Buddhist principles of right governance

Buddhist Principles of Right Governance

by Prof. Oliver Abeynayake, Lanka Web Feb 22, 2004

Colombo, Sri Lanka — Among the Buddhist teachings on politics, the concept of Dasarâjadharma occupies a place of preeminence. There, the Buddha identifies ten principles of good governance as follows: dâna, sîla, pariccâga, ajjava, maddava, tapa, akkodha, avihimsâ, khanti, avirodha.

The insight into the meanings of these terms reveals that these ten principles of good governance in Buddhism cover much more than the modern concept of the welfare state.

Dâna – Giving

This includes the practice of charity, generosity and sharing. The facilitation of basic needs of the people falls on the government under this principle.

Sîla – Moral integrity

This principle indicates the moral responsibility of the government. The rulers’ virtuous conduct paves the way for ethical progress of the entire country. At the lowest level, the rulers have to follow the five precepts to the very letter. It is emphasized that all other forms of development rest on the moral integrity of the rulers.

Pariccâga – Philanthropy

Giving up of personal pleasure and comfort and sacrifice of personal wealth for the benefit of the country are taken into consideration in this principle.

Ajjava – Uprightness

The rulers should refrain from deception, false promises and all forms of pretension. They must be sincere and act according to what they say. Transparency of action is meant here.

Maddava – Gentleness

The rulers must be soft, tender, approachable, sympathetic and kind. This is the principle which goes with the dictum: the rulers are not masters but the servants of the people.

Tapa – Self-control

Moderate living is taken into account under this principle. Self-indulgence and luxurious life are banned for the rulers. It is not the rulers but the ruled that enjoy the advantages of good governance.
Akkodha – Absence of anger

The rulers should be free from taking revenge under this principle. They should not act and speak with anger in public. Sobriety is what is expected from the rulers.

Avihimsâ – Non-violence

The responsibility of refraining from harassing others and promoting peace come within the scope of this principle. Political power is not to be used to harass others.

Khanti – Patience

The rulers should maintain a good temperament. They should always show the qualities of forbearance, tolerance, and understanding. They are not to be irritated, instigated and misled by any word or action of their friends or foes. They should bear any form of criticism with equanimity.

Avirodha – Absence of obstruction

This principle insists that the rulers should go with the will of the people. The opposition should not be suppressed. Confrontational policies and attitudes are to be done away with. The rulers should always strive for unity, amity and concord.


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