Document Type

Contribution to Book

Source Publication

Buddhism and the Political Process

Publication Date

Spring 4-20-2016


Hiroko Kawanami


Palgrave Macmillan


New York, NY



First Page


Last Page



There is no one, single answer to the question: What is or are ‘Buddhist politics’? Rather than seek general historical trends or broad tendencies, in this chapter I explore the meaning and implications of the modern, Western conception of ‘politics’ as understood in relation to key features of Buddhist doctrine. In particular, I pose the question of whether we might fruitfully conceive at least certain interpretations of Buddhism—or perhaps, of Dharma—as politics, rather than ‘religion’ or ‘philosophy.’ I argue that twentieth century progressive Buddhists Seno’o Girō (1889–1961) and B. R. Ambedkar (1891–1956) were not so much in conflict with the political as they were engaged with the political, albeit in a way that undercuts the assumption—shared by most Westerners as well as modern Asian Buddhists—of a clear distinction between the political and religious realms.