is no mystery as to the cultural origins of the much invoked
concept "justice" in the Western world: it came directly out
of the Judeo-Christian biblical tradition and teaching. The
word "just" occurs eighty-four times in the Judeo-Christian
scriptures (Bible), and its derivative, "justice," occurs
twenty times. And what was the meaning of "justice" in this
context? Though written from a Christian perspective the following
definition would seem to be essentially correct:
is that essential perfection in God, whereby he is infinitely
righteous and just, both in his nature and in all his proceedings
with his creatures. 
of the term "righteous" with which "justice" is here intimately
linked, and by implication, "righteousness" with "justice?"
In the same source we read:
signifies. . .that perfection of the divine nature whereby
God is most just and holy in himself, and in all his dealings
with his creatures, and observes the strictest rules of
rectitude and equity. 
and "righteousness" occur hundreds of times in the Bible,
especially frequently in the Jewish scriptural portion. This
would seem to indicate the foundational position of righteousness
in the character of God and all his dealings with man. Justice
is obviously the term used to describe the basic nature of
God's active dealings with his creation and with man in particular.
This relationship is well expressed in the following passage,
characteristic in tone with many others:
Rock (i.e. God), his word is perfect; for all his ways are
justice; A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just
and right(eous) is he. (Deuteronomy 32:4)
God is conceived to be the Creator and Ruler of the universe
it is also a basic Biblical (Jewish-Christian) assumption
that in accord with this righteous/just nature of God, that
human history is the story of God's just dealings with man.
In other words one should get what one deserves of good or
evil in one's lifetime.
expanding on this theme and its ethical consequences for the
values of the Judeo-Christian tradition, it is worth noting
a dissenting voice in the Jewish scripture, that of the book
of Job. The general story of Job is well known. Job was a
prosperous man of impeccable character and piety. He treated
everyone --servant, friend, stranger, rich, poor-- justly
and humanely, even generously; no one was ever turned away
from his door empty handed; he was upright in his personal
conduct, and offered sacrifices daily to atone for any wrong
his children might have done. He even conscientiously conserved
the fertility of the soil.
what was his reward? Calamity after calamity struck: all his
wealth was destroyed by storms and marauders; his children
were killed in accidents; he himself was prostrated with grievous
illness. His wife urged him to curse God and die. He did curse
the day that he was born and berated God. Surely this utterly
disproved the belief in a just God!
the rest of the book two basic questions are raised. One is
in the words of Eliphaz, one of Job's would-be comforters:
mortal man be righteous before God?
Can man be righteous before his maker? (Job 4:17,
to say: Can insignificant mortal man presume to understand
the ways of Almighty God? Is puny human righteousness commensurable
with Divine Righteousness? Clearly Eliphaz believes that both
questions must be answered in the negative and that the truly
pious man must simply bow his head and meekly accept whatever
Divine Power does to him.
Job, the impious questioner, is more Biblically orthodox than
his presumably pious consoler. In his assertion that God's
and man's righteousness are of the same sort, Job was in full
accord with the lawgivers of the Pentateuch, the chroniclers
of Israel's history, the prophets, as well as the later mainline
Christian tradition. We may observe here that the kind of
righteous and just conduct prescribed by the Biblical writers,
as that suitable to God's people, seems remarkably like that
of Job. . .and of present-day justness:
shall appoint judges and officers in all your towns which
the Lord your God gives you ... and they shall judge the people
with righteous judgment. You shall not pervert justice; you
shall now show partiality; and you shall not take a bribe,
for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and subverts the cause
of the righteous. Justice, and only justice, you shall follow.
further note some very mundane particulars, Justness (justice)
of a very practical sort:
shall do no wrong in judgment, in measures of length or
weight or quantity. . .You shall have just balances, just
weights. I am the Lord your God. (Leviticus 19:35)
just balance and scales are the Lord's; all the weights
in the bag are his work. (Proverbs 16:11)
the Christian New Testament:
treat your slaves justly and fairly, knowing that you also
have a Master in heaven. (Colossians 4:1)
of the justice of slavery seems not yet to have arisen in
the Christian community!
it would seem that present day meanings of justice are little
different from the above. The justice, or justness, of a statement,
attitude, action, or policy is its honesty, fairness, impartiality,
or reasonableness under the prevailing circumstances.
on the societal/governmental level justice is "the use of
authority to uphold what is right, just, or lawful," according
to Webster's dictionary. Those under the authority of a given
political entity are presumably treated fairly, as their conduct
deserves, again in general accord with the biblical concept
is a second important issue raised by Job himself. Why should
men be righteous, just in their dealings with others: because
it is noble to do so? because it produces pleasant feelings?
because it accords with some abstract standard or is beneficial
to society? This question in Job's own case is "Why has a
righteous/just God punished me, one who has been righteous
and just in the ways that God himself has commanded? Does
not righteous conduct deserve the 'rewards' of prosperity
conception of the results of righteous conduct is central
to the Judeo-Christian theodicy. This theme appears early
in the scriptures and remains constant therein. Thus to the
previously quoted call for "justice and only justice" there
is a strongly motivating conclusion. . ."that you may live
and inherit the land which the Lord your God giveth you."
(Deuteronomy 16:20) There are many more passages of the same
to heed all these words that I (God) command you, that it
may go well with you and your children after you. (Deuteronomy
that pursues righteousness and kindness will find life and
honor. (Proverbs 21:21)
. .as long as he sought the Lord God made him prosper. (II
these words (Psalm 1:1-4) sum up the mainline Biblical conviction
about God's dealings with mankind:
is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor
stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law
he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water, that yields
its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In
all that he does he prospers.
The wicked are not so, but are like chaff which the wind
experience of Job poses a direct challenge to this dominant
conviction. Job the "perfect godly" man had been nearly destroyed
by God's actions. Job challenges God to justify himself. The
result of this challenge is a let-down, a moral cop-out on
the part of God. Elihu rebukes Job for his presumption in
challenging the Almighty's decrees. Then God himself answers
Job out of a whirlwind and derides his pretensions to righteousness
or knowledge before Almighty creative Power. Job repents his
self-justification "in dust and ashes" and ceases to complain,
and is rewarded for his servile submission with renewed riches
and a second family!
individual life does not quite bear out the assurance of righteous/just
individual conduct infallibly producing prosperity, neither
did it quite work out on the collective national level. Israel,
the Chosen People of Yahweh, after two or three generations
of relative prosperity in their Promised Land of Palestine,
began to suffer reverses climaxing in their conquest and exile
at the hands of un-Godly, idolatrous peoples. Where then was
the God of justice and righteousness? A psalm poignantly expresses
this sense of desertion by God:
where is thy steadfast love of old, which by thy faithfulness
thou didst swear to David?
Remember, O Lord, how thy servant is scorned, how I bear
in my bosom the insults of the peoples. . .with which they
mock the footsteps of thy anointed. (Psalm 89:49-51)
of the Jewish tradition to the harsh destiny of God's Chosen
People is found in the words of the prophets who charge the
people of Israel with unfaithfulness to Yahweh: they have
not followed the principles of righteousness and justice in
their daily conduct and had sought to bribe God with mere
ceremonial. The prophet Amos, speaking for God, put the charge
I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn
assemblies. . .
Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody
of your harps I will not listen.
But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness
like an everflowing stream. (Amos 5:21, 23-4)
and his fellow prophets it was the just God punishing his
morally unfaithful people by famine, pestilence and even conquest
by their "heathen" idolatrous neighbors; it was not God's
unfaithfulness to his promises of health and prosperity to
since in the Jewish traditions this position has been maintained:
If there is "unmerited" suffering, sin lies at the door. God's
"chosen people" have through the centuries been struggling
to understand the dark mystery of their continuing ordeal,
examining their conduct with an ever more powerful moral microscope.
So too, Christians, inheritors of the Jewish view of a just
God have continued to apply the mathematics of suffering =
sin. . .sometime, somewhere.
seeking to solve all of the problems of seemingly undeserved
suffering we must observe another element in the Judeo-Christian
theodicy and general world-view that puts a joker in the cosmic-justice
deck, so to speak. It is given double expression in the book
of Genesis. The first is found in the story of Adam's and
Eve's expulsion from the Garden of Eden. They were enticed
into disobedience to God by the wiles of the serpent, the
prehistoric ancestor of the Christian Satan. This implies
that God the Creator is not simply and mechanically almighty.
Not only is there a resident factor of moral evil (serpent/Satan),
but a portion of the divine power to alter the course of events,
the power of a choosing will-force, on the part of his creatures.
The other aspect of the creation's moral order is stated thus:
created man in his own image, male and female he created
them. And God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful
and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have
dominion. . .over every living thing that moves upon the
earth." (Genesis 1:27-8)
in some small measure at least, is called to be a kind of
co-governor of the earth, God's deputy, so to speak, in the
establishment of righteousness and the administration of justice.
This understanding of the function and responsibility of the
political ruler is primary throughout the Jewish scriptures.
There was first the archetypal figure of Moses the Lawgiver,
followed by "judges," and sovereigns, all presumed to be upholders
and enforcers of justness in Israel's corporate life. That
this should have been adopted by the Christian tradition might
well have seemed very unlikely in the New Testament period.
During the first century CE, the Christian community was first
of all articulating its own beliefs and nature, and in the
last decade denouncing imperial Rome as the Babylonian harlot
drunk with the blood of Christian martyrs.
one of the first century's Christian voices, that of St. Paul,
anticipated the future more perceptively. He wrote prophetically
of the semi-divine nature of civil government:
every person be subject unto the governing powers for there
is no authority except from God and those that exist have
been instituted by God. Therefore he who resists the authorities
resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will
incur judgment. . . (The ruler) is God's servant for your
good. But if you do wrong be afraid for he does not bear
the sword (of power) in vain; he is the servant of God to
execute his wrath on the wrongdoer. (Romans 13:1-2, 4)
less than three centuries later when Constantine, the inheritor
of the ancient Roman emperorship, eastern division, converted
to Christianity St. Paul's justice-enforcing emperor became
a Christian one. And St. Augustine (354-430), a century later
proclaimed Rome to be the City of God, seat of the Christian
Roman emperor, and seat of the supreme pontiff of the Christian
church. It was not long after this that the European doctrine
of the divine right of kings was framed. From the human side
power derived from the emperor's lineage; his divine power
was derived from the church's investiture, and presumably
God's will. As Cristiano Grottanelli phrases it:
he was no god, the king was believed to be singled out (by
birth and control of the throne) to represent God's will
on earth and thus somehow godlike. 
man taken into full partnership with God in the administration
of justice on the earth.
religiously certified right and power of the government to
maintain justice on the earth has long since disappeared --save
in the form of the British sovereign's mostly symbolical headship
of church and state. But the career of "justice" has not ended
with the disappearance of divine kingship. Indeed the religiously
originated concept of justice, in its semi-secularized form,
has become ubiquitous in the Western cultures. Anti-religious
Communism sought to bring perpetual justice to the down-trodden
by the "dictatorship of the proletariat." Building on, but
outwardly discarding the Christian doctrine of the immortal
soul, fueled by Renaissance humanist values, modern democrats
like to speak of the inalienable right of each individual
person to justice --cultural, social, legal. And we have a
plethora of "justices": from the humble justices of peace,
up through several levels of court justices, up to Supreme
Court justices and governmental Ministries of Justice. Justice
is surely one of the supreme cultural-social values of Western
is a rare, almost non-existent word in the Buddhist canonical
literature. Is this because there were/are no cases of injustice,
of either the human or the cosmic sort in Asian Buddhist countries
through the centuries? Emphatically not. Asia has had its
full share of cruel oppressive rulers, in whose realms there
was much of what the West today calls injustice. . .the dominance
of the powerful over the weak, the few over the many. Greed
and avarice have been as frequent in their occurrence as elsewhere.
Recurring floods, famines, plagues and conquests liberally
sprinkle Asian history. There have been inequalities of fortune
irrespective of the virtuous or evil character of those involved.
on the whole the social order was accepted much like the natural
order, simply as the way life was. One ducked one's head and
hunched one's shoulders, accepting everything passively and
continually, hoping that the present storm of oppression and
misfortune could be waited out. As Ken Jones has written:
the nineteenth century the social order in the Orient evidently
presented for many people much the same kind of inevitability
as the natural order. Oppressive rulers and their wars and
exactions together with flood, pestilence and famine were
experienced as all a part of the same inevitable order of
things within which good and bad fortune alternated.
appears to have been no Buddhist Jobean protest raised against
this passivity. One goes on to ask: Were there no Buddhist
ideals for a good, perhaps "just," society? Not at least in
those terms. We do encounter a sense of what the right and
properly balanced relation between various social groups of
the time should be. In the Sigalovada Suutra, for example,
the societal world is divided up into six "directions" of
relationship, namely to (1) mother and father, (2) teachers,
(3) wife and children, (4) friends and companions, (5) servants,
workers and helpers, and to (6) ascetics and Brahmins. The
passage relating to conduct toward servants and work-people
will serve as an example:
are five ways in which a master should minister to his servants
and workpeople at the nadir (direction): by arranging their
work according to their strength, by supplying them with
food ant wages, by looking after them when they are ill,
by sharing special delicacies with them, and by letting
them off work at the right time. 
are elements here of what the modern West would perhaps call
social justice in the form of proportional rewards for varying
responsibilities, or the "justice" of an equable balancing
of existing social structures. It represents a fine-tuning
of the existing social order with no questions about whether
the order itself is fair or just such as are today raised
in the "justice"-conscious West. It is only fair to say, of
course, that at the date of this Buddhist writing no such
questions were being raised in the West either.
the reasons for this seeming insensitivity to "injustice"
run deeper than that: the main ones are rooted in Buddhism
itself. Something of this same indifference or unconcern with
questions of personal and social justice has characterized
Buddhist cultures from the beginning. In the Canon of Pali
scriptures the Buddhist Way was not conceived as having much
responsibility or concern about making over the sa.msaaric
socio-political order of the world. The samsaric world, driven
by greed, hatred, and delusion, was one ruled by the desires
for power, wealth, fame, sensual enjoyment, and was intrinsically
unsalvable. Hence it must be escaped by detachment from its
lures; there was no hope of fundamentally reforming it of
making it into a "Nirvana on earth." It was a gospel of personal
salvation in and from time-space life, not its transformation.
Thus, while today reform movements and "social awareness"
are developing in the Buddhist world, the traditional base
from which they must develop is scanty. Even the many Mahayana
reformations of Pali Canon Buddhism have not entirely overcome
this "otherworldly" bias.
is a further almost constitutional allergy in Buddhism to
the seeming quid pro quo quality of most schemes of "justice."
For Buddhists "justice" often seems too much of an unending
revengeful tit for tat, a totally samsaric entity structured
by human pride and anger, an endless balancing of rival claims
and "rights." This disposition is expressed in a well-known
passage in the Dhammapada:
abused me, he beat me, he defeated me, he robbed me," the
hatred of those who do not harbour such thoughts is appeased.
Hatreds never cease by hatred in this world; by love alone
they cease. 
emotions and actions however "justified" are but one link
in the ongoing chain of cause and effect that drive samsaric
futility and sa.msaaric rebirth forever onward.
these two factors are important in explaining the general
lack of concern for justice in the Buddhist world of past
and present, there is a more basic and fundamental reason
for this disposition. Its name is karma. In the schema of
time-space structured existence embodied in sentient existence
at all levels and in all forms (human, sub-human, super-human)
the karmic principle of justice rules without exception or
hindrance. There is no such thing as unexplained, causeless
suffering, Job to the contrary. Every state of existence,
good or bad, animal, ghostly, hellish or heavenly is caused
by ethically good or evil deeds. Karmic justice, like the
mills of the Greek gods, may grind very slowly but grinds
exceedingly fine. The only genuine escape from karmic justice
is not into a better life or better world but into Nirvana.
There is an endemic disdain for the samsaric world that has
persistently haunted Buddhism.
results have flowed from this basic world-view: With the all-pervading
karmic principle in place in every age and part of the universe
why should human beings think that they can or should do anything
substantial to alter the "unjust" situations and conditions?
All the actors therein will receive their full recompense,
sooner or later; their actions, good or bad, just or unjust,
will have their inescapable consequence. Second, there is
the fully individualized character of all social conditions.
A "bad" society is simply made up of a majority of people
who have a "bad" individualized karmic character. Sometimes,
according to some Buddhist scriptures, the proportion of individuals
in human society with "bad karma" is so great that a whole
universe (and there are many of them) is dragged down to destruction.
Buddhaghosa even painted a fearsome portrait of such evil-caused
cataclysms, a Buddhacizing of Indian cyclism. Since society
is perceived as only a collection of individual karmic characteristics,
to talk about improving or reforming society in a collective
way is futile. It is only by means of a one-by-one improvement
of individual persons that any society can be changed. Thus
it is fully evident that justice as an achievable goal of
either individual or collective human effort does not rank
high in the traditional Buddhist scale of values or possibilities.
then has been the Buddhist attitude toward governmental authority?
What are rulers presumed to be doing as rulers? Presumably
their karmic destiny has put them in positions of power, though
not necessarily for the benevolent use of it. It is enlightening
to observe what some Pali Canon scriptures have to say about
rulers per se. When sense pleasures are greedily pursued they
cause men "to break into a house and carry off the booty ...
and wait in ambush and go to other men's wives." Then:
(i.e., ruling authorities), having arrested such a one,
deal out various punishments: they lash him with whips.
. .canes. . .rods, and they cut off his hand. . .his foot.
. .his ear and nose; they give him the "gruel-pot". . .the
"shell-tonsure". . .the "fire-garland". . .the "flaming-hand".
. .the "hay- twist". . .the "bark-dress". . .the "antelope".
. .the "flesh-hooking". . .the "disc-slice". . .the "pickling-
process". . ."circling the pin". . .they spray him with
boiling oil, give him as food to dogs, impale him alive
on stakes and decapitate him with a sword. 
seems only to be saying, "Yes, these gruesome tortures inflicted
by the 'justice' of rulers are the result of the conduct of
a man's seeking sense pleasures." No ethical judgment is passed
on the value, rightness, or efficacy of such justice.
passage  seems
to simply assume that a ruler, by virtue of being a "noble
anointed king", has "power in his own territory to put to
death anyone deserving to be put to death, to plunder (fine)
one deserving to be punished, to banish one deserving to be
banished." Again this is merely illustrative of the way things
are in the world. "Deserve" means no more than "decreed by
the sovereign's law," and is used only as a teaching device
to illustrate the meaning of complete control. The Buddha
in conclusion asks his Jain questioner whether he has such
kingly power over his own "feeling. . .perception. . .habitual
tendencies . . .consciousness": the goal of Buddhist meditation.
No judgment whatever is made upon the ethical worth of kingly
then is the Buddhist model, if any, of what the West would
term a just, or justice-supporting society? It must be remembered
that Buddhism came only slowly to a sense of societal values
and a social responsibility. The earliest message, if we may
believe the Pali Canon, was primarily an individual-oriented
way of life: men (and women) seeking their individual nirvaa.nic
freedom from the coils of their individual karmic formations
of character and destiny. Their banding together in the society
of the sangha was to the end of achieving this goal; the rest
of society would go on its own age-long way of grasping for
pleasures and physical power. Only gradually did Buddhism
come to the assumption of societal responsibility outside
its own sangha.
have seen the ideal (without injustice?) social order bodied
forth here Schwey Yoe, a Burmese writer of the late nineteenth
century, praised the "republicanism" of the sangha in which
everyone wore the same robe and begged food every day. So
too the totality of their personal possessions was the same
for all: the eight requisites (bare necessities); all were
subject to the same rules of conduct; questions were decided
by the total group and no one was condemned unheard in his
(or her) own defence. Yet this pattern of life could scarcely
serve the whole world at large because of its limited character;
and besides there was one glaring exception to "justice" here:
the subordinate position of nuns in the sangha.
find the first noteworthy attempt to produce a good (ethical?
just?) Buddhist social order in the world at large in the
reign of the Mauryan Indian monarch Asoka (270-230 BCE). So
far as we know he was the first ruler of significance to attempt
to achieve a state structure built fundamentally on Buddhist
principles. One might say that he tried to build a society
which conformed in its major features to the Five Precepts
(no killing, stealing, lying, sexual immorality, or use of
intoxicants) though they are never specifically mentioned
in his edicts. The general portrait of his statecraft which
emerges from the Edicts is that of dealing with such problems
as theft, violence, and aggression by benevolent social welfare
measures that removed their social and economic causes. The
state sought to provide the basic physical necessities to
all, to generate a climate of tolerance with regard to cultural
and religious differences. "Justice" here --though the term
is never used-- might be termed the justice of preventive
benevolence, a motif that appears in most later Buddhist formulations
of a code of conduct for a Buddhist ruler.
passing one might speculate as to what Asoka would have done
in case of a revolt in the empire which he had carved out
by his later-repented bloody conquest. Would he have suppressed
it by force however reluctantly? Would he have termed it a
"just" war in such a case? or simply a political necessity?
It is impossible to make more than a surmise; and the Asokan
ideal, which has been so potent in Buddhist social ideology
ever since, does not deal with the subject of the possibility
or impossibility of "just" war. It may well be that Asoka
was motivated by the ideal of the Dharma Wheel Turning Monarch,
which is found in at least two places in the Pali Canon. It
is the portrait of a ruler who as far as possible embodies
the practice of the Five Precepts in his rule. The Wheel-Turning
(Dharma Abiding) Monarch should be one who
on the Norm (the Law of truth and righteousness), honouring,
respecting and revering it ... being thyself a norm-banner.
. .shouldst provide the right watch, ward and protection
for thine own folk, for the army, for the nobles, for vassals,
for vassals of the brahmins, and householders, for town
and country dwellers, for the religious world, and for beasts
and birds. Throughout thy kingdom let no wrongdoing prevail.
And whosoever in thy kingdom is poor, to him let wealth
Strongtyre, counseling his son on how to restore the Dharma
Wheel and become a Wheel-Turning Monarch, further tells his
son that he should listen to the counsel of righteous men
(monks) from time to time. The son did so and the Dharma-Wheel
reappeared on earth. Then the Wheel
onwards toward the region of the East, and after it went
the Wheel-turning king, and with him his army, horses and
chariots and elephants and men. And in whatever place, brethren,
the Wheel stopped, there the king, the victorious war-lord,
took up his abode, and with him his fourfold army. Then
all the rival kings in the regions of the East came to the
sovran king and said: "Come, O mighty king! Welcome. . .All
is thine. . .Teach us."
Wheel-turning monarch spoke thus:
shall slay no living thing. Ye shall not take that which
has not been given. Ye shall not act wrongly touching bodily
desires. Ye shall speak no lie. Ye shall drink no maddening
it was that the whole world in all its four quarters was conquered
for peace and righteousness; and that era of Dharma-peace
and righteousness (and no-need-for-justice producing measures)
lasted under successive wheel-turning sovereigns "many hundred
years. . .many thousand years" until the seventh king, a war-lord,
the anointed Kshatriya, was informed that the Dharma Wheel
had slipped down from its dominating height, i.e., the Dharma
was less faithfully observed in the kingdom. Is his being
called a "war lord" significant? Not seemingly: for he could
have asked concerning the Ariyan Duty of a sovereign "war-lord."
Apparently even Wheel-turning monarchs did not disband their
military forces; perhaps they maintained a "justice-with-compassion
any case when the seventh king was told that his practices
as sovereign were not properly fulfilling the Ariyan Duty
of a sovereign, he took no counsel with the "hermit king"
but undertook to govern "by his own ideas." He ceased bestowing
on the poor, who then began to take others' property to meet
their own need, i.e. the welfare system broke down. This man
was then given property and wealth. Others seeing it began
to steal, also expecting to be rewarded. But now a punishing-"justice"
system was put into place.
me now put a stop to this," said the king and had the man
beheaded. From this justice/punishment system beginning, the
whole society was perverted. Thieves now armed themselves
with sharp knives and violence grew apace. The situation went
from bad to worse. Thus from goods not being bestowed on the
destitute, poverty. . .stealing. . .violence. . .murder. .
.lying. . . evil-speaking, immorality grew rife. In the end
this situation led to the deterioration of the whole earth!
Whatever the importance of this cosmic scenario the moral
is clear: The way of tit-for-tat, or avenging justice is not
the Buddhist way.
is of course a softer side to the Judeo-Christian tradition
than the words "just" and "justice" suggest. "Mercy," "compassion,"
"loving-kindness," and "love" are to be found throughout the
scriptures. The Sermon on the Mount might be compared in some
respects to the portrait of the ideal bodhisattva in "Santideva's
Path of Light. But that does not mean justice is to be displaced
by love. In the Christian pattern it will always be love and
justice. And other non-theistic humanistic influences found
in modern Western culture will never settle for less than
"justice." Buddhists for the most part remain uncomfortable
with the ideal and practice of justice. Thus writes Masao
Christian notion has at least two aspects: The first aspect
is justice as a kind of balancing between various human
beings as they strive to actualize their potential for being.
The second aspect is the justice which entails judgement
that the first aspect can be incorporated into Buddhist wisdom
the second aspect of justice is hard for Buddhism to incorporate
into itself, and furthermore, in my view, is not necessary.
Justice in its second aspect is a double-edged sword. On
the one hand it judges sharply what is right and what is
wrong. On the other hand, judgment based on justice naturally
calls forth a counter-judgment. . .Accordingly we fall into
an endless struggle between judge and judged.
seem to suggest that all judgments of "right" and "wrong",
or "good" and "bad" are relativistic. Are there no such things
as "crimes against humanity?" Cannot, should not, one judge
the Nazi holocaust for example as "evil," "wrong," "immoral?"
Does the "interrelationality and the lack of any fixed nature"
of anything, everything, put all ethical judgments beyond
tentatively and indecisively in the next paragraph Abe does
recognize the existence of "social inequality and injustice,"
to be dealt with in Buddhism by a "new notion of justice on
the basis of wisdom and compassion."
is hard to resist the conclusion that a covert, unavowed reliance
on the individualized, eventual justice dealt out by the power
of karma is at work here, perhaps unconsciously, weakening
the sense of the necessity for human intervention. It is noteworthy,
however, that some Western-born and educated Buddhists have
come to allow for the legitimacy of vigorous human attempts
to secure social justice. Ken Jones, a British Buddhist, in
his book The Social Face of Buddhism argues vigorously
for active societal participation on the part of Buddhists.
He states his general position thus:
great bodhisattva vow to "liberate all beings" now also
implies a concern for changing the social conditions which
in every way discomfit us.
of Asia "the vulnerable dependence of the oriental sangha
on the political establishment for patronage and protection
forces it at best into a kind of 'apolitical' conservatism."
Further, the traditional oriental view of karma is, as
previously noted, purely individualistic. But Jones believes
that there is a social karma that predisposes to certain attitudes
and actions, one which must be dealt with by modern (Western)
engaged Buddhism needs no other rationale than that of being
an amplification of traditional Buddhist (five precept)
morality, a social ethic brought forth by the needs and
potentialities of present-day society.
in a radical departure from traditional Asian Buddhism he
writes the following:
possible situations come to mind, in both personal and public
life, wherein a lesser killing may be the means of a greater
killing, as in the case of disease-bearing insects, for
instance, or an armed murderer running amok in a crowded
street. . .Sometimes we are condemned by circumstances to
find a middle way between an immoral literalism and an immoral
though its values may be implied in his program for societal
improvement, Jones does not list "justice" in his index of
important words and seldom if ever uses it. The other Western-born
and educated Buddhist writer to be noted here is Christopher
Ives. In his book Zen Awakening and Society he criticizes
Abe's rather negative view of justice thus:
treatment of justice, however, Abe usually considers one
view of justice: justice as judgment, by either a divine
Judge or "His" human judges here on earth. Because this
aspect of justice does not exhaust the meaning of the term,
justice in a certain sense may be more compatible with Buddhist
principles than Abe makes it out to be.
freely concedes that because Zen has so consistently focused
its attention upon inner states it has often been socially
and politically conformist. He quotes at length a biting critique
of Zen's conformitarian history in Japan by Hakugen Ichikawa.
One item will serve as an example:
respect to the] problem of human rights and justice,
Ichikawa states that the doctrines of dependent co-arising
and no-self did not provide a foundation for notions of
autonomous, individual personalities and as a basis for
modern human rights and justice.
this basis "Buddhism in Japan generated an 'ethic of the emotions'.
. .as opposed to an 'ethic of responsibility' centered on
the results of external actions."
But Ives believes this need not be the result of the Zen
ideation and practice. He believes that Zen and Buddhism in
general need not, ought not, function in this manner.
be" means to be in relationship, to participate in-contribute
to and receive from-the whole of which one is a part. .
.Insofar as it might use the term, Zen can construe "justice"
as participatory justice.
on to delineate some of the aspects of this type of justice:
participation in human relationships. . .presupposes the
right to speak, to contribute one's ideas. . .to have a
say in matters affecting oneself, whether in a dyad, family,
small group, organization, society or humanity as a whole.
detailing some of the forms which this free expression of
ideas might take, he extends the idea of participative justice
into the economic realm in support of a kind of economic justice
which would prevent the downgrading of the weak into grinding
poverty, limit the upper boundary of wealth by taxes, seek
to achieve an environmentally sustainable way of life, all
of which can be done in accord with the Buddhist principle
of the organic interdependency of all beings.
then shall one say in conclusion? Perhaps this: That the Judeo-Christian
West need have no monopoly on "justice" and that if Buddhism
can disavow its spoken/unspoken reliance on the individualized
version of karma to effect justice in samsara and embody some
forms of social activism, pointed to by the concept of "participative
justice," the Buddhist tradition might well importantly contribute
to and modify the sometimes stark vindictiveness of "eye for
an eye, tooth for a tooth" Western justice.
Alexander Cruden, A Complete Concordance to the Holy Scriptures
of the Old and New Testaments (New York: Fleming H. Revell
Co., no date). Return
All biblical quotations are from the Revised Standard Version
(New York: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1952). Return
The Encyclopedia of Religion (New York: Macmillan Publishing
Co., l987), Vol. 8, p. 316. Return
Ken Jones, The Social Face of Buddhism (London: Wisdom
Publications), p. 208. Return
Maurice Walsh (tr.), Thus Have I Heard [Diigha-Nikaaya]
(London: Wisdom Publications), p. 468. Return
Narada Thera (tr.), Dhammapada (London: John Murray,
1954), pp. 15-16. Return
I.B. Horner (tr.), The Middle Length Sayings [Majjhima-Nikaaya]
(London: Luzac and Co., 1954), Discourse 13, p. 114-115. Return
Ibid., Discourse 35, p. 284. Return
T.W. and C.A.F. Rhys Davids (trs.), Dialogues of the Buddha
[Diigha Nikaaya, Part III, Volume IV] (London:
Luzac and Co., 1965), Dialogue 26, pp. 62, 63-4. Following;
phrases from pp. 65, 67, 68. Return
Buddhist-Christian Studies, Vol. 9 (1989), p.67. Return
Ibid., p. 68. Return
Jones, The Social Face of Buddhism: An Approach to Political
and Social Activism, p. 194. Return
Ibid., p. 213. Return
Ibid., p. 194. Return
Ibid., p. 286. Return
Masao Abe, Zen Awakening and Society (Honolulu: University
of Hawaii Press, 1992), p. 90. Return
Ibid., p. 92-93. Return
Ibid., p. 193-194. Return
Ibid., p. 125. Return