Date: Tue, 03 Oct 1995 15:13:17 +0000
From: "Stephen Evans" [email protected]
D. Keown asks whether there is consensus that "human rights" is not inconsistent with Buddhism. K. Falk asks for a def’n of "rights."
The second, of course, will heavily impact the first. "Human rights" is really not the issue: the issue is human beings (& other beings as well — yet I suggest we focus on the humans for now). and how do we excersize compassion for those sufferring under human institutions — and for those us who are suffering under human institutions, what is our best course of action? For my part of the "consensus" that D. K. asks about: "Human Rights" is consistent with Buddhism to the extent that is helps us to excersize that compassion and to formulate a course of action. It is NOT consistent when it becomes reified as something absolute inherent in beings, or when it feeds a ME or WE obsession.
Even so, definition is unclear: WHO has the "rights" or WHO is the suffering human? Often "freedom" "rights" etc. apply to "the people" and mean such things as the absence of foriegn domination "freedom" for the American colonists meant kicking out the British with power devolving to propertied white males. To the former colonies of Asia & Africa it has often meant absence of European influence. I suggest that a "people" is a legitimate concept (perhaps a being just as real as a "person"). Certainly in traditional Asian cultures the "people" has reality beyond just the collection of individuals, or as an arena for the flourishing of individuals.
OTOH, "rights" and "freedom" are often spoken of as applying to individuals — and the "person" is also a legitimate concept and a being with reality. It is meaningful to talk about freedom & rights vis a vis individuals.
It is not so clear that it is meaningful to talk about rights etc. of peoples and of persons separately — though these often conflict. Sliping back and forth leads to much confusion. Yet to clarify this we need to know what a "people" is and what a "person" — what is the extential relationship between them? It is here, I beleive, that Eastern thought, especially Buddhism and Confucianism can greatly contribute…
Santipala Stephen Evans