Today is Esala full moon Poya Day Bring back Lichchavis: Dhamma and Politics
The election manifesto of the UNFGG speaks of the Lichchavi form of Government. The only forms of Government that existed during Buddha’s day were, Monarchism and Republicanism. Lichchavis were important members of the Vrajjan confederacy.The Mahāparinibbāna Sutta refers to them as Kshatriyas. The PM keeps on saying that he will introduce the system of the Lichchavis to Sri Lanka— it would be interesting to discuss the Lichchavi system in relation to the possibility of introducing it to our State.
The eventful month of July began with Adhi- Esala Poya; eventful, due to a strong sense of uncertainty looming large over Sri Lanka— it ends today on a serene note, again on this Esala full moon day, the second for the month.
It was mentioned in the ‘100-day Yahapalanaya’ programme of Maithri, that the leader of the party securing the highest number of seats will be appointed as the Prime Minister and the leader of the party securing second place will be made the Deputy Prime Minister. This most probably is the Lichchavi system RW talks about. During the time of the Buddha, Ajasath the king of Magadha wanted to invade the Vrajji ruled by the Lichchavis. Buddha advised the Prime Minister of Ajasath, not to proceed with the war effort; Buddha warned that the Lichchavis could not be defeated as long as they stick on to the seven Dhammas. (Sapta Aparihani Dhamma). The basic principle of the republican form of government was adopted by the Vrajjans. They were prosperous and powerful republicans who earned the wrath of the king of Magadha, Ajasath. When the Buddha learned of the evil intentions of Ajasath to destroy the Vrajjans, he questioned as to whether the Vrajjans continued to observe the seven conditions listed here, that would prevent destruction of their Republic. These traditions pursued by the Lichchavis were later introduced to the Bhikku Sasana too by Buddha.
Sapta Aparihani Dhamma
1. Meeting regularly and frequently
2. Meeting in harmony, dispersing in harmony, and carrying on its business in harmony.
3. Not authorising what has not been authorised already; not abolishing what has already been authorised, but proceeding according to the ancient traditions
4. Honouring, respecting, revering, and saluting the elders and considering them worth listening to.
5. Not forcibly abducting females and compelling them to live under a yolk.
6. Honouring, respecting, revering, and saluting shrines at home and abroad without withdrawing offerings previously provided.
7. Making appropriate provisions for the safety of worthy ones (Arahants) and the new arrivals, as well as those who are already present.
“Oh, monks, as long as you meet and discuss issues as a matter of practice, you are certain to achieve progress. So long as you stay united you are assured of progress.”
Siddhartha Gauthama, the son of King Suddhodana and Queen Maha Maya lived in three luxurious palaces provided by his father. At 29, he was not pleased with these delights and realised that he would grow old, fall sick and one day breathe his last breath. With an urge to discover answers he finally decided, exactly 2610 years ago, to abandon the worldly possessions and become an ascetic.
On Esala full moon day he undertook this Great Renunciation in search of truth. Buddha preached his opening sermon, Dhammachakka Pavattana Sutta in Benares to five ascetics namely, Kondanna, Bhaddiya, Vappa, Mahanama and Assaji, at the deer park, Isipatanaramaya. The Sangha Sasana established on this day with the first five Bhikkhus spread over South-East Asia during King Dharmasoka’s reign.
Freedom from the bonds of Samsara and Political Theories
Only in the minds which are free, can one find complete freedom; it cannot be found in any political system like democracy, socialism or communism. To be free, people will have to look within their own minds and work towards freeing themselves from the chains of ignorance and craving. Buddha, though closely associated with kings, princes and ministers, never chose to influence political power to introduce his Dhamma, nor did he allow the teachings to be abused or misused for gaining advantage for aspiring to political power.
Many politicians of rival factions are dragging Buddha’s name and his sayings into politics by quoting and mis-interpreting the Sutras. Some temples have become central propaganda units of political interests. Big political organisations encourage Sangha units within party machinery, while a few saffron robed extremist elements have formed political entities to contest the elections.
Dhamma is Morality and Purity; while politics is Greed and Power.
Cosmic Law of Cause and Effect or Karma is the law of moral causation. Those who attempt to interact or combine Dhamma with politics, an inherent problem for some politicians, should understand that the basis of Dhamma is morality and purity, while that for politics is greed and power. There is ample evidence in world history, where religion has often been used to justify the exercise of power by those in possession of it, especially for waging wars, rebellions, atrocities, demolition of religious places of worship and destruction of culture. Religion had been used to yield to political desires, worldly political demands have overridden religion’s just principles and morals.
A political system can safeguard the happiness and prosperity of its people only to a certain limit. It may appear to be an ideal system, complete with perfect policies and principles, but they cannot bring about harmony and contentment as long as the people are subject to greed, hatred and illusion. In addition, no matter what political system is adopted, there are certain universal factors which the members of that society will have to experience: the effects of good and bad karma, the lack of real satisfaction or everlasting happiness in the world characterised by Dukkha (unsatisfactoriness), Anicca (impermanence), and Anatta (egolessness). Nowhere in Samsara is there real peace and happiness, not even in the heavens or in the Brahma world. Establishing political arrangements and creation of new political institutions has nothing to do with Buddha Dhamma; instead it has a sacred duty in improving welfare of the society and more equitable sharing of resources, guiding the people towards greater humanism. Guarantees on basic human rights and checks and balances of the use of power are qualities of a good and just political system.
Divisions are artificial obstructions originally created by Tribal Groups
Regarding the equality of all human beings, it was the Buddha who spoke on it long before the statesmen, Abraham Lincoln, Disraeli, Benjamin Franklyn, Mahatma Gandhi, Churchill or Mandela did. Race, class, caste and other divisions are artificial obstructions originally created by tribal groups and developed over centuries by medieval and modern societies. Human beings can be classified, according to the Buddha, based on features of their moral behaviour. He encouraged the development of strength of mind for establishing co-operation between social groups and active involvement in combined human endeavour. This spirit, enthusiastically encouraged in modern political process of advanced societies, has a close parallel to the scientific classification of Homo Sapiens, which separates humans into three main categories based on physical attributes, namely, Caucosoid, Negroid, Mongoloid and a small group called Australoid, comprising indigenous people.
The Buddha did not appoint a successor; Dhamma and Vinaya, were made guiding spirits or Rule of Law which governs and guides their conduct. The Mahasanga has a sacred duty in remaining within village precincts, encouraging people to visit them for advice and guidance or go in search of youth addicted to the drug menace and adult alcoholics instead of decorating special daises erected parallel to political platforms; while a few of them address the voter asking them not to vote for Kudu-Ethanol candidates. The narcotics trade is backed by the world’s most powerful Mafia. Billions and not just millions change hands in the process of marketing the deadly stuff. Political patronage becomes a necessity for the expert handling of the business.
It is good to reject the well-known corrupt elements at the vote, but you can be certain the mafia gifted with men professionally trained in the art of luring, would rope in a few among the 225 of the legislators through lucrative santhosams in making them their pawns. For the clergy, priority should be to help the few voluntary organisations struggling with limited resources to free the nation of drug addicts. It is believed a few notorious drug peddlers are seeking entry to Parliament through the Blues, while the list prepared by the Chairman of the National Dangerous Drugs Control Board, (NDDCB) Dr. Nilanga Samarasinghe was not published. It is said the list consists of names of MPs from both the ‘big parties-the Blues and Greens’. As was specifically revealed by Deputy Minister Ranjan Ramanayake, there had been a few names of his party men as well in the list. However, since this disclosure he maintains a stoic silence, while the President of NDDCB receives threatening calls.
The Lichchcavis became so authoritative, later they reigned in the territory of the city of Vesali, a city rich and prosperous. It was made a ‘Heaven on Earth’. The Rajapaksas wanted to make ours the ‘Wonder of Asia’; people said no. Let’s hope the United National Front for Good Governance makes it a ‘Heaven on Earth.’