Dharma and Politics

As clearly shown throughout much of human history, mixing religion and politics in general is a great mistake. In the context of this book, religion refers to Buddha’s teachings, or Dharma. Buddha taught that all living beings experience without freedom or choice, in life after life, the recurrent cycle of birth, ageing, sickness and death, known as ‘samsara’. The fundamental purpose of all Buddha’s teachings is to show how to achieve liberation from samsara by overcoming attachment to it, and how to help others to achieve this same liberation.

Although skilful political activity may bring temporary benefits, the main purpose of political activity is to find happiness within samsara through trying to change external conditions. Political activity and political objectives therefore lie within samsara.

The result of Dharma is to destroy samsara, whereas the result of politics is to keep us within samsara. Through practising Dharma, Buddhists try to overcome attachment to samsara, whereas through political activity people try to fulfil desires that increase their attach- ment to samsara. The desires underlying our attachment to samsara include desire for wealth, power, fame and pleasure, all of which are mistakenly viewed as sources of real happiness.

For these reasons, Dharma and politics are completely opposite in their views, aims and results. The consequences of mixing Dharma with politics will always be at best bad, at worst catastrophic.