Should monastics be involved in politics or vote?

If they talk about the war in general there will not be a debate because they both agree with Buddha’s teaching. Why they do not agree with each other is due to their views. I think specific politics (taking a particular side. Turmp Vs ??) are out of monks domain and out of their pasture. Monks even should not try to defend their country (because they do not have a country). Defeding the country is the job for lay people. If lay people do not want to give a stuff about it, so be it!

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I don’t. And I agree with your assessment of the B-T debate about war.

But, see, this leads to an interesting question - Ven. Brahmali suggested that there are some political positions (he called out Nationalism specifically) as being obviously Un-Buddhist. Is that really the case? If so, how can we decide what positions are “off-limits” for good Buddhists?

Personally, I think it would be great if there were enough Buddhist’s making comments on such issues that they sometimes disagreed! I feel like I’m repeating myself, but I think this idea that Buddhists should keep quiet unless they are are sure that they are conforming so some consensus is not very helpful. I think it’s useful to hear a variety of viewpoints, useful to have people politely disagreeing. There seems to be an insidious modern trend to want things in black-and-white, to forsake responsibility for making up one’s own mind on an issue…



Fortunately we don’t have to make this decision in a general way; we only have to make it individually and specifically, as in, “Now what is the best response for me (this bunch of aggregates) to make?” … I find that quite a lot to do; hopefully the discussion between Venerables Bodhi and Thanissaro will offer points of guidance, perhaps from both sides.

I think it’s for senior monks to comment on political issues, in terms of providing guidance. Is it helpful to create a political party, no. Put your views into a petition, yes. Talk about it incessantly, no! Let it go, yes! It depends on whether others are in a much better place to deal with it and you are not doing what you can do best: create a peaceful world in the minds of people which is the long term solution, without which problems created by man will plague us.


Politics is a form of matchmaking, so…no.

That’s not an interpretation I’ve heard before. Could you expand on it, please?


In at least one country it would appear that matchmaking is a branch of politics. :grinning:

In Singapore, the Social Development Unit (SDU), run by the city-state’s government, offers a combination of professional counsel and dating system technology, like many commercial dating services. Thus the role of the matchmaker has become institutionalized, as a bureaucrat, and every citizen in Singapore has access to some subset of the matchmaking services that were once reserved for royalty or upper classes.


Prior to the founding of the SDU, a Great Marriage Debate had been raging. During a speech made at the National Day rally in 1983, then-Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew alleged that the phenomenon of graduates remaining single would result in a projected loss of about 400 talented people per year. This estimation was made on the basis that talent was not so much nurtured as it was conceived, as studies at that time had shown. Lee had also expressed worry that the dearth of children produced by graduate women would lead to the faltering of the economy and ultimately a decline in society. Although Lee had not explicitly stated that the SDU would be set up in response this problem, he had promised that tough measures would be taken by the government to curb the problem. The fact that the SDU was formed the following year has led many to perceive the debate to be the main reason behind the establishment of the unit and its exclusive focus.


Public reaction to the former SDU was initially that of disdain; graduate women were unhappy about their plight being addressed so prominently, while non-graduate women and their parents were upset at the government for dissuading graduate men from marrying them. In fact, there was an outcry by the public at large about the unfair use of taxpayers’ money to subsidise leisure activities for graduates, especially since they already had a higher income.


Besides those who treated the SDU with contempt, there were others who simply did not take the SDU seriously. One popular joke that was conceived in the early days was that ‘SDU’ also stood for ‘Single, Desperate and Ugly’.

Social Development Network


I’m a lay person and therefore cannot speak for monastics. However, I have thought about the matchmaking rule (as in “do not make matches”) and the reason for its existence. I used to love the challenge of matchmaking, of guessing who would complement another person. I was therefore quite surprised to read the matchmaking rule.

I thought about why I liked matchmaking and the answers that came up were always troubling. If we match people with similar desires, we reinforce their craving and also their suffering. If we match people with dissimilar desires, we yoke them into suffering. Too much of matchmaking depends on wanting or aversion. People dream of tall or short or athletic or whatever partners. And this is also true of politics. Each party or platform stands for a fixed set of “needs” (desires? :thinking:). Politicians are matchmakers for those needs.

That is my reasoning. It is a bit unorthodox and definitely not informed by monastic experience.

However, I also no longer matchmake.


Thanks for sharing your thoughts, @karl_lew.
It’s always interesting to hear novel interpretations and I now understand your reasoning much better :slight_smile:

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IMO the answer to this question can easily be found if we ask the question “what is the purpose of becoming a monastic?”. The purpose according to the Buddha, as far as I understand it, is to awaken from ignorance which is not knowing the four noble truths. Then the question arises “can a monastic awaken from ignorance by getting involved in politics?”. And the answer IMHO is a categorical NO.
With Metta


Isn’t this wrong livelyhood?
For instance monks are not allowed to involve in fortunetellng etc,
Isn’t this considered that monks are involve with lay people duties?

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From my point of view, this idea of vipassana, or “clear seeing,” allows for the possibility for practicing Buddhists and Forest monastics to become involved in some issues that are beyond debate in terms of being of global concern, at the same time as being issues that could be well and properly addressed within the wheelhouse of the EBTs. We know to establish samatha; we can be calm, wise and kind at the outset of any discussion. We understand well the ideas of the causes and conditions that lead to suffering. We place kamma and its consequences at the center of our practice. We practice a form of ethics derived from the Dhamma that provides guidance and antidote to many problems facing the world now, including climate change catastrophe, violence, the “splitting” that polarizing views creates in communities, mental health issues, wars and conflicts…to name just a few.

It might be a good and proper thing for there to be an association of Forest monastics and lay practitioners to weigh in on these issues. Sujato’s Blog was one brilliant platform that brought a lot of issues to light and provided analysis and even solutions to many cutting edge issues and concerns…why not repeat or replicate this kind of a platform today, and utilize the amazing talent pool within the EBT community?

For those not familiar: check it out: environment | Sujato’s Blog This page is just an example of the excellence of the thought and analysis, the journalism, that Sujato’s Blog brought to the web, all through a Dhammic lens.


It’s supply and demand!

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It definitely reduce your suffering.:stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:


Note that the following would also apply to my reasoning:

“Mendicants, there are two fools.

What two?

One who perceives a non-offense as an offense, and one who perceives an offense as a non-offense.

Since the Vinaya is silent on this issue per Ajahn Brahmali, my reasoning is idiosyncratic…a personal aversion. Indeed, one of the reasons I retired as a software architect is that I simply got exhausted from all the politics.


I have been sitting on the sidelines of this discussion, in part because I have been a practicing political scientist for over three decades and probably have more to say from the perspective of a political scientist than is appropriate for discussion on a website dedicated to Buddhist teachings inspired by early Buddhist texts.

Having said that, there is a well-known tenet derived from feminist theory (but now common in other political theories as well) that “the personal is the political,” which means that even the smallest acts undertaken by all people (not just individuals holding public office or otherwise occupied with the business of official government) have an affect on politics, with politics understood as all aspects of society involving formal governance.

From this perspective, no one can abstain from politics because every action taken by a person has some political effect, even if it is not readily perceptible. For example, a decision by someone to prioritize eating at restaurants that locally source their ingredients is a “political” act. Even choosing to “live off the grid” by residing in the forest meditating most of the day is “political” from the perspective of “the personal is the political.”

I am teaching a course next fall on everyday acts as politics. Students writing their research papers will be able to choose any topic focusing on the personal is the political. In the guidelines on the research paper I am distributing to students I list examples of topics that are appropriate for such an assignment. Among the hypothetical examples I give is a Buddhist monastery set up by Southeast Asians in a European county to serve the local Southeast Asian community in the diaspora. This example might not seem like “politics.” But if you think about it, there are lots of politics involved in how diasporas operate in contemporary European society. The purpose of the course I will be teaching is to encourage students to think about politics in unconventional ways.

Edit: By the way, choosing not to vote is political because withholding consent is an inherently political act.


Should monastics be involved in politics? If they wish to, absolutely. Politics are a tool to reach people on a societal-scale. Thích Nhất Hạnh coined the term “Engaged Buddhism.” He used politics as a means to promote peace on an international level. From reading the suttas, I get the sense that the Buddha didn’t want us to completely disregard the world, and care solely for our own personal enlightenment. He wanted us to get out and help others as well.

“Mendicants, these four people are found in the world. What four? One who practices to benefit neither themselves nor others; one who practices to benefit others, but not themselves; one who practices to benefit themselves, but not others; and one who practices to benefit both themselves and others. (…) The person who practices to benefit both themselves and others is the foremost, best, chief, highest, and finest of the four.”
AN 4.95


I agree.
Buddhism also a form of politics. But it is not spcific. It is universal. Not harming any particular person. If I do not vote, I am not harming anyone. Wheel turning monach is political. The monks are expected to be nuteral (upekkha). even that also politics)

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I don’t have any position on what monastics “should” do. But if someone has the discipline to abandon human society and live in harmless poverty and seclusion from society, I can respect that.