Buddhadasa, a Thai philosopher, lived in a time when Thailand was in a mad rush to westernize. Westernization was mostly focused on industrialization, improvement of infrastructure, mostly roads and social amenities. In early days of his life, he lived in Bangkok. As the capital city of Thailand, Bangkok felt the westernization most of all. Westernization reflected on cultural behaviors, beliefs and practices. People of Thailand were eroded by this western culture and gave up their cultural beliefs and practices for western culture (Buddhadasa’s & Kirthisinghe128). Buddhadasa understood that westernization was inevitable. He, therefore, sought to strike a balance between this new culture and Thailand’s traditional beliefs, behaviors and practices. Dhammic socialism theory originated from Buddhadasa’s concept that the nature is in a state of balance for the support of mankind existence, creatures, plants and world ecology at large.
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Buddhadasa was distressed by the rapid deforestation that was taking place in Thailand. Thailand, which, at one time, had about 90% forest cover, was now having just 10% of it due to rapid industrialization (Buddhadasa&Buddhadasa 87). He loved nature and understood that nature was unforgiving. He believed that people had to live in harmony with the nature. He thus established The Grove of the Power of Liberation in PumRiang, which is now Chaiya District, and was the only forest Dhamma Center in Thailand.
In his practices, Buddhadasa stressed on the importance of the body and mind strength and purity, that of an individual and the group he/she interacts with. His teachings concerned living a\simple life. The philosopher advocated for the unity of all religions. He believed that all religions in the world try to deprive people from suffering, greed and selfishness. According to Buddhadasa’s teachings, in order to fight selfishness and greed an individual has to fight the materialistic desires (Buddhadasa&Delhi 89). Buddhadasa pointed out that all vices were brought out by the desire to own. “This desire erodes the heart”, he said (Buddhadasa&Delhi 89). He noted that when someone is too attached to himself, which translates to having a big ego, suffering is inevitable. According to Buddhadasa, for an individual not to suffer he/she has to become fully detached from the body, forget about it and focus on meditation and discovery of his/her inner or soul self.
According to Buddhadasa, reality is the interdependence of the mind and body, individuals and groups and so on. Therefore, he insisted that Buddhist socialism could not at any time be equated with materialistic socialism. To be clear, a person’s mind should be beyond good and evil and above the best and the worst, which means that it must dwell in goodness. According to historical critics, Buddhadasa did monitor on how his followers meditated and what they read but was tough on issues of nature that brought about foolishness and suffering. In his efforts to harden his people, he gave them the freedom to be responsible in making their own choices and learning from the mistakes they made. His teachings naturally emphasized on the collective good at the expense of no one. He maintained that the social wellbeing cannot be sacrificed to an individual’s desires.
In his teachings, Buddhadasa insisted on individualism (Peter&Buddhadasa 60). He said that an individual has to detach him/herself from everything and everyone to attain full realization of his/her inner self. Detachment presupposes being mentally away from the family, friends and society in order to attain spiritual development. Although it is difficult because of the emotional bonds that exist between an individual his/her family, friends and the society, it is a necessary step. In his teachings, Buddhadasa insisted that all religions should be united into one. This, he said, was the sense of all religious teachings of goodliness, eternal happiness and how people should relate. He never took the consideration that individuals learn of their religions from birth and gradually become attached to them as they grow. With time, each individual gets to attach his religion with superiority. Not only does an individual attach his/her religion to superiority but he/she also becomes a critic of other religions on the basis of their practices and beliefs.
Buddhadasa pointed out that it was evil to be materialistic (PhraKoffman, et al 90). However, for any economy to survive whether communist or capitalist people have to be hardworking and think of how to improve their economic well being and maintain the economy where a continuous exchange of goods and services is needed. Thus being materialistic is inevitable in the modern world.
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