One question that occurs to me is whether we can claim that Buddhism presuppose or propose “apoliticism.” But what is “apoliticism”? It is said to be “apathy and/or antipathy towards all political affiliations. (1) Being apolitical can also refer to situations in which people take an unbiased position in regard to political matters. (2) The Collins Dictionary defines apolitical as ‘politically neutral; without political attitudes, content, or bias.‘” (Wikipedia, s.v. apoliticism). Initially and doctrinally I think Buddhism as represented mainly by the ordained community of monks and nuns, who were the main addressees of the Buddha’s teachings, can said to be “apolitical” but perhaps not so much in the above senses but rather in the sense that an ordained Buddhist monk or nun should not get involved in “worldly matters.” Obviously “political matters” are seen intrinsically as worldly matters. Ordained Buddhist monks or nuns should not get involved in, or, interfere in political matters. They should remain detached from them. They should not, however, be anti-political because a political atmosphere or power that is opposed to or antagonistic towards Buddhism or Buddhist community of monks and nuns would not be favorable to the existence of Buddhism itself. The pragmatic challenge from a Buddhist perspective is how to be apolitical and yet live in a world governed by politics.
Historically, there have been monks who were also politicians but doctrinally it would be perhaps not easily justifiable. The next issue is: What about lay Buddhists such as kings or rulers? How political or apolitical should they be? But such a question is tantamount to the question: How worldly should a Buddhist be? In the end, it is up to each individual lay Buddhist to decide for himself or herself.
In course of time, the Bodhisattvayāna (Mahāyāna) ideals have been used to doctrinally justify the compatibility of religion (i.e. in this case Buddhism) and politics. Even Mahāyāna teachings would, however,concede that worldly and political affairs are essentially messy, and ultimately, each bodhisattva would decide for himself or herself to what extent he or she indulges or engages in political affairs and each bodhisattva would be solely responsible for his or her attitudes and actions.