Patriotism in Buddhism


On this I would actually have to disagree. I encounter quite a few students at the university where I teach in the United States who are quite certain that the United States is a wretched and awful country. That opinion is shared by not a small number of their professors.


Wretched and awful compared to what? Are these professors and students looking at the United States from a global and historical perspective? In the real world, a country should be judged in comparison to other countries, not in a vacuum.

In terms of freedom and prosperity, Americans have a better life than a majority of the world’s people. And the contribution of the United States to freedom and peace around the world has been immense. This doesn’t mean, however, that we should ignore America’s shortcomings.

America was founded on the principle of dissent against government officials when one feels they’re taking our country in the wrong direction. While it’s not “My country, right or wrong,” it’s not “My country, always wrong” either.


If you were to ask my disgruntled students and their equally disgruntled professors which countries were better than the United States, the first countries they would mention are the social democratic welfare states of Scandinavia which they believe are the epitome of egalitarianism. The U.S. news media fuel this perception, referring to such things as “free” education and “free” health care in the Scandinavian countries, leaving out the complexities of how these services are funded through high rates of taxation.

Never mind the complex details, the simplistic impression left on the impressionable is that everyone leads a happy and prosperous life in European social welfare states while people are at risk of dying in the streets in the United States. I am over-simplifying what my students frequently say, but not by much. I have heard countless students say essentially this. Their better educated professors should know better, but the temptation to engage in groupthink on U.S. college campuses is just too great for some people today.


Though I am left-of-center, I am nonetheless thankful for the standard of living that even America’s poor take for granted compared to a majority of the world’s people:

The above article’s statistics were compiled by World Bank economist Branko Milanovic. The Scandinavian system might not work in a country as large as the United States.


Well according to this article they are about right.

The 10 Happiest Countries In The World In 2018


The United States ranks 18th according to the World Happiness Report, while the UK ranks 19th, France ranks 23rd, Italy ranks 47th, and Japan ranks 54th:

In ranking national happiness and well-being, it might be more fair to compare the United States to countries of similar size, rather than to Scandinavian countries.

The larger a country, the more difficult it is to manage its economy and welfare state. I’m happy and thankful the United States made the top twenty, especially at a time when our government seems headed in the wrong direction.


What is a country? What is one grateful for? Is a country permanent or stable? Is it a whole thing or part of a thing? Is one grateful because of the conditions in a specific place at a specific time? What role does ones own conditioning have in gratitude towards a political organisational system? Is {personal or group} comparative judgement about conditions in a geographical area useful for progressing along the path?


Yes, especially considering the conditions in which a majority of the world’s people happen to live. It’s usually better to feel gratitude than to take things for granted. Such gratitude doesn’t need to mean valuing one’s own country as having more rights than other countries.


Then perhaps you are grateful regarding having been re-born in such a place at such a time, where conditions are favourable for you to live/see the Dhamma… Patriotism really has nothing to do with it - simply a construct - nothing there
Karma :smile:


i am living within my own life. :slight_smile:

writing that, i notice within feelings i associate with laughter, and with tears, and with renunciation, and with just letting go.

@Kensho impermanence seems comforting to me in the midst of turmoil.


To me, patriotism just means gratitude and love for one’s country. It’s not the same as nationalism or valuing one’s own country as having more rights than other countries.

Many Asian immigrants and their children in the United States are patriotic, in the sense of being grateful for one’s country, despite America’s past discrimination toward Asian people:

America is a country where immigrants own their own businesses at a higher rate than the general population, showing this is still a land of opportunity:

The United States has more Buddhists than any nation outside Asia. This is especially due to America’s immigrant heritage and tradition of religious freedom.


I hope not, with the common usage of the word patriotism seems to be the epitome of mindless and damaging clinging, an anathema to the dhamma.


Isn’t the solution to hate, love, and the solution to limits of love, more love, until compassion can blossum, and then equanimity? :slight_smile:

as for the solution to aversion… aversion seems to slippery. But i think the application of calm and honesty have helped me.

:slight_smile: May beings liberate.

  • Patriotism - there may be no more loaded concept in the political lexicon.
  • Words with a history cannot be defined. Their meanings are in their stories, their biographies.

I hear patriotism as often used as a proxy for something else.

  • Sometimes as a call to temper complaining with a recognition of what is working … and of the people and practices which make things work.
  • Sometimes as a concern or fear about what other people may believe or cause them to do. There is a anti-patriot feeling that seems to thrive on a projection of the worse aspects of, or the misuse of, patriotism upon others. This might be illustrated in phrase such as “the common usage of the word patriotism seems to be the epitome of mindless and damaging clinging”.
  • Sometimes as something tribal – are you with us, can we trust you, or are you against us?
  • Sometimes as call to see things as they are and with equanimity.

There is a view of patriotism that I endorse that sees it as neither one thing or the other. That asks how is it manifesting in this person, time and place and for what purpose or context.

It’s a candidate for the most loaded concept in the political lexicon. So it’s rather vain and hopeless to expect that others are going to adopt one’s preferred usage over theirs simply by asserting one’s preferred definition.

It seems to me that ideas of patriotism is often a short-hand for a whole cluster of beliefs – or a belief/concern/fear that others are trapped by an attachment to a belief.

In English “clinging” seems to be the opposite of “projection”. Yet it seems to me that clinging / attachment is often the mirror image projecting ideas onto others? It that dual manifestation expressed in the EBT?


The US magazine The Nation is the oldest continuously published weekly magazine in the United States, and the most widely read weekly journal of progressive political and cultural news, opinion, and analysis.

What is Patriotism?

We invited friends and colleagues to address the question of just what patriotism is and ought be: Is there a patriotism that is not nationalistic? How does the historic internationalism of the liberal left relate to the concept of patriotism? What do you value in the traditions of your country?

My favorite closing sentence from the collection of short essays: Obviously we’re the real patriots. How come THEY can’t understand that?

John Schaar: … those who have called themselves patriots or who have called others to the banner of patriotism have largely fallen into two camps.

The first company, whose signature is on so many of the bloodiest pages of the modern age, has its spiritual roots in the radical ideologies of the French Revolution. They announced the advent of a new god on earth and a new prophet/commander whose voice was the voice of that god. The new god, of course, was la patrie, the nation, and the new commander was the state.

… The other company of patriots does not march to military time. It prefers the gentle strains of “America the Beautiful” to the strident cadences of “Hail to the Chief” and “The Stars and Stripes Forever.” This patriotism is rooted in the love of one’s own land and people, love too of the best ideals of one’s own culture and tradition. This company of patriots finds no glory in puffing their country up by pulling others’ down. This patriotism is profoundly municipal, even domestic. Its pleasures are quiet, its services steady and unpretentious.

This patriotism too has deep roots and long continuity in our history. Its voice is often temporarily shouted down by the battle cries of the first company, but it has never been stilled. Jefferson spoke for it, as did Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr.

We should not be surprised if this voice is often heard lamenting or rebuking the country’s failures to live up to its own best ideals …

Floyd Abrams, Constitutional lawyer:
The left has always had a problem with patriotism. … as a general matter the left seems sour on America and more sour still about patriotism.

More’s the pity. It’s not that the right hasn’t routinely substituted flag-waving for reason. Or even that a dumb, smug and myopic sort of Americanism hasn’t been used to justify every national sin of which we’ve been capable. But none of that even begins to excuse the disdain with which the left greets even a tip of a patriotic hat.

… Why such a crabbed view of Americanism at its best? Why not celebrate Justice Brennan? Or Justices Marshall and Blackmun? Or the 200th anniversary of the Bill of Rights? Or a message of freedom beamed from America to the rest of the world that has often been received there but too often has been denigrated here?

What the left criticizes about America is often worth criticizing. Its unwillingness to celebrate what we offer the world at our best–and to call that patriotism–is not to its intellectual or moral credit.

Richard A. Cloward and Frances Fox Piven:
We take patriotism to mean love of nation and the loyalty that follows. My country right or wrong. Even as an abstract idea, it is hard to see how thinking people justify blind loyalty. And considered historically, patriotism is plainly dangerous, helping to unleash military rampages in the name of nation and obliterating the essential democratic capacity to assess concrete and particular interests.

Richard Falk: Professor of international relations, Princeton University: Confusing patriotism with unconditional support for government policy does core damage to the meaning of citizenship, especially during time of war. In 1736 Lord Bolingbroke identified the essence of patriotic fervor as devotion to the public good, whether as official or citizen. To uphold a policy that is believed harmful to the country is then, with such an understanding, highly unpatriotic, exhibiting either weakness of spirit or fear of consequences.

William Sloane Coffin:
The worst patriots are those who hold certainty dearer than truth, who, in order to spare themselves the pain of thought, are willing to inflict untold sufferings on others.

… But if uncritical lovers of their country are the most dangerous of patriots, loveless critics are hardly the best. If you love the good you have to hate evil, else you’re sentimental; but if you hate evil more than you love the good, you’re a good hater.

Surely the best patriots are those who carry on not a grudge fight but a lover’s quarrel with their country. And the main burden of their quarrel in today’s and tomorrow’s world must be to persuade their fellow citizens …

The ancient Roman Tacitus defined patriotism as entering into praiseworthy competition with our ancestors. I think we should enter into praiseworthy competition with Washington and Jefferson. As they declared their independence from England, let us declare our interdependence with all countries.

Martin Duberman, Professor of history:
Who isn’t a patriot? Everybody claims the designation and claims loyalty to the particular set of ideals and institutional arrangements they choose to identify as the essence of Americanism. Those of us who deplore the country’s current descent into macho militarism refuse to cede patriotism to those who equate it with George Bush’s policies. We hold to a set of values older than Bush and more enduring than a single (misguided) administration.

Obviously we’re the real patriots. How come THEY can’t understand that?

Stephen F. Cohen, Director, Russian studies, Princeton University
Patriotism is never having to say you didn’t know.


Patriotism is a form of attachment, blocking the way to enlightenment. Patriotism arises because of ignorance of ‘I’ was born, in ‘my’ country. And my country is ‘great’ (sukha).


Patriotism is a form of attachment and also a form of ‘I’ building.


Though I can’t see much wrong with categorically rejecting patriotism—and though I agree with both remarks above—couldn’t we “redefine” or “bend” the term so that it refers to a wholesome inclination instead of an unwholesome one? That’s what frequently happens in the suttas. To give one example, true brahmin is redefined so that it refers to a perfected one.*

Any ideas for a redefinition? :slightly_smiling_face:

* Reference

See Ven Bodhi’s introduction to his translation of the Sutta Nipāta.


Do you mean a bit like the person who keep her temple nice and tidy?


What are you referring to, @Mat?