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Religion cannot be separated from politics; what did the Buddha say about Political Involvement? -Living Wage -U.P. launches online monitoring of projects -Did you see Michelle?
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Religion cannot be separated from politics; what did the Buddha say about Political Involvement?

Religion cannot be separated from politics; what did the Buddha say about Political Involvement?

By Ashin Mettacara

Allow me to discuss with the reader the subject of the Buddha and
His views on politics. Being a Buddhist monk, I will try to illuminate
you on the right way of life and the best kind of political
involvement, according to Buddha’s teaching. These teachings are not
only for Buddhists, but also for all non-Buddhists: for everyone.

What does “Buddhist” mean? The best answer is that those who are
practicing and living in accordance with the Buddha’s teachings are
Buddhists, because practice is much appreciated by the Buddha. Then,
what are the teachings of the Buddha? The rudimentary and shortest
answer is that we must always endeavor to do good and kindness, rather
than doing evil and harm to others.

Obviously, no one could ever conclude that the current rulers of
Myanmar are Buddhists. They have attached their names in name only, to
affiliate with Buddhists, in order to rule the country. They
essentially tried to become Buddhists without knowing any teachings of
the Buddha. These generals are surviving on truly ignorant and blind
faith. The true Buddhist must be a self-learner and must continually
practice to achieve the highest liberation (nirvana).

Politics and political matters in Buddhism are considered worldly concerns,
yes. But the Buddha did not ignore such worldly concerns, because as a
Prince estranged and removed from his prior worldly concerns, still He
was living in society. Alms food comes from vast numbers of people
constituting society. So should not we work to elevate society to
evolve into a higher form, to be more effective and more just? The
monks were also told by the Buddha to work for the good of many, for
the benefit of all beings and for the betterment of society. The intent
behind the founding of the community of monks  (Sangha in Pali, Pali
being the original language of the Buddha) was entirely for the benefit
of the people.

In the life of Buddha, we find that the Buddha often discussed
politics with the rulers of realms in his time,  such as King Mala,
King Kosala , King Licchavi and King Ajatasattu . The Buddha always
preached the kings that they must rule their kingdoms with dasarajadhamma.
The dasarajadamma in Pali  is based on ten precepts, in order for the
king to best rule the country. They are: (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) practice patience, and (10)
respect public opinion to promote peace and harmony. Any government who
wishes to peacefully rule any nation can effectively apply these 10
precepts even today; they haven’t yet and never will “go out of date.”

The Buddha preached non-violence and peace as a universal message.
He did not approve of violence or the destruction of life, and declared
that there is no such thing as a ‘just’ war. From his own words, He
taught:  “The victor breeds hatred; the defeated lives in misery. He
who renounces both victory and defeat is happy and peaceful.”

Not only did the Buddha teach non-violence and peace: He was perhaps
the first and only religious teacher who went to the battlefield
personally to prevent the outbreak of a war, when He diffused tension
between the Sakyas and the Koliyas who were about to wage war over the
waters of Rohini River. He also dissuaded King Ajatasattu from
attacking the Kingdom of the Vajjis

He showed how countries could become corrupt, degenerate and unhappy
when the head of the government becomes corrupt and unjust. He spoke
against corruption and how all governments’ actions must be based on
humanitarian principles.

The 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

Clearly, religion and politics are something analogous to paper
money having two sides. The front can be regarded as religion and the
other side can be regarded as politics. They cannot be separated from
each other. Otherwise the value of money is nothing. Similarly,
Buddhist monks and other religious leaders also should not be separated
from politics. I don’t mean to imply that they should rule the country,
but just to present and to advance their Buddhist precepts throughout
the workings of a government in order to prevent so many wars and
conquests, persecutions, such egregious atrocities, rebellions, and the
destruction of works of art and culture.

Perhaps Thailand can be looked at and considered
an example of a successful but not perfect Buddhist Nation. Myanmar has
a long way to go in this regard, and the Burmese Generals, if they were
smart and wanted to survive as a government, would work at a
rapprochement with the Buddhist leaders, who have always had the
support and good will of the vast majority of Burmese people, rather
than crushing them, infiltrating them, jailing them, beating them,
killing them, and otherwise persecuting the Buddhist Monks of Myanmar.

Living Wage

jlepp_journey's picture

Where We Stand: Living Wage

I grew up in South Carolina, the youngest daughter of an Episcopal
minister. So my first taste of work was chasing after children in the
congregation, and I soon became a regular babysitter for a lot of
church families in my early teens. They could hire me at around $10 for
a night out, and – being the minister’s daughter – I was supposed to be
well-behaved, right? I never asked for any specific amount – being too
shy and uncomfortable at valuing my services, I was happy to get any
sort of pocket money. Looking at those green bills, I thought of new
books or the latest U2 or R.E.M tape. At those moments, $10 was a lot
of money. While I was reminded to drop change into the collection plate
at church, and those sad dog faces on the jars for the local pet rescue
would always claim my quarters, I mainly spent my cash to please myself.
My first restaurant job was working at Captain D’s at age 15. I made a
little under $4 an hour, and I learned for the first time how hard it
could be to earn money. This wasn’t cute little Eleanor and watching
cable television. My feet and back hurt, and I got tired of being told
to smile when I just wanted to tell some customers how I really felt. I
didn’t take the work very seriously, and at 16, I thought I’d made a
move up and started working at Fuddruckers. While it was for the same
pay, I worked in the bakery and there were fewer customers and a live
juke box instead of Muzak. These amenities held value to my teenage
mindset, though in the end it wasn’t really much better, and I ended up
getting hives from a poorly placed cleaning chemical that fell on my
head from a high shelf. During my last year in high school, the former
Youth Director at my church - then the manager at Ryan’s Steak house,
hired me. At my other two jobs, I’d mostly worked with teenagers like
myself and salaried management. At Ryan’s I encountered young mothers
working to support children, and regular people trying to get by on
less than than the cost of the meals they served. After three months of
a predictable schedule, I became upset that my hours were cut and
talked to my manager about it. When the person who got my hours heard
about my dismay, she let me know why she needed the hours. She said,
“Do you pay your rent? Do you pay for your food? I do.” I quickly
offered her any of my hours, and she shook her head at me.
I’m glad she spoke to me that day, though I didn’t really understand
the necessity of a decent paying job until college. Then I really
needed money to cover rent, gas, books etc. I worked three jobs while
going to school full time. I nannied, worked in a gym’s day care, and
sold cookies to businesses for a commission. I made more money
babysitting for private families and my sales job than working for
minimum wage at the gym. While it was a struggle balancing work and
education, it pales compared to most who do that dance. My stories
about working for less than stellar pay do not compare to parents that
work three jobs so they can barely raise their children and still not
make enough.
This past year I’ve worked at the Emmaus House Poverty Rights office as
part of my contextual education as a seminary student at Candler School
of Theology. There I work with the homeless, unemployed, working poor,
and generally disenfranchised persons. If I didn’t understand that our
current system fails in so many ways, then working with distraught
people trying to keep on the heat for the winter, helping a recently
released female convict with no place to stay obtain an ID (so she can
find shelter and get a job), and listening to hundreds of stories of
pain and struggle have made an impact.
It is expensive to be poor. If you don’t have transportation, the local
grocery store is more expensive and has fewer fresh food choices, gas
prices are higher in bad neighborhoods and there are often few choices
for retail shopping – as is the case near the Emmaus House in downtown
Atlanta. The sandwiches we hand out at the Poverty Rights Office can
mean a little less hunger, but in the end a sandwich doesn’t fill a
stomach. On a regular basis, I speak with persons on the brink of
making it out of homelessness and transitional housing. Both parents
can be working and maybe even a teenager – and then an injury or
illness happens. There is no paid leave. There is little money for
doctors, and what about getting to the doctor in the first place?
Earning less than a living wage makes it almost insurmountable to break
out of the cycle of poverty. How can you afford a deposit on an
apartment that has fewer sirens waking you at night? What do you tell
your son when you can’t pay for his school band instrument rental – and
he shows so much talent? I’ve only met some of Georgia’s
disenfranchised. I can tell you the majority of them are neither lazy,
untalented, nor undeserving. It is the American Dream that when you
work hard, you get ahead. The American Dream is not working for
millions of people, and it is indeed a nightmare situation for many.
The Rev. Dr. James Forbes said, “Poverty is one of the silent killers
in the life of our nation. Its cumulative effect is as devastating as
earthquakes, floods, forest fires and hurricanes. More people die each
year from poverty-related causes than the combined casualties from war,
natural disasters and homicide. The daily death toll from
poverty-related diseases of body, mind and spirit points to an epidemic
in slow motion. Yet the impoverishing process has been at work so long
and in so many places that the fatal manifestations advance with the
fierceness of a tidal wave. The impact of poverty, while less dramatic,
less visible and rarely reported, is nonetheless lethal. It puts the
lie to all our notions of equal opportunity, denies us the unimpeded
creative potential of families and neighborhoods, and leaves in its
wake costly social consequences, which ultimately affect the fabric of
the whole community.”
Most people remember the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom
as the occasion where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., gave his
famous “I Have a Dream” address. A key demand of the march was “a
national minimum wage act that will give all Americans a decent
standard of living.” Certainly, Dr. King did not dream that the value
of the minimum wage would be lower today than it was in 1963.
On March 18, 1968, days before his murder, King told striking
sanitation workers in Memphis, Tenn., “It is criminal to have people
working on a full-time basis . . . getting part-time income.” King
said, “We are tired of working our hands off and laboring every day and
not even making a wage adequate with daily basic necessities of life.”

In the United States, more than 28 million people (about a quarter
of the workforce between the ages of 18 and 64) are minimum wage
workers – earning less than the poverty level for their families.
Nearly two thirds are women, and almost one third of those women are
raising children. A full-time minimum wage job covers, on average, only
34 percent of a family’s basic costs of living. Meanwhile, U.S.
corporate profits increased 21 percent in 2007 and worker productivity
grew by 111 percent. According to Market Watch, “Profits have been so
high because almost all of the benefits from productivity improvements
are flowing to the owners of capital rather than to the workers.”
Raising the minimum wage above poverty level is perhaps the most
effective instrument for combating poverty and supporting the human
rights of children, women, and people of color in the United States. No
other single issue or movement can so directly improve the lives of the
working poor in this country.
Just wages make economic sense, and
they make ethical sense. On the basis of our faith and our basic
commitment to human dignity, The Unitarian Universalist Service
Committee is working with Let Justice Roll and other groups to improve
the equation for working families. Let Justice Roll (LJR) is a
nonpartisan coalition of more than 90 faith, community, labor, and
business organizations dedicated to the principle that “a job should
keep you out of poverty, not keep you in it.” LJR has played a key role
in making wages a values issue and a moral issue. As a broad-based
coalition, LJR reaches across partisan lines, bringing together all
groups: religious, secular, faith-based, community-based, labor,
business people, liberal, conservative – all who believe that workers
deserve a living wage, and all who believe it is immoral that workers
who care for children, the ill, and the elderly struggle to care for
their own families.
In the 2006 Associated Press Article, “Economist Call For Wage to Be
increased,” more than 650 economists, including five winners of the
Nobel Prize for economics, called for an increase in the minimum wage.
Both the Hebrew Bible and the Christian New Testament speak
specifically about the just treatment of laborers, and the equitable
payment of wages. There are just too many passages to quote, so I will
mention Deuteronomy, which specifically states, “You shall not withhold
the wages of poor and needy laborers.” Dr. Paul Sullivan, in speaking
of Islam and Economic justice said, “Adel, meaning justice, Mizan,
meaning balance or equilibrium, and Ihsan, meaning compassion, are
crucial words to understand the search for what economic justice means
in an Islamic context. Without justice, balance, and compassion there
is not economic justice… In Islam, people can be seen as stewards of
God’s gifts. Muslims are accountable for the proper stewardship of
those gifts and that wealth.” In the Kutadanta Sutta, The Buddha states
that in order to raise the social and economic conditions of a country,
the farmers and traders should be given the necessary facilities to
carry on their farming and business, and that people should be paid
adequate wages. Dr. Martin Luther King stated, “When the church is true
to its nature, it stands as a moral guardian of the community and of
society.” So what calls us into action?
When I look into the face of a tear-streaked mother at the Poverty
Rights office and she pleads with me to offer an answer – to offer
assistance, how can I not hear that voice – that verbal and distinct
call? When we see the plight of families that are trying to make it
when gas prices are climbing and the price of food is rising, yet the
minimum wage has stayed the same – there is a clear and visible need.
In 2007 Congress passed a federal minimum wage increase – the first in
10 years – which will raise that wage to $7.25 by July 2009. The
federal minimum wage is currently $5.85/hr. While this is a good first
step, there are still many thousands of Georgia workers who can still
be paid $5.15/hr – or less – and will not be legally entitled to a
raise unless the Georgia General Assembly takes action.
In the introduction to his book titled How Much Do We Deserve?,
Unitarian Universalist minister Richard S. Gilbert says he worries that
many of us have “lost the capacity for moral outrage.”
In the midst of prosperity, are we vaguely anxious that millions of
other, living among us, have not enjoyed the same bounty? Is there such
thing as the deserving and the undeserving? What do we owe each other?
. I believe that part of this covenant of community with one another is
in pursuit of the greater good, the greater beloved community. Not of
some people, not just the crowd at Starbucks, or the person that serves
you the latte, but the people that grow and harvest the coffee, the
packagers and warehouse workers who bring the product to this city, the
drivers of the trucks who deliver the milk for your froth-filled
delight, and the road workers that smoothed the potholes so our cars
could safely make it to the coffee house at all. The illusion of
separateness is a finite declaration in the sand.
When we listen with our hearts and see through eyes of compassionate
connection, we understand the sacred interconnectedness between all
things. When we look to this wider family – the brothers and sisters we
have one in another – we share the greater dream. We uphold one
another. When we remember where we stand…There is no weakest link,
but one more person connecting the chain. When we bring our gifts,
passion, and love to the table, we transcend the obstacles that seem so
overwhelming when we are alone.
LET JUSTICE ROLL- Let it roll through our hearts, and have action in our hands and words. Let us stand together.
May it be so.

Online edition of India’s National Newspaper
Wednesday, Aug 27, 2008
U.P. launches online monitoring of projects

Lucknow: The Uttar Pradesh Government has launched an ambitious
scheme of online monitoring of projects being executed by Rajkiya
Nirman Nigam (RNN) in different parts of the country.

For the purpose, cameras would be installed at site offices which
would be further connected through internet, facilitating online
monitoring of the works at the headquarters here, the PWD Minister
Nasimuddin Siddiqui said, launching the scheme here on Tuesday. In the
first phase, cameras would be installed at Rajkiya Nirman Nigam sites
in Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bangaluru and Delhi, M. Siddiqui said. He said
that the corporation had many quality projects to its credit.-PTI

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Jagatheesan –

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