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The Early Buddhist View of the State

Balkrishna Govind Gokhale
Journal of the American Oriental Society
Vol. 89, No. 4 (Oct. - Dec., 1969), pp. 731-738
DOI: 10.2307/596944
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/596944
Page Count: 8
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The Early Buddhist View of the State
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Abstract

The early Buddhist (circa 500-25 B. C.) thinking on the nature and functions of the state passed through three distinct phases. The initial phase is contained in the throry on the origin of the state as given in the Mahāsammata story of the Dīgha Nikāya. The state begins as a quasi-contractual arrangement under which the king agrees to perform specific functions in behalf of the people in return for certain rights conferred on him, including taxation. The second stage is concerned with the problem of relationships between Buddhism and a well-entrenched and all powerful Monarchical despotism and the solution is proposed in the theory of two equal spheres of life, one, that of the Dhamma and the other, āṇā. In the third and final phase the Buddhists explicate their own ideal of the state in which the state simply becomes an instrument of the Dhamma which now assumes the form of a cosmic force capable not only of containing the challenge of the power of the state but also of regulating its behavior. In this sense the state becomes an ethical institution drawing its authority from the Dhamma and guided by its repository, the Saṃgha.

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