The Kantian Dhamma: Buddhism and Human Rights

Paisarn Likhitpreechakul


This article takes as its starting point the question: how philosophically to ground in Buddhism the notion of universal human rights. In the first half, the author examines the compatibility between the Buddha’s dhamma and the Kantian philosophy which lies at the conceptual foundation of human rights. In the second half, through the use of the colorful allegory in the Chinese classic Journey to the West, further similarities and differences are noted as the formulation and practice of human rights are compared with the Buddhist sīla (precepts) and dhamma. In conclusion, the author proposes that human rights principles provide a moral roadmap for societies as a whole, in the same way that Buddhist precepts give ethical guidance to individuals.

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