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PSIR 1A-9.3 Buddhist Political Tradition – Previous Year Questions & Answers

Model Answers to PYQs (2018-2023)

1] Buddhist thought on Dhamma facilitates the emancipation of political action. Explain. [2023/20m/250w/4a]

Buddhist thought, particularly the concept of Dhamma, has the potential to influence political action in a way that aligns with the ideals of emancipation and ethical governance. While Buddhism is primarily a spiritual and philosophical tradition, it does offer insights and principles that can be applied to political contexts.

Buddhist thought emphasizes ethical principles such as compassion, non-violence, and mindfulness. These principles can guide political action toward more just and humane policies and practices. Emancipation in a political context can be seen as the liberation from suffering and oppression, which aligns with the core goal of Buddhism – the cessation of suffering (Nirvana).

Ambedkar explained the purpose of the Dhamma as the end of suffering and end of poverty. Dhamma becomes a “universal morality that protects the weak from the strong, and safeguards the growth of the individual”.

Tamil social reformer, Iyothee Thass who founded the Sakya Buddhist Society also believed that Dalits were primarily Buddhists and they should look into Buddhism for their emancipation.

Further, Buddhism’s Middle Way philosophy can lead to policies and actions that seek balance and avoid the radicalization of society, thus contributing to social harmony and emancipation from divisive ideologies.

While Buddhist thought offers valuable insights for political action, it’s important to note that the application of these principles can vary depending on the cultural and political context. Additionally, the separation of religion and state is a key consideration in democratic societies, so the influence of Buddhism on political action should respect the principles of secular governance. [251 words]

2] Do you think that the Buddhist traditions have lent greater ethical foundation to the ancient Indian political thought? Give your arguments. [2021/20m/250w/4a]

The Buddhist tradition definitely provided a greater ethical foundation to ancient Indian political thought and is particularly visible in the idea of ahimsa, kingship, religion etc.

Buddhism emerged as a reaction against Vedic tradition. At the time, the Vedic tradition was marred by superstition, caste inequality and animal sacrifice. Buddhism renounced Varnasharam dharma, and promoted equality and ahimsa.

Buddhist political tradition is idealistic in orientation. It lays great emphasis on the virtues of a King. Asvaghosha, in ‘Buddhacharit’, describes an ideal king as ‘atmajit’, one who has conquered himself. According to him, a king should be calm, learned, generous and truthful. He should be loved by the people, rather than feared. He should also be a symbol of sacrifice to his people. According to Upinder Kaur, Buddhist texts overemphasise compassion.

The Buddhist tradition believes in the complete application of the principle of righteousness to the King’s internal administration and to his foreign policy. A king should have learned and virtuous ministers, and should devout himself to the welfare of the people. Ashoka in his edicts advised kings to adopt the policy of non-aggression towards neighbours. The Buddhist tradition rejected the Brahmanical ethics regarding treacherous war and questionable methods in war and diplomacy. A king rather wins others by Dharmachakra.

Buddhist tradition represents a Republican form of government. King is called Mahasammat who has been elected by the council. Early Buddhist texts also mention the qualifications of the citizens of such republics, such as moral rectitude and discipline, etc.

Thus, Buddhist tradition enriched Indian political thought with ethical foundations. [258 words]

The post contains answers to the last 6-year papers i.e. (2023-2018). Answers to the previous year questions from 2013-2017 are a part of our book PSIR Optional Model Answers to PYQs (2013-2022)

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