What the Buddha hid well : Buddhist social contract theory in the Dīgha Nikāya
Date of Issue2018
School of Humanities and Social Sciences
Using the phenomenological method, this paper traces a Buddhist social contract theory in the Dīgha Nikāya and compares it with the social contract theories of Hobbes’ Leviathan and Locke’s Second Treatise of Government, revealing a moderate and sophisticated understanding of human nature, equality and liberty in the state of nature. In the process, the Buddha brings the ruler’s duty to his people further than in the Western conception. Once humans leave a state of nature, what is the Buddha’s ideal political regime? Using the esoteric method, this paper extracts two readings: the direct interpretation calling for an enlightened monarchy, and the obscure interpretation calling for a republic practising deliberative democracy. While the obscure interpretation is argued to be the Buddha’s real ideal political regime, the direct interpretation is crucial in our understanding of why Theravada Buddhist-majority states remain largely undemocratic. Subsequently, this is applied to Myanmar as a case example.
Final Year Project (FYP)
Nanyang Technological University