Buddha Dharma, World View and Social Theories
Buddha's advice to see the things as they are extends to Buddha Dhamma itself. Once when a Brahmin was praising Buddha, Dharma and Sangha while another one was speaking ill of the triple gem. Buddha then said, "a person must evaluate what is being stated about triple gem against its reality."
The objective of this article is to consider the categorization of religions done by Max Weber and Jurgen Habermas, a social theorist. It is not meant here to provide a critique of Weber or Habermas. As a Buddhist the imperative is to consider the proper buddhist perspective and to see the correctness of their statements in this light. Specifically, the categorization of Buddha Dhamma will be analyzed using the Buddhist perspective.
The analyses of religions are often done using different frameworks by sociologists and philosophers. Buddha, according to several suttas, objectively analyzed the other religions in order to clarify the assumptions, beliefs and practices of them. In Brahmajala Sutta (in Digha Nikaya of the Tripitaka), Buddha explains the different views and how these views are brought out by other religious teachers. For example, some professed that there is an eternal soul. Similarly there were more than sixty different views in the world. The sutta (Brahmajala Sutta) is one of the discourses where Buddha explains the different views extensively. Even in the modern world, we hear about different views held by people about the world, about the mind and body, existences after death etc.
According to one classification, which includes Buddha Dharma, Weber and Habermas categorizes it under 'world rejection' and 'cosmocentric'. In that classification, it is assumed that all religions start from the same basic problem.
"They attempt to satisfy 'the rational interest in material and ideal equalization' in view of the evidently unequal distribution of earthly goods; and they do so by way of offering explanations for this inequality." (Habermas)
This statement does not seem to be correct if we consider the Buddhist objective. Buddha's and his disciples' goal is to realize the truth of deliverance from the unsatisfactory nature (or Dukkha). Buddha dhamma is taught not as explanations of the inequality in the world but as a path to attain enlightenment or liberation from the unsatisfactory nature. This path is a self-realization. Since Buddha Dhamma is not attempting to clarify the acts of God, or Gods in the background of all the inequalities and unsatisfactory nature such explanations are not the field of Buddha Dhamma.
Continuing with the classification, two dimensions of 'Conceptual Strategies' and 'Evaluation of the World as a Whole' were considered by Habermas and Weber. The 'Conceptual Strategies' could be 'Theocentric' and 'Cosmocentric'. 'Evaluation of the World as a Whole' dimension has two aspects: 'World Affirmation' and 'World Rejection'. According to these dimensions, they specify Buddha Dharma as 'Cosmocentric' and 'World Rejection'.
" the second strategy (Cosmocentric) widespread in Orient starts from the idea of an impersonal non-created cosmos" (Weber)
Again with relative to Buddha dhamma this conceptualization has to be rejected
because based on the Buddhist objective such questions as to creation or non-creation
are fruitless and futile because they do not lead to a solution or the Nirvana.
Moreover, if we consider simple logic: only with an idea of a creation that
is necessary to find explanations of non-creation as well. The world exists
according to our perceptions of it only. As our perceptions of it changes the
world also changes. Hence for a person who perceive the world as created she/he
needs to struggle with an idea of non-creation (when seeing the actual occurrences
in the world) and vice versa. Therefore, from a Buddhist perspective Buddha
Dhamma is neither 'Theocentric' nor 'Cosmocentric'.
Regarding 'World Affirmation' versus 'World Rejection' Weber states "This question is independent of whether a life-style is passive or active: it has to do with whether the believers place a basically positive or negative value on 'the world'." According to their classification Buddha dhamma falls under the 'World Rejection' category.
Let us consider this classification according to the Buddhist thinking. According to the Buddha Dhamma two extremes occur in the world. They are: indulgence and rejection, anger or dejection (in Pali the terms ranjana and dussana was used). Buddha's path is to stay away from both of these extremes. As a person indulges in the world the attachment arises. When the pleasures are not received as anticipated the mind moves to the extreme of dejection or anger. A person who is not moved by these calamities will be able to see the truth as it is. Hence Buddha admonished to keep a balanced mind. In many places, the Buddha teaches the value of mindfulness, equanimity and of liberated mind. (We use many terms to express this: Zen mind, letting go, detachment etc.) Even when we consider the path to enlightenment the equanimity is a necessary factor for the realization.
Hence according to these facts of Buddha Dhamma, the categorization of Weber and Habermas are not suitable for buddha dhamma.