MN 22 contains the well-known phrase:
‘I will not engage in talk that is base, vulgar, common, ignoble, unbeneficial, that does not lead to disenchantment, dispassion, cessation, calm, direct knowledge, self-awakening or Nibbana — i.e., talk about kings, robbers, & ministers of state; armies, alarms, & battles; food & drink; clothing, furniture, garlands, & scents; relatives; vehicles; villages, towns, cities, the countryside; women & heroes; the gossip of the street & the well; tales of the dead; tales of diversity, the creation of the world & of the sea; talk of whether things exist or not.’
I do not personally know of any suttas, apart from questionable suttas in the questionable Digha Nikaya, that discuss how politicians (kings & rulers) should rule the world.
Is the only purpose of a bhikkhu to perpetuate the path to Nibbana & thus stay completely away from worldly political matters, including issues of social injustice?
I read one of P.A. Payutto’s references about how a ruler should govern, which appears to be the typical Thai adaptation, this time from AN 8.54 & AN 8.55. The irony here is Bhikkhu Bodhi’s translation of AN 8.54 is not about how a king should govern shrewdly (as Payutto wrote) but about how the layperson should shrewdly protect his wealth from being taken by kings & thieves.
I watched a recent video of Bhikkhu Bodhi giving a public address at the White House, speaking against the corporate-governing-oligarchical elite of the Western world. Was this against the spirit or rules of the Vinaya and the bhikkhu’s life in general? Does this endanger Buddhism? Does this align Buddhism with the original Christian political agitations that resulted in lots of martyrdoms?
I also recall Thailand’s Bhikkhu Buddhadasa concocting various politcal views such as his ‘Dhammic Socialism’ ideology during the anti-Communist era, which probably contributed to the demise of some of his followers in the 1976 Thammasat University massacre.
I ask these questions because I myself often think, for the sake of the survival of knowledge about Nibbana, that Buddhism should remain strictly non-political & leave the world to its own political struggle, which is generally always some kind of class struggle between those that want too much and those that just want to get on with life. Is this wrong? Is it non-compassion?