In the western world, Christianity had influenced law and legislation. This affect the general population and impact the lives of many. Even if one is not a Christian, the law would equally apply.
For example, law against abortion was enacted under the Christian beliefs that only God has the right to decide the fate of human life. It doesn’t matter if one is an atheist, abortion will still be illegal for both doctor and patient.
Champions of secular government would argue that abortion is a personal choice of a woman. Therefore, religious opinion should not influence the legislation or law and affect the private life of an individual.
In Buddhism, the 1st precept states that one should not kill or harm another being. (Especially a human being) Killing another human being is considered a serious offence. One of the 10 unwholesome deeds that results in sufferings.
Consequently, abortion is looked upon as a grave misdeed because Buddhist believes that a human life comes into existence at conception.
Some Buddhists believe that the 1st precepts also teaches us to protect life.
Therefore, if you do not save another being from the danger of death, then you are equally sinful of committing an offence in the ambit of the 1st precept. This is a notable interpretation and perceived by many Buddhists to be noble. Especially, the Mahayana Buddhist.
Consequently some Buddhist activist who are politically active or politically powerful, believe themselves as protector of innocent unborn life when they lobby for anti abortion law and legislation. (Note: This article is not meant to discuss the pros and cons of anti-abortion legislation.)
From a Buddhist perspective, we know that killing is wrong. We all agree that the precepts are meant to advice INDIVIDUALS from committing unwholesome deeds.
However, when we extend the precepts to include prevention of deeds to be committed by another, then there is a chance of radical Buddhist doctrine to arise.
Following the same logic of the aforesaid; Is it good to enact laws that criminalise animal slaughters and decree a national vegan diet?
Should we then enact laws to make alcoholic drinks illegal?
What about criminalising adultery?
Such a list will continue on and on. Depending on how “holy” the law maker is.
Will law and legislation produce wisdom in a society?
Will it result in more enlightened woman and man?
Did the Buddha advocate this approach to his teachings and philosophy?
I think not.
I believe the Buddha did not set the precepts with an intention for it to become laws in society. If law and enforcement is that important, why didn’t he (Buddha) simply regain his throne and make sure the entire world subscribe to his views and precepts?
We shouldn’t forget that Buddhist believes the Buddha had the potential to become a universal monarch. Therefore, it is logical to conclude that if Law and enforcement will promote enlightenment in society; Buddha would had become a ruler after Enlightenment and conquer the world and implement a Buddhist world order.
Instead, he chose the career of a renunciant educator. The message is loud and clear!
I think it is obvious that enlightenment in society can only be achieved through education. Voluntary practice and individual effort. If each and everyone mind our own business, and practice good. Then the collective society will become good.
That means radicalised Buddhism has no justification for existence. Once it happens, it is no longer Buddhism, but another monstrous invention of an unenlightened beings.
Which is why, the Buddhist monastic communities had always refrain from influencing politics and government. Their role is more focus on education. There is an old saying that states “A good Buddhist shalt not be Judge”
If we believe in karma, then let nature run its course.
It is the responsibility of INDIVIDUAL Buddhist woman and man to decide their own karma.
Buddha advised and encouraged but he did not enforce it by threats of divine retribution nor physical punishments.
If he saw a being in distress, he will not hesitate to help.
If he saw a person doing wrong, he will not hesitate to speak up and counsel them.
One thing is for sure.
He did not mobilise his thousands of disciple to force others to submit to his teachings.
In this respect, I think Buddhism respect individual rights. It believes that education and nurturing wisdom is better than oppressive control and interference.
Therefore, a Buddhist politician or activist should not impose Buddhist law and orders unto others.
Each individual has a right to believe in what they think is right and wrong, including the right to disbelieve Buddhism.