Buddha and Montesquieu Summaries

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An ongoing question in the world today is what is the best and most effective form of government to help guide a nation to prosperity? Is it a monarchy, democracy, republic or could it even be a dictatorship? Since this question is not only relevant to politicians but to society as a whole, many people have offered their opinion on the subject, including religious leaders such as the Buddha. But can a man dedicated to religion share similar ideals to a man dedicated to politics? In order to answer these questions as well as the question of what is the best form of government, this paper will examine the Buddha’s political philosophy and compare it with the French enlightenment thinker Baron de Montesquieu and his view on how a government should operate. In order to fully grasp the Buddha’s political philosophy, it is crucial to understand the fundamental beliefs of Buddhism. The purpose of Buddhism is to reach spiritual enlightenment, in which, all of your world desires or cravings are subsided, and you enter into the highest spiritual state-of-being called nirvana. Nirvana can only be reached by living your life in a manner where your actions result in good Karma, moving you up on the plane of existence. Karma refers to the idea that all your actions have consequences in this life and the next, and these actions will shape your personality, which then will shape how you will be reincarnated in your next life. The responsibility of life is in the hands of the individual, and it is his or her duty to live in moderation and to not dwell on pain or misfortunes, which Buddha says are inevitable. The Buddha says there are two kinds of searches or paths in life the noble and ignoble. The noble refers to seeking things that are not subject to worldly consequences such as aging or death and the ignoble refers to only being concerned with your immediate earthly desires. The Buddha teaches that since all things of this earth are impermanent. Those who place their happiness in them are essentially preventing their own happiness and ensuring their own suffering. Therefore, in order to truly have eternal happiness, it is requisite to place Nirvana at the center of your happiness since it is permanent and will never let you down. Buddha states there are Four Noble Truths: life is suffering, craving and attachment causes suffering, abandoning cravings will lead to the end of suffering, and that the Noble Eightfold Path is the method of how to conquer cravings leading to noble truth. Now that we have examined the fundamental beliefs of Buddha, we will now shift our focus onto Buddha’s political philosophy. In Buddha’s Agganna Sutta, he discusses how the universe we live in today came into being. He states that in the beginning, “there was just one mass of water, and all was darkness, blinding darkness. Neither moon nor sun appeared, no constellations or stars appeared, night and day were not distinguished, nor months and fortnights, no years or seasons, and no male and female, beings being reckoned just as beings”(Walshe 410). From the one mass of water land started to develop and the land was filled with color, smell and taste. Once these things began to appear, greedy beings started to taste the earth and “in so doing, [they] became taken with the flavour, and craving arose in [them]”(Walshe 410). The beings of earth kept giving into their cravings and they bodies became coarser leading some people to look better than others. From this, lead sexual cravings and those who indulged were looked upon as wicked, therefore in order to be able to indulge in their cravings without the public knowing, people built homes to have sex in private. According to Buddha, at this point in the universe, food simply just grew, however once people began to store up food and give into laziness the rice began to start growing in separate cluster forcing humans to divide up the rice into fields of boundaries. Consequently, when the rice was divided some...
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