Dhammic Mutualism


_/\_ Anjali

So I found this at http://www.dharmapunk.webs.com/mutualdhamma.html I assume it is written by Rev. Adam Watson and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License. Thus this post is also licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License. Hope you enjoy!

Dhammika Parasparavada

Dhammic Mutualism – Buddhist Anarchism

“Buddhism is anarchism, after all, for anarchism is love, trust, selflessness

and all those good Buddhist virtues including a total lack of imposition on another.”

– Robert Aitken Roshi

Dhammika Parasparavada – Buddhist Mutualism

This eight-point platform expresses the guiding principles of Dhammic Mutualism, which is one Buddhist’s approach to social-political and economic issues. This does not represent the view of any specific school or tradition of Buddhism, and it is not an attempt to politicize or radicalize the Dhamma. It is merely my own socio-political and economic application. This is simply a political and economic view developed by incorporating the Buddha Dhamma and Dhammika Sanghaniyama (Dhammic Socialism) with Mutualist markets.

Dhammic Mutualism, or Dhammika Parasparavada, developed as a synthesis of Ajarn Buddhadasa’s Dhammika Sanghaniyama (Dhammic Socialism) with anarchist mutualism. Dhammika means “pious” or “righteous”, as it refers to the Dhamma or teachings of Buddha. Paraspara means “mutual aid” or “reciprocal”. Thus Dhammika Parasparavada can literally be translated as “Pious Reciprocal Thesis” or “Righteous Mutual Aid Doctrine”.

As Dhammic Mutualists, we see the Dhammic Socialism of Ajarn Buddhadasa and the anarchism of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Peter Kropotkin (who also recognized, in his work Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution, that early Buddhist communities embodied the principle of mutual aid), Emma Goldman, Benjamin Tucker, etc. as being mutually self-supporting. This is not the socialism or state-capitalism of political scientists and Marxists – that is, a socialism that is primarily materialistic or economic. This is a libertarian approach to a decentralized market socialism, which is informed by the Buddhist principles of interdependent co-arising (paticca-samuppâda), restraint and generosity (niyama), and loving-kindness (mettâ-karunâ).

Various other people have also influenced the development of Dhammika Parasparavada, including (but not limited to) Lala Har Dayal, Takagi Kenmyo, Taixu Daishi, Alexandra David-Néel, Gary Snyder, Allen Ginsberg, Robert Aitken Roshi, and many others.

The Noble Eightfold Platform of Dhammic Mutualism

1. Right Livelihood: Abstaining from profiting through dishonesty, corruption, harm or bloodshed.

For a free society to keep itself libertarian, egalitarian, nonviolent, and honest, it would involve maintaining high levels of transparency and accountability. Naturally, this would include seeking sources of revenue which do not include corruption, exploitation, or harm such as usury, monopolization, third world exploitation, arms dealership/war profiteering, etc.; and holding accountable those that do. Social cohesion is facilitated by the voluntarily democratic association and consensus of its individuals.

2. Education and Prosperity: Democratic access to food and drink, shelter, clothing, medicine and all information media.

As Dhammic Mutualists, we contend that every living being has a natural right to the satisfaction of needs according to ability. Necessities should be openly accessible by all people, and to keep these necessities self-sustaining, recipients are encouraged to give something in return according to their ability, such as labor, trade, support, or some equivalents thereof, etc. regardless of their gender, class, race, religion, sexual orientation, etc.

3. Equanimity: Encouraging tolerance, forbearance, and loving-kindness towards all beings – human and animal.

This is the compassionate awareness that recognizes and respects the rights of all beings, however different those rights may be. Facilitating the universal rights of all involves the amelioration or abolition of class distinctions and social inequalities and injustices based on race, gender, religion, sexual preference, species, etc. Thus this awareness strikes at the root of any kind of divisive hatred or injustice. We are all in this together.

4. Egalitarianism: Facilitating the empowerment of each individual and allowing them to possess a means of production either individually or collectively.

This is achievable through the development of dual powers or alternative social institutions within existing society until such institutions eventually replace prior ones. Eventually, a to a vast network of federations or markets of free individual, but interdependent, local markets will develop. This gradualism of independent networks is essential in ending the natural exploitation of multinational corporations and military-industrial complexes. This involves building and supporting decentralized, grassroots, community-based economies. Essentially, it is the co-existing of many different markets and federations within a interdependent, decentralized network. In a sense, this is the organization and development of a new society within old network, or framework, of the previous one.

Within a mututalist (or truly libertarian, noncapitalistic) market, each person might possess a means of production either individually or collectively. People may be self-employed (such as artisans, farmers, independent contractors, etc.), or part of specific producers or consumers cooperatives, a large workers’ democratically controlled syndicate or enterprise, etc. Also, mutual banks and credit unions would be democratically controlled which would lend to producers at a minimal interest rate, and trade would represent equivalent amounts of labor (or equivalents thereof) in a truly free market.

Therefore, in the mutualist approach, no one would sell their labor to others but would instead work in democratic cooperatives, networks, syndicates, enterprises, etc; or even for themselves. Benjamin Tucker once stated that, if any kind of wage labor was to exist, the removal of statist privileges (such as banking market entry barriers, legal tender laws, and enforcement of land ownership not based on occupancy and use) would result in the workers’ natural wage being their “full product”. That is, no individual will profit from the labor of another because everyone is paid equally for equal hours worked and no one will have an ultimate authority over another.

5. Freedom: Assisting in the liberation of all beings from dukkha.

We all experience the stresses and sufferings (or “dukkha”) of life at times to various degrees. Dukkha is a Sanskrit term, variously translated as (dis)stress, anguish, unsatisfactoriness, suffering, tension, despair, etc. In Buddhism, it is one of the three marks or seals of existence (along with impermanence and non-self) and is the First Noble Truth.

We are ultimately social beings, and one’s own suffering can affect many others in varying degrees. Therefore it would benefit us all to work together to help one another in overcoming these, such as in improving our living situations to maintain a higher standard of living. This is supporting local markets, Such as buying locally and supporting local markets, thus growing the local economy. Multinational corporations and capitalist economics – in seeking to maximum profit, “outsource” wage labor to foreign, often times much poorer, source which is usually conveniently controlled by a strong dictatorial or military regime. Alternatively, or they pay to bring illegal aliens to the work-site so that they can pay them less for longer hours at the expense of local workers’ and their unions.

6. Integrity: Acceptance of the six-colored Buddhist flag and Dhammacakra as international Buddhist symbols.

The Dhammacakra is the Wheel of Natural Law, set in motion by the Buddha over 2,500 years ago. The Buddhist flag is a modern creation which was jointly designed by Mr. J.R. de Silva and Colonel Henry S. Olcott to mark the revival of Buddhism in Ceylon in 1880. It was accepted as the International Buddhist Flag by the 1952 World Buddhist Congress.

7. Felicity: Applying the use of Gross-National Happiness (GNH) alongside traditional economic indicators to measure the quality of life and non-economic well-being. This is an important step in maintaining a higher standard of living.

Everybody knows that Gross National Product (GNP) only measures the sum total of material production and exchange in any country. The term Gross National Happiness (GNH) was coined by Bhutan’s King Jigme Singye Wangchuck (who has also played a major role in bringing democracy to Bhutan) in 1972. GNH is a quantitative measurement of the quality of life and of non-economic well-being and happiness. GNH value is proposed to be an index function of the total average per capita of the following measures:

1. Economic Wellness: Indicated via direct survey and statistical measurement of economic metrics such as consumer debt, average income to consumer price index ratio and income distribution.

2. Environmental Wellness: Indicated via direct survey and statistical measurement of environmental metrics such as pollution, noise and traffic.

3. Physical Wellness: Indicated via statistical measurement of physical health metrics such as severe illnesses, weight, etc.

4. Mental Wellness: Indicated via direct survey and statistical measurement of mental health metrics such as usage of antidepressants and rise or decline of psychotherapy patients.

5. Workplace Wellness: Indicated via direct survey and statistical measurement of labor metrics such as jobless claims, job change, workplace complaints and lawsuits.

6. Social Wellness: Indicated via direct survey and statistical measurement of social metrics such as discrimination, safety, divorce rates, complaints of domestic conflicts and family lawsuits, public lawsuits, crime rates.

7. Political Wellness: Indicated via direct survey and statistical measurement of political metrics such as the quality of local democracy, individual freedom, and foreign conflicts.

8. Peace: A commitment to avoid imposing our beliefs through coercion, manipulation or force and to utilize every opportunity for open dialogue and cooperation.

We respect differing viewpoints and counter arguments, and welcome them in an honest debate. We believe that open dialogue, cooperation, and, yes, even compromise, are important steps towards a truly free association of individuals.

Socio-Political Mutualist Economics and Buddha Dhamma

Someone may contend that “politics and religion don’t mix”, and may cite the “Separation of Church and State” as an argument against Dhammic Mutualism. However, Buddhism is more than religion. It is an education and discipline, and it is a practice. However, Dhammic Mutualism is only one Buddhist’s take on social, economic, and political issues. These are my own ethics and principles which have been informed by a variety of sources.

First of all, there has always been the question of “Is Buddhism a religion, philosophy, etc.”? Buddhism is a tradition that includes precepts and practice. There are certainly aspects of philosophy, psychology, religion, etc. to be found in Buddhist teachings and practice. This is why Buddhists often consider it a “complete path to awakening”, and as a raft for reaching the other shore.

Dhammika Sanghaniyama: Buddhist Socialism

Now, Dhammic Mutualism has certainly been inspired by a wide range of people – from the king of Bhutan to the anarchist Peter Kropotkin. It is simply a libertarian social application of Dhammic principles. Ajarn Buddhadasa insisted that a nibbanic society would be a form of Dhammic Socialism, and Dhammic Mutualism is a variant thereof.

Ajarn Buddhadasa’s Dhammic Socialism expresses two basic facts. The first is that we are inevitably and inescapably social beings who must live together in a society which gives priority to the ways we inter-relate, work together, and help each other solve the problems and dukkha of life. Thus, the principle of right relationship or right inter-relatedness is at the heart of such a society. Ajarn Buddhadasa understood that such a society would be the essence of socialism, which may differ from the understanding of socialism by political scientists and Marxists.

The second fact is that socialism can go wrong. There have been various approaches to socialism and some have been incorrect – that is, authoritarian, violent, and corrupt. Ajarn Buddhadasa insists that socialism must be modified by Dhamma to keep it moral (e.g. libertarian and egalitarian), nonviolent, and honest.

The Three Seals and Buddhist Anarchism

Dhammic Mutualism takes these two basic facts, and applies them in the framework of a truly free, cooperative market. Dhammic Mutualism, of course, also recognizes that everything in this universe is guided by these three principles or Three Dhammic Seals of Existence – including our economies:

1. Everything is in a constant state of change or flux, nothing is permanent. Everything is conditioned, and is always changing. (anicca)

2. That “suffering” exists everywhere in Samsara. Since all conditioned things are impermanent (anicca), they are also imperfect and unsatisfactory thus creating tension and stress. (dukkha)

3. What is usually considered a “self”, “soul”, “I” or “mine” is simply a byproduct of the five skandhas (aggregates). (anatta)

Therefore a “perfect Utopian State” is not possible, so any approach to an ideal community should be decentralized and libertarian. Any man-made institution is subject to impermanence and change and is therefore us imperfect as people, societies, and indeed the entire world is constantly changing. No amount of material wealth or political power could ever guarantee a permanent happiness; it could only guarantee a transient satisfaction which is ultimately an illusion that only perpetuates samsara (cyclic existence).

A socialist anarchist would argue that both the state and capitalism generate oppression and, therefore, suffering (dukkha). The former is an institution that frames the desire for power, and the latter the desire for material wealth. Attempting to control others will only perpetuate exploitation, suffering, etc. (dukkha) and that will ultimately cause dukkha for those trying to be in control. Trying to hold on to and accumulate material wealth, likewise, increases suffering for the capitalist and those they do business with.

A Buddhist’s compassion springs from a fundamental selflessness called “anatta”. Thus individual liberty, while a very important aspect of a free society, is nevertheless incomplete to the extent that it precludes our common humanity since there is, ultimately, no “self” that is inherently distinct from the rest of the universe. In this sense, it could be said that Dhammic Mutualism recognizes that we are all in this together, and works towards the maximization of individual liberty and social equality.

Dhammic Mutualism does not view the goals of liberty and equality as mutually exclusive, but rather as mutually self-supporting as they are two complementary facets of a truly free society. Or, as Bakunin’s famous dictum states: “We are convinced that freedom without Socialism is privilege and injustice, and that Socialism without freedom is slavery and brutality.”

It is this selfless compassion for humanity as a whole which inspires the Buddhist towards activism and Dhammic Mutualism. However, most, if not all, political groups tend to go against the Eightfold Path that steers Buddhist thought and action. Thus anarchist mutualism, lacking a rigid ideological structure and dogmas, is easily applicable to Buddha Dhamma.

Dhammic Mutualists are asked to remember the words of Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh , “Do not be idolatrous about or bound to any doctrine, theory, or ideology, even Buddhist ones. Buddhist systems of thought are guiding means; they are not absolute truth. Do not think the knowledge you presently possess is changeless, absolute truth. Avoid being narrow-minded and bound to present views. Learn and practice nonattachment from views in order to be open to receive other’ viewpoints. Truth is found on life and not merely conceptual knowledge. Be ready to learn throughout your entire life and to observe reality in yourself and in the world at all times.”

Links and Resources

Dhammic Socialism: a Buddhist

response to social suffering.

Dhammic Socialism
: an Internet Vision


Economics by E. F. Schumacher

My Socialism by Takagi Kenmyo

Buddhism and

Social Action by Ken Jones

Buddhist Anarchism by Gary


Class-Struggle Buddhism

Mutualism: Free Market Anti-Capitalism

Consensus Decision Making

Participatory Economics

Buddhist Peace Fellowship

Dr. Ambedkar International Mission

International Network of Engaged Buddhists

International Conference on Gross National


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