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"Buddhist" King is Violating Buddhist Ethics

Updated on October 1, 2009

If I were living in Thailand, I wouldn't dare to write this article. If so, it might have given me fifteen years in jail, for "lese majesty" - a concept found in Hinduism and in medieval Christianity, but actually not in Buddhism, which is supposed to be the country's state religion.

I am, however, living in a country - Sweden - which, unfortunately, is a monarchy as well; but where, fortunately, it is permitted to criticize the chief of state.

And why on earth shouldn't it?

The most basic moral principle of Thailand's official state religion, the first precept that every serious Buddhist is supposed to try to follow, is non-violence, the principle that intentional killing should not be done.

Not even by kings.

Especially not by kings.

Not by their own hands, not by giving orders to others, and not by neglecting to save a life when in a position to do so, for example by granting pardon to a condemned prisoner.

Original Buddhism was not very positive to monarchy, or to power in general. According to the traditional story, the Buddha himself was born a prince, but had to actually run away from home to avoid becoming a prince, finding it impossible to combine power and wisdom.

However, he was not in a position to change the world; so to minimize the damage caused by kings, there is a traditional list of ten royal duties (dasa-raja-dhamma). Number eight of the ten is non-violence.

Traditional Buddhist ethics does not care whether a killing is legal or illegal. If intentional, it is wrong; it does not matter whether secular law forbids it, permits it or even orders it to be done.

Killing in war is not better than killing in peace.

Murder is murder, even if legal.

And even if renamed "capital punishment".

So for a Buddhist ruler to permit a death sentence to be carried out just isn't possible. If a ruler is Buddhist, he doesn't permit it; and if he permits it, he isn't Buddhist.

Buddhism is supposed to be the state religion of Thailand. King Bhumibol is supposed to be a Buddhist, and a protector of Buddhism, and to rule in strict accordance with Buddhist ethics.

Which, unfortunately, he doesn't.

A time ago I read an article from the Bangkok Post, through Buddhist Channel, at,8497,0,0,1,0

The Bangkok Post is careful not to say anything about the king's personal responsibility - its editors may not want to spend fifteen years in jail - but it does mention the possibility of "individual Royal Pardon".

Because king Bhumibol has not granted such pardon, two men have recently been killed in cold blood by the kingdom of Thailand.

The Ten Duties of a King, as formulated in the Pali Jatakas, are:

1. Dana: Liberality, generosity, charity, concern with the welfare of the people.
2. Sila: High moral character, observing at least the Five Precepts.
3. Pariccaga: Willing to sacrifice everything for the people -- comfort, fame, even his life.
4. Ajjava: Honesty and integrity, not fearing some or favoring others.
5. Maddava: Kindness and gentleness.
6. Tapa: Austerity, content in the simple life.
7. Akkodha: Free from hatred, ill-will, and anger.
8. Avihimsa: Non-violence, a commitment to peace.
9. Khanti: Patience, tolerance, and the ability to understand others’ perspectives.
10. Avirodha: Non-obstruction, ruling in harmony with the will of the people and in their best interests.

Cited from

King Bhumibol of Thailand is not living up to these duties. He is letting people kill each other. He is sometimes in a position where he could stop it, but doesn't, and people die because of his neglect.

According to basic Buddhist principles, this makes him morally guilty of murder.


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    • profile image


      6 years ago

      If one has been to Thailand one discovers that most people are Buddhist in name only sadly. Occupations forbidden to lay-persons: hunter, fisherman, butcher. All ignored. Monks blessing magic amulets, telling fortunes, doing astrology. Perhaps the people have the government they deserve? Fred

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I was an elementary school teacher in Thailand for 2 years. I had to flee the country because of the yellow shirt terror and the PAD/CRES shutdown of freedom of speech - all supported by the monarchy. I saw my students and their families turned into enemies of the state because they didn't follow the soviet mentality of the Thai government. I wrote this in exile from Thailand:

      Falling Head First Off the Noble Eightfold Path - Bhumibol's Corruption of the Institution of the Dharmaraja

      on Sunday,September 26, 2010 at 12:04pm

      "Old Master...look at you now...You have, in sum, assembled all the 6 robbers together. How could you possibly get to the Western Heaven to see Buddha?"- The Monkey King, Wu Ch'eng En "Journey to the West"

      "That which the wise man will not take, the king will go through fire and water to obtain."- Jack Kerouac, Wake Up: A Life of the Buddha

      This is a story about The Noble Eightfold Path and how the Thai king Bhumibol has failed to follow it.

      In doing so, he has compromised the sacred institution of the Dharmaraja - the Buddhist Dharma King - which he claims is the central institution representing Thai culture and the country of Thailand. The king is considered the absolute center and guarantor of Thailand's sovereignty. Therefore his failure must be counted as one of the great tragedies in the recent history of Thailand.

      The Noble Eightfold Path is the central teaching of Siddhartha Gautama and the foundational teaching of Buddhism. I was first introduced to these concepts from the American Catholic/Buddhist writer Jack Kerouac. Being a basic and simple minded guy, I take what I read at face value. I don't know about any Machiavellian exceptions to these guidelines for kings or royalty. I am not aware of any rationalizations or equivocations that may be written in the Thai language about these guidelines, and I don't know how or why anyone might have a special pass for reasons of statecraft or national security. If you know of any exceptions or shortcuts please tell me. Otherwise I will assume that failure, and especially conscious and premeditated failure to follow these guidelines will not lead to wisdom, the cessation of suffering or to Nirvana

      My primary criticisms of Bhumobol come from his multivarious failures of ethical conduct. I cannot speculate about the state of his mental discipline; but 60 years of violence, embrace of militarism, corruption of justice, abrogation of the rule of law, and contempt for democracy belie a troubled mind indeed. Conduct, after all, lays the foundations for the mental discipline and wisdom which lead to Nirvana."All higher spiritual development is not possible without this moral basis."

      To whom much is given, much is expected. Thus follows an outline of the Eightfold path in bold, taken from an English language Theraveda Buddhist text that I found in a vegetarian restaurant in Phnom Penh. My criticisms are in regular type.

      The Noble Eightfold Path

      1. Right Understanding (Sammaditthi)

      2. Right Thought (Samma Sankappa)

      3. Right Speech (Samma Vaca)

      4. Right Action (Samma Kammanta)

      5. Right Livelihood (Samma Ajiva)

      6. Right Effort (Samma Vayama)

      7. Right Mindfulness (Samma Sati)

      8. Right Concentration (SammaSamadhi)


      These 8 items are divided into three areas

      (a) Ethical Conduct (Sila)

      (b) Mental Discipline (Samadhi)

      (c) Wisdom (Panna)

      Ethical Conduct (Sila) -

      The conception of universal love and compassion for all living beings - on which the Buddha's teaching is based.

      For the good of the many, out of compassion for the world (bahujanahitaya bahujanasakhaya lokanukamaya)

      The first and perhaps most critical charge is that the Thai king has split his kingdom. He has divided his subjects. He extols those who support his politics and punishes unto death those who have different ideas. This process began in the mid-1950s when Bhumibol and his supporters overthrew the secular government of Phaibun, and has continued unabated and with impunity to the present day, when 1/2 or more of the Thai population has been condemned to the status of a hated out group: Serfs whose lives, rights thoughts and very humanity have been rejected by the man charged with the station of their Dharma king.

      Ethical conduct involves

      Right Speech

      Right Action

      Right Livelihood

      Right Speech =

      1. Abstention from telling lies.

      Bumhibol has equivocated to no endwhen it served his purposes, and conveniently changed his position 180 degrees when he needed justification for any number of his hypocritical interventions in Thai politics. Like advocating use of the constitution transfers of power in 1992 and using this to shame Chamlong Srimuang for not following the impossible path of amending the constitution when all hope of doing so had been compromised by Bhumibol own appointments to the Thai Senate. In the same conflict praise was given for following the constitution to the brutal and murderous general Suchida who Bhumibol favored. Then, later, Bhumibol started talking out the other side of his mouth by fully supporting use of the Thai military to seize power in 2006 in complete contempt of the constitution and international law. Refusing to follow the constitution is fine when it serves to give power to the monarchy and those who support Bhumibol's despotic monarchist philosophy of government.

      2. Abstention from backbitingslander and talk that may bring about hatred, enmity, disunity and disharmony among individuals or groups.

      3. Abstention from harsh, rude, impolite, malicious, abusive language.

      4. Abstention from idle useless foolish babble and gossip.

      When abstaining from these 4, one must speak the truth and use words that are friendly, benevolent, pleasant, gentle, meaningful and useful. If one cannot say something useful, one should keep noble silence.

      Bhumibol always has the luxury of maintaining a fictional silence, when he has on his payroll, a coterie of monarchist henchmen who can abuse, slander and libel opponents on his behalf. One of the first cases of this occurred in 1956 when Royalist General Sarit's political party accused Phaibun's secular government of committing lesse majeste - which began the process of a military overthrow of Phaibun’s government and the re-entrenchment of Bhumibol's monarchy which Phaibun and Pridi had opposed since 1932. The process continues up to this day when the king can claim - with a straight face - that lesse majeste is an anachronism, while his thuggish minions have increased prosecution of these cases by 1500% since the coup of 2006. Bhumibol might only be accused of foolish babble when his public speeches are subjected to non-partisan discursive analysis.

      Right Action - Aims at promoting moral, honorable and peaceful conduct.

      1. Abstain from destroying life.

      Here are just a few examples: Bhumibol overtly or tacitly endorsed the Thai Army's butchering of Thai citizens in 1972, 1976, 1992,and 2010. He sent Thai soldiers to fight in Vietnam, allowed the US military to use Thailand as a base to attack Cambodia and to drop more bombs on Laos than were dropped by all Allies combined during the Second World War. Lao people still suffer scores of casualties each year from unexploded ordinence from the Vietnam war. Bhumibol refused to provide clemency to 3 people who were put to death for the shooting of his brother (a death which conveniently resulted in his ascension to the Thai throne). Years later he equivocated by claiming to have lost track of time.

      2. Abstain from stealing.

      This could include the premeditated overthrow of Phaibun's government in 1956, stealing the Thai people's legitimately elected government in 2006, claiming the right to sociopathicly not pay taxes for 60+ years, charging usurious interest through the Siam Commercial Bank, and possible - but as yet unproven - usurpation of the Throne itself

      3. Abstain from dishonest dealings.

      This might include endorsing the overthrow of elected governments, unconditional, generations long

    • Gunnar Gällmo profile imageAUTHOR

      Gunnar Gällmo 

      8 years ago from Stockholm

      jayasuriya: your text is not a relevant commentary to my article. Please move it to a hub of your own.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Research on Ven. Ananda Metteyya’s legacy

      By Ven. Dr. Handupelpola Mahinda Nayaka Thera

      Ven Metteyya Thera remained in London, for six months, at 101, Elm Grove road, Barnes, which was his temple, teaching and introducing people to Buddhist ideas. This house yet exists though it now belongs to a family. According to the Daily mail reporter it was a Temple. Religious programmes were activated whole-day long. In his tight timetable he had to go for lectures and sermons outside his temple. It is said that a taxi was used for such occasions. After six months he returned to Rangoon (in Myanmar) on the 2 of October, 1908.

      Continued from 29.01.2010 (link)

      In December, 1901 Allan Bennett sailed to Akyab (present sittwe) in Burma (Myanmar) and received the novice or samanera ordination on his birth day, 08 December 1901, with the name of Ananda Maitriya. His close friend Aleister Crowley in his autobiography has given two reasons why allan Bennett proceeded to Burma. (i) “Bennett saw Burma as a place where the Sangha were purer than in Sri Lanka, (ii) Devil Dances and the Kandy Perehera had disillusioned him but Christmas Humphreys has written, “He...... decided to enter the Order, and in view of the limitations imposed on the Sangha in Ceylon, where ordination into one of the principal sects would automatically exclude him from free intercourse with those of other sects, he decided to enter the Burmese Order where such restrictions did not prevail.

      He therefore sailed to Burma, first to Akyab in Arakan, to be ordained, and later to Rangoon, which he found a more favourable centre, for carrying out his plans.”

      Buddhist Society

      Whatever the reason, he went to Rangoon, in February, 1902. On 21 of May, 1902 (Vesak day) he received the Higher Ordination under Shwe Bya Sayadaw and was given the name Ananda Metteyya. He established the Buddha Sasana Samagama or International Buddhist Society in Rangoon on 19 July, 1902. The first issue of the journal ‘Buddhism: An Illustrated Quarterly Review’ was issued in July, 1903. He simultaneously published his lectures in pamphlet form. Later various articles and Books were published by him. Several times he went to Colombo and delivered sermons there too.

      J. F. McKechnie, who was inspired by an article written by Ven. Ananda Metteyya Thera, approached him in Myanmar and received ordination by the name of Ven. Silacara Thera. He helped Ven. Ananda Metteyya Thera as sub-editor of the said journal. (as a novice pupil of Ven. Nyanatiloka Thera, he was given the name Sasanawamsa, but at his higher ordination, changed the name to Silacara.) Herr Anthon Florus Queth, in 1903 went to Sri Lanka, and studied the Pali Language and Buddhism under Ven. Seelananda Maha Thera of the Malwatta Temple at Kandy. In 1904, following the example of Allan Bennett he proceed to Burma, with the help of Ananda Metteyya, stayed in Rangoon and entered the Order as Ven. Nyanatiloka Thera. J. F. McKechnie (later Bikkhu Silacara) became the first pupil to Ven. Nyanatiloka Thera. Later he made his adobe in Sri Lanka and did a tremendous service to Buddhism, so that, after his demise, at the age of 79, state honours were given, in Sri lanka. The Kandy Buddhist Publication Society was established by him. The island Hermitage in Dodanduwa and the Forest Hermitage in Kandy, Udawatta Kele are the centres of German Monks, we can attributed to the ‘Ananda Metteyya’s Paramparawa’ or linage of clergy pupils. Ven. Nyanaponikasa Thera, the pupil of Ven. Nyanatiloka, was also a scholarly monk who served the Buddhasasana. A Lay pupil Dr. K. Seidenstuecker in 1903 founded a Buddhist Society at Leipzig, in Germany. Ven. Nyanathiloka Thera has contributed regularly to the journals published by Dr. K. Seidenstuecker. Dr. Paul Dahlke, the German physician, was also a foreign scholar who visited Sri Lanka and studied Pali as well as Buddhism. The ‘German Dhammaduta Society in Colombo, as well as the Buddhist House (Buddhistisches Haus) in Berlin, (1924) were started by Dahlke. And, the book entitled ‘The world of the Buddha’ written by Ven. Nyanathiloka Thera has gained vast popularity and has been translated into various languages Ven. Nyanamoli Thera, Ven. Nyanaponika Thera, Ven Nyanasatta Thera and Ven Nyanatusita Thera became reputed pupil monks of his lineage.

      The first Buddhist mission to England, led by Ven. Ananda Metteyya Thera arrived on Wednesday, April 23, 1908. The time was mature enough to plant the seeds of the new religion. A branch of the Buddhasasana Samagama or the International Buddhist Society was established in England, making 14, Bury Street, near the British Museum its ‘Head Quarters’. The founding meeting was held there. According to the invitation letter, dated November 20, 1907, “The meeting of Buddhists and those interested in the study of Buddhism, Pali and Sanskrit Literature, was to be held at the Cavendish Rooms in Mortimer Street, near the Middlesex Hospital on Tuesday the 26th November, Professor T. W. Rhys Davids, was to preside.”

      Quite a large number of educated and distinguished Englishmen maintained contact with Sri Lanka even after they returned to England, after the expiry of their tour of duty. Prominent along them were Lord Robert Chalmers, F. L. Woodward, George Turner, W. F. Stede, Prof Rhys Davids who studied Pali and Buddhism under Ven Hikkaduwe Sumangala Thera, the renowned prelate of the day.

      Valuable inheritance

      When he arrived in the UK, Englishmen praised Ven Ananda Metteyya Thera for giving them Buddha’s Teaching as a valuable inheritance. A representative from the Daily Mail has reported the event of the first Buddhist emissary’s visit to England. “Bhikku Ananda Metteyya Thera, the first Buddhist monk who has visited this country, landed at the Royal Albert Docks on Wednesday...” He was accompanying twenty-three disciplines and Buddhists. Three of them were women”. They were Mrs. Hla Oung, who paid all expenses of the visit, Mrs. Bah Oung and Mrs. Hpa, the wife of a Burmese judge” “A representative of the Overseas Daily Mail went abroad and was introduced to the interesting visitor by Major Rost, Hon Treasurer of the Buddhist Society in this country. He sat in one corner, clad in the yellow robe of his order, which is in three pieces, the whole being fastened by a yellow cord about his waist. With his head clean-shaven and his feet bare, he looked deathly pale, as he nervously fitted a cigarette into amber, dropped it; took up his beads and again nervously fingered them”.

      Ven Metteyya Thera remained in London, for six months, at 101, Elm Grove road, Barnes, which was his temple, teaching and introducing people to Buddhist ideas. This house yet exists though it now belongs to a family. According to the Daily mail reporter it was a Temple. Religious programmes were activated whole-day long.

      In his tight timetable he had to go for lectures and sermons outside his temple. It is said that a taxi was used for such occasions. After six months he returned to Rangoon (in Myanmar) on the 2 of October, 1908. A representative of the Daily Telegraph called on him on the September 28 of 1908, at the temple. This account of the reporter appeared on the 29 September 1908 in the Daily Telegraph Newspaper. “The priest, robed in orange colour and smoking a cigarette, was very lean, very tall, and very handsome, his head was shaven, and his eyes large, dark and downcast... The man who seemed to wear his unbecoming garment uneasily.”

      To be continued

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    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Yes and the great Christian Kings all savagely killed their enemy's with ruthless conviction and yet were still Christian. Perhaps this King isn't even a Buddhist, could merely saying that he is for popularity? Maybe he's just trying to set an example to the people "This is the path I think we should go in." As a leader, choices are always difficult, don't try to understand how a Leader of many souls thinks. Tensions in countries still lead like that are dramatically different from Europe and America.

    • Gunnar Gällmo profile imageAUTHOR

      Gunnar Gällmo 

      9 years ago from Stockholm

      There is a Wikipedia article about the book at

      I have ordered a copy of book and will read it with great interest.

    • Gunnar Gällmo profile imageAUTHOR

      Gunnar Gällmo 

      9 years ago from Stockholm

    • profile image

      Thai Tom 

      9 years ago

      It is worse than that.

      Paul Hadley's book, The King Never Smiles, details how the Kings Elder brother, who was King at the time, was killed. It was possibly an accident, but King Bhumipol was the only other person in the room at the time.

      Many years later 2 men were arrested and tried as the murders. They were convicted and sentences to death. The King could have given pardons, but he didn't and they were both executed......

      So, the King either killed his older brother or it was an accident and he allowed the execution of the 2 scapegoat victims.


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