Buddhist polity, education would be predominantly experiential and aimed at the whole person. It would be carried out not in segregated educational factories, but by society as a whole (especially, of course, by the family), and the structure of society would have to permit and promote this kind of pervasive, lifelong apprenticeship.
human being are reborn; and one strives constantly thereafter to live in harmony with the dharma, the moral law that governs the universe.
Re-educting the Human Heart
Although Buddhism, in common with other religions, enjoins the avoidance of evil and the doing of good upon its followers, it places primary emphasis on re-educating individuals to perceive the dharma with their own hearts, for genuine liberation from selfishness and the suffering it causes is only to be found in total inner awareness, not in obedience to preceptual morality. The Buddhist philosopher is therefore interested in promoting psychological and social conditions that maximize individual opportunities for profound self-understanding and constructive self-development.
Conversely, things that tend to narcotize people or focus their attention on trivial externals — the widespread use of, drugs, the hypnotic power of the mass media, the vast "entertainment" industry, and so on — would be regarded as profoundly undesirable. Indeed, a Buddhist would see our vaunted educational system, aptly dubbed "the Church of Reason" by Robert Pirsig, as the worst narcotic of all. With its exclusive dedication to instrumental rationality and its virtually total neglect of character training and psychophysical development, this system has become a barrier to self-knowledge and a prime cause of individual and social suffering. In Buddhist eyes, our civilization is all head and no heart; our view of reality and our sense of human possibilities are therefore impoverished. By contrast, in a
The Pursuit of Dharma Not Happiness What, briefly, are the major tenets of a political philosophy founded on dharma rather than the pursuit of happiness? The first principle of Buddhist politics is respectful tolerance. All beings and all authentic paths being spiritually equal, there is no basis for discrimination among them. Thus, a Buddhist must live and let live, without imposing anything on others — even Buddhism. This does not mean that one lapses into apathetic quietism. To the contrary, it is the duty of a Buddhist to persevere in promoting the worldly expression of the dharma — but he must take care that, in doing so, he does not unleash further suffering. This requires him to work slowly, patiently, and carefully, scrupulously respecting the rights of others. Moreover, he must always remember that his primary duty is to bring about benign changes in himself; indeed, for a Buddhist this is the chief way in which society can be improved, because the good society can only be created from the bottom up, not from the top down. Accordingly, a Buddhist philosopher works with the grain of history, respecting the actual situation; he has no grand designs, no inflexible ideologies, no particular set of institutions to peddle — only the principle of upaya, or "skillful means" that manifest wisdom in action. The truth of the dharma must be given concrete form according to the peculiar historical conditions prevailing in a given place at a given time. At one time these conditions may call for a monarchy, at another a democracy; at one place they may require a Buddhist culture, at another a Christian or even a socalled pagan culture. The important thing is the quality of individual human lives and the inner meaning of a culture, not structure and other externals.
Second, secular equality follows naturally from spiritual equality — but not necessarily egalitarianism, for people can be equal without being the same. There are natural differences between man and the animals, between man and woman, and between man and man. To take cognizance of these differences and to reflect them appropriately in the social order (to the extent that historical conditions allow) fosters harmony and permits individuals to follow their own special vocation (i.e., their particular dharma or destiny). By contrast, egalitarianism as we know it , which is too often fuelled by envy, tends to reduce the social diversity that fosters genuine individuality and at the same time throws people into conflict as everyone tries to climb to the top of the same pole. For example, to the extent that the women's liberation movement attempts to throw off the prejudice that has denied women spiritual equality and the opportunity to pursue their own dharmas, it is a beneficent force; but to the extent that this same movement stirs up hatred between the sexes, denigrates the practical and spiritual importance of the traditional mother's role, or encourages women to be just as egotistically selfish and ambitious as males, it would cause a Buddhist philosopher deep concern.
Third, given that egotism is the fundamental personal and social problem, the emphasis ought to be placed on duties instead of rights. A primary characteristic of the enlightened man is compassion; he lightens the load of others instead of aggrandizing himself. He is also gratefully aware of all the debts he owes to parents, teachers, and the like and attempts generously to repay them by benefiting others in turn. One of the major paths toward self-purification is therefore the performance of loving service to one's community in whatever capacity one's talents and circumstances allow (with the spirit in which the service is performed, not the results achieved, being all-important). It just so happens that adherence to this principle of service tends also to create a better world for all, including the servitor. Conversely, a world comprised primarily of misers, rat-racers, dogs-in-the-manger, and lookers-out-for-number-one is a world in which unbearable tension, pain, crime, and violence are inevitable.
A fourth principle of Buddhist politics is simplicity. The primary cause of suffering is desire, for this makes one constantly want and grasp things (as opposed to simply enjoying what one already has without being attached to having it or lusting after more). But wants are infinite and even their constant fulfillment can never bring lasting satisfaction. A society in which wants are deliberately multiplied and in which this kind of happiness is pursued is therefore going to contain many frustrated and unhappy people — no matter how successful their pursuit is. The way to peace is spiritual poverty — not wanting to be better off than one already is materially, socially, even spiritually. A simple society without great extremes of rank, wealth, or knowledge is likelier to foster this spirit of tranquil non-attachment than one in which people are constantly made (often deliberately) to feel insecure, disadvantaged, or inadequate. In addition, as a byproduct, a simple society maximizes individual opportunities to participate meaningfully in social life and to be of direct service to others; it is therefore better suited to serve the cause of self-development. By contrast, to construct a society so complex and grandiose that it frustrates people's need to be creatively involved with the world, puts individuals largely at the mercy of remote bureaucrats and arrogant "experts," or reduces political participation to a token vote, in what the dynamics of electoral politics almost guarantee will be, a fencestraddling contest is certain to cause widespread alienation and unrest.
Finally, an essential requirement of a Buddhist polity is non-violence — and not just toward other humans, but also toward all the rest of creation. Perfect non-violence is impossible. Humans cannot feed, clothe, or house themselves without doing some violence. But by taking heed, by being frugal, and by using or doing things with respect, we can minimize our violence and alleviate most of its harmful effects. To do as we now do, gouging the earth to gratify our demand for energy and
Ecologist Vol . 7. No. 3.
materials that we then proceed to use wastefully to support a gluttonous standard of living and a monstrous military establishment, is to give full rein to violence, with the ecological wasteland without mirroring the spiritual wasteland within. We need not go to the opposite extreme of self-abnegation either, for Buddhism is 4 The Middle Way.'' Accordingly, the fulfillment of genuine needs and the enjoyment of natural pleasures that harm neither self nor others is legitimate, and these legitimate ends can be readily attained in a society that has eschewed violence for simplicity and frugality. Moreover, it is the spirit in which things are done, as much or more than the deed itself, that matters. For example, the welfare of the community may require the imprisonment or even the execution of a criminal; if such punishment is carried out not in a spirit of vengeance, but with insight and compassion, then it is not violent in intention. (But, of course, crime does not flourish unless people are deprived of a real role in society.) Similarly, although abortion involves killing, there are circumstances in which it may be the lesser of evils (but the violence involved in wholesale discretionary abortion for mere personal convenience is much harder for a Buddhist to condone).
Why Small Is Beautiful
Naturally, all the above principles are interrelated and mutually reinforcing. Thus, tolerance, equality, service, and simplicity all support non-violence, and vice versa. However, more important, all of the above are in turn dependent on a critical social variable — the scale of institutions. Bigness leads to complexity, not simplicity. Complexity in turn leads to the necessity for rationalized bureaucrtic rules and controls that frustrate or ignore the promptings of the human heart and that make people feel powerless and inadequate; it leads indirectly to inequality, quarrelsomeness, power struggles, and violenc° T . 1 Hon, problems that useu t( -solved with local initiative and ingenuity mushroom in size and ! ^ome qualitatively different; citizens can no longer cope, and the call goes up for government to "do something" —
but once problems reach this stage, they are essentially insoluble. Bigness also cuts down on individual opportunities for self-development; when every important decision is made "at the centre," all but a few are denied meaningful participation in life; no matter how busy they are in executing policy or meeting the quota, people know deep down that they are working for "headquarters," not themselves. As a consequence, we cannot expect much in the way of civic virtue from the average man; to the contrary, lacking the community involvement that would simultaneously enhance his self-respect and restrain his self-seeking, the citizen is likely to lapse into a resentful apathy antithetical to his own and the polity's health. Finally, it goes almost without saying that under these circumstances democracy, which is supposed to involve the citizen in making the laws that are to govern him, becomes symbolic at best, fraudulent at worst. In short, even i f smallness were not necessary to support Buddhist economics, it would be essential in its own right.
Naturally, smallness should not be made into a fetish. A critical mass is necessary for some undertakings, and there are genuine economies of scale in some areas. Thus, in accordance with the principle of upaya, a follower of "The Middle Way" would go about determining the appropriate size of social institutions pragmatically and with an open mind. Nevertheless, we can safely put aside the question of how much smaller would be beautiful for the moment, because i t is overwhelmingly clear that in almost every area it would be very much smaller than at present.
This ought not to be a startling conclusion. Aristotle and Plato both pointed out the social and political perils of over-development in the strongest possible terms, and later democratic and republican political theorists have unanimously reiterated their conclusion: only a relatively small, face-to-face society is capable of promoting and preserving a spirit of civic vLtue, democratic or republican self-rule, and a general atmosphere conducive to the self-development of the citizen; conversely, bigness and complexity invite tyranny and social unrest.