Friday, July 24, 2009

Buddhist Anarchism

Some observers believe certain Buddhist teachings form a philosophical ground for anarchism.

Buddhism is rooted in three fundamental truths of the universe, the dharma seals, viz.:

1. Everything is in a constant state of change, nothing is permanent. (anicca)

2. That "suffering" exists everywhere in Samsara. (dukkha)

3. That everything is devoid of a "self." (anatta)

Thus, there can be no "perfect State"; from this Buddhist anarchists infer that it is only possible to try to approach an ideal community for all. Any man-made institution is impermanent as well as imperfect, as people and the world change constantly. Further, no material wealth or political power will grant people permanent happiness— unenlightened satisfaction is an illusion that only perpetuates samsara. Individual liberty, while a worthy goal for anarchists, is nevertheless incomplete, to the extent that it precludes our common humanity, since there is, ultimately, no "self" that is inherently distinct from the rest of the universe.

That being said, the aim of a bodhisattva is to try to minimize the amount of suffering that goes on during the lives of conscious beings. The socialist anarchist argues that both the state and capitalism generate oppression and, therefore, suffering. The former, the state, is an institution that frames the desire for power, and the latter, capitalism, the desire for material wealth. Trying to control other human beings, in the view of Buddhist anarchists, will only cause them to suffer, and ultimately causes suffering for those who try to control. Trying to hold on to and accumulate material wealth, likewise, increases suffering for the capitalist and those they do business with.

Compassion, for a Buddhist, springs from a fundamental selflessness. Compassion for humanity as a whole is what inspires the Buddhist towards activism; however, most, if not all, political groups tend to go against the Eightfold Path that steers Buddhist thought and action. Thus, anarchism, lacking a rigid ideological structure and dogmas, is seen as easily applicable for Buddhists.

Those who have seen the conjunction of anarchism and Buddhism (in various ways) arguably include Uchiyama Gudo, Edward Carpenter, Ananda Coomaraswamy, Lala Hardayal, Liu Shipei, John Cage, Kenneth Rexroth, Allen Ginsberg, Diane di Prima, Gary Snyder, Jackson MacLow, Peter Lamborn Wilson, John Moore, Kerry Wendell Thornley, Max Cafard, William Batchelder Greene, as well as the pro-Situationist Ken Knabb and others.[citation needed] The anarchist thinker Peter Kropotkin saw primitive Buddhist communities as embodying the principle of mutual aid,[2] and Matthew Turner noted that some Buddhist priests were involved in the anarchist movement in Japan in the early part of the 20th century.