What is significant for the conceptualization of Buddhist socio-economic philosophy, lies in its ability to show that the Buddhist code of conduct, the Path for individual betterment and salvation, is not narrowly confined to one’s narrow self interest. In other words, Buddhist socio-economic philosophy has to demonstrate that the analytical mode of reasoning crystallized in the Four Noble truths and Eight-fold Path is equally concerned with one’s self as well as a sense of social awareness, a concern for others.
The morality of Buddhism in Buddhist socio-economic philosophy is both pragmatic and utilitarian. On the other hand, good is that which produces good effects and relieves one’s sorrows and stresses; evil generates ill effects and prolongs the agony of suffering and stress. The prescriptions for moral conduct are carefully laid out not as laws or injunctions to be obeyed as a matter of duty or obligation, but as rules or principles of conduct which flow from a theory of reality capable of validation and verification.
It is no doubt to understand that the Buddha’s teachings have significant impact on people’s lives not only among the genders, but also among people across the world and clearly provide a set of profound guidelines and teachings that pertain to man’s socio-economic and spiritual progress not only at the individual but also at the national level in order to establish cordially between individual but also at the national level in order to establish cordially between individual and the society. Modern man can lead a very happy and prosperous life if he promotes understanding and practices what the Buddha taught in the Tipitaka under the form of the Pali language according to the Theravada tradition conveyed in "Socio-Economic Philosophy of Buddhism: An Investigation Based on Pali Literature", which covers the brief introduction to Pali Tipitaka, historical socio-economic background of pre-Buddhist India, concepts of society, social and economic philosophy as reflected in the Pali literature, Buddhist economic development, and relevance of socio-economic pholosphy in the modern times.
Born in 1972 at My Tho City, Tien Giang Province, Vietnam, Pham Nhat Huong Thao comes from the family of Academic background. In the year 1992, she entered into the Buddhist Order with her Master’s guidance Most Venerable Thich Chanh Dao under the religious name Thich Nu Dieu Hien at An Phuoc Pagoda, Chau Doc, An Giang Province. From 1993 onwards, she has resided for practice and studying Buddhism at Kim Lien Pagoda, HCM City. Then in 1998 she was ordained as Bhikkuni in Mahayana tradition, Vietnam.
Since her childhood days, she was very much interested in books and always looks for study. She has completed her school education at HCM City and later graduated in Buddhology from Vietnam Buddhist University in 2005 and also done her graduation in English Linguistics and Literature from University of Social Sciences & Humanities in 2003.
In 2009, she has had an opportunity to come to the homeland of Buddhism (India) for higher study and training more about the Buddha’s teachings from the Department of Buddhist Studies, University of Delhi and completed M.A. in 2011 and M. Phil. in 2013. She has been awarded Doctrol Degree by GBU in 2019.
She has participated and presented her research papers on various aspects of Buddhism at national and international conferences held in different places of India. She has also published her fist book entitled (Sigalovada Sutta: A Compendium of Socio-Economic Philosphy of the Buddha" by Eastern Book Linkers, Delhi in 2017 and a good number of research papers : Dangers of intoxicating drinks (liquors) in Buddhist tradition in Wisdom Winds, Delhi (June 2016); Buddhist Education in Vietnam in Shodh Drishti and Fulfilling Duties in the Relationship between Parents and Children in Anukriti, Varanasi (2016).
She is one of members of Buddhist English-Vietnamese Translation Center (BEVTC), the Vietnam Buddhist Research Institute (VBRI) in HCM City, the 8th period (2017-2022) and has contributed to the translation task in the 16th United Nations Day of Vesak (UNDV) hosted in Vietnam in May 2019.
I am delighted to write this foreword, not only because Dr. Pham
Nhat Huong Thao has been a student of mine but she was also a
student of my mentor Prof. K. T.S. Sarao and at the same time, I believe
deeply in the educative value of interpretive discussion for all students,
especially in academics. I further believe that teachers at every level
and stage of their career can enrich and strengthen their teaching by
learning the discussion leading to patterns and practices presented in
this book. Participating in interpretive discussions can help teachers
and students alike learn to use their minds with power and pleasure.
The book in question is the second book of the author entitled Socio-
Economic Philosophy of Buddhism: An Investigation Based on Pali Literature.
Buddhism’s main concern during the time of the Buddha was
not only political liberation from social conditions, but also personal
liberation from human suffering arising from the cycle of birth, old age,
sickness, and death. Although the Buddha also taught ethical principles
regarding the social, economic, and political well-being of people, the
main theme in Buddhism was personal liberation from suffering was the
centre of attraction. Since social and political conditions have changed
tremendously in the present world scenario, I maintain that Buddhism
needs a structural vision and a new emphasis on Socio-Economic
Philosophy of the Buddha to counter new emerging challenges in the
socio-economic field. To construct a healthier Buddhist society requires
a change of the economic structure into one of more local self-sufficiency,
and the political structure into one of more local decentralization, with
moral and cultural values adapted to a contemporary context. Only
then the teachings of the Buddha take root in society as it did in the
historical past. We have to translate his essential teaching to address
the problems of today. Until we see that way to be free from suffering
is through mindfulness and nonviolence, there is little possibility of
overcoming suffering, either personally or socially. Today’s Globalized
world is full of social evils.
Those who think that Buddhism is interested only in lofty ideals,
high moral and philosophical thought, and ignores any social and
economic welfare of people, are wrong. The Buddha was interested
in the happiness of men. To him happiness was not possible without
leading a pure life based on moral and spiritual principles. But he knew
that leading such a life was hard in unfavorable material and social
conditions. Buddhism does not consider material welfare as an end in
itself; it is only a means to an end - a higher and nobler end. But it is
a means which is indispensable, indispensable in achieving a higher
purpose for man’s happiness. So, Buddhism recognizes the need of
certain minimum material conditions favorable to spiritual success -
even that of a monk engaged in meditation in some solitary place.
Buddhism is both a path of emancipation and a way of life. As a way
of life, it interacts, with the social and economic beliefs and practices
of people. In new global order, it is felt now that this is the most
opportune time to make known to the world each of the above aspects
of society within the framework of the basic principles of Buddhism.
The Buddhist doctrines are based on reasoning and rational thinking
and this perennial philosophy advocates a well-balanced material
and spiritual well-being in order to maintain a simple life and to help
attain the ultimate stage of individual liberation, summum bonum, or
Nibbana. Modern man can lead a very happy and prosperous life if he
understands the significance of this social and economic philosophy as
explained in the Pali Literature. The main objective of this book is to
bring into light the facts related to Socio-Economic issues faced by the
people in modern days and how Buddha’s teachings are going to help
in tackling this issue. In this present book, the author has tried her best
to explore the relevance and application of Socio-Economic philosophy
of the Buddha in present world scenario.
At the very outset the author has tried her best to explain the
significance of the contemporary necessity of research on this theme
and further on she has tried her level best to cover all the relevant
aspects and highlighted the same which exerts influence on the socio-
economic activities of the individual for betterment and development.
Hence, understanding of socio-economic philosophy of the Buddha
becomes more important today than ever before, because Buddhism
directly addresses the fundamental issues of human life and it’s inter
connectivity with the community at large in a holistic way.
In this era of globalization, economics is mostly governing the whole
world. Therefore, it is now widely felt that economics needs an ethical
theory, though, modern economics is mostly concerned with generation
of wealth and is defined as a study of "nature and causes of wealth of
nation". But, wealth is only a means and our objective is human well
being and wealth is a means to achieve this objective and therefore, it
is the study of mankind in ordinary business of life. It examines that
part of individual and social action which is closely connected with this
attainment and with the use of material requisites of well being. The
Buddha as a philosopher is devoted to the well being of the humanity.
The Buddha, himself has propounded this philosophy in the midst of
human suffering. The fundamental aim of Buddha was to provide a
recipe to help the suffering humanity and for this he has considered at
all spheres of human life. So it is very interesting to investigate what
standpoint Buddhism has for welfare economics. Whether it is at par
with modern economics or it has its own different perspective.
Buddhism founded by the Buddha is not only a path of emancipation
but also as a way of life because it interacts with the economic, political,
and social beliefs as well as practices that has immense effect on the
life of people. Buddhism is not a religion and gives importance to the
moral and ethical conduct of lay life for the happiness of oneself and the
welfare of the community. The philosophy of Buddhism is well defined
and conveyed in the Noble Eightfold Path not only for mendicant monks
but for ordinary householders who live in their homes with their family
members as well.
At the very outset let me first express my deepest appreciation,
gratitude and thankfulness to my dear supervisor Dr. Arvind Kumar
Singh, Assistant Professor, School of Buddhist Studies & Civilization
and Director, International Affairs, Gautam Buddha University for
not only his kindly concern, encouragement, guidance but also editing
and writing the FOREWORD of my second book published by Eastern
Book Linkers in Delhi. My special acknowledgements are also due to
respected Prof. K. T. S. Sarao who was my M. Phil. supervisor in the
Department of Buddhist Studies, University of Delhi, Prof. Bhikshu
Satvapala, Prof. H. P. Gangnegi, Dr. R. K. Rana, Dr. Subhra Barua
Pavagadhi, Dr. Satyendra Pandey, Dr. Sanjay Kumar Singh, and other
respected teachers to name a few viz., Prof. Siddarth Singh, Prof.
Anand Singh, Prof. Anita Sharma, Dr. Neeti Rana, Dr. Indu Girish,
Dr. Priyasen Singh, Dr. Chandrashekhar Paswan, Dr. Gurmet Dorjey,
Dr. Priyadarsini Mitra, Dr. Gyanaditya Shakya, Dr. Chintala Venkata
Sivasai, and Dr. Manish T. Meshram, who have enlightened me with
their teaching acumen and their valuable suggestions, helpful guidelines
for the process of researching, writing and accomplishing my work
entitled "Socio-Economic Philosophy of Buddhism: An Investigation
Based on Pali Literature".
I am immensely obliged to my revered Masters: Most Venerable
Thich Chanh Dao (An Phuéc Pagoda, Chau Déc, An Giang Province,
Vietnam), Most Venerable Thich Nw Khiét Minh (Kim Lién Pagoda,
HCM City), Ven. Thich Thién Minh and Ven. Thich Thién Pham (An
Phuide Pagoda), Most Ven. Thich Nu Tué Dang (Vinh Phong Pagoda,
Long An Province), Ven. Thich Nw Hué Thong (Buu Son Pagaoda,
My Tho City), as well as my beloved father Pham Tan Lam and my
beloved mother Bui Thi Chic for their best suggestions on the lone of
the gradual progress in morality, compassionate encouragement and
generous material supports in the path of not only learning but also
practice of the Buddha’s teachings for both myself and others.
Ialso wish to express my deep gratitude and pay true homage to the
most respected Dhamma Masters: Most Venerable Thich Minh Chau,
Most Venerable Thich Tu Théng, Most Ven. Thich Thanh Kiém, Most
Ven. Thich Duc Nghiép, Most Ven. Thich Tri Quang, Most Ven. Thién
Nhon, Most Ven. Thién Tam, Most Ven. Thich Gidc Toan, Most Ven.
Thich Nguyén Ngén, Most Ven. Thich Chon Thanh, Most Ven. Thich
Tang Dinh, Most Ven. Thich Thién Dic, Ven. Thich Minh Ly, etc. of
the Intermediate, Higher Buddhist School and Buddhist University
in Ho Chi Minh City where I have received the Buddhist education.
Besides, I could not forget to say my gratitude and thankfulness to Ven.
Dr. Thich Dong Tri and Ven. Thich Déng Dac who are kind enough
to recommend my name and offer me to join as member of Buddhist
English-Vietnamese Translation Center (BEVTC) of the Vietnam
Buddhist Research Institute (VBRI) in HCM City during the 8" period
Merely by thanking, I do not wish to be free from my multiple
indebtedness towards all my former teachers in my country who have
shared me their knowledge in secular education, especially my Ex-
English teachers: Mr. Tran Httu Thé, Mr. Ly Quang Huy, Mrs. Lé Hién
Phi, Miss Do Thi Thu (My Tho City), Mrs. Bich Lién, Mr. Thinh, Mr.
Lap, Mr. Tam (University of Social Sciences & Humanities, HCM City)
Mr. Nguyén Cao Hy, Mr. Nguyén Van Nghé, Mrs. Tran Phuong Lan
(HCM City), etc. so that I can get a great opportunity for further study
in the land of Buddhism, India.
Cordially, l cannot simply forget to express my heartfelt gratitude and
say thanks to my Dhamma brothers and Dhamma sisters, all members
in my family and relatives, my dear Dhamma friends particularly Ven.
Dr. Jagaralankara (DCU, Myanmar) who has kindly taught and guided
me in Pali language, as well as provided some fundamentally valuable
and useful books from Burmese source for more detailed explanations of
this present work as well as other supportive helps and encouragement
during my study in India; Ven. Phramaha Sanchai Racharee from
Thailand (GBU) who has taken into consideration to check and correct
Pali terms in my work and also shared other hardships in student’s
life with his compassion and kindness; Ven. Vijayalinkara (DU), Ven.
Dr. Dhammasami (GBU), Ven. Dr. Kawvida (GBU), Ven. Tiloka (GBU),
Ven. Thich Thanh Dinh, Ven. Thich Tam Vudng, Thich Nu Hanh Hué,
Thich Nu Ngo Bon, Thich Nuf Chén Dé, Thich Nuf Nhu Bich, Thich Nu
Phap Hoa, Thich Nu Hué Xuan, Thich Nu Diéu Tinh (Chau Doc), Thich
Nu Tué Chau, Thich Nu Nguyén Hiéu, Thich Nu Lién Vinh, sister Nga
Quach (USA), Pham Ngoc Kim (Australia), sisters Bui Thi Hao, Bui Thi
Phuong with their family (HCM City), sister Huynh Thi Bap (Tudng
Qua) & An Pha Buddhist groups (Chau Doc), who kindly provided me
with support and assurance for my study.
My thanks and appreciation is also due to those whose books,
journals and articles, dissertations, dictionaries, encyclopedias, as well
as website links have been well provided my work with useful materials
needed for quotations and references. Furthermore, I am thankful to
librarians of Central Reference Library (University of Delhi), Bodhisattva
Dr. B. R. Ambedkar Library (GBU) for my research facilities and their
giving me a hand to collect more sufficient documents and data of my
work. Greatly appreciated to all those who directly or indirectly have
given me conditions not only in good keep but also in good spirits for
my student life.
Tam also thankful to Mr. Ravi Malhotra, Prop., Eastern Book Linkers,
New Delhi for taking keen interest in publishing the present book with
his kind help, support and cooperation. At the same time, I would also
like to express my thankfulness to Dr. Meena Singh, Staff Officer to Vice
Chancellor, GBU for her kind help in getting the Prologue of the book
from Hon'ble Vice-Chancellor.
Global wellbeing, including prosperity and peace for the mankind
has been the aspirational goal of all the ancient philosophical traditions.
The ancient scriptures of the pre-Buddhist as well as post-Buddhist era,
including the Sanatana Vedic philosophy are replete with elaborate
tenets for economic and social wellbeing of the society. Buddhism has
been widely embraced universally and gained popularity across the
nations for its preaching aimed at utmost welfare of every individual.
The "Shrimad Bhagwat Geeta" even vouches for the utmost benevolence
of not only of mankind, but for every living being. It says "te prapanuvanti
mameva sarva-bhuta-hite ratah." Even the Upanishads preach for treating
every living being like the self. The Vedic scriptures talk of plenty and
abundance of all materialistic riches and also vouch for deploying the
same for common good. The ancient Indus Valley Civilization, dating
back to 6000 B.C.E., as per the revised time estimates, has relics of
houses with as many as 30 rooms. The Republics that existed in the
Buddhist era and pre-Buddhist era talk of several advance civilizations.
The Buddhist era is characterized with riches and abundance with
advanced social fabric.
Yet, the Buddhist teachings neither disapprove of materialistic riches
nor consider poverty as a value. Buddhism associates poverty with
suffering, and hence poverty in society ought to be overcome. However,
human concern with acquisition of material wealth alone is considered
as an attitude which expresses blindness with respect to one aspect of
human living. If people neither engage in the pursuit of material wealth
nor in the pursuit of moral development they are comparable to people
who are totally blind. If they engage only in the pursuit of material
wealth ignoring moral development they are comparable to persons
lacking vision in one eye. The same Buddhist standpoint is expressed
when human happiness or well being is conceived both in economic
and moral terms. It is pointed out that compared with the happiness or
well being a person achieves as a consequence of moral development
achievements in the purely economic pursuits of life are far inferior to
the former in value.
However, examined from the Buddhist perspective, the pursuit of
some aspects of economic activity in the new economic order appears
to make it difficult to sustain the Buddhist ethics of ‘right livelihood’
in respect of socio-economic life. Buddhist teachings instruct people to
conform to the ethical principles of compassion, sympathy, honesty,
and justice in the regulation of one’s economic life. Socio-economic
development achieved without conforming to such virtues is considered
in the Buddhist teachings as immoral and unworthy. There are certain
social values such as values pertaining to family life that seem to be
threatened by the sole concern of people with monetary gain. As a
consequence, the children in the formative years of their life neither
get the deserved love and care, nor the moral direction that the parents
are expected to give them, leading to a serious breakdown of moral
values in the family. Husbands and wives separated for long periods
lose their marital bonds, and end up in the breakdown of the family
further endangering the well being of their offspring.
The ill effects of ignoring the need for ethical restraints in adopting
effective measures in socio-economic development are becoming
increasingly evident in the contemporary world. Economic development
which is desired for the sake of happiness, social stability and security
appears to be moving societies away from these very goals that are
desired. The greatest threat to contemporary society appears to be
from the ecological imbalance created by the pursuit of material wealth
without ethical restraints. There may still be a chance to escape the
impending disaster that humanity has to encounter if remedial action is
taken speedily by right thinking men to regulate human efforts aimed
at economic development taking into account the indispensable need
for ethical restraints. Buddhist teachings are immensely resourceful in
This book entitled Socio-Economic Philosophy of Buddhism: An
Investigation Based on Pali Literature is a comprehensive work on
various facets of social and economic life of the Buddhist era. It would
prove to be a landmark work on this topic. The undersigned hopes
that it would help the society to pursue the socio-economic values and
priorities for a well enriching life.
Buddhism founded by the Buddha is not only a path of emancipation,
but a way of life as well. As a way of life, it interacts with the economic,
political, and social beliefs as well as practices of the people. Buddhism
which is not a religion but a way of life teaches the moral and ethical
conduct of lay life for the happiness of oneself and the welfare of the
community. Designed to formulate an intricate system of analyzing
human life and the intrinsic nature of things, the Buddhist doctrines are
based on reasoning and rational thinking. This perennial philosophy
which dates back more than 2,560 years, advocates a well-balanced
material and spiritual well-being in order to maintain a simple life
and to help attaining the real peace and happiness oneself leading to
the ultimate stage of individual liberation or Nibbana. The Buddhist
philosophy is not based on an initial act of faith just like some scholars
who have misunderstood the Buddhist teachings are of the opinion that
there is no socio-economic and political philosophy of Buddhism. Or
another misconceived idea of Buddhism states that what the Buddha
taught is considered as such a sublime system that ordinary people
are impossible to follow and practice it. But in fact, the doctrine of
the Blessed One is conveyed as the message not only for mendicant
monks but for ordinary householders (men and women) who live in
their homes with their family members as well. The Noble Eightfold
Path, meditation on loving-kindness and ten perfections are meant for
all. They can be practiced in daily life. Having aimed at laying much
emphasis on the sake of members of society and their welfare, the
Lord Buddha urged to his first 60 disciple monks at Sarnath who were
Arahants to "walk on tour for the good of the many, for the happiness of the
many, for the welfare of the many, good and happiness of human beings and
celestial beings". As a result, Buddhism dominated in heart of people
and the old Buddhist monasteries had become the spiritual centers as
well as the centers of learning and culture in the beliefs of people. The
five precepts are meant for the whole human society. Any person can
observe them and lead a spiritual life and that would be of great benefit
for him or her as well as to this present competitive society.
Buddhism, however, brought about a more sophisticated and
nuanced understanding of religion as a set of principles within the
domain of sociology and psychology, and not theology. Buddhism is an
ideology that squarely analyses and provides practical solutions to basic
problems of human existence: that every living being must undergo
suffering and how to raise oneself out of it. Moreover, Buddhism aims
to be a social, economic and political philosophy that is democratic in
ethos. There is no place for supernatural entities; indeed, we are not
concerned about whether there is a God or not, or if there is an after life
or not, or a day of reckoning or redemption. The main concern is the
problem faced by all human beings, dukkha (suffering), and its causes
and the answer to it. The Buddha did not blame any supernatural entity
for the existence of dukkha, but prevailing social conditions and the
personal conduct of the individual. He taught that the only way to get
rid of dukkha was not by pleasing any supernatural entity but by the
reorganization of society and improved personal conduct. This is why
the Buddha preached that greed or excessive desire was the cause of all
dukkha and hence restraint was required.
The Buddha never claimed to be a god but he has propounded certain
principles which make human life at peaceful and free from conflict
which is based on the principles of equality, liberty and fraternity,
which are the main pillars of modern democracy. The Buddha taught
and practiced equality between genders and treated women as equal
in all aspects of life, bestowing the priesthood upon them. Both shudras
and women were denied this liberty and equality by the chaturvarna
practices prior to and during the advent of Buddhism. Buddha did not
stop here, but also propagated fraternity, which is one more principle
required not only for democracy, but even for peaceful coexistence
of humanity. We might say, therefore, that the Buddha was the first
political philosopher who taught liberty, equality and fraternity, the
basic requirements for meaningful democracy and peaceful coexistence
The Buddha’s social and economic philosophy is very relevant today,
especially as well as a nation ascend onto the world stage as a normative
power. What is significant for the conceptualization of Buddhist social
and economic philosophy, lies in its ability to show that the Buddhist
code of conduct, the Path for individual betterment and salvation, is
not narrowly confined to one’s narrow self interest. In other words,
Buddhist social and economic philosophy has to demonstrate that the
analytical mode of reasoning crystallized in the Four Noble Truths and
Eight-fold path is equally concerned with one’s self as well as a sense
of social awareness, a concern for others. There is no doubt that the
social economic philosophy of Buddhism places its ‘primary emphasis
on the individual and ... social consequences follow from the centre of
the individual’s own psychology’ with emphasis upon the subjective
aspects of his social ethics’. The peace in the general social sense is only
the end result of the cultivation of peace-mindedness by the individual
who is the ultimate unit of the social community. By asserting that
the centrality of the individual, one’s freedom and autonomy is not
an absolute independence, Buddhism recognizes the complex and
interdependent relationship that exists between individuals and
society, or the self and the other. The notion of individual identity is
a complex and difficult question bearing on how we understand the
Buddhist concept of the Self and No-Self (the Anatta doctrine).
**Contents and Sample Pages**
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