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Published Date: 08/10/2018 (Monday)

Every citizen has a role to play in supporting and promoting social justice. In Sigalowada Sutta  the Buddha enlightens us very clearly on the roles as reciprocal  obligations existing between Monarch [ruler] and Subjects, husband and  wife; parents and children; teachers and pupils; employer and employee;  friends, relatives and neighbours; clergy and laity, without leaving out  anybody. The writer is no authority on Buddhism, but the greatness in  these values here is, they are considered as sacred duties and are  reciprocal. If observed - they cover the entire UN Declaration of Human Rights 1948,  pronounced in the charter [Fundamental contributory events in history  were condensed into a single cause in drafting the Human Rights  Charter].   

They can form a peaceful, just, and harmonious culture and  civilization universally if effectively employed and practised. What the  leader of the Sri Lankan Catholic Church, His Eminence Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith said in Sinhala, at a morning service at the Ekala Church  could be generally translated as, “If we practise religion properly,  there is no need to talk about human rights. The newest religion in the  West is called human rights. It was discovered very recently. Our people  began practising religions centuries ago. They regard it as an amazing  new finding which is being held up and we are being persistently spoken to about it. Human life is not just eating and drinking and the search for  comfort. Western societies regard religion as a superficial outfit. If  we adhere to religious teachings, we don’t require human rights. He  added,  “A Society which attempts to make Human Rights a Religion could safeguard Human Rights effectively through Buddhist teachings.”Those  who have no religion are dependent on human rights. We must not be  hoodwinked by these ‘illusions and fantasies’., but should act  prudently. We must look at this sharply.”   

Cardinal on value of Buddhist Teachings

The Cardinal’s statement on “value of Buddhist teachings’  has provoked anger in some religious fanatics. One of them wrote, ‘…the  Catholics are becoming defenders of the Buddhist Politicians.’ Minister  of Finance and Mass Media, [perhaps a scientific allocation of jobs]  has condemned the comments made by Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith. Mangala Samaraweera’s  impolite vocabulary and offensive thought he twittered, “The need for  human rights was an outcome of the marauding religious zealots of the  inquisition and the crusades where non-believers were massacred en bloc.  Pity the Cardinal always seems to get things wrong in trying to be a  populist.” The human rights lawyers also have criticized the sentiments  strongly, accusing the Cardinal of devaluing the importance of HR and  being uninformed of its idea.      
Are all men born equal? In some respects, yes. In several  other respects, no one is born equal to any other. Our wrong attitude  towards this concept has given rise to all sorts of problems, at social  level to the spiritual. Buddha’s numerous preaching on the denial of the  caste of the ancient Indian societies, and his stress on the parity of  people of all classes before the rule of Karma and, in the end, under the rules of the Dharma support the above.   

Buddhism, Hinduism and Harijans

Buddhist assertions of human rights was practiced in India five decades ago when famous Hindu scholar B. R. Ambedkar,  after years of struggle for the basic human rights of his clan, was compelled to recognize that there was no purpose in continuing his  efforts before he decided to convert some four million Harijans [community traditionally considered so called [“Untouchable”] to Buddhism. Ambedkar had well thought-out switching to Sikhism, but had to admit the fact that only Buddhism and Christianity are free of such discriminatory tenets or practices.   
Freedom is certainly the spirit of Buddhism, as will be  seen. Buddhism cannot be presented as another alternative …ism or a  complement to other schools of thought, like – Socialism, democracy,  Marxism, communism, neo-liberalism, liberal democracy, or any another  political notion or idea that are engaged in the basic struggle for  establishment of democracy and human rights. As with the human heart,  the concept of human rights demands rinsing out of all the narrow and  tribal prejudices out of the mind so as to be able to stop to do evil  and to attempt to do good - Buddhism is concerned with this basic  problem. Buddha Dhamma says, all men are equal and that they are all subject to the law of nature with no discrimination. The law of Karma is  applicable on everyone. To attain perfection, man has to develop  himself morally, physically, and intellectually. By this law, it  requires that person should be let free.   

Dharma resolves not just ‘what one is due to do’ but also ‘what is due to one.’ Through X’s performance of his Dharmic duty Y receives that which is his ‘due’. Since Dharma decides  the duties of husband and the duties of wife. If the husband has an  obligation to support his wife, the wife has a ‘right’ to support from  husband. It is the duty of a king (ruler) to bestow justice without  bias, then citizens may be said to have a ‘right’ to just and  unprejudiced treatment before justice.   

In conclusion it should be that the notion of rights which is contained in Buddha Dhamma  is based on understanding of what is ‘due’ among and between  individuals. Kings and subjects, husbands and wives, teachers and  students, all have mutual obligations under Dhamma, which can be evaluated into duties and rights. We must emphasize that this conclusion, that the necessities of Dharma  are spoken in the form of duties and not as rights. Buddhism is far  from unique in the above respect, and a similar observation could be  made on other religions as well. It does not in any way mean that the  concept of rights is ‘alien’ to Buddha or that Buddhism rejects that individuals have ‘rights.’   

There are Buddhists who are hesitant to see the dhamma under human rights because the exact comparable to the phrase ‘HR’ in  the Western sense is not found in Buddhist literature. The Western  notion of human rights confines to humans. In contrast, in Buddhism a human being is a much broader trans-homocentric: In Buddhism human  beings are considered as a part of all conscious beings and as a part of  entirety, because both human and animal beings are similarly subject to  temporariness or impermanence.   

Can people live by religions alone?

According to His Eminence Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith,  human rights is a new western religion that came recently, which is  meant for those without a religion. Those who believe in religion don’t  need to talk about human rights. Cardinal draws the attention of people  to the decline of individual qualities in Western nations where atheism   replaces religion. He is right that religion is more important for  human progress than human rights. But laws are a must to restrain people  doing deceitful anti-religious actions or deeds to hurt fellow  citizens. Can people live by religions alone?  

Human Rights is the latest Religion?

The head of the Sri Lanka’s Catholic church says that Human  Rights are the latest Religion introduced by the West, some people  believe ‘Human Rights, is a Secular Concept’. Human Rights like in  religion are about Human beings. Human Rights and Religion are two sides of the same coin, they are very closely related although they seem  different.

He says, “if we practise religion properly, there is no need to talk about Human rights.” But the Human Rights Law of UN and its Charter of Fundamental Rights and ICJ have  provided an efficient and useful service to the human kind, especially  by curbing undemocratic actions of rulers and individuals who are not so  religious and who wield power on powerless.   

What is imperative here is to ensure that the western  domineering forces are kept at bay from abusing such charters, like HR  for their own benefit by attempting to enforce neo-colonial strategies  on third world.  

Religious leaders on the other hand should focus on  enlightening their followers and political authority on the importance  of respecting the rights of fellow citizens based on respective  religious values.   

Source: Daily Mirror

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