35. Comparative Refl ections on Buddhist Political Thought

Aœoka, Shambhala and the General Will

  1. Steven M. Emmanuel
  1. David Cummiskey

Published Online: 5 FEB 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9781118324004.ch35

A Companion to Buddhist Philosophy

A Companion to Buddhist Philosophy

How to Cite

Cummiskey, D. (2013) Comparative Refl ections on Buddhist Political Thought, in A Companion to Buddhist Philosophy (ed S. M. Emmanuel), John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, Chichester, UK. doi: 10.1002/9781118324004.ch35

Author Information

  1. Bates College, Lewiston, Maine, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 5 FEB 2013
  2. Published Print: 25 MAR 2013

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9780470658772

Online ISBN: 9781118324004



  • Asokan Paradigm;
  • Buddhist politics;
  • general will;
  • Shambhalan Paradigm;
  • Western political philosophy


Historically and philosophically, there are two primary paradigms that capture much of Buddhist political thought. The author calls these as the Asokan model and the Shambhalan model. These two paradigms are not incompatible. The Shambhalan approach focuses on promoting justice by increasing enlightenment. The Asokan approach focuses on political legitimacy and a just basic structure for an unenlightened people. This chapter explores these two strands of Buddhist political thought and considers points of contrast and agreement with Western political philosophy, concentrating on Hobbes, Hume, and Rousseau. Buddhism provides the basis for a compelling critique of Hobbes's moral psychology, his individualism, and his account of social conflict. The chapter concludes by sketching an alternative Buddhist theory of justice that is inspired by Rousseau's conception of the general will.