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 "worldly-spiritual."


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 scale. 

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.

Why Dhammic Socialism?

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 interdependence.

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 nibbanic society rather than in selfishness, consumerism, materialism, and the like.

from "Some Possibilities of Dhammic Socialism" by Santikaro Bhikkhu

dhammic socialism FAQ

Updated 20 August 2002 by Evolution/Liberation.