
Pure Land) than activities directly related to monk enlightenment or lay
merit­making through daana. As a result, while Buddhist lay ethics
may have helped provide the necessary type of lay values for the development
of modernization and modern capitalism (in Japan for example), these ethics were
not sufficient factors in themselves to propel such
development.73 Moreover,
while Buddhist believers and institutions were not the initiators of the political,
social and economic changes which led to economic modernization in Japan in
particular, this does not eliminate a certain Buddhist “flavor” to the strong
work ethic and almost religious view of work which has supported the development
of modernization
and modern capitalism in Japan.

In terms of issues of economic equality and distributive justice on the other
hand, Buddhist teachings were generally less interested in changing the current
distribution of wealth than in cultivating the proper attitudes toward wealth,
which were defined as those of giving and nonattachment. This position relied
upon a karmic interpretation of social and economic inequalities which served
to justify them (and therefore view them as a type of economic justice). Such
a position also served as a rationale for a cooperative attitude toward the
ruling authorities and for upholding the social, political and economic status
quo. Of course, this was the dominant tradition in the form of the teachings
of the majority of Buddhist schools. A minority tradition also existed (in
particular in China) of movements which called for political upheaval based
upon an
interpretation of teachings concerning Maitreya, the future Buddha.

The above view of social and economic inequality is also in accord with a
view of karma which sees intervention in the economic organization of society
as only tending to produce more potential karma and entanglement in sa.msaara.
While such a view leaves open the opportunity for the exercise of compassion
(including material help to others), it avoids more interventionist efforts
to control and redirect existing wealth distribution. When applied to contemporary
economic policies, this appears to lead to a more laissez­faire or politically
conservative approach to issues of wealth distribution rather than a “liberal” or “socialist” approach
of redistributing wealth based on some definition of economic justice. Whether
such a laissez­faire approach or a more socially interventionist approach
represents the true application of Buddhist principles, however, will continue
to remain open to debate, due partly to the very ambiguity of Buddhist concepts
themselves. As a result the evidence for assuming that Buddhist economic ethics
imply political policies of a
socialist “welfare state,” as done by some recent Buddhist scholars, remains
from being unambiguously clear.74


[1] For a
good discussion of this see
George Rupp, “The Relationship Between Nirvana and Samsara: An Essay in the Evolution
of Buddhist Ethics,” Philosophy East and West 21 (1971):
55-58. Return

[2] See Louis Gomez, “Emptiness and Moral Perfection,” Philosophy
East and West
23 (1973): 361-73. Return

[3] The basic prohibitions can be listed as follows: No
contact with money nor causing someone else to have contact, no engaging in
agriculture nor causing someone else to engage in agriculture, and no keeping
food or clothing over a certain amount. See Nakamura Hajime, Genshi Bukkyo
Shakai Shiso
(Social Though in Primitive Buddhism). Selected Works
of Nakamura Hajime
, vol. 18 (Tokyo: Shunjusha, 1993), 130-33. Return

[4] Ibid., 133-35. There is still much controversy over
when this “laxity” in the Vinaya began and due to what reasons. One traditional
explanation attributes it to the Mahaasa.mghika/Sthavira schism and Mahaasa.mghika
laxity. However, this view has been brought into question in a now classic
article by Janice Nattier and Charles Prebish: “Mahaasa.mghika Origins: The
Beginnings of Buddhist Sectarianism,” History of Religions 16/3 (1977):
237-72. Return

[5] See Russell Sizemore and Donald Swearer, “Introduction,” in Ethics,
Wealth and Salvation: A Study in Buddhist Social
, ed. Russell Sizemore and Donald Swearer (Columbia: University of
South Carolina Press, 1990), 13-14. Return

[6] Nakamura, Genshi Bukkyo, 141-49; 160-61. See
also Balkrishna Gokhale, “Early Buddhism and the Urban Revolution,” Journal
of the International Association of Buddhist Studies
5/2 (1982): 18-20. Return

[7] Nakamura, Genshi Bukkyo, 150-161; 224. A good
example of this contrast between Buddhist and Brahmin ethics can be seen in
the Kuu.tadanta Sutta. Return

[8] Diigha Nikaaya, pt. III of Dialogues of the
, trans. T.W. and C.A.F Rhys David (London: Luzac and Co. Ltd.,
180 ff. I use here the translation of Peter Pardue in Buddhism: A Historical
Introduction to Buddhist Values and the Social and Political Forms They Have
Assumed in Asia
(New York: MacMillan Co., 1971). Return

[9] See Phra Rajavaramuni, “Foundations of Buddhist Social
Ethics,” in Ethics, Wealth and Salvation, 35-43; and Pardue, 28-29. Return

[10] See Diigha Nikaaya, pt. II, 59-76; and the Kutandanta
, pt. I in Dialogues of the Buddha, 173-85. Return

[11] See pt. II in Dialogues of the Buddha,
199-232. Return

[12] Nakamura, Genshi Bukkyo, 161-76. Return

[13] Sizemore and Swearer, Ethics, Wealth and
, 35; 40. Return

[14] Nakamura, Genshi Bukkyo, 215-18; 244-45; and
Sizemore and Swearer, 13-14. Return

[15] Sizemore and Swearer, 21. Return

[16] Ibid., 58. Return

[17] Pardue, 28. For discussion on early Indian monastic
ownership of such “slaves” or servants, see also Gregory Schopen, “The Monastic
Ownership of Servants or Slaves: Local and Legal Factors in the Redactional
History of Two Vinayas,” Journal of the International Association of Buddhist
17 (1994): 145-73. Return

[18] See Gunapala Dharmasiri, Fundamentals of Buddhist
(Antioch: Golden Leaves Publishing Co., 1989), 62-66; and A.
Thmas Kirsch, “Economy, Polity and Religion,” in Change and Persistence in Thai
, ed. G. William Skinner and A. Thomas Kirsch (Ithaca: Cornell
University Press, 1975), 180-82. Return

[19] Dharmasiri, Fundamentals of Buddhist Ethics,
62. The story of the Brahmin youth Assalayana is an apparent example of the
Buddha’s view of the inherent spiritual equality of all persons. See Nakamura
Hajime, Buddhism in Comparative Light (Delhi: Motilala Banarsidass,
1986), 103-4. Return

[20] Nakamura, Buddhism in Comparative Light, 94. Return

[21] See the Cakkavatti­Siihanaada Sutta for
early exposition of this idea in Buddhism (Diigha Nikaaya, pt. III, 59-76).
The Cakravartin king idea was not limited to Buddhism but also has a long history
in Hinduism. Return

[22] Robert Thurman, “Edicts of A”soka,” in The Path
Compassion: Writings on Socially Engaged Buddhism
, ed. Fred Eppsteiner (Berkeley:
Parallax Press, 1988), 116-17. Return

[23] The Edicts of A”soka, trans. N. A. Nikam and
Richard McKeon (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1959). See especially
pages 40-41 for an idea of A”soka’s concept of “Dharma” and 43-65 for examples
of specific applications of this concept of Dharma. Return

[24] Sizemore and Swearer, 9. Return

[25] Rajavaramuni, “Foundations of Buddhist Social
Ethics,” 9. Return

[26] Nakamura, Genshi Bukkyo, 227; and Rajavaramuni,
45. Return

[27] Melford Spiro, Buddhism and Society (New York:
Harper and Row, 1970), 460; and David Little, “Ethical Analysis and Wealth
Theravada Buddhism: A Response to Frank Reynolds,” in Ethics, Wealth and
, 84. Return

[28] For an interesting discussion on how such different
ideas toward daana and use of wealth seemingly contributed to contrasting
patterns of economic development in Thailand and Japan, see Eliezer Ayal, “Value
Systems and Economic Development in Japan and Thailand,” in Man, State,
Society in Contemporary Southeast Asia
, ed. Robert Tilman (New York: Praeger,
1969). Return

[29] Rupp, “The Relationship Between Nirvana and Samsara,” 59-63. Return

[30] Robert Thurman, “Naagaarjuna’s Guidelines for Buddhist
Social Activism,” in The Path of Compassion, 131-39. Return

[31] See Nakamura Hajime, “The Influence of Confucian Ethics
Upon Chinese Translations of Buddhist Sutras,” Sino­Indian
5 (1957): 156-70; and Kenneth Chen, The Chinese Transformation
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973). Return

[32] For a discussion of how Chinese Buddhism dealt with
this problem, see Kenneth Chen, Buddhism in China (Princeton: Princeton
University Press, 1964), 50-57. Return

[33] Nakamura, “The Influence of Confucian Ethics,” 163-68. Return

[34] See Chen, The Chinese Transformation of
, 76; 135-78. See also Jacques Gernet, Buddhism in Chinese Society:
An Economic History From the Fifth to the Tenth Centuries
, trans. Franciscus
Verellen (New York: Columbia University Press, 1995), 70; and Martin
Collcutt, Five Mountains: The Rinzai Zen Monastic Institution in Medieval
(Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1981), 249-50. Return

[35] Chen, The Chinese Transformation of Buddhism,
110; 161. Return

[36] Gernet, 92. Return

[37] A “competition” in aristocratic giving to Buddhist
monasteries occurred during this time, with rich families vying with each
other to show their piety and gain merit. See Gernet, 278-97.
A “competition” in aristocratic giving to Buddhist monasteries occurred during
this time, with rich families vying with each other to show their piety and
gain merit. See Gernet,
278-97. Return

[38] Ibid., 21. Return

[39] Gernet, for example, gives a list of “Buddhist” inspired
rebellions (page 288) as well as evidence to show that Chinese Buddhism in
the period under discussion (400-1000 C.E.) often was strongly promoted by
elements of the aristocracy less committed to Confucian values and more interested
in acquisition of private wealth and political power (278-97). Return

[40] See Arthur Wright, Buddhism in Chinese History (Stanford:
Stanford University Press, 1959), 69; and Joseph Kitagawa, “The Many Faces
of Maitreya,” in Maitreya, The Future Buddha, ed. Alan Sponberg and
Helen Hardacre (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), 17-18. For more
details on particular rebellions and their use of the theme of economic inequality
between rich and poor, see Daniel Overmeyer, Folk Buddhist Religion: Dissenting
Sects in late Traditional China
. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press,
1976), 120-23. Return

[41] Gernet, 227-28, and Chen, The Chinese Transformation
of Buddhism
, 178. Return

[42] Chen, The Chinese Transformation of Buddhism,
178. Return

[43] Gernet, 214. Return

[44] Not all monasteries’ properties had tax­free status
so this only was possible for those which did. See Gernet, 47;141. Return

[45] Ibid., 58-60. Return

[46] Chen, The Chinese Transformation of Buddhism,
148-49. Return

[47] See Collcutt, 250; and Heinrich Dumoulin, A History
of Zen Buddhism: India and China
(New York: Pantheon Books, 1963),
243. Not only Zen, but Pure Land’s survival also seems to have been due
at least
partly to economic reasons, that is to its base of support coming from
the masses. In contrast, the Hua-Yen, T’ien T’ai and Fa-Hsiang patrons,
the Imperial family, and their connection with the “parasitic” practices
mentioned above help to explain their decline. See Collcutt, Five
; and Chen, The Chinese Transformation of Buddhism. Return

[48] Chen, The Chinese Transformation of Buddhism,
150.Chen, The Chinese Transformation of Buddhism, 150. Return

[49] Ibid., 151. Return

[50] See Nakamura, “The Influence of Confucian Ethics.” Return

[51] See Dert Bode, “Harmony and Conflict in Chinese
Philosophy,” in Studies in Chinese Thought, ed. Arthur Wright (Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 1953), 45-47. Return

[52] Christopher Ives, Zen Awakening and Society (Honolulu:
University of Hawaii Press, 1992), 93; and Winston Davis, Japanese Religion
and Society
(Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992),
157. Return

[53] Ives, Zen Awakening, 56. Return

[54] Collcutt, 57-61. Also see Collcutt for more discussion
of the Gozan or Five Mountain system of Rinzai Zen temples established at this
time through government patronage. Return

[55] Ibid., 60-64; and Ives, 64-65. Return

[56] Collcutt, 253-80. Return

[57] For more details, see Neil McMullin, Buddhism and
the State in Sixteenth Century Japan
(Princeton: Princeton University
1984). Return

[58] See James E. Ketelaar, Of Heretics and Martyrs
Meiji Japan: Buddhism and Its Persecution
(Princeton: Princeton University
Press, 1990). Return

[59] See McMullin, Buddhism and the State in Sixteenth
Century Japan
, 251. Return

[60] Heinrich Dumoulin, Buddhism in the Modern
(New York: MacMillan, 1976), 228. Return

[61] Nakamura Hajime, “Suzuki Shosan, 1579-1655 and the
Spirit of Japanese Capitalism in Japanese Buddhism,” Monumenta Nipponica 22
(1967): 6-8. Return

[62] See Dumoulin, Buddhism in the Modern World,
228; and Robert Bellah, Tokugawa Religion (Glencoe: Free Press, 1970),
118-19. Bellah, however, seems to assume that the Jodo Shin attitude toward
profits was an innovation in Buddhism, when actually a similar attitude had
existed already in early Indian Buddhism, as has been pointed out by Nakamura
Hajime in Genshi Bukkyo no Shakai Shiso (Social Thought in Primitive
). See Selected Works of Nakamura Hajime, vol. 18 (Tokyo:
Shunjusha, 1993), 141-61; and Balkrishna Gokahale, “Early Buddhism and the
Revolution” Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 5/2
(1982): 18-20. Return

[63] Ives, 62. Return

[64] See Daizen Victoria, “Japanese Corporate Zen,” Bulletin
of Concerned Asian Scholars
12 (1984): 61-68. Return

[65] See Paul Swanson, “‘Zen is not Buddhism’: Recent Japanese
Critiques of Buddha­nature,” Numen 40 (1993): 115-21; and
Davis, Japanese Religion and Society, 157-58. Return

[66] Ibid., 158-75. Return

[67] For details, see Ketelaar, especially 43-86. Return

[68] Davis, 172-76. Return

[69] Ibid., 176-78. Return

[70] Ibid., 133; 153-88. Return

[71] For example see Bellah on the thought of Shingaku
in Tokugawa Religion, 142-43. Return

[72] Space here does not allow a more detailed discussion
of the nature of these political conditions in each of the three countries.
Suffice it to say that in China and Japan in particular, the political situation
Buddhism faced for most of its history there made a strong independent role
both economically and politically difficult. For more detailed discussions
see Chen, The Chinese Transformation of Buddhism. Return

[73] Nakamura makes a similar argument for religious ethics
in the West in their relation to the development of capitalism. See
Nakamura, Genshi Bukkyo, 261. Return

[74] For two examples of such an assumption, see Thurman, “Naagaarjuna’s
Guidelines,” and Wapola Rahula, “The Social Teachings of the
Buddha,” both in The Path of Compassion. Return

Let me share the thoughts of our late Chief, Venerable K. Sri Dhammananda Maha Thera on
Buddhism and Politics - Venerable here reproduced below:

Buddha once said, ‘When the ruler of a country is just and good, the
ministers become just and good; when the ministers are just and good,
the higher officials become just and good; when the higher officials
are just and good, the rank and file become just and good; when the
rank and file become just and good, the people become just and
good.’(Anguttara Nikaya)

the Cakkavatti Sihananda Sutta, the Buddha said that immorality and
crime, such as theft, falsehood, violence, hatred, cruelty, could arise
from poverty. Kings and governments may try to suppress crime through
punishment, but it is futile to eradicate crimes through force.

the Kutadanta Sutta, the Buddha suggested economic development instead
of force to reduce crime. The government should use the country’s
resources to improve the economic conditions of the country. It could
embark on agricultural and rural development, provide financial support
to entrepreneurs and business, provide adequate wages for workers to
maintain a decent life with human dignity.

the Jataka, the Buddha had given to rules for Good Government, known as
‘Dasa Raja Dharma’. These ten rules can be applied even today by any
government which wishes to rule the country peacefully. The rules are
as follows:

1) be liberal and avoid selfishness,
2) maintain a high moral character,
3) be prepared to sacrifice one’s own pleasure for the well-being of the subjects,
4) be honest and maintain absolute integrity,
5) be kind and gentle,
6) lead a simple life for the subjects to emulate,
7) be free from hatred of any kind,
8) exercise non-violence,
9) practise patience, and
10) respect public opinion to promote peace and harmony.

Regarding the behavior of rulers, He further advised:

A good ruler should act impartially and should not be biased and
discriminate between one particular group of subjects against another.

- A good ruler should not harbor any form of hatred against any of his subjects.
- A good ruler should show no fear whatsoever in the enforcement of the law, if it is justifiable.
A good ruler must possess a clear understanding of the law to be
enforced. It should not be enforced just because the ruler has the
authority to enforce the law. It must be done in a reasonable manner
and with common sense. — (Cakkavatti Sihananda Sutta)

the Milinda Panha,it is stated: ‘If a man, who is unfit, incompetent,
immoral, improper, unable and unworthy of kingship, has enthroned
himself a king or a ruler with great authority, he is subject to be
tortured‚ to be subject to a variety of punishment by the people,
because, being unfit and unworthy, he has placed himself unrighteously
in the seat of sovereignty. The ruler, like others who violate and
transgress moral codes and basic rules of all social laws of mankind,
is equally subject to punishment; and moreover, to be censured is the
ruler who conducts himself as a robber of the public.’ In a Jataka
story, it is mentioned that a ruler who punishes innocent people and
does not punish the culprit is not suitable to rule a country.

king always improves himself and carefully examines his own conduct in
deeds, words and thoughts, trying to discover and listen to public
opinion as to whether or not he had been guilty of any faults and
mistakes in ruling the kingdom. If it is found that he rules
unrighteously, the public will complain that they are ruined by the
wicked ruler with unjust treatment, punishment, taxation, or other
oppressions including corruption of any kind, and they will react
against him in one way or another. On the contrary, if he rules
righteously they will bless him: ‘Long live His Majesty.’ (Majjhima

Buddha’semphasis on the moral duty of a ruler to use public power to
improve the welfare of the people had inspired Emperor Asoka in the
Third Century B.C. to do likewise. Emperor Asoka, a sparkling example
of this principle, resolved to live according to and preach the Dhamma
and to serve his subjects and all humanity. He declared his
non-aggressive intentions to his neighbors, assuring them of his
goodwill and sending envoys to distant kings bearing his message of
peace and non-aggression. He promoted the energetic practice of the
socio-moral virtues of honesty, truthfulness, compassion, benevolence,
non-violence, considerate behavior towards all, non-extravagance,
non-acquisitiveness, and non-injury to animals. He encouraged religious
freedom and mutual respect for each other’s creed. He went on periodic
tours preaching the Dhamma to the rural people. He undertook works of
public utility, such as founding of hospitals for men and animals,
supplying of medicine, planting of roadside trees and groves, digging
of wells, and construction of watering sheds and rest houses. He
expressly forbade cruelty to animals.

Other interesting and important read:
Ken Jones on Buddhist Social Action, the work of Sulak Sivaraksa, and the many engaged Buddhists here, here and here (and much more) about who have taken Buddhism beyond the temple walls to effect change in communities.

Did you Know? 

Phosphoric acid, a major ingredient in soda pop, has been shown to interfere with your body’s ability to use calcium.  This may lead to softening of teeth and bones and osteoporosis.

We eat or drink unhealthy food
because of lack of minerals and other elements that are in minority. By
eating various food and therefore having enought minerals in the body,
the organisem isn’t “hungry” no more for artificial drinks. You’re
organism starts to reorganize and finds substitutes for unhealthy food.
I know, that now, after knowing the functions of minerals and eating
them enought with food, I drink only water and eat only un-artificial
food, because my body has no lust for candyes, coke and excetra,
anymore. Mind and body functions are better than ever.


Aspartam is not the only to blame. Drinking lemon and mineral water
isn’t for people with sensitive stomachs and also isn’t  healthy if you
drink too much mineral water.  You have to mix it with pure water.

Online edition of India’s National Newspaper
Tuesday, Jun 24, 2008
Scheduled Caste (Original Inhabitants of Jambudvipa, that is the Great Prabuddha Bharath) women invisible citizens: Report

Special Correspondent

Reveals prevalence of untouchability

Recommends a redress mechanism

JAIPUR: A fact-finding mission’s report on the status of Scheduled Caste (Original Inhabitants of Jambudvipa,that is the Great Prabuddha Bharath) women
in Rajasthan released here on Monday has brought to light the critical
denial of rights to them on the basis of caste as well as gender. Original Inhabitants of Jambudvipa,that is the Great Prabuddha Bharath
women were found having very little access to livelihood, food, water,
sanitation and the government’s welfare programmes.

As untouchables and outcastes,  Original Inhabitants of Jambudvipa,that is the Great Prabuddha Bharath women invariably face
caste-based discrimination. As women, they face gender discrimination,
and as poor, they face class discrimination, affirmed the report
prepared by two leading Original Inhabitants of Jambudvipa,that is the Great Prabuddha Bharath and women’s rights groups.

The Centre for Original Inhabitants of Jambudvipa,that is the Great Prabuddha Bharath Rights and the Programme on Women’s
Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (PWESCR) conducted field surveys
in five localities inhabited by Original Inhabitants of Jambudvipa,that is the Great Prabuddha Bharath in Jaipur and Dausa districts to
assess “exclusion and subordination” of Original Inhabitants of Jambudvipa,that is the Great Prabuddha Bharath women. “Original Inhabitants of Jambudvipa,that is the Great Prabuddha Bharath women are
restricted to the bottom of the society, impoverished and invisible as
citizens,” noted the report.

Releasing the report here in the presence of Original Inhabitants of Jambudvipa,that is the Great Prabuddha Bharathactivists,
academicians and community leaders, State Assembly Speaker Sumitra
Singh admitted that “systematic denial” of right to education,
training, land and livelihood resources during the 60 years of
Independence had led to exclusion of Original Inhabitants of Jambudvipa,that is the Great Prabuddha Bharath women from all
socio-economic and political fields. Ms. Singh called upon the Original Inhabitants of Jambudvipa,that is the Great Prabuddha Bharath
groups to exert pressure on government functionaries to provide health
care, nutrition and other basic services in the Original Inhabitants of Jambudvipa,that is the Great Prabuddha Bharath-dominated areas.
“Access to education will surely enable Original Inhabitants of Jambudvipa,that is the Great Prabuddha Bharath women to assert their
rights and improve their living conditions,” she said.

The 39-page report said all Original Inhabitants of Jambudvipa,that is the Great Prabuddha Bharath communities in the State were
suffering from the practice of untouchability and deliberate
segregation. The fact-finding teams visiting the five areas found that Original Inhabitants of Jambudvipa,that is the Great Prabuddha Bharath  lived in ghetto-like structures within the segregated areas away
from the general population.

 There was a complete lack of
information about the State programmes and schemes and entitlements for Original Inhabitants of Jambudvipa,that is the Great Prabuddha Bharath under them. With  men and women being unable to access
these sources, the government functionaries had a sense of complacency
and no concern for accountability.

The Original Inhabitants of Jambudvipa,that is the Great Prabuddha Bharath habitations covered by the field surveys were the Jhalana
Doongri Kachchi Basti, Jaipur; Bagarion Ki Dhani, Pachala; Kadwa Ka
Bas, Dudu (all in Jaipur district) and Raigar Mohalla, Gudalia; and
Raigar Basti, Dausa city (both in Dausa district).

 Only occupations available and
traditionally allocated to Original Inhabitants of Jambudvipa,that is the Great Prabuddha Bharath women were those that no one else
would prefer to do. “The fact-finding clearly demonstrates that in
spite of various laws and schemes for Original Inhabitants of Jambudvipa,that is the Great Prabuddha Bharath, not much is being done on
the ground to address the day-to-day hardships faced by  Original Inhabitants of Jambudvipa,that is the Great Prabuddha Bharath women”.

The report demanded that the State government develop a monitoring
system to recognise the discrimination faced by dailt women in all
walks of life. There should also be a redress mechanism to deal with
the complaints of violation of rights and dalit women should be made
aware of their legal rights.

The report also underlined the need to bring about “radical changes”
in the mind-set of people who see nothing wrong in the customary
practices of social exclusion of  Original Inhabitants of Jambudvipa,that is the Great Prabuddha Bharath women. It said the government
should ensure that children had access to education without being

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Aims & Objects

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train all members on the latest trade practices to make them to earn
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the Noble
 Right path shown by the Blessed, Noble and the Awakened One.

To train and cultivate the habit of early birds

To practice and train on the essential movements of the body, including walking, cycling and swimming for fitness

To practice and train to buy essential qualitative and most economic household articles and commodities

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Through the practice of Noble Eightfold Path

train to practice meditation such as Pabajja, Vipassana and Zen
practice for peace and happiness within oneself and harmony with others
to enable to become Great Minds in order to attain the Ultimate Bliss

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Without becomimg Prime Minister or President of any Land !

Now is all that U have in Hand !

Ms Maya leading one and all to that Wonder Land !

That’s the Pure Land !

Thank You

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