Forerunners of Anarchism
- Love, and do what you will. ST AUGUSTINE
– All men have stood for freedom … For freedom is the man . that will turn the world upside down. GERRARD WINSTANLEY
–In vain you tell me that Artificial Government is good, but that I fall out with the Abuse. The Thing! The Thing itself is the Abuse! EDMUND BURKE
–Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness; the former promotes our happiness positively by uniting our affections, the latter negatively by restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first is patron, the last a punisher. Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its best state is but a necessary evil; in its worse state an intolerable one. THOMAS PAINE
Taoism and Buddhism
Taoism ANARCHISM IS USUALLY CONSIDERED a recent, Western phenomenon, but its roots reach deep in the ancient civilizations of the East. The first clear expression of an anarchist sensibility may be traced back to the Taoists in ancient China from about the sixth century B.C. Indeed, the principal Taoist work, the Tao te Ching, may be considered one of the greatest anarchist classics.’
The Taoists at the time were living in a feudal society in which law was becoming codified and government increasingly centralized and bureaucratic. Confucius was the chief spokesman of the legalistic school supporting these developments, and called for a social hierarchy in which every citizen knew his place. The Taoists for their part rejected government and believed that all could live in natural and spontaneous harmony. The conflict between those who wish to interfere and those who believe that things flourish best when left alone has continued ever since.
The Taoists and the Confucians were both embedded in ancient Chinese culture. They shared a similar view of nature, but differed strongly in their moral and political views. They both had an attitude of respectful trust to human nature; the Christian notion of original sin is entirely absent from their thought. Both believed that human beings have an innate predisposition to goodness which is revealed in the instinctive reaction of anyone who sees a child falling into a well. Both claimed to defend the Tao or the way of the ancients and sought to establish voluntary order.
But whereas the Taoists were principally interested in nature and identified with it, the Confucians were more worldly-minded and concerned with reforming society. The Confucians celebrated traditionally ‘male’ virtues like duty, discipline and obedience, while the Taoists promoted the `female’ values of receptivity and passivity.
Although it has helped shape Chinese culture as much as Buddhism and Confucianism, Taoism by its very nature never became an official cult. It has remained a permanent strain in Chinese thought. Its roots lay in the popular culture at the dawn of Chinese civilization but it emerged in the sixth century BC as a remarkable combination of philosophy, religion, proto-science and magic.
The principal exponent of Taoism is taken to be Lao Tzu, meaning `Old Philosopher’. His year of birth was some time between boo and 30o BC. He was probably of a noble family in Honan province. He rejected his hereditary position as a noble and became a curator of the royal library at Loh. All his life he followed the path of silence — ‘The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao’, he taught.2 According to legend, when he was riding off into the desert to die, he was persuaded by a gatekeeper in northwestern China to write down his teaching for posterity.
It seems likely that the Tao te Ching (The Way and its Power) which is attributed to Lao Tzu, was written in the third century BC. It has been called by the Chinese scholar Joseph Needham ‘without exception the most profound and beautiful work in the Chinese language’.3 The text consists of eighty-one short chapters in poetic-form. Although often very obscure and paradoxical, it offers not only the earliest but also the most eloquent exposition of anarchist principles.
It is impossible to appreciate the ethics and politics of Taoism without an understanding of its philosophy of nature. The Tao te citing celebrates the Tao, or way, of nature and describes how the wise person should follow it. The Taoist conception of nature is based on the ancient Chinese principles of yin and yang, two opposite but complementary forces in the cosmos which constitute ch’i (matter-energy) of which all beings and phenomena are formed. Yin is the supreme feminine power, characterized by darkness, cold, and receptivity and associated with the moon; yang is the masculine counterpart of brightness, warmth, and activity, and is identified with the sun. Both forces are at work within men and women as well as in all things.
The Tao itself however cannot be defined; it is nameless and formless. Lao Tzu, trying vainly to describe what is ineffable, likens it to an empty vessel, a river flowing home to the sea, and an uncarved block. The Tao, he asserts, follows what is natural. It is the way in which the universe works, the order of nature which gives all things their being and sustains them.
The great Tao flows everywhere, both to the left and the right. The ten thousand things depend on it; it holds nothing back. It fulfils its purpose silently and makes no claim.(34)
Needham describes it not so much as a force, but as a ‘kind of natural curvature in time and space’. 4
Like most later anarchists, the Taoists see the universe as being in a continuous state of flux. Reality is in a state of process; everything changes, nothing is constant. They also have a dialectical concept of change as a Taoism and Buddhism SS dynamic interplay as opposing forces. Energy flows continually between the poles of yin and yang. At the same time, they stress the unity and harmony of nature. Nature is self-sufficient and untreated; there is no need to postulate a conscious creator. It is a view which not only recalls that of the Greek philosopher Heraclitus but coincides with the description of the universe presented by modem physics. Modern social ecology, which stresses unity in diversity, organic growth and natural order, further reflects the Taoist world-view.
The approach to nature recommended by Lao Tzu and the Taoists is one of receptivity. Where the Confucian wants to conquer and exploit nature, the Taoist tries to contemplate and understand it. The Taoists’ traditionally ‘feminine’ approach to nature suggests that their way of thinking may well have first evolved in a matriarchal society. While at first sight it might seem a religious attitude, in fact it encouraged a scientific and democratic outlook amongst Taoists. By not imposing their own preconceptions, they were able to observe and understand nature and therefore learn to channel its energy beneficially.
The Taoists were primarily interested in nature but their conception of the universe had important corollaries for society. A definite system of ethics and politics emerges. There are no absolute Taoist values; for good and bad, like yin and yang, are related. Their interplay is necessary for growth, and in order to achieve something it is often best to start with its opposite. Nevertheless, an ideal of the wise person emerges in Taoist teaching who is unpretentious, sincere, spontaneous, generous and detached. For the Taoists, the art of living is to be found in simplicity, non-assertion and creative play.
Central to Taoist teaching is the concept of mu-mei. It is often translated as merely non-action. In fact there are striking philological similarities between ‘anarchism’ and `mu-wee. Just as ἀναρχία (anarchia), in Greek means absence of a ruler, mu-mei means lack of rvei, where mei refers to ‘artificial, contrived activity that interferes with natural and spontaneous development’ .5 From a political point of view, wei refers to the imposition of authority. To do something in accordance with mu-wei is therefore considered natural; it leads to natural and spontaneous order. It has nothing to do with all forms of imposed authority.
The Tao te Ching is quite clear about the nature of force. If we use force, whether physical or moral, to improve ourselves or the world, we simply waste energy and weaken ourselves: ‘force is followed by loss of strength'(3o). It follows that those who wage war will suffer as a result: ‘a violent man will die a violent death’ (42). By contrast, giving way is often the best way to overcome: ‘Under heaven nothing is more soft and yielding than water. Yet for attacking the solid and strong, nothing is better; it has no equal. The weak can overcome the strong; the supple can overcome the stiff.'(78) The gentle peacefulness recommended by the Taoists is not a form of defeatist submission but a call for the creative and effective use of energy.
`Practise non-action. Work without doing'(63), Lao Tzu recommends. In their concept of mu-mei, the Taoists are not urging non-action in the sense of inertia, but rather condemning activity contrary to nature. It is not idleness that they praise, but work without effort, anxiety and complication, work which goes with and not against the grain of things. If people practised mu-mei in the right spirit, work would lose its coercive aspect. It would be undertaken not for its useful results but for its intrinsic value. Instead of being avoided like the plague, work would be transformed into spontaneous and meaningful play: ‘When actions are performed/Without unnecessary speech,/People say, “We did it!” ‘(17).
If people followed their advice, the Taoists suggest, they would live a long life and achieve physical and mental health. One of their fundamental beliefs was that ‘Whatever is contrary to Tao will not last long'(55), while he who is filled with virtue is like a new-born child. In order to prolong their lives the Taoists resorted to yoga-like techniques and even alchemy.
The most important principle at the centre of their teaching however was a belief that ‘The world is ruled by letting things take their course. It cannot be ruled by interfering.'(48) The deepest roots of the Taoist view of mu-mei probably lies in early matriarchal society in ancient China. The Taoist ideal was a form of agrarian collectivism which sought to recapture the instinctive unity with nature which human beings had lost in developing an artificial and hierarchical culture. Peasants are naturally wise in many ways. By hard experience, they refrain from activity contrary to nature and realize that in order to grow plants they must understand and co-operate with the natural processes. And just as plants grow best when allowed to follow their natures, so human beings thrive when least interfered with. 6 It was this insight which led the Taoists to reject all forms of imposed authority, government and the State. It also made them into precursors of modern anarchism and social ecology.
It has been argued that Taoism does not reject the State as an artificial structure, but rather sees it as a natural institution, analogous perhaps to the family.’ While the Tao te Ching undoubtedly rejects authoritarian rule, it does read at times as if it is giving advice to rulers to become better at ruling:
If the sage would guide the people, he must serve with humility.
If he would lead them, he must follow behind.
In this way when the sage rules, the people will not feel oppressed(66)
Bookchin goes so far as to claim that Taoism was used by an elite to foster passivity amongst the peasantry by denying them choice and hope.8
Certainly Lao Tzu addresses the problem of leadership and calls for the true sage to act with the people and not above them. The best ruler leaves his people alone to follow their peaceful and productive activities. He must trust their good faith for ‘He who does not trust enough will not be trusted2( I 7) If a ruler interferes with his people rather than letting them follow their own devices, then disorder will follow: ‘When the country is confused and in chaos,/Loyal ministers appear.'(18) In a well-ordered society,
Man follows the earth. Earth follows heaven. Heaven follows the Tao. Tao follows what is natural.(25)
However a closer reading shows that the Tao te citing is not concerned with offering Machiavellian advice to rulers or even with the ‘art of governing’. The person who genuinely understands the Tao and applies it to government reaches the inevitable conclusion that the best government does not govern at all.9 Lao Tzu sees nothing but evil coming from government. Indeed, he offers what might be described as the first anarchist manifesto:
The more laws and restrictions there are, The poorer people become. The sharper men’s weapons, The more trouble in the land. The more ingenious and clever men are, The more strange things happen. The more rules and regulations, The more thieves and robbers.
Therefore the sage says: I take no action and people are reformed. I enjoy peace and people become honest. I do nothing and the people become rich. I have no desires and people return to the good and simple life.(57)
Contained within the marvellous poetry of the Tao te citing, there is some very real social criticism. It is sharply critical of the bureaucratic, warlike, and commercial nature of the feudal order. Lao Tzu specifically sees property as a form of robbery: ‘When the court is arrayed in splendour, The fields are full of weeds,/And the granaries are bare.'(53) He traces the causes of war to unequal distribution : ‘Claim wealth and titles, and disaster will follow:(g) Having attacked feudalism with its classes and private property, he offers the social ideal of a classless society without government and patriarchy in which people live simple and sincere lives in harmony with nature. It would be a decentralized society in which goods are produced and shared in common with the help of appropriate technology. The people would be strong but with no need to show their strength; wise, but with no pretence of learning; productive, but engaged in no unnecessary toil. They would even prefer to reckon by knotting rope rather than by writing ledgers:
A small country has fewer people. Though there are machines that can work ten to a hundred times faster than man, they are not needed. The people take death seriously and do not travel far. Though they have boats and carriages, no one uses them. Though they have armour and weapons, no one displays them. Men return to the knotting of rope in place of writing. Their food is plain and good, their clothes fins but simple, their homes secure; They are happy in their ways. Though they live within sight of their neighbours, And crowing cocks and barking dogs are heard across the way, Yet they leave each other in peace while they grow old and die.(8o)
The anarchistic tendency of the Taoists comes through even stronger in the writings of the philosopher Chuang Tzu, who lived about 369-286 sc. His work consists of arguments interspersed with anecdotes and parables which explore the nature of the Tao, the great organic process of which man is a part. It is not addressed to any particular ruler. Like the Tao to thing, it rejects all forms of government and celebrates the free existence of the self-determining individual. The overriding tone of the work is to be found in a little parable about horses:
Horses live on dry land, eat grass and drink water. When pleased, they rub their necks together. When angry, they turn round and kick up their heels at each other. Thus far only do their natural dispositions carry them. But bridled and bitted, with a plate of metal on their foreheads, they learn to cast vicious looks, to turn the head to bite, to resist, to get the bit out of the mouth or the bridle into it. And thus their natures become depraved.’°
As with horses, so it is with human beings. Left to themselves they live in natural harmony and spontaneous order. But when they are coerced and ruled, their natures become vicious. It follows that princes and rulers should not coerce their people into obeying artificial laws, but should leave them to follow their natural dispositions. To attempt to govern people with manmade laws and regulations is absurd and impossible: ‘as well try to wade through the sea, to hew a passage through a river, or make a mosquito fly away with a mountain!’.” In reality, the natural conditions of our existence require no artificial aids. People left to themselves will follow peaceful and productive activities and live in harmony with each other and nature.
In an essay ‘On Letting Alone’, Chuang Tzu asserted three hundred years before Christ the fundamental proposition of anarchist thought which has reverberated through history ever since:
There has been such a thing as letting mankind alone; there has never been such a thing as governing mankind. Letting alone springs from fear lest men’s natural dispositions be perverted and their virtue left aside. But if their natural dispositions be not perverted nor their virtue laid aside, what room is there left for goveniment?’23
The Taoists therefore advocated a free society without government in which individuals would be left to themselves. But while pursuing their own interests, they would not forget the interests of others. It is not a sullen selfishness which is recommended. The pursuit of personal good involves a concern for the general well-being: the more a person does for others, the more he has; the more he gives to others, the greater his abundance. As the Taoist text Huai Nan Tzu put its, ‘Possessing the empire’ means `self-realization. If I realize myself then the empire also realizes me. If the empire and I realize each other, then we will always possess each other.'”
Human beings are ultimately individuals but they are also social beings, part of the whole. Anticipating the findings of modern ecology, the Taoists believed that the more individuality and diversity there is, the greater the overall harmony. The spontaneous order of society does not exclude conflict but involves a dynamic interplay of opposite forces. Thus society is described by Chuang Tzu as
an agreement of a certain number of families and individuals to abide by certain customs. Discordant elements unite to form a harmonious whole. Take away this unity and each has a separate individuality .. . A mountain is high because of its individual particles. A river is large because of its individual drops. And he is a just man who regards all parts from the point of view of the whole. 14
Taoism thus offered the first and one of the most persuasive expressions of anarchist thinking. Its moral and political ideas were firmly grounded in a scientific view of the world. Although Taoist philosophy (Tao chia) contains spiritual and mystical elements, the early Taoists’ receptive approach to nature encouraged a scientific attitude and democratic feelings. They recognized the unity in the diversity in nature and the universality of transformation. In their ethics, they encouraged spontaneous behaviour and self-development in the larger context of nature: production with possession, action without selfassertion and development without domination. In their politics, they not only urged rulers to leave their subjects alone and opposed the bureaucratic and legalistic teaching of the Confucians, but advocated as an ideal a free and co-operative society without government in harmony with nature.
Taoism was not aimed by an elite at peasants to make them more docile and obedient. The Taoists’ social background tended to be from the small middle class, between the feudal lords and the mass of peasant farmers. Nor were they merely offering advice on how to survive in troubled times by yielding to the strong, keeping a low profile, and by minding their own business. On the contrary, Taoism was the philosophy of those who had understood the real nature of temporal power, wealth and status, sufficiently well to find them radically wanting. Far from being a philosophy of failure or quietude, Taoism offers profound and practical wisdom for those who wish to develop the full harmony of their being.
While the Taoists have long been recognized as forerunners of anarchism, the libertarian tendency within Buddhism is not immediately so obvious. It is difficult to reconcile the teachings of the Buddha, for instance, with the triumphant State in modern Sri Lanka, where Sinhalese nationalism, is supported most vehemently by the Buddhist clergy. But as with contemporary Taoism (Tao chiao) and organized Christianity, the distortions of institutionalized religion do not invalidate the original message. The poet Gary Snyder has not been the only one to find in ‘Buddhist anarchism’ a positive force ‘with nation-shaking’ implications. 15
Buddhism was originally an Indian religion, founded in the fifth century 13C by Siddhartha Gautama, known as the Buddha (the enlightened one). Buddha found the cause of evil in this world to be ignorance which encourages a person to try and satisfy his or her desires. Craving, whether for possessions, wealth, power or status, inevitably brings suffering and pain. But there is a way out. The four ‘Noble Truths’ which Buddha taught may be summed up as: `(a) the omnipresence of suffering; (b) its cause, wrongly directed desire; (c) its cure, the removal of the cause; and (d) the Noble Eightfold path of self-development which leads to the end of suffering.116
To avoid suffering it is therefore necessary to overcome one’s ego and eradicate all desire. To escape the painful cycle of rebirth in this world of illusion or maya, the individual must also try and become enlightened and realize that he or she ultimately has no self. Only by recognizing that sansara, the wheel of life, is nirvana, nothingness, will a person achieve complete liberation.
In the beginning Buddhism was principally restricted to ethics and meditation exercises. It began to spread in India five hundred years prior to Christ and separated from Hinduism by rejecting the scriptures, rituals and social system. It eventually split into two separate branches, one becoming more rationalistic, formalized and scholastic (Theravada) and the other more mystical (Mahayana). By 12oo Buddhism had practically disappeared in India, but became well established in Sri Lanka, Tibet and Thailand.
While institutional Buddhism has been ready to support inequalities and tyrannies, the disaffiliation, voluntary poverty and traditional harmlessness of practising Buddhists express a strong libertarian sensibility. Snyder has found in the practical systems of meditation developed by Mahayana Buddhism a powerful means of liberating individuals from their ‘psychological hang-ups and cultural conditionings’. He also believes that Buddhist Tantrism, or Vajrayana, offers probably the finest and most modern statement of the ancient view that `man’s life and destiny is growth and enlightenment in self-disciplined freedom’. 17 But it was in its Zen form however that Buddhism developed its libertarian potential to the fullest.”
Zen Buddhism developed in China after it was brought from India in the sixth century. During the following five hundred years, the Chinese called the school Ch’an. It reached Japan in the twelfth century where it came to be known as Zen. Here two main sects developed, the first Rinzai, which carried on the ‘sudden’ technique of the founder, and the second Soto, the more gentle way.
Zen has rightly been called the ‘apotheosis of Buddhism’.” It is uniquely iconoclastic, attempting to reach truth and enlightenment by ultimately transcending the use of concepts, scriptures, and ritual. Where Theravada Buddhism became neatly arranged and systematized, with its twelve-fold chain of Causation, Zen adepts see in the Buddha the first rebel: `The Buddha was not the mere discoverer of the Twelvefold Chain of Causation,’ Suzuki informs us, ‘he took the chain in his hands and broke it into pieces, so that it would never again bind him to slavery.’ 20 The familiar props of religion are thrown away. The four central statements of Zen are:
A special transmission outside the Scriptures; No dependence upon words or letters; Direct pointing to the soul of man; Seeing into one’s nature and the attainment of Buddhahood.21
Traditionally Zen aspirants have learned from a teacher. He is usually called master, but more in the sense of schoolmaster than lord. His task is to help them break out of their everyday perceptions and intellectual habits. Buddhist monks are therefore exemplars, not intermediaries between the individual and God like Christian priests. They may carry sticks and not be averse to using them, but the blcws are ways of shaking people out of their habitual way of seeing. In the Rinzai school, where the treatment is particularly vigorous, the discipline is used primarily to develop the pupil’s character from within and to increase his or her moral strength.
Zen thus offers a fiery baptism. However rough or gentle, it is intended to bring the student back to his original state of freedom which he has lost through ignorance. It is aimed at creating self-disciplined freedom, not dependence on masters. The successful Zen practitioner controls sound, colour and form and lives out the truth as he sees it. He leaves behind the rules of social and monastic life which helped him on his way. Even the robes which the monks wear and the bells which call them to their meditation are ladders to be finally discarded.
While a teacher may point the way, the individual must ultimately make his own choices and walk alone on his journey. Awakening cannot be achieved by another’s power. The Buddha said: ‘Work out your own salvation with diligence.’22 Buddhism thus knows no authority for truth save the mindfulness of the individual, and that is authority for himself alone. It is very egalitarian: everyone can become enlightened on their own through learning by direct and immediate experience. When Daiju visited the teacher Baso in China, and told him he was seeking enlightenment, Baso said: ‘You have your own treasure house. Why do you search outside?’23
In China, the Ch’an Zen masters did not follow the Buddha but aspired to be his friends and to place themselves in the same responsive relationship with the universe. Zen is an experience and has never become the doctrine of a sect. There are no set rules or regulations; the end at all times dominates the choice of means. As the greatest exponent in China Wei Lang (also known as Hui-neng) declared: ‘If I tell you that I have a system of Law to transmit to others I am cheating you. What I do to my disciples is to liberate them from their own bondage with such devices as the case may need.'”
The aim is to achieve a state of enlightenment in which one sees directly into one’s own nature and realizes that it is not separate from Nature, but part of an organic whole. Opposites are transcended. One feels clear, calm, whole. One becomes uncircumscribed and free. One is beyond conventional definitions of good and evil, moral codes and laws. If you have Zen, you have no fear, doubt or craving. You live a simple life, serene and complete:
Imperturbable and serene the ideal man practises no virtue; Self-possessed and dispassionate he commits no sin; Calm and silent he gives up seeing and hearing; Even and upright his mind abides nowhere.25
It is an ideal shared by many anarchists who seek simplicity and peace.
In the natural world, there are no grounds for hierarchy or domination and we are all born free and equal. This equality for Buddhism is both spiritual and social. People are spiritually equal in the sense that all are equally capable of achieving enlightenment. In their social life, Zen monks live and work communally. Even amongst teachers and pupils, there should be equal obligation and equal treatment; as some Zen parables put it, `no work, no food’, and all should share ‘sour miso’.26 In wider society, Buddha rejected the caste system and Zen Buddhism in particular is no respecter of persons. One story has it that the Governor of Kyoto came to visit a Zen master and sent in his visiting card with his title on it. It was returned. Only when he sent it in again with his title crossed out, was he received.”
The Zen Buddhist concept of freedom is also spiritual and social. In a spiritual sense, we are born free. Our fetters and manacles are not the true condition of our existence but forged by our ignorance. Such chains of ignorance, wrought by sensuous infatuation and misused reason, cling to us like wet clothes. But it is the aim of the Zen teachers to help us return to our original state of freedom. Zen tries to break the logjam of our mind, and to free us from the finite world of power, wealth and status. But it attempts this in no fixed pattern. According to Ummon, the great Chinese master, ‘in Zen there is absolute freedom; sometimes it negates and at other times it affirms; it does either way at pleasure.’28
The most anti-authoritarian statement in the Zen tradition is probably I-Hsuan’s. Speaking metaphorically, he declared:
Kill anything that you happen on. Kill the Buddha if you happen to meet him. Kill a patriarch or an arhat [saint] if you happen to meet him. Kill your parents or relatives if you happen to meet them. Only then can you be free, not bound by material things, and absolutely free and at ease .. .
I-Hsuan added, ‘I have no trick to give people. I merely cure disease and set people free . ..'”
We are also free to seek our own salvation. Zen finds no contradiction between free will and determinism. It accepts that there is universal determinism, and that all effects have causes. A man’s character is the sum total of his previous thoughts and acts. Our lives and all existence are ruled by karma, that is to say every action has a reaction. But while the present is determined by the past, the future remains free. Every action we make depends on what we have come to be at the time, but what we are coming to be at any time depends on our will. Every person is thus free within the limitations of his self-created karma. By right thought and action, I can change myself and shape my destiny.
While Buddhism seeks personal enlightenment, it does not turn its back on this world. The seeker in the famous story of the Bull, who eventually tames and releases himself from his worldly self, returns to the marketplace with dusty clothes to find the trees living. Again, while the emphasis in Zen is placed on personal autonomy, others are not neglected. Like the Taoists, the Japanese Zen Master Mumon Ekai commented:
Do not fight with another’s bow and arrow. Do not ride another’s horse. Do not discuss another’s faults. Do not interfere with another’s work.'”
While only the individual can work out his own salvation, he should still think of others. For all its spiritual interests, Zen Buddhism is not an otherworldly mysticism but is concerned with all beings here and now. As the teacher Gasan told his pupils:
Those who speak against killing and who desire to spare the lives of all conscious beings are right. It is good to protect even animals and insects. But what about those persons who kill time, what about those who are destroying wealth, and those who destroy political economy? We should not overlook them.3′
While Zen goes beyond conventional definitions of good and evil, and has no commandments enforced by threat of punishment, certain moral values do emerge in the koans and stories. Evil itself is not considered part of nature but man-made: ‘Nature has no demons; they are human creations.’ 32
The fundamental principle which Buddha taught was compassion for all sentient beings. Since life is one and indivisible, whoever breaks the harmony of life will suffer accordingly and delay his or her own development. If I hurt some other being, I therefore hurt myself.
Zen Buddhism also rejects private property and sees the craving for possessions as just another chain preventing spiritual development. In giving and taking, the receiver should not feel gratitude; if anything, the giver, not the receiver, should be thankful for having the opportunity to give. Many Zen Buddhists would like to see an economy based on the gift relationship, not exchange or barter. The most valuable thing however is natural beauty which no one can take or steal.
Buddhism, particularly in its Zen form, thus has, like Taoism, a strong libertarian spirit. Both reject hierarchy and domination. Both seek growth in self-disciplined freedom and assert that all are capable of enlightenment. Both are concerned with personal autonomy and social well-being. They recognize that each person is not only part of society, but of organic nature itself, as many modern anarchists in the West recognize. The voluntary poverty, compassionate harmlessness, and love of life and beauty of the greatest practitioners of Taoism and Buddhism offer a sound moral base for a free society. Above all, the vision of social freedom makes them a major source of the anarchist sensibility, which if properly understood, must pose as a profound threat to any existing State and Church