Patriotism, or..?

When a person gets rid of coarse defilements, fine defilements are left. One of them are 'thoughts of his home district’ (Dirt washer sutta-Pansadhovaka sutta). Now the defilements have roots in the sense of belonging (‘me, mine’) conceit, and a starry eyed belief (sukha) that stops the person from an objective view which takes into account equally the positive and the negative aspects of one’s home country. This is of course compounded by not having experienced a foreign country and hence having nothing to compare with.

In society defilements (kilesa) maybe considered good (‘greed is good’, for example). The defilement in question could be considered a kind of patriotism. Could there be a wholesome version of patriotism?


I take “thoughts of his home district” to be related to thoughts and desires of the monastics previous lay life, missing home and all the thoughts, feelings, intentions and cords of sensual pleasures attached to it.

As for patriotism, I think some people tend to have a very negative view of patriotism, but I do feel there are many positive aspects.

Patriotism when you get down to it is a pride in your home, this of course can have positive and negative aspects. Pride in the positive sense is showing that you actually care and value something.

For instance, if you and your neighbors had no pride in your home(house, neighborhood, county, state, country, planet etc) then who would clean and organize, take care of all that needs to be taken care of? everything would fall apart.

Even myself here at Bhavana Society, you can tell when someone really doesn’t care about the place, because they don’t put any real effort into helping it thrive, their rooms a mess and they don’t care about keeping bathrooms and such clean.

It reminds me of Ajahn Chah’s talk “bathrooms on the path”, which is hilarious and one of my favorites, where he is admonishing the monks who doesn’t even sweep their paths or keep the bathrooms clean.

this is just part of the conventional world that requires some form of “holding on” to use another Ajahn Chah reference : to hold, but not to hold fast.


It depends where you live. If the person is from europe probably the last subtle defilement is attachment to the local football team. The 11th fetter removed.

Could there be a wholesome version of patriotism?

At the level of society, patriotism is certainly something good and beneficial in my opinion. But on the individual level, for a person trying to remove attachment, it is just a pleasure in witch to indulge. An attachment that is pretty strong, that’s why it’s listed among the subtle ones removed the last.

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Hello Bhikkhu Jayasara!


I was just watching your dhamma talk entitled “Becoming the Embodiment of Metta in your Daily life” and had this topic open on the other half of my screen when your reply popped up!
(This Discourse message bus thing is so nifty)

Studying the third brahmavihara muditā some weeks ago I came across a topic by bhante Sujato:

Perhaps there’s something here. AN 3.95 for one connects a ‘muditā cetovimutti’ to being in an harmonious assembly.

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Hi Bhante
Actually that isn’t Patriotism. Patriotism has a specific meaning. It relates to a view towards the country with which one identifies.

I remember a long while ago being quite taken with Richard Price’s A Discourse on the Love of our Country (1789). By (very, very fallible) memory it pleased me a great deal because lurking in and amongst the arguments made there I found a definition of a form of patriotism I could quite happily get behind: one predicated on service to those in one’s immediate community (for that simple fact that that’s where one happens to be) that didn’t have anything to do with nationalism or jingoism.

Taken in this sense (a recognition of a person’s duty to those around them - as per, say, DN31 - underpinned by a giving, caring spirit), I don’t see why it couldn’t even be part of the purification process outlined in the referenced sutta (added: I mean in the OP, AN 3.101).


I doubt it. You post serves to bring up the terrible issue of the violent and ultra-nationalist monks in Burma and Sri Lanka.

“U Wirathu leads the fundamentalist 969 movement that has been accused of instigating deadly violence against minority Muslims in Burma. He was a special invitee Sunday at a rally of Bodu Bala Sena, or Buddhist Power Force, which also has been accused of instigating violence and claims minority Muslims are trying to take over Sri Lanka." :

Fears grow in burma:

The rise of Sri Lanka’s Buddhist ultra-nationalists:

The darker side of Buddhism:

There are plenty more pages on the web like this. Just google ‘nationalist monks’ and ‘nationalist monks Sri Lanka’. The word ‘Burma’ or ‘Myanmar’ is not needed for the first search term. It is as though the term ‘Burmese Monks’ has become synonymous with Nationalist Monks. Such a shame.

I sincerely and really hope that these ‘monks’ do not represent the majority of Buddhists in those nations.


I think Mat’s question is pointing to more of the psychological aspects of patriotism rather than dealing with policy-making or politics…:

And I think it’s an interesting question. If I may try to put it another way: can the psychological defilement of patriotism, presuming it is to be considered so, be subverted to wholesomeness?

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It is called Chanda. Buddha had Chanda for his home country.
I think he said “Even the wind coming from Rajagaha is Sukkha” or some words to that effect.

I suppose in opposition to chandarāga?

In which case, perhaps this adds to a practical sense of the distinction between rāga and virāga for AN 3.101’s patriot adhicittamanuyuttaṃ. :eyeglasses: :walking:

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He may well have said something like that, I’ve no clue on that particular point. However, what is pretty well documented is that the Buddha was from Sākya (eg. sn5.8#5) an independent republican state within Kosala. He would have been considered either a Sākyan or Kosalan (eg. MN89).

As such, if the Buddha did say something pleasing about the winds of Rājagaha, I don’t think there’s anyway it could be understood as any form of Patriotism. :slight_smile:


Pride can lead to keeping one’s surroundings clean. I think a person’s mental state dictates how clean their environment will be, with some exceptions of course. A ‘forced Sankhara’ like Ajhan Chah might clean up the place (as well as the mind)! However it is possible to find positive mental states like proper consideration for oneself and others in keeping a place clean as well. I’m not sure if this is patriotism.

Indeed. All ‘home-lands’ and ‘promised-lands’ have the same problem.

It’s not physically possible to demarcate where one’s country starts. How does on draw the border - is it down to cms or mms, molecular or atomic level? How to keep all the atoms and molecules on one side of the border. It’s better to say that the material world doesn’t fit into the imagined concepts like ‘country’ that are used as if they were realities.

With metta


Patriotism is opium for the masses

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…which goes well with a good xenophobic conspiracy theory, for people wanting power. :smile: That is the way people’s defilements work.

With metta

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The definition of patriotism:
having or expressing devotion to and vigorous support for one’s country.

I used to be a very patriotic Sri Lankan.
I think patriotism is suitable for a lay person but not for a Buddhist monk.

In a Pali class this last weekend, a s/w related topic came up. In looking at a passage from the Karaniya Metta Sutta, the teacher* chose to use the term “love”, but clarified in in a way I’d not come across before. He outlined “3 kinds of love” in terms of 3 levels of “pema” (usually “affection” and contrasted with metta):

1: tanha pema – romantic love, rooted in attraction to beauty and gratification,
and selfishness;

2: <???> pema – (I didn’t catch the qualifying term) – family love, more pure, not conditioned by beauty or attraction, but rather the common weal of family members – parents to children, among siblings, and traditionally across the extended family;

3: metta pema – the most pure, unconditional, according to the teacher “Buddha loved all equally”. Ultimately, in practice, a path to cetovimutti – deliverance of the mind, albeit temporary.

That 2nd one would seem to relate to the basis for patriotism, where the attachment is to a broader scope of relationship but analogous to family – one’s countrymen (Latin ‘patriota’ from Greek ‘patriotes’ ‘from the same country’, and ‘patris’ as ‘fatherland’, and ultimately to the word for ‘father’). Ethically (in terms of kusala/akusala) that would appear to be a sort of middle ground between the tanha and the metta forms – more pure than affection based in selfishness, but not as unbounded and unconditioned as metta. Rather conditioned by common interest. Patriotism (as distinct from nationalism, chauvinism, jingoism, xenophobia, etc.) can have a relatively noble sense, in that one may even sacrifice one’s own life for the benefit of the country / extended family. (Patriotism is, in European culture, often closely associated with honoring fallen soldiers.)

This relates, in my mind, to the scientific theory that refines the evolutionary, “selection of the fittest” notion beyond the sense of brute force to survive and reproduce. Antonio Damasio, for instance (in “Self Comes to Mind”, 2010) points out that patterns of behavior are also evolving at the DNA level which work towards altruism and the common good (culture) rather than simply the individual’s survival. These layers of development, e.g. in the neurology, however, are newer, less deeply embedded, weaker and slower to act; when push comes to shove, more primitive (self-survival) instincts might tend take precedence.

Arguably (and to bring this back to Buddhism) the renunciate lifestyle can be seen as related to this. As a notable instance, Gotama Buddha’s life and teachings focused on adding value to human kind universially, so to speak, rather than just trying to pass on his own genes in a big way (as, for instance, did Genghis Khan, a rather a non-spiritual wheel-turning despot, whose DNA is remarkably widely present in modern day populations across Asia and elsewhere).

So patriotism can be seen as relatively wholesome (skillful / kusala).

*The teacher, U Hla Myint, is a former monk, scholar and translator, in the Mahasi lineage; his style shows the s/w formal, analytic Burmese approach.

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[quote=“cjmacie, post:16, topic:5356”]
2: <???> pema – (I didn’t catch the qualifying term) – family love, more pure, not conditioned by beauty or attraction, but rather the common weal of family members – parents to children, among siblings, and traditionally across the extended family;

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[quote=“Coemgenu, post:19, topic:5356, full:true”]

Yes, thanks. That’s got to be it. In my notes I’d scribbled “gayasita” or “kayasita”. Listening first time to the Burmese teacher not yet used to the accent. (Like listening to Pa Auk Sayadaw – at first it doesn’t even sound like English.)