Thursday, 16 June 2011

Buddhism,War and Non-Violence

Buddhism is synonymous with peace and a resolutely anti-war stance. The very first of the five precepts that all Buddhists follow says to "Avoid killing, or harming any living thing."

Nothing in the messages passed down from the Buddha over 2500 years ago gives any credence to the use of violence as a way to settle conflict.

One of Buddha's sermons puts this very clearly with a powerful example that stresses the need to love your enemy no matter how cruelly he treats you:

"Even if thieves carve you limb from limb with a double-handed saw, if you make your mind hostile you are not following my teaching."

The Dalai Lama the Tibetan Buddhist leader and possibly the most famous Buddhist (apart from the Buddha) who ever lived has said;

"Hatred will not cease by hatred, but by love alone.

This is the ancient law."

As a result of their credo of non-violence many Buddhists have been conscientious objectors and have refused to fight in times of war – even when they have been threatened with the death penalty as a result. Buddhist doctrine allows Buddhist monks to defend themselves if attacked but musn’t kill even if it was deemed necessary in self-defence to save their own life.

Consequently many Buddhists have refused to take up arms under any circumstances, even knowing that they would be killed as a result. The Buddhist code that governs the life of monks permits them to defend themselves, but it forbids them to kill, even in self-defence.

The following tale illustrates wonderfully the Buddhist doctrine of non-violence.

A US Vietnam vet was criticising the Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, about his unswerving opposition to the war.

"You're a fool," said the vet - "what if they had wiped out all the Buddhists in the world and you were the last one remaining. Would you not try to kill the one who was trying to kill you, and therefore help to save Buddhism?!"

Thich Nhat Hanh answered "It would be much better to let him kill me. If there is any truth to what the Buddha taught and the Dhamma it will not disappear from the face of the earth, but will reappear when the world is ready to rediscover it.

"In killing I would betray the very teachings I am seeking to preserve. So it would be better to let him kill me and remain true to the spirit of the Dhamma."

“All forms of violence, especially war, are totally unacceptable as means to settle disputes between and among nations, groups and persons.” Dalai Lama

The Buddha's Face

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