"The values are viewed
either as a pattern of differential preferences
which are derived from a range of actual behaviour
or those which are important, desirable and
ideal irrespective of their chances of being
reflected in actual behaviour. While the latter
are cherished values and may have universal
structures, the former are labelled as operative
values and are more closely related to social
norms and behaviour."
(Sehwartz and Bilsky - 1987)
A reference to a system of "Asian Values" may suggest that values and cultures are consistent within a region and that they remain static over time. This may not be, however, a correct assumption as values and cultures vary from region to region. Akio Kawato in 'Beyond the Myth of Asian Values' finds it difficult to codify a set of values which are comprehensively and exclusively Asian, because the family structures and the systems of government vary across Asia.
However, "Asian Values" may be said to be a set of values shared by people of many different nationalities and ethnicities living in Asia. 'Asian Values' are today usually associated with East and South East Asia. These values include the following:
o Stress on the community rather
than the individual
o The precedence of order and harmony over personal freedom
o Refusal to compartmentalise religion from other spheres of life
o Emphasis on savings and thriftiness
o Insistence on hard work and respect for political leadership
o Emphasis on family loyalty
Cooperation and coexistence have been embedded in the social fabric of most of the Asian societies. Brotherhood, compassion, tolerance, non-violence, spirituality, joint family system alongwith the cooperative values of self-help, self-responsibility, equality, equity and solidarity have been the basis of the public policies and governance in most of the Asian countries, particularly in India.
Religion has been playing a major role in the Asian countries in shaping the ethical and value system. The Asian continent has been a cradle of many great civilizations like the Sindhu valley civilization, the Chinese civilization etc. Great religions like Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism and Islam have flourished in this region.
'Buddhism' has over the centuries shaped the social, cultural and economic values of Asian societies. Buddha taught that a King has to eradicate evil not by punishment but by rooting out the cause of evil through providing such things as facilities to farmers, capital to traders, proper wages to workers, tax exemption to the poor etc. The great King Ashoka who ruled India from 268 to 233 BC represents a Model Buddhist ruler who always had his subjects' economic and social well being as his main concern.
Modern Buddhism in Asia now known as 'socially engaged Buddhism' dedicates to addressing the economic, social, political and environmental as well as spiritual needs of modern mankind. The engaged Buddhism analyses the institutional origins of evil and suffering and addresses those aspects of these political, economic and social institutions that are manifestations of greed, hatred and delusion.