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Buddhism, International Law and K. N. Jayatilleke -Part II:

Buddhist political philosophy

In 1967, at the Hague Academy of International Law, late Prof. K. N. Jayatilleke delivered five lectures entitled ‘The Principles of International Law in Buddhist Doctrine’. The article explores what Prof. Jayatilleke precisely meant by International Law and Buddhist Doctrine. Second part was published yesterday.

Prof. K. N. Jayatilleke

Prof. Jayathilleke, in his treatise has referred to the principles of justice, equity, human rights and equality as accepted by the Buddhist political philosophy. This writer thinks that the principle of common good (Bahujana Sukhaya) too should have been included as a principle of law. The idea of the common good of the mankind has been included as a principle of law. The idea of the common good of the mankind has been touched upon by Professor Jaythilleke several times in his treatise. Acceptance of this Buddhist principle as a principle of international law may lead to a change in the narrow selfish outlook of modern international law.

This writer feels that Prof. Jayathilleke has been able to put before the international jurists at the Hague a case for the Buddhist theory of international politics. He was able to show that the principles of international law are not something new to Buddhist political philosophy.

At this point the writer wishes to remark that the origins of democracy and International Law are traceable, not to the West but nor the East (Asia) where Buddhism has had a great impact. Prof. Jayathilleke summed up his treatise thus: According to the Buddhist theory of the States, sovereignty is subject to the Dhamma, which in the Buddhist sense meant the obligation to promote the material and spiritual welfare of the subjects by means of a home policy. Therefore, it follows that the State has to guarantee human rights extending security for birds and beasts as well.

In foreign policy the State has an obligation not to commit aggression and to co-operate with other States for the common good of mankind.

The policy of maximizing material and spiritual welfare and acting in a spirit of friendly co-operation with other nations is held up not as a Utopian ideal but as one that is expedient and fruitful of beneficial results. By it one strengthens the power of one’s State and the bonds of humanity.

The above mentioned ideas presented by Prof. Jayathilleke on a scholarly basis is only an attempt at opening a new field of study.

As is argued in his treatise, for the management of international affairs geared to the common good of mankind, the need for a sound theory of international politics and a commonly accepted and codified international law which had been outlined by this brilliant scholar, who, had he lived, would surely have risen to greater and even greater eminence in his chosen field.

This is time for us to convince President Mahinda Rajapaksa that he has to play an international role in rekindling the ideals of emperor Dharmasoka of Maha Bharata.



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