Dhammic Socialism

Dhammic Socialism is a term Ajahn Buddhadasa coined in the turbulent 60s as political-economic ideologies collided in Southeast Asia. Neither the greed based capitalism pushed by the supposed "free world" nor the anger based Marxism backing armed insurgencies in Thailand and elsewhere made sense to him. He saw both as overly aggressive, violent, and insufficently moral. Yet, he talked with people on both sides, including military men in uniform and those from the jungle. To help expore a middle way between the striving parties, he suggested that a Buddhist based approach could be called "Dhammic Socialism."

Nature and society, in his understanding, are fundamentally "socialiast" in that cooperation is necessary for survival and peace. Selfish individualism destroys far more than it can build. But we must ground our socialism ("putting society first") in Dhamma if it is to be moral, peaceful, and successful.


For anything to succeed in this natural world it must harmonize with, be in line with Dhamma, follow from and serve, the Law of Nature. Anything that fits with, conforms to, follows from, and serves the Law of Nature is "Dhammic."

To be Dhammic is to be non-violent, unselfish, compassionate, mindful, and cool. Ajahn Buddhadasa summarized it in two words "peaceful" and "useful."

Being "peaceful" means doing nothing to hurt, harm, exploit, abuse, or oppress anyone, whether others of oneself. Such peacefulness requires a heart-mind free of selfishness and egoism.

Being "useful" means helping in the struggle for genuine liberation from suffering, no matter on what level or in what area of life. True Dhamma does not concoct dualities likes "personal-social" or "worldly-spiritual."


Don't believe that socialism is dead! This is just the materialist propaganda of neo-conservative diehard capitalists. Real socialism has never been tried on a large scale.

Socialism is the perspective and orientation that takes the good of society as a whole as central, rather than one's personal, individualistic good as all important. Thus, socialism is the opposite of the individualism with which we are brainwashed today.

For engaged buddhists, socialism must be rooted in and guided by Dhamma. Thus, we speak of "Dhammic Socialism." We are not talking abut the materialist monstrosities of centralized, dictatorial Stalinism. Dhammic Socialism is not slavish conformism, for it respects and nurtures individuals. However, the individual's purpose in life is not merely its own pleasure or success. In Dhammic Socialism, the individual's purpose and meaning is found beyond its little "self" in society, nature, and Dhamma.

For more thoughts on Dhammic Socialism, please see the Suan Mokkh website.