What is Dhammic Socialism?
For anything to succeed in this natural world it must harmonize with, be in line with
Dhamma, follow from and serve, the Law of Nature. Anything that fits with, conforms to, follows from, and
serves the Law
of Nature is "Dhammic."
To be Dhammic is to be non-violent, unselfish, compassionate, mindful, and cool. Ajarn
Buddhadasa summarized it in two words "peaceful" and "useful."
Being "peaceful" means doing nothing to hurt, harm, exploit,
abuse, or oppress anyone, whether others of oneself. Such peacefulness
requires a heart-mind free of selfishness and egoism.
Being "useful" means helping in the struggle for genuine
liberation from suffering, no mater on what level or in what area of life.
True Dhamma does not concoct dualities likes "personal-social" or
Don't believe that socialism is dead! This is just the materialist propaganda of
neo-conservative diehard capitalists. Real socialism has never been tried on a large
Socialism is the perspective and orientation that takes the good of society as a whole
as central, rather than one's personal, individualistic good as all
important. Thus, socialism is the
opposite of the individualism with which we are brainwashed today.
For engaged buddhists, socialism must be rooted in and guided by Dhamma. Thus, we speak
of "Dhammic Socialism." We are not talking abut the materialist monstrosities of
centralized, dictatorial Stalinism. Dhammic Socialism is not slavish
conformism, for it respects and nurtures individuals. However, the
individual's purpose in life is not merely its own pleasure or success. In
Dhammic Socialism, the individual's purpose and meaning is found beyond its
little "self" in society, nature, and Dhamma.
Ajarn Buddhadasa called his vision of the nibbanic society, "Dhammic
Socialism." For him, Dhammic Socialism expressed two basic facts. One is that we are
inevitably and inescapably social beings who must live together in a form of society that
gives priority to the ways we inter-relate, work together, and help each other solve the
problems and dukkha of life. Thus, the principle of right relationship or right
inter-relatedness is the heart of such a society. Tan Ajarn understood such forms of
society to be the meaning of Socialism, which may differ from the understanding of
political scientists and Marxists.
Tan Ajarn was fond of defining words in his own way and we misunderstand him if we do
not realize this. Sangkom-niyom, the Thai word for Socialism, literally means
"preference for society," or "favoring society" rather than favoring
the individual (that is, individualism), as has often been the case in the West or in
current capitalist and consumer societies. His Socialism is rooted in the fact that we
must live together to survive and therefore must give importance to the structures and
mechanisms of society that will enable us to do so in the most skillful and fruitful way.
We all are responsible for nurturing, taking care of, and being responsible for them. That
is how we understand Socialism.
The second fact is that Socialism can go wrong. There have been various approaches to
Socialism and some have been incorrect, that is, authoritarian, violent, and corrupt.
Ajarn Buddhadasa insists that Socialism must be modified by Dhamma to keep it honest,
moral, and nonviolent. Thus, we speak of Dhammic Socialism. We do not want a Socialism
that is primarily materialistic or economic. He did not espouse a Socialism based on class
conflict or class revenge. Rather, we seek a Socialism that is in harmony with Dhamma. To
be in harmony with Dhamma means that it is based in the realization of human
In other words, our Socialism must be moral, rooted in siladhamma (morality,
normalcy). Siladhamma consists of relationships and activities that do not oppress
or take advantage of anyone, even oneself, and that are for the mutual benefit of
ourselves, others, and the collective. As we saw earlier, social oppression is rooted in
personal and structural kilesa, that is, selfishness. Eliminating such selfishness
is the task of siladhamma, religion, and Dhammic Socialism. Whether our Socialism
can go further than the moral level and achieve a society in which all are free of not
only selfish behavior but selfish thinking need not be discussed here. I think it is
enough for now to set our sights on a society in which selfish behavior is minimized.
Nonetheless, as we will discuss later, importance must be given to a deeper morality that
short circuits selfishness and a spirituality that eliminates selfishness, if people are
to control and transform their behavior for the sake of the Dhammic Society. People
require a vision that shows how true happiness lies in Dhammic Socialism and a
society rather than in selfishness, consumerism, materialism, and the like.
from "Some Possibilities of Dhammic Socialism"
by Santikaro Bhikkhu
Updated 20 August 2002 © by