42. Buddhist Perspectives on Human Rights

  1. Steven M. Emmanuel
  1. Karma Lekshe Tsomo

Published Online: 5 FEB 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9781118324004.ch42

A Companion to Buddhist Philosophy

A Companion to Buddhist Philosophy

How to Cite

Tsomo, K. L. (2013) Buddhist Perspectives on Human Rights, in A Companion to Buddhist Philosophy (ed S. M. Emmanuel), John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, Chichester, UK. doi: 10.1002/9781118324004.ch42

Author Information

  1. University of San Diego, USA

Publication History

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

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9780470658772

Online ISBN: 9781118324004



  • Buddhism;
  • human rights


An assessment of Buddhist ethical theory through a Western lens can run the risk of overlooking or dismissing some of the pertinent aspects of the Buddhist traditions. Although the latter do not speak with one voice, for hundreds of years they all have directed their attention towards liberation from suffering, which is also the presumed goal of human rights theories. At the time of the Buddha, there were no historical circumstances as widespread and horrible as those of the twentieth century that served as a catalyst for the creation of human rights theory. Early Buddhist political ideals focused on the qualities of the good king as an archetype of enlightened leadership, rather than providing a framework for governance. Today, many Buddhists express a deep concern for the welfare of all living beings, but few have recognized the importance of addressing the structural causes of suffering on social and political levels.