08 August 2012

When the tenets of good governance are violated…

‘Father of Political Science’, like the father of any science, is not a title actually sought by those thus named.  Aristotle, Plato, Montesquieu, Hobbes, and Machiavelli all contributed to the study of power in ways that warrant title.  They were however preceded by Siddhartha Gauthama, the Buddha, who, quite apart from a vast canon of philosophical commentaries on a wide range of issues pertaining to the human condition, spoke at length and in detail about matters of governance.

The definitive text book on Good Governance was written, so to speak, over 2500 years ago by Siddhartha Gauthama: The Dasa Raja Dharma, the ten-point framework for rulers. Each tenet is a book, if one wants to expand on the basic principle, a doctoral dissertation in fact and a single article running into 1000 words or less cannot do justice to this amazing handbook for the ruler. The nutshell-version would thus be the 10 tenets:  Dana (liberality, generosity, charity), Sila (a high and moral character), Pariccaga (sacrificing everything for the good of the people), Ajjava (honesty and integrity), Maddava (kindness and gentleness), Tapa (austerity of habits), Akkodha (freedom from envy, ill-will, enmity), Avihimsa (non-violence), Khanti (patience, forbearance, tolerance, understanding), Avirodha (non-opposition, non-obstruction).

The Buddha’s teachings on governance were not limited to this, however.  The Sapta Aparihani Dharm (the seven principles of invincibility), the Kalama Sutta (The Charter on Free Inquiry) and many observations in the Raja Vagga (discourses referring to kings) of the Anguttara Nikaya (Numerical Discourses) cover concepts that have only recently acquired currency in the West-led discussions on governance. 

Ven. Prof. Vilegoda Ariyadeva Thero’s short commentary titled ‘Raja Bhavatu Dhammiko’ (‘May the King be good (or righteous or act with fidelity to the Dhamma), beautifully illustrated by the artist Anura Shrinath) is an excellent introduction to the vast riches in the Buddhist canon of which very few political scientists are aware and which fewer still are driven by academic rigor to peruse.  The booklet, aptly dedicated to the ‘Maga Manavakas’ who sacrificed their lives to create a better social order, details the Agganna Sutta and four Jathaka stories, Gandathindu Jathaka, Kukkura Jathaka, Maha Supina Jathaka and the Kulavaka Jathaka.  We have carried the illustrations and text pertaining to the Maha Supina Jathaka, which refers to the 16 ‘strange dreams’ that perturbed King Pasenadee Kosol and the Buddha’s interpretations of the same.  The Buddha allays the king’s fears and explains that the dreams speak of a different time, a period that is yet to pass. 

These interpretations speak to the consequences of poor governance.  Strangely, or perhaps not strangely, they describe realities that are contemporary, especially in the post 1977 period.  Quite apart from demonstrating the predictive sweep of the Buddha, they constitute a strong recommendation to revisit the tenets of good governance that the Enlightened One spoke of, more than 2500 years ago.   

[Published in the UNDO Section of 'The Nation', August 5, 2012]



walter rajaratne said...

It’s timely that you quote from Thathagatha Budunwahanse as to how a sober and dharmista king should govern a country. But look at the situation.

Lets just raise our head and see t a series of high scale corruptions taking place and the man at the helm going as if everything is hunky dory.

Dirty Harry was given the Petroleum to do what? And he did it in style. He is a business leader with a high success rate. No wonder, we got to admit US,UK,Spain are the living legacies of the success stories for centuries.

Dirty Harry’s success as you know is many a tax fraud running into billions of poor sri lankans begging bowl. Sirima, Chandrika and now MR taking his expertise to rob the state coffer. Harry is only a cat’s paw. You don’t have to be a Einstein to solve this simple puzzle.

Fonny is the biggest rogue who robbed billions violating army tender procedures.