SuttaCentral

Are there suttas for leaders, politicians, kings on how to be beneficial?

Are there suttas or discourses on how to lead well without abusing power? I have heard of the Humane King / Benevolent Kings Sutta, but it seems like a later Chinese addition and I couldn’t find any translations for it.

2 Likes

The first part of DN 16, “Conditions of a Nation’s Welfare” is advice given in front of a chief minister who had been sent by a king.

8 Likes

In DN26:5.0–5.8 the duties of a wheel-turning monarch, “a just and principled king”, are explained.

DN26:5.0: 2.1. The Noble Duties of a Wheel-Turning Monarch
DN26:5.1: ‘But sire, what are the noble duties of a wheel-turning monarch?’
DN26:5.2: ‘Well then, my dear, relying only on principle—honoring, respecting, and venerating principle, having principle as your flag, banner, and authority—provide just protection and security for your court, troops, aristocrats, vassals, brahmins and householders, people of town and country, ascetics and brahmins, beasts and birds.
DN26:5.3: Do not let injustice prevail in the realm.
DN26:5.4: Pay money to the penniless in the realm.
DN26:5.5: And there are ascetics and brahmins in the realm who avoid intoxication and negligence, are settled in patience and gentleness, and who tame, calm, and extinguish themselves. From time to time you should go up to them and ask:
DN26:5.6: “Sirs, what is skillful? What is unskillful? What is blameworthy? What is blameless? What should be cultivated? What should not be cultivated? Doing what leads to my lasting harm and suffering? Doing what leads to my lasting welfare and happiness?”
DN26:5.7: Having heard them, you should reject what is unskillful and undertake and follow what is skillful.
DN26:5.8: These are the noble duties of a wheel-turning monarch.’

Although the context is rather mythic, the actual duties are in line with Buddhist principles in general.

This is how the wheel-turning monarch instructs the people in his realm:

DN26:6.7: ‘Do not kill living creatures. Do not steal. Do not commit sexual misconduct. Do not lie. Do not drink alcohol. Maintain the current level of taxation.’

In the further course of this Sutta the consequences are described that follow when a king does not seek guidance on the duties of a wheel-turning monarch and does not rule in a “just and principled” way. Bad conduct starts with the king, and then becomes widespread all over the country.

On the Period of Decline

DN26:10.1: So the anointed king asked the assembled ministers and counselors, treasury officials, military officers, guardsmen, and advisers about the noble duties of a wheel-turning monarch.
DN26:10.2: And they answered him.
DN26:10.3: But after listening to them, he didn’t provide just protection and security. Nor did he pay money to the penniless in the realm.
DN26:10.4: And so poverty grew widespread.
DN26:10.5: When poverty was widespread, a certain person stole from others, with the intention to commit theft.
DN26:10.6: They arrested him
DN26:10.7: and presented him to the king, saying,
DN26:10.8: ‘Your Majesty, this person stole from others with the intention to commit theft.’
DN26:10.9: The king said to that person,
DN26:10.10: ‘Is it really true, mister, that you stole from others with the intention to commit theft?’
DN26:10.11: ‘It’s true, sire.’
DN26:10.12: ‘What was the reason?’
DN26:10.13: ‘Sire, I can’t survive.’
DN26:10.14: So the king paid some money to that person, saying,
DN26:10.15: ‘With this money, mister, keep yourself alive, and provide for your mother and father, partners and children. Work for a living, and establish an uplifting religious donation for ascetics and brahmins that’s conducive to heaven, ripens in happiness, and leads to heaven.’
DN26:10.16: ‘Yes, Your Majesty,’ replied that man.
DN26:11.1: But then another man stole something from others.
DN26:11.2: They arrested him
DN26:11.3: and presented him to the king, saying,
DN26:11.4: ‘Your Majesty, this person stole from others.’
DN26:11.5: The king said to that person,
DN26:11.6: ‘Is it really true, mister, that you stole from others?’
DN26:11.7: ‘It’s true, sire.’
DN26:11.8: ‘What was the reason?’
DN26:11.9: ‘Sire, I can’t survive.’
DN26:11.10: So the king paid some money to that person, saying,
DN26:11.11: ‘With this money, mister, keep yourself alive, and provide for your mother and father, partners and children. Work for a living, and establish an uplifting religious donation for ascetics and brahmins that’s conducive to heaven, ripens in happiness, and leads to heaven.’
DN26:11.12: ‘Yes, Your Majesty,’ replied that man.
DN26:12.1: People heard about this:
DN26:12.2: ‘It seems the king is paying money to anyone who steals from others!’
DN26:12.3: It occurred to them,
DN26:12.4: ‘Why don’t we steal from others?’
DN26:12.5: So then another man stole something from others.
DN26:12.6: They arrested him
DN26:12.7: and presented him to the king, saying,
DN26:12.8: ‘Your Majesty, this person stole from others.’
DN26:12.9: The king said to that person,
DN26:12.10: ‘Is it really true, mister, that you stole from others?’
DN26:12.11: ‘It’s true, sire.’
DN26:12.12: ‘What was the reason?’
DN26:12.13: ‘Sire, I can’t survive.’
DN26:12.14: Then the king thought,
DN26:12.15: ‘If I pay money to anyone who steals from others, it will only increase the stealing.
DN26:12.16: I’d better make an end of this person, finish him off, and chop off his head.’
DN26:12.17: Then he ordered his men,
DN26:12.18: ‘Well then, my men, tie this man’s arms tightly behind his back with a strong rope. Shave his head and march him from street to street and square to square to the beating of a harsh drum. Then take him out the south gate and make an end of him, finish him off, and chop off his head.’
DN26:12.19: ‘Yes, Your Majesty,’ they replied, and did as he commanded.
DN26:13.1: People heard about this:
DN26:13.2: ‘It seems the king is chopping the head off anyone who steals from others!’
DN26:13.3: It occurred to them,
DN26:13.4: ‘We’d better have sharp swords made. Then when we steal from others, we’ll make an end of them, finish them off, and chop off their heads.’
DN26:13.5: They had sharp swords made. Then they started to make raids on villages, towns, and cities, and to infest the highways.
DN26:13.6: And they chopped the heads off anyone they stole from.
DN26:14.1: And so, mendicants, from not paying money to the penniless, poverty became widespread. When poverty was widespread, theft became widespread. When theft was widespread, swords became widespread. When swords were widespread, killing living creatures became widespread. And for the sentient beings among whom killing was widespread, their lifespan and beauty declined.
DN26:14.2: Those people lived for 80,000 years, but their children lived for 40,000 years.
DN26:14.3: Among the people who lived for 40,000 years, a certain person stole something from others.
DN26:14.4: They arrested him
DN26:14.5: and presented him to the king, saying,
DN26:14.6: ‘Your Majesty, this person stole from others.’
DN26:14.7: The king said to that person,
DN26:14.8: ‘Is it really true, mister, that you stole from others?’
DN26:14.9: ‘No, sire,’ he said, deliberately lying.
DN26:15.1: And so, mendicants, from not paying money to the penniless, poverty, theft, swords, and killing became widespread. When killing was widespread, lying became widespread. And for the sentient beings among whom lying was widespread, their lifespan and beauty declined.
DN26:15.2: Those people who lived for 40,000 years had children who lived for 20,000 years.
DN26:15.3: Among the people who lived for 20,000 years, a certain person stole something from others.
DN26:15.4: Someone else reported this to the king,
DN26:15.5: ‘Your Majesty, such-and-such person stole from others,’ he said, going behind his back.
DN26:16.1: And so, mendicants, from not paying money to the penniless, poverty, theft, swords, killing, and lying became widespread. When lying was widespread, backbiting became widespread. And for the sentient beings among whom backbiting was widespread, their lifespan and beauty declined.
DN26:16.2: Those people who lived for 20,000 years had children who lived for 10,000 years.
DN26:17.1: Among the people who lived for 10,000 years, some were more beautiful than others.
DN26:17.2: And the ugly beings, coveting the beautiful ones, committed adultery with others’ wives.
DN26:17.3: And so, mendicants, from not paying money to the penniless, poverty, theft, swords, killing, lying, and backbiting became widespread. When backbiting was widespread, sexual misconduct became widespread. And for the sentient beings among whom sexual misconduct was widespread, their lifespan and beauty declined.
DN26:17.4: Those people who lived for 10,000 years had children who lived for 5,000 years.
DN26:17.5: Among the people who lived for 5,000 years, two things became widespread:
DN26:17.6: harsh speech and talking nonsense.
DN26:17.7: For the sentient beings among whom these two things were widespread, their lifespan and beauty declined.
DN26:17.8: Those people who lived for 5,000 years had some children who lived for 2,500 years, while others lived for 2,000 years.
DN26:17.9: Among the people who lived for 2,500 years, desire and ill will became widespread.
DN26:17.10: For the sentient beings among whom desire and ill will were widespread, their lifespan and beauty declined.
DN26:17.11: Those people who lived for 2,500 years had children who lived for 1,000 years.
DN26:17.12: Among the people who lived for 1,000 years, wrong view became widespread.
DN26:17.13: For the sentient beings among whom wrong view was widespread, their lifespan and beauty declined.
DN26:17.14: Those people who lived for 1,000 years had children who lived for five hundred years.
DN26:17.15: Among the people who lived for five hundred years, three things became widespread:
DN26:17.16: illicit desire, immoral greed, and wrong thoughts.
DN26:17.17: For the sentient beings among whom these three things were widespread, their lifespan and beauty declined.
DN26:17.18: Those people who lived for five hundred years had some children who lived for two hundred and fifty years, while others lived for two hundred years.
DN26:17.19: Among the people who lived for two hundred and fifty years, three things became widespread:
DN26:17.20: lack of due respect for mother and father, ascetics and brahmins, and failure to honor the elders in the family.
DN26:18.1: And so, mendicants, from not paying money to the penniless, all these things became widespread—poverty,
DN26:18.2: theft,
DN26:18.3: swords,
DN26:18.4: killing,
DN26:18.5: lying,
DN26:18.6: backbiting,
DN26:18.7: sexual misconduct,
DN26:18.8: harsh speech and talking nonsense,
DN26:18.9: desire and ill will,
DN26:18.10: wrong view,
DN26:18.11: illicit desire, immoral greed, and wrong thoughts,
DN26:18.12: and lack of due respect for mother and father, ascetics and brahmins, and failure to honor the elders in the family.
DN26:18.13: For the sentient beings among whom these things were widespread, their lifespan and beauty declined.
DN26:18.14: Those people who lived for two hundred and fifty years had children who lived for a hundred years.

Maybe searching for “a just and principled king” in Voice can show you more stuff.

:pray:

11 Likes

Note that it is several times repeated that the king’s main mistake was not to pay money to the penniless! Not supporting those who are underprivileged leads to decline in every respect.

12 Likes