What did the Buddha say to the leader of the country?

Update: 29/07/2018
Some new Buddhists think that the Buddha taught people how to practice the transformation of suffering towards enlightenment and liberation. The other things related to married life, friends, family, economy, society, politics, ect. the Buddha did not talk about.

What did the Buddha say to the leader of the country?


Recently, when some Buddhists listened to my talk on the topic: "Did the Buddha have nonviolent demonstrations?", they understood that the Buddha was also very concerned about the peace and happiness of people  in their daily life. In some of the lectures given to the audience as Buddhists or kings, Buddha taught the issues of family, society, economy, and even politics, I introduced some sutras to those who would like to know more about the Buddha's teachings on those issues that can be read.

However, although they are keen to find out, they have to work or spend time for their family, they do not have time to do research. The Buddhists suggested that I quote the Buddha's teachings to the leaders of the country so that they could better understand. Sympathetic to their situations and grateful for all prayers, today I continue to send you this talk. I will quote here the suttas related to the leaders of the country.

The first prayer that I want to quote is the Sage, translated by Most Venerable Thich Hanh Tru from Chinese to Vietnamese. This book is only 80 pages, size 14x20cm. A book teaching how to deal with people is very good or great. Every teaching in the sutra is a golden mold for us to study and practice.

In this prayer, the Buddha taught how to pray and use people, and how to be close to the wise, from which we can have correct understanding. Buddhists who have not read should read. Leaders of the country should do as much as possible to perfect their reign of countries.

Let me summarize the contents of the suttas as following:

"After achieving the enlightened fruit, Buddha Shakyamuni has turned the wheel of Dharma and bless for many people. Kings, chiefs, Brahma and people returned to rely on the Three Treasures. The Taoists at that time realized that they lost their practitioners and rights, so they tried their best to harm the Buddha and the Sangha. They killed Sundan, buried her near the living place of the Buddha and slandered for the Buddha and the monks who raped and killed her. Then, they propagated everywhere to lower the reputation of the Buddha and monks.

King Pasenadi was a very respectable virtue of the Buddha. The king was convinced that the murder was a scapegoat, so the soldiers followed and discovered the masters organized killings and slandered for the Buddha. The king came to ask the Buddha why the Taoists have acted so cruel. The Buddha said that these slanders were due to greed and jealousy. However, this has also been rooted in the past. The king would like to hear the story of the previous life. The Buddha agreed and told the content of the story: 

A long time ago, there was a Sramana named Sage who was talented and moral. King Lumdhar and people in neighboring countries respected the Sage. The king invited the Sage to stay at a house of chastity in his own country and to visit the palace daily for offerings. Later, the king also asked Sage to operate the country. Since the Sage has been involved in politics, the country was calm and peaceful.

In the court, there were four evil officers. Since the Sage was there, they no longer dared to disturb the citizens and lose their benefits; as a result, they hated Sage. They conspired to plot the sage by bringing gold and silver to bribe the queen to slander Sage intending to occupy the throne. The king followed the queen and asked to expel the Sage from the country. Sage knew this plot and asked the king to go. At that time, the king realized that he had misunderstood the talent, repented and asked for Sage staying to help the country, but he was still determined to go.

Since the Sage left, the four officials and greedy followers in the court exploited people. The country fell into unsettled chaos and lamented resentment everywhere. Hearing the complaints from people, the king awakened and decided to invite Sage to return to help the country and fellow people again. Because of hundreds of miserable people, Sage accepted the return. Sage said, "From now, the king has to follow the doctrine, entrust the task to sages and assign to the wise, reward the good and punish the wicked. The wheel rolls non-stop, depending on the behavior that life is born in the good or bad places. Be sure to have punishment and blessings. Don’t do cheating.            


As the old story, Crane King had a pond in which there were many species of "fresh fish". Since the fish was delicious with sweet taste and few bones, the king sent a guardian to keep the fish pond. Every day, he sent eight fish to the king, but he ate eight fish a day: so the amount of fish decreased significantly. The king knew and decided to send eight guardians to keep fish ponds together. But eight supervisors, all together, cooperated and each ate eight fish each day. That is why the more people take care of the fish pond, the more fish are catched. 

Now the incidents were the same. If you assign tasks to many people, the country becomes more and more disordered. It looked like young fruit being picked. It did not taste anything as well as lost its seed. If the king did not use gentlemen to run the country, it not only created damage to people, but also lost the country’s reputation as well as blessing. If unrighteous country operation produces greedy authorities who want to occupy and capitalize their properties without using their mind, the public wealth will be reduced.

The country has good soldiers but they are not trained for the war, not worried about the security of the country, it will be weak. When the King does not respect morality, does not worship the noble, the nation is not devoted to the present and will not attain blessing in the future. If people are killed and cried for unfair events every day, the disasters will occur continuously and then leave bad examples forever when they die. 

- Following the great law conquers people’s hearts, respecting noblemen, loving children, and doing good work are created with a peaceful life and current blessing. 

- Doing the righteous work is like going straight, and everyone is admired as it is the root cause. Thus, it will cause peaceful happiness. Also, we should collect ancestors’ wisdom to experience for this life, doing everything should be suitable to situations, and giving gifts and doing charity should be equal. Doing this makes life happy and resolves the enlightenment in the future.



After hearing what Sage said, the king was very happy and said:

"Now I hear your teaching that looks like the wind blowing the clouds. So please open your compassion, think about the nation, teach the people and help me operate this country as before.

Later, thanks to the virtue from Sage, the people were peaceful and happy, the four seas were so harmonious that created a peaceful and prosperous country. "

In my opinion, if a country leader who reads and studies this sutra, he will bring happiness and peace to himself, his family, society and country. There are many golden teachings in the prayer which are very precious, so I can not quote all. You try to read, and I guarantee that after reading it, you will be happier than finding jewelry.

The second sutras I would like to quote is the Afrikaners, a sutra which is in the book of the Anguttara Nikaya I, the Four Dharmas, the Good Blessing chapter. In this sutra, the Buddha speaks of how important the views and visions of the leader are for the prosperity of the nation.

- "When the monks and the non-dharma king are present, the officers of the non-dharma king are present. Whenever the officers of non-dharma Kings are present, the Brahmins of non-dharma are present. Whenever non-dharma Brahmins are present, the citizens and all people become non-dharma.      

When the people in the city and villages are non-dharma, the moon and the sun revolve in wrong orbits. When the moon and the sun go wrong, the galaxies and the stars move wrong orbits. When the galaxies and the stars are in wrong position, the day and night change wrong. When day and night turn wrong, months and half of months stay wrong. When months and half of months become wrong, the weather and years remain incorrect. When the weather and the year rest wrong, the wind blows inwrong seasons. When the wind glides wrong, the gods are angry. When gods get upset, it rains immediately. When it has rains at once, the rice is ripe out of season. When the rice is ripe against the season and people eat that kind of rice, the life span will be short, people’s appearance is ugly and they are unhealthy and have many diseases. 

Dear the monks,

When the dharma king is present, the officers of the dharma king are present. When the officers of the dharma king present, the Brahmins properly present. When the brahmins properly appear, the inhabitants of the city and the people of the villages become legitimate dharma.

When the people of the town and in the villages follow dharma, the moon and the sun are on the right orbits.

When the moon and the sun do not move in wrong orbits, the galaxies and the stars  are on the right orbits. When the galaxies and the stars travel rightly, day and night are in the right path. When day and night stay right, month and a half of the month are on the right track. When months and half of month interchange right, the weather and year become right. When the weather and the year do not operate wrong, the wind blows in the right season. When the wind continues doing this, the gods rejoice. When the gods satisfy, it rains in harmony. When it rains moderately, rice is rich in such seasons.  

Dear monks,

When the rice is ripe in the season and people eat that kind of rice, life expectancy will be long, people are good-looking, strong and do not have many diseases.

When a cow herd wade the river,

The cattle head  went wrong,

The drove went out of path,

Because of wrong instructions,

Also, in human beings,

He is the leader

If he did out of dharma

All people are suffering

If the king is out of dharma,

When the cow herd wade the river,

The head of cattle went right,

The whole is in the right direction,

Because of the right guidance,

Also, in human being,

He is the leader,

If he follows the discipline,

He can say others,

The whole country is happy,

If the king lives properly "

I find the sutra very interesting, because if a leader of a country that lives illegally, he will bring up illegal officials, attaching all the people in the country illegally, leading the country into turmoil. Why? As the king is invaded, how can officers and people with the dhamma live peacefully with him. The king will accuse the reaction, contrary to his policies, and may be imprisoned or killed. 

Nowadays, in North Korea, the President develops nuclear weapons. The officials who work for him and want to live peacefully, must also follow his policies, the indigenous people propagating wrong information agree. Despite sacrificing, living a hungry, hard life to get money to make nuclear weapons, even though there are people who know that it is wrong, it can lead the country to poverty, mourning, and death when the war happens, but they have no other way. If they against the cruel President, they only have the way to be harmful.  It looks like the cow herd crossing the river, the leader of cattle that goes wrong will wrecks the whole cattle into the river.  

The third sutta is in the The First Length Discourses in the Pali Canon, Volumn 2, Chapter Omniscience, named “Seven Dharmas The King Operating The Country”. In this brief sutta, the Buddha taught about the seven dharmas that the rulers should accomplish in order to safeguard peace and security for their country.

"I heard this: One time, the Buddha in the Sage, Jade-forest, Anathapindaka garden. Now the World Most Venerable told the monks:

- For the king operating the country, if seven legal achievements are attained, family contradiction, national robbery, foreign invaders will not occupy.

What are seven? High-rise ramparts are strengthened, which is the first achievement. That the gates are solid is the second achievement. Outside the citadels, the ditches are wide and deep, which is the third achievement. The fourth achievement is that the barracks store much food in warehouses. There is much firewood and grass (*fuel), the fifth achievement. There are many weapons and full of war tools, which is the sixth achievement. The seventh accomplishment is that the owner of the fortification  is intelligent and talented, knows how to win the people’s heart, fair punish or reward, which makes the outside. That is  impossible for any forces to invade. "

Thus, if the leader builds a strong and stable country; happy people, full military and weapons, righteous, talented leading, whose vision and policies that corporate citizens together, that country will be strong, challenging any enemy’s invasion. 

In next sutra I extract from the following, the Buddha taught about the qualities that a head of country should have and should not have. If the leader achieves the good qualities mentioned in the sutta, that country and institution can last long; on the contrary, if the leader has the following characteristics that should not be mentioned, the country and institution will die out. That is the Ten Dharmas that the King Do Not Survive, The First Length Discourses in the Pali Canon, Volume 3, Chapter Prohibited Bond.

"One time, the Buddha in Sravasti, Jeta forest, Anathapindaka garden. Now the World Most Venerable told the monks:

- If the king who falls into these ten dharmas can not survive long, the country produces many criminals.

What are ten? When the king is stingy and greedy; only with a little bit of things does he feel angry without considering the reasons. This is the first dharma that he does not last long.

Again, he relies on materials, can’t bear inferior comparison, which is the second dharma that he does not last long.

Again, he does not follow the warning shots, is a tyrant without compassion. This is the third law that he does not last long. 

Again, the king arrested unjustly people, put them in prison without  dates to be freed. This is the fourth law for his short term.

Again, he is out of law, ignoring right commands. This is the fifth law which he does not last long.

Again, the leader is attracted to the beauty of others’, away from his wife. This is his sixth shortage.

Again, the king preferred to drink alcohol, not to mind the court. This is the seventh overturning.

Again, the king enjoys dances and games, does not attend the operation. This is the eighth overthrown. 

Again, he is permanently sick and has no healthy days, which is the ninth time.

Again, the king did not believe in loyal talented officers, specific assistants, without wisdom servants. This is the tenth law, which he does not last long.

If the king achieves the following ten dharmas, he stays at the long throne. What are ten?

Here, the king does not covet materials, infect the anger, because of not minor things that start to resentment. This is the first dharma to be durable. 

Again, the king listens to the officers, does not ill-treat the marshals. This is the second dharma to be durable. 

Again, the king likes doing charity that all people praise. This is the third dharma to be durable. 

Again, the king raises material properly and legally. This is the fourth dharma to be durable. 

Again, the king does not crave for the beauty of others, often protects his wife. This is the fifth dharma to be durable.  

Again, the king does not drink alcohol and his mind was not delirious. This is the sixth dharma to be durable.

Again, the king does not like pleasures or surrender to the enemies. This is the seventh dharma to be durable.  

Again, the king complies with the law. This is the eighth dharma to be durable. 

Again, the king reconciles and cooperates with the officers. This is the ninth dharma to be durable.  

Again, the king is not often sick and has strong vigor. This is the tenth dharma to be durable.  

If the king achieves these ten-dharmas, the throne remains long-term peacefully. "

Finally, I will report two sutras from the Book of Dharma Study Treasury, of the Bhikkhus, about four things a leader needs to learn and to do in order to win hearts and ten virtues that a leader needs to do research. 

The first is the four sutras of the king (Rājasaṅgahavatthu), the four dharmas of the king who want to occupy people’s heart,

1. Understanding seasonal benefits  (Sassamedha). The king must know the land kinds, weather conditions and crops to have appropriate policies to develop the country.

2. Understanding the human mind (Purisamedha). The king must well know their domestic situation, the strengths and weaknesses of officers in order to use their talent and plan to train officials.

3. Defense strategy (Sammāpāsa). The king must have a way to govern the people, strict but not harsh laws, tolerance policy but not easy, know how to support their life.

4. Kind speech (Vācāpeyya). The king must have good words whenever he contacts people, speaks graciously, humbly, useful and persuasively.

The four Buddhist philosophers have advocated the teachings of Buddhist kings. These are in opposition to the Brahminical principles. In Brahmanical knowledge, the king needs to know: 

a) Assamedha, killing horses for

b) Purisamedha, killing people for offerings.

c) Sammāpāsa, praying ceremony for religion.

d) Vajāpeya, celebration of water to cheer victories.

e) Sabbamedha, holding ceremonies for univers. 

Because Brahmin's precepts are prone to inhumanity and wrong view, they do not accept  Buddhism." 

Secondly, the ten governing factors and the virtue of a king (Rājadhamma):

1. Donation (Dāna) for having discharge and giving alms, helping creatures.

2. Virtue (Sila) for not taming the evil, collecting the body and speech.  

3. Selflessness (Pariccāga) for removing self-interest, sacrificing for the benefit of people.

4. Integrity (Ajjava) for integrity of the mind, not harassing, not biasing. 

5. Accomodation (Maddava) for gentle temperament, mild words.  

6. Self-control (Tapa) for self-control mind, overcoming mistakes, being strict with the self, not leading a loose life.  

7. Calmness (Akkodha) for  not to invading the anger, not acting with rage.  

8. Unharmfulness (Avihiṃsā) for no cruel mind, no private hatred. 

9. Patience (Khanti) for being waited, suffering all adversity, not frustrating despite failures. 

10. Persistence (Avirodhana) for maintaining a good tradition, not misleading the morality from a leader, not being praised or flattered to lose the nature.  

From some of the above sutras I have quoted, you may have also agreed that the Buddha was very concerned about the welfare and well-being of people in his life. In particular, he always guided the kings to live in virtue, practice the dharma, and carefully taught them the methods to bring peace and prosperity to the people as well as to the country. 

There are many sutras related to the dignity of governing. Because of my limited ability, I only offered you some of them. What I most want to do is hoping the leaders of our country will know the teachings of the Buddha, practicing the dharma to rule the country that is the happiest thing not only to me but also to the entire nation of Vietnam. 

To end this talk, I would extract a sentence in the Ajarn Sutra, the High Sutra III, which I strongly appreciate:  "The leader of the country should not take the glory of a lifetime to create guilt forever." From which, I paraphrase into the poem:

A glorious life of evil

Forever spreads the bad example.  

Senior Ven. Thich Chan Tinh

Translated into English by Huynh Thi Khanh Phung

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