World Scripture, A Comparative Anthology Of Sacred Texts

Editor, Andrew Wilson


Government By Divine Law

This section deals with the principle that a government is founded upon respect for God and conformity to divine law. In Islamic nations, government is expected to enforce the ordinances of the Shariah. For Hinduism and Buddhism, the way of proper rule is in accordance with the Dharma. For Confucianism, it is the way of propriety (li) tempered with benevolence, and for Taoism, in accordance with the Tao. In ancient Israel, the laws of God were written down for the king to study.

Modern Western constitutional governments, as well, are founded on the Judeo-Christian principle that government should be subservient to certain universal laws (e.g., human rights and social duties). In ancient Israel, the Law of Moses was given on Mount Sinai prior to the formation of the state; hence it stood above the state and formed the basis for prophetic critiques of misrule. In the case of the United States, the Constitution came into existence prior to the establishment of a government and forms the legal basis for its authority. A constitution is venerated as a statement of the highest principles of government; and a proper constitution is neither produced by a government to codify its policies nor easily amended by the people to express the will of the majority. Furthermore, modern constitutions contain articles which declare that certain human rights are inalienable and God-given. Governments cannot disregard the rights of the people because those rights are not the government's to grant; enshrined in a constitution, they come from a higher Law.

Step beyond what is human, elect for the Divine Word, and establish your leadership, along with all the friends you have.

Hinduism. Atharva Veda 7.105

If your kingdom exists for the doctrine And not for fame or desire, Then it will be extremely fruitful. If not, its fruit will be misfortune.

Buddhism. Nagarjuna, Precious Garland 327

A king should abandon his own precious life, But not the jewel of Righteousness, whereby the world is gladdened.

Buddhism. Golden Light Sutra 12

Warned by a dream, Emperor Sujin reverenced the gods, and therefore was lauded as the wise emperor.

Shintoism. Kojiki, Preface

If [a ruler] enjoins fear of God, the Exalted and Glorious, and dispenses justice, there will be great reward for him; and if he enjoins otherwise, it resounds on him.

Islam. Hadith of Muslim

The Creator... projected that excellent form, justice (dharma). This justice is the controller of the ruler. Therefore there is nothing higher than justice. So even a weak man hopes to defeat a stronger man through justice, as one does with the help of a king.

Hinduism. Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 1.4.14

No individual is lost and no nation is refused prosperity and success if foundations of their thoughts and actions rest upon piety and godliness, and upon truth and justice.

Islam. Nahjul Balagha, Khutba 21

Atharva Veda 7.105: Cf. Ramayana, Yuddha Kanda 130, pp. 257f. Precious Garland 327: Cf. Abot 4.14, p. 915. Golden Light Sutra 12: The 'jewel of Righteousness' means the dharma, one of the Three Jewels: Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. This is from a longer passage, pp. 923f. Kojiki: In other words, the emperor established harmony with the kami as the basis for his rule. Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 1.4.14: Cf. Atharva Veda 4.1.3, p. 140. Nahjul Balagha, Khutba 21: Cf. Forty Hadith of an-Nawawi 24, p. 255; Abot 4.14, p. 915; Leviticus 26.3-20, p. 916.

And you will be yourself ruler and president.... You must in everything reverence the statutes and proceed by them to the happy rule of the people. They were the reverence of King Wen and his caution; in proceed- ing by them to the happy rule of the people, say, "If I can only attain to them."

Confucianism. Book of History

The Messenger of God said, "The best of your rulers are those whom you love and who love you, who invoke God's blessings upon you and you invoke His blessings upon them. And the worst of your rulers are those whom you hate and who hate you, and whom you curse and who curse you." It was asked, "Should we not overthrow them with the sword?" He said, "No, as long as they establish prayer among you."

Islam. Hadith of Muslim

Tao is eternal, but has no fame; The Uncarved Block, though seemingly of small account, Is greater than anything that is under heaven. If kings and barons would but possess themselves of it, The ten thousand creatures would flock to do them homage; Heaven and earth would conspire To send Sweet Dew; Without law or compulsion, men would dwell in harmony.

Taoism. Tao Te Ching 32

Book of History These are the rites and rules of propriety, laid down from ancient times. It includes the principle of benevolence--cf. Mencius IV.A.3, p. 919. Hadith of Muslim: This hadith speaks of the ruler's attitude towards God and the believers. To 'establish prayer' means far more than merely to tolerate religion; it means to uphold the Muslim faith and the laws of the Shariah. Tao Te Ching 32: The 'Uncarved Block' means to dwell without making distinctions or playing favorites, at one with the primal Unity. Cf. Chuang Tzu 7, p. 508; Tao Te Ching 18, p. 260; 80, p. 257; Isaiah 2.2-4, p. 946.

When you come to the land which the Lord your God gives you, and you possess it and dwell in it, and then say, "I will set a king over me, like all the nations that are round about me"; you may indeed set a king over you, him whom the Lord your God will choose.... When he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, from that which is in charge of the Levitical priests, and it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them; that his heart may not be lifted up above his brethren, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left; so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel.

Judaism and Christianity. Deuteronomy 17.14-20

The Celestial Wheel is no paternal heritage of yours. You yourself do good, as I did, and earn the Wheel. Act up to the noble ideal of the duty which is set before true world sovereigns.... You, leaning on the Law, honoring, respecting, and revering it, doing homage to it, hallowing it, being yourself a banner of the Law, a signal of the Law, having the Law as your master, should provide the right watch, ward, and protection for your own people, for the army, for the nobles, for vassals, for brahmins, and householders, for town and country dwellers, for the religious world, and for beasts and birds. Throughout your kingdom let no wrongdoing prevail. And whosoever in your kingdom is poor, to him let wealth be given.

Buddhism. Digha Nikaya iii.60-61, Chakkavatti-sihanada Suttanta

Deuteronomy 17.14-20: This is the 'Law of the King,' part of the Mosaic Law which regulated the conduct of kings--though there was as yet no kingdom when Moses received the Law on Mount Sinai. The king would be responsible to read the Law of Moses and follow it. Cf. Joshua 1.1-9, p. 891; 2 Samuel 23.3-4, p. 907; Jeremiah 18.3-11, p. 916; Leviticus 26.3-20, p. 916; Isaiah 2.2-4, p. 946. Digha Nikaya iii.60-61: The 'Law' means the Buddha's Dhamma. This is an excerpt of the longer passage, pp. 257-58.


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