Law and Buddhist Philosophy

Law and Buddhist Philosophy.

By Ms. Crishanthi Amarathunge Dodangoda Additional District Judge, Kandy, Sri Lanka. 

Fundamental teachings of Buddhism are based on nature. It is so because Buddhism is not a creative doctrine. Only display of Principles inherent in nature is what is contained in Buddhism. Hence it is correct to say that Buddhist philosophy is entirely based on nature. If actions under the control of thought could be organized in line with nature, the bad results derived from thought that goes against nature are well manifested in Buddhism. Social recognition is created on nature. That is way all fundamental theories of law are based on natural justice. Hence the relationship that exists between law and Buddhist Philosophy is one based on nature. Meritorious deeds indicated in Buddhism are in harmony with nature while matters shown in Buddhism as evil deeds are inconsistent with nature. The right of all beings to life is accepted both in Buddhist Philosophy and nature. The evil act of taking one’s life and its evil effect as thought in Buddhism confirms this right to life. As expressed in Dhamma pada, “Sabbe Tassanthi dandassa Sabbesan Jeevithan PiyanAttanan UpamankatthwaNahaneyiya naghataye” All fear receiving punishment and life is precious to all. Therefore taking oneself as the example, one should refrain from taking another’s life. Others’ life should also be treated by one and all as one’s own life, this is the teaching of Buddhism. In law this is accepted as a Fundamental right. The right for one’s life commences from the moment of conception in the mother’s womb. It is for this reason that abortion is declared illegal. All crimes committed against human life from abortion to manslaughter are introduced in to the criminal Law. Concerning these offences, just as evil effects are shown in Buddhist doctrine, punishment is prescribed in criminal Law. In the second stanza of the five precepts (Panccha seela) Buddhist doctrine teachers teach that taking others’ property or belongings to which one has no right is an evil deed, namely stealing . The evil effects that revert from stealing are well described in Buddhism. In Law , taking possession of someone else’s property or belongings without his knowledge is interpreted as theft. For those who commit the offence of taking possession by force, wrongful holding and criminal breach of trust are concerned, they are also further laid down as criminal offences in criminal law. While interpreting the relationship between law and Buddhism in the simplest manner, we may go on to consider the offence of misbehavior in senses desires. Evil effect of misbehavior in senses desires are clearly shown in Buddhist doctrine and although in law it is plainly interpreted as the offence of bigamy taking in it a more wide scope to interpret same more fully, law expands the relevant field comprehensively. Accordingly while sexual abuses committed by deeds, physically or orally, by words, had been construed as an offence, it is evident that the law has viewed this matter wide focus in an attempt to safeguard minor girls from sexual abuse to introduce laws to the extent that all sexual acts committed on women under the age of 16 years with or without their consent to be treated as punishable offences under statutory rape. Accordingly the facts that law has given extensive emphasize to the misbehavior in senses – desires, as outlined in the teaching of Buddhism, is clear. Presenting truth as it is and honoring same is one main aspect of what is expected in law. A person who gives evidence before a court of law by taking oath or making a declaration fulfils the need for truthfulness of the evidence given  by him .if the person who so behaves is proved before court that a falsehood had been uttered by him, Provision is laid down in law to punish him with regard to his offence. As such what is evident is that the law also had utilized abstinence from falsehood and being truthful by refraining from lies as part and parcel of behavior necessary in human lives as does Buddhist philosophy. Both in Buddhist doctrine and in law, intoxicating liquor is equally interpreted as something that should be avoided. By emphasizing on the evil deeds prevalent in society one by one due to intoxication and being influenced by liquor. the downfall of society, man s ruination and his prejudice are clearly  illustrated. Samma sati (right mindfulness) is an essential part for survival of man. Whatever task a person is performing he should have a fine grasp and knowledge about the application he is engaged in. Good and beneficial results from his activity could be achieved only if he performs deeds properly. Yet for one who does not perform with right mindfulness, bad results would accrue. Intoxication impairs control of mind or correct mindfulness. The person who is intoxicated is without right mindfulness. Suppose a driver of a vehicle is taken as an example, his job, if performed devoid of right mindfulness, he would inflict harm on others, on things both animate and inanimate as well as on himself. Therefore alcohol had been brought under the prevention of law in order to forestall harmful effects to society and to maintain law and order. If the same example is cited, driving under the influence of liquor is a punishable offence. Evil effects that drive from the five evil deeds outlined in Buddhism as well as from other evil deeds depend on intention. For the evil effect to take place, intention as well as the committing of the evil deed should be exercised. In Lord Buddha’s words, “ CETANAHAN BHIKKAVE KAMMAN VADAMI “ summarizes this. For criminal law to be applied in the case of an offence, the act of wrong doing as well as the intention to commit same should be established as the accepted principle in criminal law. That’s the way as an effect punishment is not applicable in situation with no intent and with the right of self- defiance. A few fundamental modes of right living that should be followed as outlined. In  Buddhist doctrine taken as examples can be compared with law. In the Maha Mangala Sutta the support of father and mother, the cherishing of wife and children is constituted as the highest blessing thus. “ Mata Pitu Upattanan Putta Dharassa Sanghahho” This obligation is decreed as a responsibility in law in the case of a husband who does not maintain his wife and children legal provision has been enacted through maintenance law to appoint him this responsibility. Further, for children who fail to honor obligations to hearken to the words of their parents, laws assigning the responsibility of fulfilling such obligations have been presently added to our legal system. Between the Buddhist doctrine which explains nature in the fashion and environment there exists a good relationship. Buddhism appreciates protecting the life of trees and vegetation as it does the right to live for animals. Framing laws to protect the environment from human activity also had taken place in the current society. Laws have been framed in our legal system for the protection of ocean, rivers, rivulet streams and vegetation. As a result of omissions and activity made known in Buddhist doctrine as misdeeds effects are shown as the resultant evil that befalls. .Abstaining from wrong doing depends on two things namely aversion to commit the offence and fear of resultant evil effect. The outcome from breaking the law is to get convicted for the offence and suffer punishment. As mentioned above it depends on two things to abide by the law namely aversion to break the law and the fear of punishment. Within a social fabric well disciplined by teaching of the Buddhist doctrine, Wrong doings cannot happen. The result from being law abiding is also similar. Accordingly, if a society appreciates the Buddhist doctrine and follows same well such a society would by so being become a law abiding society brimming with virtue and righteousness.

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