The Pali Canon and Slavery?

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The Pali Canon and Slavery?

Postby PsychedelicSunSet » Sun Oct 06, 2013 1:36 am

In my recent readings I've seen slavery come up in the Pali Canon. It seems that it isn't viewed as wrong, at least in what I have read. Not that it seems to be endorsing it. But I was curious if anyone had any comments on the subjects in regards to the Pali Canon. Was it viewed as ok by the Buddha? Or simply tolerated because it was so prevalent?


Here are some examples of it coming up.


...he makes his wife and children, his slaves, workers, and servants happy and pleased and properly maintains them in happiness...


AN 4:61

...One without anger, afraid of punishment,
Who bears with her husband free of hate,
Who humbly submits to her husband's will-
Such a wife is called a handmaid...


AN 7:59

Handmaid being the Pali word Dasi, which supposedly translates to "female slave." And is considered to be a preferable wife to have.



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Re: The Pali Canon and Slavery?

Postby lyndon taylor » Sun Oct 06, 2013 2:03 am

Indian society is largely based on even lower middle class people having servants, these are not considered slaves today, however it may be what the pali word translated as slave was refering to, servants given free room and board and some amenties or spending money, although its only one small step up from slavery.
18 years ago I made one of the most important decisions of my life and entered a local Cambodian Buddhist Temple as a temple boy and, for only 3 weeks, an actual Therevada Buddhist monk. I am not a scholar, great meditator, or authority on Buddhism, but Buddhism is something I love from the Bottom of my heart. It has taught me sobriety, morality, peace, and very importantly that my suffering is optional, and doesn't have to run my life. I hope to give back what little I can to the Buddhist community that has so generously given me so much, sincerely former monk John
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Re: The Pali Canon and Slavery?

Postby PsychedelicSunSet » Sun Oct 06, 2013 2:45 am

Lyndon Taylor,

Ah, I see. This makes more sense. Thank you for your reply.



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Re: The Pali Canon and Slavery?

Postby lyndon taylor » Sun Oct 06, 2013 2:53 am

With one big addenda, if your householder is a real jerk to his/her servants, then it does turn into a more obvious form of slavery, they may sleep on the floor, get little palatable food and get no money at all, that indeed is slavery, and it exists today just like it did in the Buddha's time, and not only in India, by any means.
18 years ago I made one of the most important decisions of my life and entered a local Cambodian Buddhist Temple as a temple boy and, for only 3 weeks, an actual Therevada Buddhist monk. I am not a scholar, great meditator, or authority on Buddhism, but Buddhism is something I love from the Bottom of my heart. It has taught me sobriety, morality, peace, and very importantly that my suffering is optional, and doesn't have to run my life. I hope to give back what little I can to the Buddhist community that has so generously given me so much, sincerely former monk John
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Re: The Pali Canon and Slavery?

Postby David N. Snyder » Sun Oct 06, 2013 3:09 am

The Buddha is considered one of the first teachers in known history to condemn slavery:

“Monks, a lay follower should not engage in five types of business. Which five? Business in weapons, business in human beings, business in meat, business in intoxicants, and business in poison.” Anguttara Nikaya 5.177

Business in human beings meaning the buying and selling of humans. And then there is the quote about birth not making one a brahmin or an out-caste, . . . rather it is deeds.
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Re: The Pali Canon and Slavery?

Postby PsychedelicSunSet » Sun Oct 06, 2013 3:43 am

David,


Ah, I don't know why that quote had never occurred to me! I've read it many times before (including within an hour of starting this thread!) Thank you very much for pointing out its importance in regards to this topic.




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Re: The Pali Canon and Slavery?

Postby tiltbillings » Sun Oct 06, 2013 3:45 am

PsychedelicSunSet wrote:David,


Ah, I don't know why that quote had never occurred to me! I've read it many times before (including within an hour of starting this thread!) Thank you very much for pointing out its importance in regards to this topic.




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It is a topic worth discussing.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

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Re: The Pali Canon and Slavery?

Postby PsychedelicSunSet » Sun Oct 06, 2013 3:50 am

Tiltbillings,


What other nuances are there to this topic, that may not be readily apparent to the novice practitioner?






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Re: The Pali Canon and Slavery?

Postby lyndon taylor » Sun Oct 06, 2013 3:58 am

Given how "business in meat" is so tolerated by some Buddhists, I wonder what rationalizations some have for holding people in virtual slavery????
18 years ago I made one of the most important decisions of my life and entered a local Cambodian Buddhist Temple as a temple boy and, for only 3 weeks, an actual Therevada Buddhist monk. I am not a scholar, great meditator, or authority on Buddhism, but Buddhism is something I love from the Bottom of my heart. It has taught me sobriety, morality, peace, and very importantly that my suffering is optional, and doesn't have to run my life. I hope to give back what little I can to the Buddhist community that has so generously given me so much, sincerely former monk John
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Re: The Pali Canon and Slavery?

Postby tiltbillings » Sun Oct 06, 2013 4:01 am

PsychedelicSunSet wrote:Tiltbillings,


What other nuances are there to this topic, that may not be readily apparent to the novice practitioner?
One of the things we do not see is a direct condemnation of slavery, which is something that we from our modern perspective, we would probably like to see. Historically, Buddhist monasteries in India where not only land holders, but used slaves. It is one of those things that we can bump into and then try to make sense of, which is not always easy.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: The Pali Canon and Slavery?

Postby PsychedelicSunSet » Sun Oct 06, 2013 4:05 am

Tiltbillings,


Do you know how they acquired these slaves? To my knowledge, monks aren't supposed to have possessions, never the less human "possessions."
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Re: The Pali Canon and Slavery?

Postby tiltbillings » Sun Oct 06, 2013 4:27 am

PsychedelicSunSet wrote:Tiltbillings,


Do you know how they acquired these slaves? To my knowledge, monks aren't supposed to have possessions, never the less human "possessions."
The slaves, I am guessing, belonged to monastery, not to the particular monks, but I am not going to be much help here, since this is not an area I have studied at any depth.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: The Pali Canon and Slavery?

Postby Modus.Ponens » Sun Oct 06, 2013 5:59 am

There's also a sutta quote where it is said that the Buddha did not accept slaves.

And a good thing to remember: we westerners project on the Buddha an ideal which is sometimes disapointed. My interpretation is that the Buddha did not intend to be a revolutionary, trying to correct every injustice in society. He was a spiritual teacher who, in his teaching path, inevitably pointed out things he didn't agree with, such as slavery and the caste system. But his main goal was to pull people out of samsara. That's it.
And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!"
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Re: The Pali Canon and Slavery?

Postby dagon » Sun Oct 06, 2013 12:19 pm

You might find this article interesting in relation to slavery at the time of the Buddha

The institution of slavery originated in India when the Aryans captured a number of dasas in the battle. According to Mahabharata it is a law of war that the vanquished should become slave of the victor and should serve his captor until ransomed.

However, in course of time certain other categories of slaves also came into existence. For-example children born to a slave automatically became the slaves of the same masters. A free man could sell himself and his family into slavery in times of dire distress, similarly; arson could be reduced to slavery on account of crime or debt. However, in these cases the servitude was of a temporary nature.

Thus we find that in later times a number of classes of slavery came into existence. We find reference in the Smriti literature and else where about the various types of slavery. Broadly speaking there were four types of slaves— born in the house, bought, captured in raid, and inherited.

The duties of the slaves of all the four categories were identical via, obedience to the master and the obligation to serve him in the matter of work. The slaves generally acted as domestic servants and personal attendants, although sometimes they were required to assist the master in agriculture or mining. The master looked after the slave as a subordinate member of his household. The masters were expected to maintain them and even to perform the last rites of the slave if he died without leaving a son.


http://www.preservearticles.com/2011052 ... india.html

Even today in India the issue of bonded servants and child labor are real issues.

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Re: The Pali Canon and Slavery?

Postby daverupa » Sun Oct 06, 2013 3:11 pm

Modus.Ponens wrote:There's also a sutta quote where it is said that the Buddha did not accept slaves.

And a good thing to remember: we westerners project on the Buddha an ideal which is sometimes disapointed. My interpretation is that the Buddha did not intend to be a revolutionary, trying to correct every injustice in society. He was a spiritual teacher who, in his teaching path, inevitably pointed out things he didn't agree with, such as slavery and the caste system. But his main goal was to pull people out of samsara. That's it.


I have found occasion to stress this point as well, in the past. The Buddha was not a social revolutionary, but sought instead a maximally frictionless presence for the Sangha within the given prevailing society, while at the same time guiding those who had chosen to be lay Sangha away from these sorts of things. I think this is reflected in the way the Vinaya was built up, modified, and amended, as explained to Sariputta when he first asked the Buddha to set up some rules and guidelines for lifestyle. The Dhamma is already the 'vinaya' to be done; the Vinaya is simply the best way to make that happen, given the necessary fact of larger non-Buddhist society.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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