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The Teachings of Buddha and Good Governance in Modern India: A Socio-Economic Analysis by Ravi Shankar Singh

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In general, governance is associated with efficient and effective administration in a democratic framework. It involves the exercise of political, economic and administrative powers in managing the country’s affairs, and includes the processes of formulation as well as implementation of decisions. The concept of governance has become wider in complexion integrating a number of key elements and principles. Governance is being propagated to promote good government. Governance, in simple terms, means the process of decision-making and the process by which decision are implemented. Government is considered to be effective and good if it is able to fulfill its basic commitments efficiently, effectively and economically. The basic goal of governance is to establish quality relationship between ‘good government’ and the ‘governed’ or citizens. Good government has been defined by John Healey and Mark Robinson as a high level of organizational effectiveness in relation to policy formulation and the policies actually pursued, especially in the conduct of economic policy and its contribution to growth, stability and popular welfare. Good government also implies accountability, transparency, participation, openness and the rule of law. Earlier, the term Governance was used in a broader sense of government, which is not appropriate in present times. Governance means more than maintaining law and order. In other word, we can say that it is a participative system in which those who are called upon to govern on behalf of the people, solving their problems and making their lives more livable, satisfying and enjoyable.

Development is a marker of Governance and it is being thus looked upon as a process of creating a suitable enabling environment for people to lead long, healthy, productive, and creative lives. In facilitating this, the governance processes need to be effective and efficient. This leads us to the crucial aspect of governance, which is called Good Governance. According to Leftwich (1993), Good Governance involves an efficient public service, an independent judicial system and legal framework to enforce contracts; an accountable administration of public funds; an independent public auditor responsible to a representative legislature; respect for the law and human rights at all levels of government, a pluralistic institutional structure and a free press.

While Governance, on the one hand, deals with collaborative partnership, networking which is necessary for policy formulation, and implementation, Good Governance on the other hand, attempts to make this activity not just efficient and effective but also more accountable, democratic and responsive to the public needs. Through good governance, an attempt is being made to establish an all encompassing relationship between government and the governed.

The concept of Good Governance

The concept of ‘Good Governance’ was formulated by the World Bank in 1992. It was defined as the “Manner in which power is exercised in the management of a country’s economic and social resources for development”. In the Report titled ‘Governance and Development’, Good Governance was considered central to creating and sustaining an environment, which fosters strong and equitable development and is an essential component of sound economic policies.

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Three distinct aspects of governance were identified:

  • Form of political regime (parliamentary, presidential, military or civilian).
  • Process by which authority is exercised in the management of a country’s economic and social resources; and
  • Capacity of governments to design, formulate and implement policies.

Good governance relates to enhancing the quality of governance through empowerment, participation, accountability, equity and justice. Without transparent and accountable institutions and the capacity to develop the policies and laws to enable a country to manage its markets and its political life in an open but just way, development is not sustainable (Brown, 2000).

The good governance agenda advocates freedom of information, a strong legal system and efficient administration to help the underprivileged sections’ claim to equality; but these have been most successful when backed up by strong political mobilization through social movements or political parties with a clear cut mission. Good governance means bringing about goodness in all the three sectors: government, civil society and corporate world including transnational corporation. Good governance is a tryst with trust, a commitment of the people, for the people, a social contract for the greatest good, the collective conscience of the community (Misra, 2003).

Good Governance as a prerequisite for promoting people-centered development is assuming importance. Good Governance aims at:

  • Improving the quality of life of citizens
  • Enhancing the effectiveness and efficiency of administration
  • Establishing the legitimacy and credibility of institutions
  • Securing freedom of information and expression
  • Providing citizen-friendly and citizen-caring administration
  • Ensuring accountability
  • Using Information Technology-based services to improve citizen-government interface.
  • Improving/enhancing the productivity of employees; and
  • Promoting organizational pluralism – State, market and civil society organizations for governance.

Researchers, policy makers, international institutions have attempted to conceptualize the concept of governance and identify its basic characteristics. These include:

  • (a)Participation: This is considered to be the core of Good Governance.
  • (b)Freedom to the citizens: Governments aiming to ensure the requisite in order to participate in the decision-making process articulate and represent their interests, which get reflected in policies and programmes.
  • (c)Rule of Law: Governance does not imply arbitrary use of authority. Any type of governance to be effective needs to be supplemented by a fair legal framework. This should be supported by appropriate enforcement machinery, independent judiciary, which instills confidence in the people.
  • (d)Transparency: This is based on the premise of free flow of information and its accessibility to those affected by the decisions taken in the governance process. People, especially shall be in a position to understand as well as monitor governmental and other sectors’ activities, on the basis of information that is accessible to them within reasonable limits.
  • (e)Responsiveness: The earlier governance mechanisms lacked in their approach of bringing all the stakeholders in their ambit. In the present times, the emphasis is more on institutions being responsive to the needs of all those who are going to be affected by their actions.
  • (f)Equity: Since governance structures and mechanisms aim at participation, they have to promote equity. A society’s well-being and development depends on ensuring that all the members have a stake and role in it and are not excluded from the mainstream activities.
  • (g)Effectiveness and Efficiency: Good Governance and, NPM need to aim at effectiveness and efficiency in usage of resources in consonance with the societal needs and demands. Result-orientation needs to be the key concern.
  • (h)Accountability: This occupies a central place in Good Governance. The norm of accountability has to ensure answerability as well as proper enforcement of correct procedure in case of violation of certain laid down norms. Not only the public institutions, but also the private sector and the civil society organizations need to be accountable to the public at large and to the other related institutions and stakeholders.

These characteristics reinforce each other. A proper governance strategy needs to take cognizance of these features. Many countries in the present times, are trying to bring about administrative reforms to foster Good Governance.

Buddhist perspective on good governance


The word ‘Dhammappasāsana’ (Dharmaprasāsana in Sanskrit) in Pāli means ‘good governance’. ‘Dhammappasāsana’ is made of two words, ‘Dhamma’ (virtue/law/ righteous) and ‘Pasāsana’ (governance) which means law of governance.

Also the teaching of the Buddha depicts the practice of good governance and the promotion of development. As the “Middle Path Approach” continues to inspire us toward new paradigms of sustainable development and peaceful societies. Buddhism always contributed to uplift the spirit of humanity. In Buddhism, a king like all other human beings is born in this world following his past deeds. He is never regarded as incarnation of One and Supreme Creator as believed in the other religious traditions.

At Jātaka I, 132, the Pāli text mentions the word Sammutideva, as referring to a king. The word simply means ‘the conventional god’ or ‘god in the public opinion’, not the god by birth at all. More importantly, once he ascends to the throne, it does not mean that he will be respected or worshiped by all peoples wholeheartedly without obstructions or opponents who may plot to overthrow him. To guarantee that he will be widely accepted and revered by his subjects for many years, the Buddha states that he must strictly follow various virtues as mentioned by him on various occasions in the Pāli Canonical texts.

In the Āgganna Sutta of the Dīgha Nikāya, the Buddha stresses that the evolution of the human society beings as a result of necessity, and not at the will of any divine forces. The rājā or Khattiya are selected on account of their righteousness and ability. People have freedom to choose the most virtuous and able man to be their leader. He may be overthrown from the kingship if he is later known to be immoral and incapable. This means that the virtues and efficiency of a king are important.

At Jātaka V, 378, the Buddha clearly states that a good king has to follow strictly the “tenfold virtue of the ruler” (Dasavidha-Rājadhamma) – that head or chiefs or rulers of people, countries, nation or other organs are purposed to hold. It moves us from ethics to statecraft by using the dramatis personae to expound palace life from a management studies perspective. It provides job descriptions and flow-charts of responsibility for the king and for his subordinates which is stated as follows:

  • Dāna (charity): Being prepared to sacrifice one's own pleasure for the well-being of the public, such as giving away one's belongings or other things to support or assist others, including giving knowledge and serving public interests.
  • Ajjava (honesty): Being honest and sincere towards others, performing one's duties with loyalty and sincerity to others.
  • Tapa (self restraining): Destroying passion and performing duties without indolence.
  • Akkodha (non-anger): Being free from hatred and remaining calm in the midst of confusion.

Apart from this, at Dīgha Nikāya, II, 196, and III, 223, the king must not have any partiality or slanted views against his subjects as the ruler of the country. He must spread the Brahmavihāra - Four Sublime States of Mind towards all living creatures, animals and humans alike:

At Dīgha Nikāya III,182,288, the king who rules the country must try to avoid the Four Biases or Prejudices (āgati) against his subjects, no matter where they live and what color skin they may have, namely,

1.Chandagati - biases because of like;
2.Dosagati - biases because of dislike;
3.Mohagati - biases because of delusion or stupidity; and
4.Bhayagati - biases because of fear.

This means he must, equally and fairly, take care of every subject in his kingdom.

At Samyutta Nikāya, I, 76, King Pasenadi Kosala performed one of the Hindu Great Sacrifices (yajna in Sanskrit and yannā in Pāli), in which he ordered to be killed five hundreds of bull, five hundreds of male bullocks, five hundreds of female bullocks, five hundreds of goats, and five hundreds of rams, in order to establish himself as a universal monarch. The passage in the Tipiṭaka along with its commentary, explains various kinds of animal and human sacrifices of Vedic origin performed during the Buddha’s lifetime. Upon knowing of this sacrifice, the Buddha rejects all these rituals outright. At Dīgha Nikāya I, 127, Buddha condemns all the animal sacrifices as inefficacious. On the other hand, the Buddha praises all other sacrifices in which no living being is injured, all the labour is voluntary, and no regrets are felt at any stage of performing them. Several sacrifices which are mentioned in the Pāli Canon are traceable to Vedic texts, which were presumed to be the revelation from God.

When the characteristics of ‘good governance’ are compared with the virtues of a good King as explained in Buddhism, we can see that there are many similarities:


1. ‘Participation’ in modern good governance corresponds to what is called in Buddhism ‘the avoidance the four āgatis (prejudices because of like, dislike, delusion or stupidity and fear), because the King of the Buddhist Dhammarāja system must base himself on the merit system, allowing the representatives of his peoples of all colors, ranks, etc. to help him rule the country in one way or another. Everyone with good quality must be provided a chance to work for the king;

2. ‘Rule of Law’ is equivalent to the king’s observation of Sīla (morality), which could refer to the law or the constitutions as well as other rules and regulations in the country throughout his reign;

3. ‘Transparency’ corresponds to Ajjava (honesty), Avirodhana or Avirodha (absence of obstruction) and even Sīla (morality), because the king must be honest and rule the country following the righteous principles; he must not suppress others who do not agree with him sometimes, and he must not transgress the law, constitutions or rules and regulations himself. We have to bear in mind that the word Sīla is divided into three aspects (Sucarita), namely Kāyasucarita (good conduct in action), Vacisucarita (good conduct in speech) and Manosu- Carita (good conduct in mind);

4. ‘Responsiveness’ is equal to loving-kindness (Mettā) and compassion (Karuṇā) towards all subjects without any prejudices or biases. The king must see the suffering of the poor or underprivileged people in the society as his own;

5. ‘A consensus-Oriented Approach’ is the same as what is called in Pāli Yebhuyyasikā, which means that the king must not exercise his power at will (which would fall within the category of Attadhipateyya i.e. holding one’s own opinions as supreme);

6. ‘Equity and Inclusiveness’ is to make decisions which affect the people in the kingdom in accordance with the vote of the majority. It could also mean that he must be honest (Ajjava) enough to accept others’ viewpoints, must be tolerant to what he does not like (Akkodha), must be patient (Ahanti), must not impose obstructions upon others (Avirodha or Avirodhana), and usually listens to that which the majority votes for (Lokādhipateyya);

7. ‘Effectiveness and Efficiency’ corresponds to self-sacrifice (Pariccaga) because the king has to sacrifice his own personal happiness for the sake of others and works hard for the happiness and welfare of the many instead. He must be patient (Khanti) and maintain a good temperament no matter how difficult his jobs and responsibilities are, and he must strive for the betterment of his kingdom by abandoning personal luxuries and self-indulgences, and living a simple, moderate life (Tapa) as an example to his subjects. Literally, the word Tapa means the mortification of the fresh; and

8. ‘Accountability’ corresponds to honesty (Ajjava), moral integrity (Sīla), and patience (Khanti). With these virtues, the king must not impose any obstructions against others, simply because he does not agree with them, and he must not do something against the good traditions and culture in the country too (Avirodhana).


At Dīgha Nikāya III, 61, the Buddha addresses the duties or virtues of an authentic universal king (Cakkavattivatta), or the virtues that makes a simple king a universal one: First, the king must rule the country with righteousness. Second, the king must protect all the people living in his country with the right principles and upholds justice all the times. Third, he must not let immorality spoil his kingdom. Fourth, he must provide financial aid or funds to those who are in need of it to improve their quality of life. Fifth, he must approach, from time to time, learned and virtuous recluses or Brahmins in order to get better understanding of Dhamma for the advancement of his moral practices.

Governance in Modern India

In ancient Indian history, King Asoka the Great is reputed as having followed it strictly. Apart from supporting Buddhist monks in various ways as a real Buddhist should do, the king appointed his officers for propagating Buddhism among the general public. These officers were known as Dhammamahāmāta. Buddhist tradition says he built 84,000 Stupās throughout his empire over the sacred relics of the Buddha. In addition, he observed the first Buddhist precept. Thus, in his first Rock-Edict Asoka clearly states: hida no kicchi jive alabhitu pajohitaviye: ‘Here no living being must be killed and sacrificed’. He is also portrayed as having tried to be a vegetarian by minimizing the killing of animals for his food. The text lucidly says: ‘Formerly in the kitchen of King Devanām Piyadassī many hundred thousands of animals were killed daily for curry. But now, when this prescript on morality is caused to be written, then only three lives are being killed viz., two peacocks and one deer, but even this deer not regularly. Even these three shall not be killed in future.’

One of the major rock edicts of Asoka concerns relationships between religions and beliefs, and contains these words: “But beloved-of-the Gods, King Piyadassī, do not value gifts and honors as much as he values this - that there should be growth in the essentials of all religions. Growth in essentials can be done in different ways, but all of them have as their root restraint in speech, that is, not praising one's own religion or condemning the religions of others without good cause. And if there is cause for criticism, it should be done in a mild way. But it is better to honor other religions for this reason. By so doing, one's own religion benefits and so do other religions, while doing otherwise harms one's own religion and the religions of others.”

Asoka is still remembered today by Buddhists as an ideal example of good governance. This edict goes back to the Buddha who, in a context where acrimonious exchanges took place between different religious groups, encouraged his followers not to feel ill-will when other groups criticized them, but to engage in dialogue, pointing out misunderstandings with reason and courtesy.


In modern India, efforts have been initiated since independence to improve the governmental functioning. Several measures were taken in this direction as the then administrative system suited the British government’s needs of revenue; and law and order administration. The post-independence scenario was more in favors of Welfare State in order to ensure responsiveness to the needs of People. The adoption of the Constitution, Fundamental Rights, Directive Principles of State policy, planning as the means of achieving social and economic development made the reorientation of the administrative machinery imperative. The governance structure and systems had to undergo a major revamping from revenue collection and maintenance of law and order towards socio-economic development, social welfare and citizens’ satisfaction.

During 1950s and 1960s, in order to ensure responsiveness, several committees were set up which went into systematic review of the organizational structure and functioning of the Government of India. These include Secretariat Reorganization Committee (1947), Gopalaswamy Ayyangar Committee on Reorganization of Government Machinery (1949), and Gorwala Committee (1951). In 1953, on the Government of India’s request, Paul H. Appleby of Syracus University, USA submitted two reports on reforms in Indian administration. Bascdon these recommendations in 1964, a separate Department of Administrative Reforms were set up in the Ministry of Home Affairs.

The most comprehensive set of recommendations including that of administrative efficiency, were made by the Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) set up in January 1966. It examined the entire gamut of administration at the Centre as well as the states and submitted twenty major reports during its working of nearly four and a half years. Based on the recommendations of ARC, a Department of Personnel was created in 1970, which was later transformed into a full-fledged Ministry of Personnel and Training, Administrative Reforms, Public Grievance, Pensions and Pensioners’ welfare. Several institutions, such as, Central Vigilance Commission, Central Bureau of Investigation, Lok Pal and Lok Ayukta has been also created. These reform measures basically attempted to look into the structural changes that were desired at that time to strengthen and streamline the administrative machinery.

Indian government also had been started numerous programme (educational, economical and welfare) under the planning commission for the development of society. These are as follows:

  • Community Development Programme: In 1952, with aim of overall development of rural areas and people’s participation.
  • Scheme of Discriminatory Interest Rates: In 1972, with aim of provide loan to the weaker sections of society at concessional interest rates.
  • Twenty Point Programme: In 1975, with aim of poverty eradication and an overall objective of raising the level living.
  • National Rural Development Programme: In 1980, with aim of employment to all rural man force.
  • Jawahar Rozgar Yojna: In 1989, with aim of employment to rural unemployed.
  • Kastoorba Gandhi Education Scheme: In 1997, with aim of establish girl’s school in low female literacy area.
  • Janani Suraksha Yogna:In 2005, with aim of providing care to pregnant women.
  • Rajiv Awaas Yojna: In 2009, to make India slum free in five years.

Even as we address the specific challenges listed, we must deal with the perception that development has failed to bridge the divides that many afflict our country and may even have sharpened some of them. Some of these perceptions may be exaggerated, but they exist nonetheless.

There are many divides. Foremost among these is the divide between the rich and the poor. Poverty is declining, but only at a pace which is no longer acceptable given the minimalist level at which the poverty line is fixed. There is also a divide between those who have access to essential services such as health, education, drinking water, sanitation etc., and those who do not. Group which have hitherto been excluded from our society such as SCs (scheduled castes), STs (scheduled tribes) and minorities and OBCs (other backward classes), continue to lag behind the rest. Another important divide relates to gender. It begins with the declining sex ratio, goes on to literacy differential between girls and boys and culminates in the high rate of maternal mortality. The extent of bias is self evident. Differentials in educational status and economic empowerment are heavily biased against women. Special, focused efforts should be made to purge society of this malaise by creating an enabling environment for women to become economically, politically, and socially empowered. Measures to ensure that society recognizes women are economic and social worth, and accounts for the worth of women’s unpaid work, will be a concomitant of this.


A basic and long standing concern has been: will growth bypass the poor, excluding them from its benefits? There is an extensive literature on the effects of growth on poverty and the general conclusion has been that the proportion of the poor has declined over time but not fast enough. Until recently, the available official data indicated that the percentage of the population in poverty had declined from 36% in 1993-94 to 26% in 1999-2000, though the Planning Commission even then had noted that the 1999-2000 data were collected with a different methodology and give estimates of poverty which are not strictly comparable to 1993-94 estimates. Poverty reduction there was broad consensus that the official estimates had overstated poverty reduction. Whereas the official estimates implied poverty reduction by 1.66 percentage points per year during 1993-2000, much better than the one percentage point per year reduction between 1977-78 and 1993-94, the alternative estimates ranged from 0.5 to 1.1 percentage points per year. Preliminary estimates are now available from the latest National Sample Survey (NSS) large sample survey conducted in 2004-05. This provides data that are fully comparable to 1993-94. On the basis of these and using the methodology of the Expert Group on Estimation of Proportion and Number of Poor 1993, the percentage of population below the poverty line in 2004-05 is provisionally estimated at 27.8% in 2004-05. Thus the average decline in the percentage of population below the poverty line over the period 1993 to 2004 is 0.74 percentage points per year, much less than implied by the official 1999-2000 data. Because of the slower pace of reduction in the percentage of poor, the absolute number of poor, using the Expert Group methodology is now estimated to be approximately 300 million in 2004-05, larger than the official 1999-2000 estimate.

However, although this poverty estimate for 2004-05 is higher than the earlier official estimate for 1999-2000, this should not be interpreted to mean that poverty increased between 1999-2000 and 2004-05. It means only that the 1999-2000 official estimates had underestimated comparable poverty. To deal with this, the 2004-05 survey was carried out in a manner that would also give alternative estimates of poverty, roughly comparable to the 1999-2000 figures. These alterative estimates are much lower. The percentage of poor in 2004-05 that is roughly (but not strictly) comparable to the 26.1% official estimate for 1999-2000 is about 22%. This implies that poverty decreased at the rate of 0.79 percentage points per year during 1999-2005. Using comparable data we find that the reduction in poverty is only about 0.8 percentage points per year which is at best a modest rate of decline. One reason for this could be that the growth rate in agriculture, the sector employing the largest number of poor people, has just about kept pace with the population growth rate during the last decade. Although growth of nonagricultural GDP has been much higher, its benefits do not compensate for a deceleration in agricultural growth. In fact, much of the poverty reduction during 1999-2005 is because food prices hardly increased. The outcomes would therefore have been much better, had agricultural growth been more rapid.

Employment is an area which shows up where our growth process is failing on inclusiveness. The number of workers is growing, particularly in non-agricultural employment, but weaknesses appear in unemployment, the quality of employment, and in large and increasing differentials in productivity and wages. Data from the latest NSS round for 2004-05, the Economic Census 2005 and the Annual Survey of Industry reveal the following:

(i) Employment growth accelerated to 2.6% during 1999-2005 outpacing population growth. But the average daily status unemployment rate, which had increased from 6.1% in 1993-94 to 7.3% in 1999-00, increased further to 8.3% in 2004-05. This was because the working age population grew faster than total population and labour force participation rates increased, particularly among women. We are obviously not tapping the demographic dividend fully. The extent of under-employment also appears to be on the increase.
(ii) Agricultural employment has increased at less than 1% per annum, slower than the population growth and much slower than growth in nonagricultural employment. This is the expected trend in long-term development but a matter of concern is that this has also been associated with a sharp increase in unemployment (from 9.5% in 1993-94 to 15.3% in 2004-05) among agricultural labour households which represent the poorest groups. Also, although real wages of these workers continue to rise, growth has decelerated strongly, almost certainly reflecting the poor performance in agriculture. There are also transition problems in changing employment patterns, and these are probably being exacerbated by our landholding structures and by barriers of caste and gender.
(iii) Non-agricultural employment expanded robustly at an annual rate of 4.7% during 1999-2005 but this growth was entirely in the unorganized sector and mainly in low Productivity self- employment. Employment in the organized sectors actually declined despite fairly healthy GDP growth. This is clearly a matter of concern since only organized sector jobs are regarded as desirable and lack of expansion in this category is the source of frustration for our increasingly educated youth who have rising expectations.

Improvement of Governance

Good governance and transparency should be ensured in the implementation of public programs and also in government’s interaction with the ordinary citizens. The planning process can be viewed as a sequence of formulation, implementation and performance appraisal of a development plan. The core of a plan is a statement giving the allocation of investment in various sectors of the national economy during the plan period, its division between the public and the private sectors and also between the centre and the states, in a federal political system. Corruption is now seen to be endemic in all spheres of life. Better design of projects, implementation mechanisms, and procedures can reduce the scope for corruption.

Much more needs to be done by both the Centre and the states to lessen the discretionary power of government, ensure greater transparency and accountability, and create awareness among citizens. The Right to Information (RTI) Act empowers people to demand improved governance, and as government we must be ready to respond to this

demand. Justice delayed is justice denied. Quick and inexpensive dispensation of justice is an aspect of good governance which is of fundamental importance in a successful society. India’s legal system is respected for its independence and fairness but it suffers from notorious delays in dispensing justice. The poor cannot access justice because delays cost money. Fundamental reforms are needed to give justice two essential attributes: speed and affordability. An action plan was formulated to bring about accountable and citizen-friendly government. In accordance with this, several initiatives were taken by the Union and state governments. Let me highlight some of these measures in the following section:

(a)Citizens’ Charters: Citizens Charters are formulated by all those public organizations providing different kinds of services to the people. These Charters are statements that provide information to the general public about the nature of services being provided by that organization, procedures, costs involved, mechanisms for lodging complaints in case the citizens are not satisfied, time taken for its redressed and so on. Nearly 68 organizations at the Central government level in India have formulated Citizens’ Charters.
(b)Right to Information: It has been increasingly felt that secrecy and lack of openness in government operations results in administration using powers arbitrarily in their dealings with people. Hence, efforts have been on in recent years to ensure and bring about greater transparency in administrative decisions to enable people to have an easy access to information except those related to national defense and security.
(c)People’s Participation and Decentralization: The government is ensuring people’s participation in governance. State governments have passed necessary legislation to this effect by providing for the constitution of these bodies, functions, conduct of elections, devolution of resources, etc.

These are, in brief, some of the key should be initiatives taken by Indian government in fostering responsive governance. Any reform measure to be effective, Has to be sustained in the long run. Similarly, Good Governance can bring results by concentrating on certain key concerns that can ensure its longevity and success. Let us now throw light on these issues.

The Buddhist perspective of governance refers to a sacrifice oriented system of governance which is characteristically a system of good governance based on environmental dynamics, goal, work/functions, perception of human being, behavioral code and institutions with grassroots level system of participation and accountability have practical and historical roots in most of the societies. The self reliant village system and past civilization ‘Good governance’ is an ideal formulated in the West when the Western people wanted to see how a good government in a civilized country should govern a country. What they have formulated, however, is in conformity with the ideas taught by the Buddha more than 2500 years ago. Having explored the meaning of good governance, which is supposed to be a tool for a good democratic statesman, democracy or a just society cannot be possible without strict adherence to the principles of ‘good governance’ or Buddhist Rājadhamma. Lord Buddha also had shown how a whole country could become corrupt, degenerate and become miserable when the head of its government, the ministers and administrative officers become corrupt and unjust. For a country to be happy it must have a just government. Social justice and social welfare are two features of ideal society of Buddhism. It is a society in which all activities including agriculture and industry should be just (Dhammikā) through the righteous means (Dhammena). All social groups such as parents, children, husband, wife, teacher, pupil, employer, employee, friend, companion, the householder and the religious, perform well their perspective duties. Even the King or the ruler of the country also trains himself in righteousness with ten royal duties (Dasa rājadhamma). Lord Buddha has given the path of Purification like: Eight fold path, Brahmvihāra were directly connected to good Governance.


The term “anthropocentric” means to regard humankind as the centre of existence. In this sense Buddhism is a philosophy religion primarily focused on the welfare of humankind in this life. This Buddha’s doctrine places responsibly on efforts of individual and potential of this individual. No divine or supernatural intervention being necessary. Disciplined individuals especially politicians who handle power and money could make terrific impact on governance and also greater a consolatory environment to citizens. Buddhism in this sense is a living philosophy for the living beings and the Nature that could make a tremendous impact on ‘good governance’.


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  • 19.THE SAYUTTA NIKAYA Ed. M.I. Feer, Vol. V, PTS, London, 1884, 1898; Tr. Rhys Davids and S.S. Thera, Vol. I; F.L. Woodwards, The Book of The Kindred Saying, PTS, London, Vol. III, IV, V, 1950, 1956 (Reprint).
  • 20.UNDP Report, 1994, Good Governance and Sustainable Human Development, Oxford University, New York
  • 21.UNDP Report Human Development Report, on Making New Technologies Work for Human Development, Oxford University Press, New York.
  • 22.World Bank, 1992, Governance and Development.


Author: Ravi Shankar Singh