By Nyo Tun
February 8, 2014
In Samyutta Nikaya, I find an excellent story reference in regard to this controversial issue of whether Buddhist monks should take political action or side with any political group. The story is as follows:
In Rajagaha, Ven. Ananda was wandering with a large group of Bikkhus and he came to meet with Ven. Kassapa who was dwelling there. By that time, thirty pupils of Ven. Ananda had returned to the lower life (To my understanding, they offended the Parajika Monastic Code and were no longer monks).
The senior one, Ven. Kassapa, inspiring to shame upon the junior one, Ven. Ananda, asked his junior: "Ananda, why Buddha laid down the rule that Bikkhus should not take meals among families in groups of more than three? " .
Ven. Ananda, who seemed to be rather old at that time (meaning he had mastered most of Buddha's direct teachings) replied : " They are three reasons:(1) not to form evil wishes, (2) (sequentially) form a faction and create a schism in the Sangha, and (3) not to menace families".
Ven. Kassapa said "you youngster, didn't know your measure yet (though you learned from Buddha, you don't know what to observe) ".
Ven. Anada was disappointed and snapped to his senior: "I have grey hair on my head, Sir. Why you called me (this hoary guy) 'this youngster' ? ".
Ven. Kassapa asserted: " this youngster - wandered with such a large faction of Bikkhus".
We can put No.1 in this way. Almost all results of collective (totalitarian) political actions result in utter moral depravity as they define morality in terms of the collective (totalitarian) entity resulting in sheer undermining of the very basis of morality: "individual conscience". We can't accept "State morality", "Military morality", or "Special Interest Group morality" as The Sangha's morality. Nor we can accept "Burmese morality" "Buddhism morality" or "Sarsana morality" (အမ်ိဳး ဘာသာ သာသနာ) as individual conscience (Loka Pala - not to inflict injustice upon others).
Indeed, all collective actions are liable to the mentioned evil wishes: we can practically observe in these three Theravada countries (Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand) and in the past, Zen-corrupted Japan. "Institutionalized greed", "institutionalized ill-will", and "collective delusion" as Dr David Loy smartly innovated new terms in his brilliant Buddhist Social Theory. Actually, the root of all these bad mechanisms can be summed up in one single Buddha's direct term "evil wishes".
No.2: from these evil wishes that are based on group morality, the group of corrupted monks form a special interest faction (But their claim is always totalitarian we should note) : like 969 and 969-transformed Sasana Pala in Burma or other political groups in Thailand, Sri Lanka or elsewhere. That is obviously schism because the group "marks" the Sangha's responsibility (character) as being "centered" on gaining the authority in their particularly chosen and privileged group. Sarsana has only One Way that means individual conscience - the conscience to choose the right things (NOT group conscience, NOT "chosen" conscience, NOT "privileged" conscience) , Buddha is clear to us.
No.3: of course, such political actions always menace the families. Doing political actions mean monks side with at least one particular political group. Most political institutions in those countries are formed by particular factions which use their incumbent political power to plunder the property of others.
Benefiting the incumbent political group in power always means the plundered group (victim group) is menaced. Benefiting a non-incumbent political group also means the incumbent group in power is menaced. As a sincere Sangha, no monk shall side with any incumbent politician, opposition parties or even civilians. Any kind of collusion leads to meancing the potential victims or already suffering victims who are afraid of being robbed or even taking their lives (The 2nd and 3rd parajika offense).