God as Political Philosopher

God as Political Philosopher

Product ID: 8279

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Author: Kancha Ilaiah
Publisher: Samya
Year: 2001
Language: English
Pages: 244
ISBN/UPC (if available): 8185604444


This provocative and scholarly book propounds a view of Gautama Buddha and his sangha that will change the way we think of both. Kancha Ilaiah’s view secularizes and demystifies the man and restores to him his position as India’s first social revolutionary.

Eschewing both religious obscurantism and a conventional reading of history, Kancha Ilaiah uses his considerable erudition to take us on a journey into the past, to rediscover the life and thought of this man who gave up kingship to search for the truth. Along the way he uncovers the roots of democratic India’s long-fought battle with absolute monarchy and the hegemony of caste.

Born in a tribal republic and fated to see the destruction of many such states by rapacious kings in his own lifetime, Buddha did his best to give the principles of tribal democracy and egalitarianism a sanctuary in his own sangha. In so doing, he foreshadowed modern India’s experiment with parliamentary democracy, even in voting protocol and rules for proposing and implementing change in the sangha.

Critical of the caste system and its attendant power structures, Buddha inducted low caste members into the sangha and made them his trusted advisers. Dissent was given a constructive place within the sangha, as Kancha Ilaiah demonstrates in detail. There were elaborate and careful provisions for differences to be settled amicably, and for laws to be revised in the light of experience.

This inchoate democracy was in sharp contrast to the rigidities of brahminical Hinduism which was then in the process of using the concepts of dharma and karma to rationalize caste exploitation. The author shows how within the sangha even Buddha himself not above the law.

In contrast with the growing harshness of contemporary Hindu society towards women, Buddha gave them an honored place in the sangha, and the right to attain enlightenment and follow knowledge just like the men.

Pre-dating Socrates and Plato by some years, Buddha also foreshadowed key elements of their philosophy and propounded theories of the state, the individual, and the role of society to set beside theirs, with the signal difference that he also put his ideas into practice. But European scholarship sought to deny his relevance as a thinker, while nationalistic Hindu historiography sought to subsume his achievements into a monolithic Hindu past. Both sides defined him primarily as a messiah and mystic, rather than a political philosopher and reformer.

Kancha Ilaiah’s view secularizes and demystifies the man and restores to him his position as India’s first social revolutionary.


Ideas of the state, justice, rights, labor and community take on new life in Kancha Ilaiah’s engaged and imaginative re-reading of Gautama Buddha’s teachings from a Dalitbahujan perspective. In the process he also recovers for Indian political theory a Buddha long confined to the realm of the sacred.
- Professor Susie Tharu, CIEFL, Hyderabad

This book is the first major research work that posits Gateman Buddha as a political thinker. It performs the task of interrogating historically the Buddhist and brahminical worldviews and it shows that Buddha constructed a very powerful speculative political philosophy which can form the basis for reconstructing ancient Eastern political philosophy itself. It shows that Buddhist theorizing is as powerful as that of the ancient Greek thinkers, and fulfills the dream of Ambedkar that Buddha should become the basis of our study of the ancient stare, rights, property and justice.
- Professor Gopal Guru, Poona University

As the most creative social philosopher in our history, Buddha has symbolized al alternative of possibilities of organizing society, an alternative to the hierarchical and inegalitarian principles of Brahmanism. For this reason, Buddha has an enduring appeal to the marginalized in our society. Kancha Ilaiah’s new work continues the legacy of lithe This, Rachel Sankirtayana and Ambedkar of interpreting Buddha for our times.
- Professor Uma Chakravarti, University of Delhi.


* Introduction

* Scholars on Buddha and Buddhism

* Pre-Buddhist Society

* Gautama Buddha’s Life and Philosophy

* The State and its Origin

* Justice, Democracy and Administration

* Property, Rights and Duties

* Class and Caste

* Women

* Conclusion