Synopsis Buddhist Approach on Laws: Principle for Practice

22 September 2541

Buddhist Approach on Laws:
Principle for Practice

Laws, Rules, Legality, and Rights in Buddhism

Despite their importance, socially-constructed rules, laws, and rights by no means constitute the absolute guarantee of human life’s quality, the development of human wisdom, and just societies. Unless these rules have their very essence in the laws of nature, applied with good intention and insight to social arrangements for the sake of people’s learning and self-development, they cannot make up effective means to lead people to a peaceful ends.

Buddhism acknowledges that social rules, laws, and rights have created order to what might have been chaotic. In this regard, they help improve both individual and collective well-beings. Despite their benefits, however, Buddhism maintains that man-made rules, laws, legality, and rights simply comprise reality of a second order. Unless they are grounded on the principles of “Dharma” (natural laws, actual reality, truthful causality) and realized by people who have deep understanding of such principles, the meaningful development of human quality as well as the peaceful co-existence among people, local or global, seems unattainable, especially in the circumstances where democracy has created the tension between multidimensional diversities and the need for social unity.

The Laws of Reality

According to Buddhism, there are two levels of reality: social and actual, both of which are causal, involving the laws of their own. Actual reality is what holds true ubiquitously, exists independently of human beings, but can be comprehended through human wisdom (Paññā). Social reality, on the other hand, consists of human constructs whose meanings and practices depend upon agreements among those who have created them. Since human beings, either as an individual or a group, cannot live inseparably from nature, one of the conditions for the achievements of effective social arrangements is to learn about the laws in nature and wisely apply them in the creation or the design of social rules, laws, and rights. Unless these social constructs are based upon the laws of nature, social arrangements will not only be flawed, but also become superficial and meaningless. Living in this sort of situation, people will inevitably feel estranged, alienated, desperate, or depressed, so that they may have lost their vitality and ability to take action for the improvement of their lives and environment. Therefore, social rules, laws, and rights must be subjected to continual assessment of their essence. And the yardstick against which they need to be measured is the laws of nature.

Social Rules and Self-Development

In Buddhism, meaningful social laws, rules, legality, and rights are those that not only incorporate the truth in nature, but also encourage people’s self-development. As shown by the Sangha, a community of Buddhist monks, rules, laws, and rights are carefully laid out such that the monks can have greatest opportunity to achieve healthier minds and deeper intellects through meditation and learning. In this sort of community, rules, laws, and rights, though seen by outsiders as highly restraining or controlling, are perceived by the community members as lessons or exercises for self-refinement. Even though Buddhism admits that this sort of community may be close to ideal, if not the ideal itself, it still argues for positive laws, rules, legality and rights that help people to develop their healthy bodies, minds, and wisdom rather than the negative counterparts that center on punishments and elimination.

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