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Socio-Economic Philosophy of Buddhism (An Investigation Based on Pali Literature)

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Item Code: NAU303
Author: Pham Nhat Huong Thao
Language: ENGLISH
Edition: 2019
ISBN: 9788178543772
Pages: 562
Other Details 10.00 X 7.50 inch
Weight 1.30 kg
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Book Description
About the Book

What is significant for the conceptualization of Buddhist socio-economic philosophy, lies in its ability to show that the Buddhist code of conduct, the Path for individual betterment and salvation, is not narrowly confined to one’s narrow self interest. In other words, Buddhist socio-economic philosophy has to demonstrate that the analytical mode of reasoning crystallized in the Four Noble truths and Eight-fold Path is equally concerned with one’s self as well as a sense of social awareness, a concern for others.

The morality of Buddhism in Buddhist socio-economic philosophy is both pragmatic and utilitarian. On the other hand, good is that which produces good effects and relieves one’s sorrows and stresses; evil generates ill effects and prolongs the agony of suffering and stress. The prescriptions for moral conduct are carefully laid out not as laws or injunctions to be obeyed as a matter of duty or obligation, but as rules or principles of conduct which flow from a theory of reality capable of validation and verification.

It is no doubt to understand that the Buddha’s teachings have significant impact on people’s lives not only among the genders, but also among people across the world and clearly provide a set of profound guidelines and teachings that pertain to man’s socio-economic and spiritual progress not only at the individual but also at the national level in order to establish cordially between individual but also at the national level in order to establish cordially between individual and the society. Modern man can lead a very happy and prosperous life if he promotes understanding and practices what the Buddha taught in the Tipitaka under the form of the Pali language according to the Theravada tradition conveyed in "Socio-Economic Philosophy of Buddhism: An Investigation Based on Pali Literature", which covers the brief introduction to Pali Tipitaka, historical socio-economic background of pre-Buddhist India, concepts of society, social and economic philosophy as reflected in the Pali literature, Buddhist economic development, and relevance of socio-economic pholosphy in the modern times.

About the Author

Born in 1972 at My Tho City, Tien Giang Province, Vietnam, Pham Nhat Huong Thao comes from the family of Academic background. In the year 1992, she entered into the Buddhist Order with her Master’s guidance Most Venerable Thich Chanh Dao under the religious name Thich Nu Dieu Hien at An Phuoc Pagoda, Chau Doc, An Giang Province. From 1993 onwards, she has resided for practice and studying Buddhism at Kim Lien Pagoda, HCM City. Then in 1998 she was ordained as Bhikkuni in Mahayana tradition, Vietnam.

Since her childhood days, she was very much interested in books and always looks for study. She has completed her school education at HCM City and later graduated in Buddhology from Vietnam Buddhist University in 2005 and also done her graduation in English Linguistics and Literature from University of Social Sciences & Humanities in 2003.

In 2009, she has had an opportunity to come to the homeland of Buddhism (India) for higher study and training more about the Buddha’s teachings from the Department of Buddhist Studies, University of Delhi and completed M.A. in 2011 and M. Phil. in 2013. She has been awarded Doctrol Degree by GBU in 2019.

She has participated and presented her research papers on various aspects of Buddhism at national and international conferences held in different places of India. She has also published her fist book entitled (Sigalovada Sutta: A Compendium of Socio-Economic Philosphy of the Buddha" by Eastern Book Linkers, Delhi in 2017 and a good number of research papers : Dangers of intoxicating drinks (liquors) in Buddhist tradition in Wisdom Winds, Delhi (June 2016); Buddhist Education in Vietnam in Shodh Drishti and Fulfilling Duties in the Relationship between Parents and Children in Anukriti, Varanasi (2016).

She is one of members of Buddhist English-Vietnamese Translation Center (BEVTC), the Vietnam Buddhist Research Institute (VBRI) in HCM City, the 8th period (2017-2022) and has contributed to the translation task in the 16th United Nations Day of Vesak (UNDV) hosted in Vietnam in May 2019.


I am delighted to write this foreword, not only because Dr. Pham Nhat Huong Thao has been a student of mine but she was also a student of my mentor Prof. K. T.S. Sarao and at the same time, I believe deeply in the educative value of interpretive discussion for all students, especially in academics. I further believe that teachers at every level and stage of their career can enrich and strengthen their teaching by learning the discussion leading to patterns and practices presented in this book. Participating in interpretive discussions can help teachers and students alike learn to use their minds with power and pleasure. The book in question is the second book of the author entitled Socio- Economic Philosophy of Buddhism: An Investigation Based on Pali Literature.

Buddhism’s main concern during the time of the Buddha was not only political liberation from social conditions, but also personal liberation from human suffering arising from the cycle of birth, old age, sickness, and death. Although the Buddha also taught ethical principles regarding the social, economic, and political well-being of people, the main theme in Buddhism was personal liberation from suffering was the centre of attraction. Since social and political conditions have changed tremendously in the present world scenario, I maintain that Buddhism needs a structural vision and a new emphasis on Socio-Economic Philosophy of the Buddha to counter new emerging challenges in the socio-economic field. To construct a healthier Buddhist society requires a change of the economic structure into one of more local self-sufficiency, and the political structure into one of more local decentralization, with moral and cultural values adapted to a contemporary context. Only then the teachings of the Buddha take root in society as it did in the historical past. We have to translate his essential teaching to address the problems of today. Until we see that way to be free from suffering is through mindfulness and nonviolence, there is little possibility of overcoming suffering, either personally or socially. Today’s Globalized world is full of social evils.

Those who think that Buddhism is interested only in lofty ideals, high moral and philosophical thought, and ignores any social and economic welfare of people, are wrong. The Buddha was interested in the happiness of men. To him happiness was not possible without leading a pure life based on moral and spiritual principles. But he knew that leading such a life was hard in unfavorable material and social conditions. Buddhism does not consider material welfare as an end in itself; it is only a means to an end - a higher and nobler end. But it is a means which is indispensable, indispensable in achieving a higher purpose for man’s happiness. So, Buddhism recognizes the need of certain minimum material conditions favorable to spiritual success - even that of a monk engaged in meditation in some solitary place.

Buddhism is both a path of emancipation and a way of life. As a way of life, it interacts, with the social and economic beliefs and practices of people. In new global order, it is felt now that this is the most opportune time to make known to the world each of the above aspects of society within the framework of the basic principles of Buddhism. The Buddhist doctrines are based on reasoning and rational thinking and this perennial philosophy advocates a well-balanced material and spiritual well-being in order to maintain a simple life and to help attain the ultimate stage of individual liberation, summum bonum, or Nibbana. Modern man can lead a very happy and prosperous life if he understands the significance of this social and economic philosophy as explained in the Pali Literature. The main objective of this book is to bring into light the facts related to Socio-Economic issues faced by the people in modern days and how Buddha’s teachings are going to help in tackling this issue. In this present book, the author has tried her best to explore the relevance and application of Socio-Economic philosophy of the Buddha in present world scenario.

At the very outset the author has tried her best to explain the significance of the contemporary necessity of research on this theme and further on she has tried her level best to cover all the relevant aspects and highlighted the same which exerts influence on the socio- economic activities of the individual for betterment and development. Hence, understanding of socio-economic philosophy of the Buddha becomes more important today than ever before, because Buddhism directly addresses the fundamental issues of human life and it’s inter connectivity with the community at large in a holistic way.

In this era of globalization, economics is mostly governing the whole world. Therefore, it is now widely felt that economics needs an ethical theory, though, modern economics is mostly concerned with generation of wealth and is defined as a study of "nature and causes of wealth of nation". But, wealth is only a means and our objective is human well being and wealth is a means to achieve this objective and therefore, it is the study of mankind in ordinary business of life. It examines that part of individual and social action which is closely connected with this attainment and with the use of material requisites of well being. The Buddha as a philosopher is devoted to the well being of the humanity. The Buddha, himself has propounded this philosophy in the midst of human suffering. The fundamental aim of Buddha was to provide a recipe to help the suffering humanity and for this he has considered at all spheres of human life. So it is very interesting to investigate what standpoint Buddhism has for welfare economics. Whether it is at par with modern economics or it has its own different perspective.


Buddhism founded by the Buddha is not only a path of emancipation but also as a way of life because it interacts with the economic, political, and social beliefs as well as practices that has immense effect on the life of people. Buddhism is not a religion and gives importance to the moral and ethical conduct of lay life for the happiness of oneself and the welfare of the community. The philosophy of Buddhism is well defined and conveyed in the Noble Eightfold Path not only for mendicant monks but for ordinary householders who live in their homes with their family members as well.

At the very outset let me first express my deepest appreciation, gratitude and thankfulness to my dear supervisor Dr. Arvind Kumar Singh, Assistant Professor, School of Buddhist Studies & Civilization and Director, International Affairs, Gautam Buddha University for not only his kindly concern, encouragement, guidance but also editing and writing the FOREWORD of my second book published by Eastern Book Linkers in Delhi. My special acknowledgements are also due to respected Prof. K. T. S. Sarao who was my M. Phil. supervisor in the Department of Buddhist Studies, University of Delhi, Prof. Bhikshu Satvapala, Prof. H. P. Gangnegi, Dr. R. K. Rana, Dr. Subhra Barua Pavagadhi, Dr. Satyendra Pandey, Dr. Sanjay Kumar Singh, and other respected teachers to name a few viz., Prof. Siddarth Singh, Prof. Anand Singh, Prof. Anita Sharma, Dr. Neeti Rana, Dr. Indu Girish, Dr. Priyasen Singh, Dr. Chandrashekhar Paswan, Dr. Gurmet Dorjey, Dr. Priyadarsini Mitra, Dr. Gyanaditya Shakya, Dr. Chintala Venkata Sivasai, and Dr. Manish T. Meshram, who have enlightened me with their teaching acumen and their valuable suggestions, helpful guidelines for the process of researching, writing and accomplishing my work entitled "Socio-Economic Philosophy of Buddhism: An Investigation Based on Pali Literature".

I am immensely obliged to my revered Masters: Most Venerable Thich Chanh Dao (An Phuéc Pagoda, Chau Déc, An Giang Province, Vietnam), Most Venerable Thich Nw Khiét Minh (Kim Lién Pagoda, HCM City), Ven. Thich Thién Minh and Ven. Thich Thién Pham (An Phuide Pagoda), Most Ven. Thich Nu Tué Dang (Vinh Phong Pagoda, Long An Province), Ven. Thich Nw Hué Thong (Buu Son Pagaoda, My Tho City), as well as my beloved father Pham Tan Lam and my beloved mother Bui Thi Chic for their best suggestions on the lone of the gradual progress in morality, compassionate encouragement and generous material supports in the path of not only learning but also practice of the Buddha’s teachings for both myself and others.

Ialso wish to express my deep gratitude and pay true homage to the most respected Dhamma Masters: Most Venerable Thich Minh Chau, Most Venerable Thich Tu Théng, Most Ven. Thich Thanh Kiém, Most Ven. Thich Duc Nghiép, Most Ven. Thich Tri Quang, Most Ven. Thién Nhon, Most Ven. Thién Tam, Most Ven. Thich Gidc Toan, Most Ven. Thich Nguyén Ngén, Most Ven. Thich Chon Thanh, Most Ven. Thich Tang Dinh, Most Ven. Thich Thién Dic, Ven. Thich Minh Ly, etc. of the Intermediate, Higher Buddhist School and Buddhist University in Ho Chi Minh City where I have received the Buddhist education. Besides, I could not forget to say my gratitude and thankfulness to Ven.

Dr. Thich Dong Tri and Ven. Thich Déng Dac who are kind enough to recommend my name and offer me to join as member of Buddhist English-Vietnamese Translation Center (BEVTC) of the Vietnam Buddhist Research Institute (VBRI) in HCM City during the 8" period (2017-2022).

Merely by thanking, I do not wish to be free from my multiple indebtedness towards all my former teachers in my country who have shared me their knowledge in secular education, especially my Ex- English teachers: Mr. Tran Httu Thé, Mr. Ly Quang Huy, Mrs. Lé Hién Phi, Miss Do Thi Thu (My Tho City), Mrs. Bich Lién, Mr. Thinh, Mr. Lap, Mr. Tam (University of Social Sciences & Humanities, HCM City) Mr. Nguyén Cao Hy, Mr. Nguyén Van Nghé, Mrs. Tran Phuong Lan (HCM City), etc. so that I can get a great opportunity for further study in the land of Buddhism, India.

Cordially, l cannot simply forget to express my heartfelt gratitude and say thanks to my Dhamma brothers and Dhamma sisters, all members in my family and relatives, my dear Dhamma friends particularly Ven. Dr. Jagaralankara (DCU, Myanmar) who has kindly taught and guided me in Pali language, as well as provided some fundamentally valuable and useful books from Burmese source for more detailed explanations of this present work as well as other supportive helps and encouragement during my study in India; Ven. Phramaha Sanchai Racharee from Thailand (GBU) who has taken into consideration to check and correct Pali terms in my work and also shared other hardships in student’s life with his compassion and kindness; Ven. Vijayalinkara (DU), Ven. Dr. Dhammasami (GBU), Ven. Dr. Kawvida (GBU), Ven. Tiloka (GBU), Ven. Thich Thanh Dinh, Ven. Thich Tam Vudng, Thich Nu Hanh Hué, Thich Nu Ngo Bon, Thich Nuf Chén Dé, Thich Nuf Nhu Bich, Thich Nu Phap Hoa, Thich Nu Hué Xuan, Thich Nu Diéu Tinh (Chau Doc), Thich Nu Tué Chau, Thich Nu Nguyén Hiéu, Thich Nu Lién Vinh, sister Nga Quach (USA), Pham Ngoc Kim (Australia), sisters Bui Thi Hao, Bui Thi Phuong with their family (HCM City), sister Huynh Thi Bap (Tudng Qua) & An Pha Buddhist groups (Chau Doc), who kindly provided me with support and assurance for my study.

My thanks and appreciation is also due to those whose books, journals and articles, dissertations, dictionaries, encyclopedias, as well as website links have been well provided my work with useful materials needed for quotations and references. Furthermore, I am thankful to librarians of Central Reference Library (University of Delhi), Bodhisattva Dr. B. R. Ambedkar Library (GBU) for my research facilities and their giving me a hand to collect more sufficient documents and data of my work. Greatly appreciated to all those who directly or indirectly have given me conditions not only in good keep but also in good spirits for my student life.

Tam also thankful to Mr. Ravi Malhotra, Prop., Eastern Book Linkers, New Delhi for taking keen interest in publishing the present book with his kind help, support and cooperation. At the same time, I would also like to express my thankfulness to Dr. Meena Singh, Staff Officer to Vice Chancellor, GBU for her kind help in getting the Prologue of the book from Hon'ble Vice-Chancellor.


Global wellbeing, including prosperity and peace for the mankind has been the aspirational goal of all the ancient philosophical traditions. The ancient scriptures of the pre-Buddhist as well as post-Buddhist era, including the Sanatana Vedic philosophy are replete with elaborate tenets for economic and social wellbeing of the society. Buddhism has been widely embraced universally and gained popularity across the nations for its preaching aimed at utmost welfare of every individual. The "Shrimad Bhagwat Geeta" even vouches for the utmost benevolence of not only of mankind, but for every living being. It says "te prapanuvanti mameva sarva-bhuta-hite ratah." Even the Upanishads preach for treating every living being like the self. The Vedic scriptures talk of plenty and abundance of all materialistic riches and also vouch for deploying the same for common good. The ancient Indus Valley Civilization, dating back to 6000 B.C.E., as per the revised time estimates, has relics of houses with as many as 30 rooms. The Republics that existed in the Buddhist era and pre-Buddhist era talk of several advance civilizations. The Buddhist era is characterized with riches and abundance with advanced social fabric.

Yet, the Buddhist teachings neither disapprove of materialistic riches nor consider poverty as a value. Buddhism associates poverty with suffering, and hence poverty in society ought to be overcome. However, human concern with acquisition of material wealth alone is considered as an attitude which expresses blindness with respect to one aspect of human living. If people neither engage in the pursuit of material wealth nor in the pursuit of moral development they are comparable to people who are totally blind. If they engage only in the pursuit of material wealth ignoring moral development they are comparable to persons lacking vision in one eye. The same Buddhist standpoint is expressed when human happiness or well being is conceived both in economic and moral terms. It is pointed out that compared with the happiness or well being a person achieves as a consequence of moral development achievements in the purely economic pursuits of life are far inferior to the former in value.

However, examined from the Buddhist perspective, the pursuit of some aspects of economic activity in the new economic order appears to make it difficult to sustain the Buddhist ethics of ‘right livelihood’ in respect of socio-economic life. Buddhist teachings instruct people to conform to the ethical principles of compassion, sympathy, honesty, and justice in the regulation of one’s economic life. Socio-economic development achieved without conforming to such virtues is considered in the Buddhist teachings as immoral and unworthy. There are certain social values such as values pertaining to family life that seem to be threatened by the sole concern of people with monetary gain. As a consequence, the children in the formative years of their life neither get the deserved love and care, nor the moral direction that the parents are expected to give them, leading to a serious breakdown of moral values in the family. Husbands and wives separated for long periods lose their marital bonds, and end up in the breakdown of the family further endangering the well being of their offspring.

The ill effects of ignoring the need for ethical restraints in adopting effective measures in socio-economic development are becoming increasingly evident in the contemporary world. Economic development which is desired for the sake of happiness, social stability and security appears to be moving societies away from these very goals that are desired. The greatest threat to contemporary society appears to be from the ecological imbalance created by the pursuit of material wealth without ethical restraints. There may still be a chance to escape the impending disaster that humanity has to encounter if remedial action is taken speedily by right thinking men to regulate human efforts aimed at economic development taking into account the indispensable need for ethical restraints. Buddhist teachings are immensely resourceful in this enterprise.

This book entitled Socio-Economic Philosophy of Buddhism: An Investigation Based on Pali Literature is a comprehensive work on various facets of social and economic life of the Buddhist era. It would prove to be a landmark work on this topic. The undersigned hopes that it would help the society to pursue the socio-economic values and priorities for a well enriching life.


Buddhism founded by the Buddha is not only a path of emancipation, but a way of life as well. As a way of life, it interacts with the economic, political, and social beliefs as well as practices of the people. Buddhism which is not a religion but a way of life teaches the moral and ethical conduct of lay life for the happiness of oneself and the welfare of the community. Designed to formulate an intricate system of analyzing human life and the intrinsic nature of things, the Buddhist doctrines are based on reasoning and rational thinking. This perennial philosophy which dates back more than 2,560 years, advocates a well-balanced material and spiritual well-being in order to maintain a simple life and to help attaining the real peace and happiness oneself leading to the ultimate stage of individual liberation or Nibbana. The Buddhist philosophy is not based on an initial act of faith just like some scholars who have misunderstood the Buddhist teachings are of the opinion that there is no socio-economic and political philosophy of Buddhism. Or another misconceived idea of Buddhism states that what the Buddha taught is considered as such a sublime system that ordinary people are impossible to follow and practice it. But in fact, the doctrine of the Blessed One is conveyed as the message not only for mendicant monks but for ordinary householders (men and women) who live in their homes with their family members as well. The Noble Eightfold Path, meditation on loving-kindness and ten perfections are meant for all. They can be practiced in daily life. Having aimed at laying much emphasis on the sake of members of society and their welfare, the Lord Buddha urged to his first 60 disciple monks at Sarnath who were Arahants to "walk on tour for the good of the many, for the happiness of the many, for the welfare of the many, good and happiness of human beings and celestial beings". As a result, Buddhism dominated in heart of people and the old Buddhist monasteries had become the spiritual centers as well as the centers of learning and culture in the beliefs of people. The five precepts are meant for the whole human society. Any person can observe them and lead a spiritual life and that would be of great benefit for him or her as well as to this present competitive society.

Buddhism, however, brought about a more sophisticated and nuanced understanding of religion as a set of principles within the domain of sociology and psychology, and not theology. Buddhism is an ideology that squarely analyses and provides practical solutions to basic problems of human existence: that every living being must undergo suffering and how to raise oneself out of it. Moreover, Buddhism aims to be a social, economic and political philosophy that is democratic in ethos. There is no place for supernatural entities; indeed, we are not concerned about whether there is a God or not, or if there is an after life or not, or a day of reckoning or redemption. The main concern is the problem faced by all human beings, dukkha (suffering), and its causes and the answer to it. The Buddha did not blame any supernatural entity for the existence of dukkha, but prevailing social conditions and the personal conduct of the individual. He taught that the only way to get rid of dukkha was not by pleasing any supernatural entity but by the reorganization of society and improved personal conduct. This is why the Buddha preached that greed or excessive desire was the cause of all dukkha and hence restraint was required.

The Buddha never claimed to be a god but he has propounded certain principles which make human life at peaceful and free from conflict which is based on the principles of equality, liberty and fraternity, which are the main pillars of modern democracy. The Buddha taught and practiced equality between genders and treated women as equal in all aspects of life, bestowing the priesthood upon them. Both shudras and women were denied this liberty and equality by the chaturvarna practices prior to and during the advent of Buddhism. Buddha did not stop here, but also propagated fraternity, which is one more principle required not only for democracy, but even for peaceful coexistence of humanity. We might say, therefore, that the Buddha was the first political philosopher who taught liberty, equality and fraternity, the basic requirements for meaningful democracy and peaceful coexistence of humanity.

The Buddha’s social and economic philosophy is very relevant today, especially as well as a nation ascend onto the world stage as a normative power. What is significant for the conceptualization of Buddhist social and economic philosophy, lies in its ability to show that the Buddhist code of conduct, the Path for individual betterment and salvation, is not narrowly confined to one’s narrow self interest. In other words, Buddhist social and economic philosophy has to demonstrate that the analytical mode of reasoning crystallized in the Four Noble Truths and Eight-fold path is equally concerned with one’s self as well as a sense of social awareness, a concern for others. There is no doubt that the social economic philosophy of Buddhism places its ‘primary emphasis on the individual and ... social consequences follow from the centre of the individual’s own psychology’ with emphasis upon the subjective aspects of his social ethics’. The peace in the general social sense is only the end result of the cultivation of peace-mindedness by the individual who is the ultimate unit of the social community. By asserting that the centrality of the individual, one’s freedom and autonomy is not an absolute independence, Buddhism recognizes the complex and interdependent relationship that exists between individuals and society, or the self and the other. The notion of individual identity is a complex and difficult question bearing on how we understand the Buddhist concept of the Self and No-Self (the Anatta doctrine).

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