Buddhism and Democracy

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There are about 380 million Buddhists in the world, most of whom live in Asia.

Buddhism, like Confucianism and other Asian philosophies of life, concerns itself very much with self-discipline and, like other religions, has within it the risk of becoming totalitarian, but for most people it is an individual journey into the mind.

The biggest hurdle to democracy contained within Buddhism is probably its insistence on making oneself free of the physical world. There is a difference between freedom in the world and freedom from the world. The latter is likely to lead to apathy in relation to changing the organisation of society. There is the same problem with Hinduism but, like Hinduism, there is nothing in Buddhism which directly prevents democracy. Asian societies - and especially a philosophy like Confucianism - have strong traditions of order, central power and discipline, but they do not contain the concapt of a God who feels his power threatened if people decide for themselves.

Next chapter: Catholicism and Democracy