chapter  3
Buddhist Cosmology and Political Power
Pages 6

In Buddhist cosmology, secular power protects Buddhism as a religious order. The monastic order (Sangha) cannot exist without the state’s protection and gifts. In return, the monks secure king and laymen access to religious merit-the accumulation of which improves their kamma (karma). This is realised through ceremonies and gifts to monks or, better still, through the building of pagodas. However, the ruling power is ‘hot’1-it may be necessary to use violence in the defence of the country. The king might autocratically order the execution of rebellious relatives and officials. In return, the monks must keep the precepts regarding ahimsa (non-violence); that is, they must not kill living creatures. Then, like now, monastaries and monks protected against arbitrary tyranny. Monasteries were a source of sanctuary, and monks could intercede for someone who was condemned or who had to pay an inordinately large amount of tax.