Yet he engaged with all manner of people and offered advice on all manner of things.
Matters to do with the running of the Sangha, the running of households and broader social norms and structures.
And when he passed away, he didn’t say to his monastics, just be political dropouts. He basically gave them a form to use, in a democratic way, to come together and resolve their issues among themselves and also when they had to relate to the world. He said, let the teaching and the discipline I have left you be your teacher when I am gone.
He didn’t say, turn into some kind of anarchic collective, allow yourselves to disintegrate as your kilesas take over and you no longer have any boundaries except what each individual or clique may believe to be true… These don’t sound like the actions of a political dropout/cope out. He cared enough to engage a little.
The 8FP serves several functions, one of which is that it is an expression of the understanding that we do not live in isolation from each other. That to find peace in solitude we must also find peace with each other. Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood and of course, Right Intention and Right Effort too… Why would we need the first 3 that I mentioned if the Path didn’t include the understanding that we cannot help but - at least sometimes - engage with others?
Which is why the core that keeps the Sangha going - across their many differences of practise, appearance, geography and deviations from the intial norms, is something they hold in common. Whether they all recognise it or not is not the point to me. The point to me is that where I see that they have recognised it, wonderful caring, thoughtful and inclusive communities have sprung up and have the potential to spring up.
The Buddha didn’t appoint someone as a successor either.
The interesting point of difference about the type of democracy that he set up for the Sangha is that it is not a ‘majority rules’ type of affair. It requires everyone’s agreement in matters that are voted upon. Thus it is incumbent upon all parties to come together and discuss matters and also to learn to find harmony. Agreement is often less important than harmony. A rigid sense of your own rightness is often less important than harmony.
Harmony - if it’s not interpreted as the silencing of others - has within it the potential to seek out what is true, listen and care. Even in music, it means that two streams of sound come together to make, well, beautiful music.
To me the Buddha’s Path, where ever it engaged with forces external to himself, was about peacefully stating his truth and also with an understanding that this very peace, this very truth, gave him the tools to interact in a harmonious, though sometimes gently challenging manner.
So I do find your characterisation of the Buddha to be strange and not how I would perceive him at all.
It seems to me you have extrapolated his dropping in to a homeless life, his dropping in to solitude, his dropping in to Samadhi, as an overall drop out from a bunch of other things that he didn’t drop out of. I mean, he, nor his monastics could have eaten or clothed themselves without interaction with the wider community.
And that wider community would’ve needed to be communicated with, for they wouldn’t have initially understood what they were supporting or why.
If he had indeed been the “ultimate political dropout”, he probably would have carried on with those practises he undertook when he followed the wrong path and had wrong view…this are, I believe, some of the words he used to describe that time in his life. The path where he ate what he could find in the forest or whatever…
But to engage meaningfully with society in any way, one can’t help but be polite, communicative, persuasive - political.