Question: What is the Buddhist view of politics? When there is social injustice due to politics, how should Buddhists approach it as concerned citizens?
Answer: The Buddha personally, after renouncing his royal status, also renounced all political affiliations and political activities. That said, kings and princes who were wise learnt from him and sought his advice on how to rule their countries better. As the Buddha was living as a monastic teacher reaching out to as many as he could, he had to be free from partial politics.
Lay Buddhists are allowed to be politicians and activists, to speak up against social injustice, as individuals or in groups, and to do what ought to be done. All these should be moral of course, while abiding by the precepts taught by the Buddha – while Buddhism itself should not be brought into politics for political advantage. This is to keep it pure, to not be abused or tainted by deceitful, greedy or hateful politicking.
As politics is not everyone’s cup of tea, there is still the power of voting, petitioning, letter-writing to share views… and the power to help society in many non-political ways, such as starting and running charities, or volunteering for them. Sharing the Dharma is also a direct way to improve society in a non-political way. In fact, it can be said that the Dharma offers the long-term solution for alleviating suffering of the masses, both in worldly and spiritual ways, in this life and the next.