In this sutta, the Buddha tells the monks about the consequences of having an unrighteous king. With such a king, his ministers would also become unrighteous. When that happens, brahmins and common people too become unrighteous. Thus, townsfolk and villages also become unrighteous.
Presently, we don’t have kings as in those days, but we do have a prime minister or a president as the leader of a country. When a country is headed by such a leader, then it can be expected that his subordinates would tend to follow suit. Those who are scrupulous at first may be easily influenced. Those who are incorruptible would find it hard to stay on if the level of wrong-doing surpasses his threshold of tolerance, and tend to leave.
With that a government would be full of crooks. With such examples leading a country, the citizens would naturally follow that way of living. Thus the country would fall into a deplorable state. This can be seen quite evidently in certain countries in the present world.
The sutta continues with something curious. It says that the situation leads to the sun, moon, stars and constellations going on irregular courses. Then days and nights, months and fortnights, seasons and years become irregular. The wind too blows off course and out of season.
Peculiar as it may be, we also can’t help noticing that in recent years the weather pattern as been increasingly unpredictable in many parts of the world, including here in Taiping. The sutta suggests that all these happenings of unpredictable weather have to do with the moral decline of human beings.
Then, the sutta says that the devas become upset by the irregular winds and do not allow the clouds to carry the rain properly. As the rain does not fall seasonably, the crops do not ripen properly [i.e. they become mutated, or half-ripe]. According to the sutta, people consuming such crops are “short-lived, ugly and sickly”.
This makes me wonder about genetically engineered produce. In order to increase output, many kinds of food plants are altered so that they can be harvested more times in a year than they normally do. Would eating such food cause us to become “short-lived, ugly and sickly”?
On the other hand, when the ruler is righteous, the whole situation would be in the direct opposite. In short, this sutta is saying that our ill behaviour affects the cosmos and that eventually harms ourselves.
Let’s consider Bhutan, a Buddhist country where people live long lives. As I was informed, the ruler regards the people’s happiness so highly that he had the country measured according GNH, Gross National Happiness (and not just GNP, Gross National Production). Apparently, Bhutan has a high GNH. Therefore, it’s not uncommon to find people who are more than 100 years old there, although their GNP is significantly low.
The sutta ends with a verse saying that cattle crossing (a river) would swerve if the leading bull swerves. So too if the ruler lives unrighteously, all the more would others, thus bringing calamity to the whole realm. However, if the leading bull goes straight the herd would also go straight. Just so, if the ruler lives unrighteously, others too would follow and the whole realm would dwell in happiness.
I picked this sutta today because the national election is coming soon. For me, if I were to vote, I would not base my choice on a party, but rather cast my vote based on the character of the candidate—whether he is honest, reliable and capable.
In another sutta called Andha (Blind) Sutta (AN 3:29), it is said that there are 3 types of people:
- one who is blind in both eyes
- one who is blind in one eye
- one who can see with both eyes
The first kind of person is ignorant in both worldly and spiritual matters. It is not wise to associate with such a person.
The second kind is capable in worldly matters but not in the spiritual. In my opinion, such a person is even more dangerous than the first. A successful businessman once said that in the past he used to look for business partners who were talented. After being cheated and disappointed a number of times, nowadays he looks out for the character of the person first before looking at his capabilities. Such should be the case when we consider whom to associate with.
The final one is of course the best, having eyes for both worldly and spiritual matters. Such are ones that we should associate with, for that would benefit us in both worldly and spiritual ways.
So, may you vote for those who have two well working eyes. Selamat mengundi!