Bruce Rich: To Uphold The World Author Discussion

Event Details

Bruce Rich 
Author Discussion 
Tibet House US Gallery 
Friday, May 14, 2010 At 07:00 PM  
Please call 212.807.0563 M-F 11 AM - 5 PM to register. 
Free event. Walk-ins encouraged! 

About the Event

Bruce RichAt the beginning of the twenty-first century, we cannot escape the hyper-driven global economy we live in. Yet the very forces that link all of us have accelerated the dissolution of traditional sources of social authority and historical identity, spurring increasingly violent counter movements. We realize traditional national politics and the reorganization of all social values around markets cannot hold together the six and a half billion inhabitants of this small planet—the world needs a new global order based on a common global ethic and global justice.

To Uphold the World, is Bruce Rich's deeply illuminating and thought-provoking exploration of such an alternative. His search to found a civil and international order on principles that transcend the goals of pure economic efficiency and amoral realpolitik is inspired by the writings and lives of two of the greatest figures of ancient India—Ashoka and Kautilya.


Ashoka provides a unique example of a world ruler—his empire at the time was arguably the world's largest, richest and most powerful multi-ethnic state—who tried to put into practice a secular state ethic of non-violence and reverence for life, which he also extended to international relations. Kautilya, one of history's greatest political geniuses, wrote the world's first treatise on political economy, which proclaimed accumulation of material riches as the chief underpinning of human society. Both addressed the questions of political realism and idealism, the role of force and violence in international relations, and the tension between economics and ethics.


Through the retelling of mythical and historical accounts, Bruce Rich distils the message of Ashoka and Kautilya to help us uphold our world in the twenty-first century.

Mr. Rich will give a half hour talk about the major themes of “To Uphold the World.”  This could include a brief reading of a passage or two from the book.


Following there would be a question and answer period and discussion, followed by a reception. For the Tibet House audience Mr. Rich would also discuss the critical role of Ashoka in helping to make Buddhism a world religion, and the relation between Ashoka’s Buddhist ethic, and the ethical rules of non-violence, toleration etc., which he called his Dhamma, that he promoted both within his empire and abroad.


Historians have concluded that Ashoka’s Dhamma, while rooted in his personal conversion to Buddhism, was a secular ethic which he intended to appeal to other sects and beliefs, even those opposed to Buddhism. Mr. Rich would also discuss how Ashoka’s legacy lives today, both as a cultural and historical legacy in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia, but more importantly as a more general inspiration for trying to reconcile ethics with politics. An underlying theme of the book, and Mr. Rich’s talk, is that a global economy and world system require a global ethic.  We live in a Kautilyan world, but more than ever we need what would be a 21st Century equivalent of Ashoka’s Dhamma.


Friday, May 14th, 7-9 PM
Free event, Walk-ins encouraged!


About the Presenter

Bruce Rich is a Washington DC attorney who has served as Senior Counsel on international finance and development issues for major U.S. environmental organizations such as the Environmental Defense Fund and The Natural Resources Defense Council. He is the recipient of the Global 500 Award for environmental achievement of the United Nations. Mr. Rich has published extensively in environmental and policy journals, as well as in newspapers and magazines such as The Financial Times, The Nation, and The Ecologist. He is also the author of “Mortgaging the Earth: the World Bank, Environmental Impoverishment, and the Crisis of Development,” a widely acclaimed critique of The World Bank and reflection on the philosophical and historical evolution of the project of economic development in the West. His most recent book is “To Uphold the World: A Call for a New Global Ethic from Ancient India,” with a Forward by Nobel Economist Laureate Amartya Sen and an Afterword by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Beacon Press, April, 2010. Mr. Rich's professional focus on finance and ethics, as well as numerous visits to South Asia, helped inspire the research and writing of “To Uphold the World”

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