Friday, August 8, 2014

Buddhism and Military

Ngak'chang Rangdrol Dorje
July 9

For Buddhists, the first precept of not killing is so strong in their minds due to the many repercussions the action takes. There is no doubt that killing has many unwholesme karmic actions, and the result affects everyone (even the person who kills).
But what if killing was done our of compassion? Much like the story of the two Monks and the Woman where the senior monk violated the precepts to act out of compassion, the Buddha did the same thing when he killed a man as explained in one of the Jataka tales (which were stories of the Buddha’s past lives).
The Buddhist Soldier
Can a Buddhist be a soldier? What did the Buddha say about killing? Learn how being a Buddhist and a soldier is not a contradiction in terms, and how war can actually end suffering.
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    Eezy Isempty and Zijazo Smith like this.
    Tom Radcliffe It is really quite simple. If you wish to follow the path as set out by Shakyamuni Buddha then you have to take the precepts. If you want to go with later teachers modifications that's fine but it is not the teaching of the Buddha - probably. My own experience tells me that being in the military is problematic for anyone. I am intimately acquainted with veterans and my best friend from school took his own life after returning from Iraq. Buddhists have become masters of the loophole but isn't that a bit sick really?
    July 9 at 10:40pm · Edited · Unlike · 3

    SN 42.3
    PTS: S iv 308
    CDB ii 1334
    Yodhajiva Sutta: To Yodhajiva (The Warrior)
    translated from the Pali by
    Thanissaro Bhikkhu
    © 1998

    Then Yodhajiva[1] the headman went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, having bowed down to him, sat to one side. As he was sitting there he said to the Blessed One: "Lord, I have heard that it has been passed down by the ancient teaching lineage of warriors that 'When a warrior strives & exerts himself in battle, if others then strike him down & slay him while he is striving & exerting himself in battle, then with the breakup of the body, after death, he is reborn in the company of devas slain in battle.' What does the Blessed One have to say about that?"

    "Enough, headman, put that aside. Don't ask me that."

    A second time... A third time Yodhajiva the headman said: "Lord, I have heard that it has been passed down by the ancient teaching lineage of warriors that 'When a warrior strives & exerts himself in battle, if others then strike him down & slay him while he is striving & exerting himself in battle, then with the breakup of the body, after death, he is reborn in the company of devas slain in battle.' What does the Blessed One have to say about that?"

    "Apparently, headman, I haven't been able to get past you by saying, 'Enough, headman, put that aside. Don't ask me that.' So I will simply answer you. When a warrior strives & exerts himself in battle, his mind is already seized, debased, & misdirected by the thought: 'May these beings be struck down or slaughtered or annihilated or destroyed. May they not exist.' If others then strike him down & slay him while he is thus striving & exerting himself in battle, then with the breakup of the body, after death, he is reborn in the hell called the realm of those slain in battle. But if he holds such a view as this: 'When a warrior strives & exerts himself in battle, if others then strike him down & slay him while he is striving & exerting himself in battle, then with the breakup of the body, after death, he is reborn in the company of devas slain in battle,' that is his wrong view. Now, there are two destinations for a person with wrong view, I tell you: either hell or the animal womb."

    When this was said, Yodhajiva the headman sobbed & burst into tears. [The Blessed One said:] "That is what I couldn't get past you by saying, 'Enough, headman, put that aside. Don't ask me that.'"

    "I'm not crying, lord, because of what the Blessed One said to me, but simply because I have been deceived, cheated, & fooled for a long time by that ancient teaching lineage of warriors who said: 'When a warrior strives & exerts himself in battle, if others then strike him down & slay him while he is striving & exerting himself in battle, then with the breakup of the body, after death, he is reborn in the company of devas slain in battle.'

    "Magnificent, lord! Magnificent! Just as if he were to place upright what was overturned, to reveal what was hidden, to show the way to one who was lost, or to carry a lamp into the dark so that those with eyes could see forms, in the same way has the Blessed One — through many lines of reasoning — made the Dhamma clear. I go to the Blessed One for refuge, to the Dhamma, and to the Community of monks. May the Blessed One remember me as a lay follower who has gone to him for refuge, from this day forward, for life."

    = "warrior."
    Yodhajiva Sutta: To Yodhajiva (The Warrior)
    Then Yodhajiva[1] the headman went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, having bo... See More
    July 10 at 4:56am · Edited · Like · 4 · Remove Preview
    Soh In some countries like mine, there is not much choice... due to compulsory conscription. I served two years of army and still have to go back for reservist every year for another decade, like every other able male citizens. Frankly, I think our military has so far hardly been involved in violence, mostly it is for peacekeeping, and serving as a deterrence, helping neighbouring countries in times of disasters etc - which can be quite beneficial. I do not however support any (if any) kind of violence performed by the military. (However I have great respect for military personnals serving to defend our nation)

    In a case of compulsory conscription by military, I think, it is important as Buddhists to keep what Loppon Malcolm said from a karmic standpoint:

    The main point is whether you actually agree with the goals that a military force has in mind. From a Buddhist POV, if you do, you share in all the negative actions of the whole army. This is very well detailed in the karma chapter in the Abhidharmakoshabhasyam.


    The idea is that if you are in a military force and you approve of its goals i.e. killing people, you share in all of the karma of all acts of killing multiplied by the number of people in that army. So if you are in a million man army, and you approve of the goals of that army, every time one person is killed by that army, the karma for you is multiplied by a million, thus it becomes very heavy karma indeed.

    Taxpayers are generally forced to pay taxes under duress or threat. However, if you are cheerfully sending in your taxes the govt. and support its goals in the army it supports, then also you share that karma X however many people are supporting that army whether civilian or not.

    It is hard to be a conscientious objector in the military, but yes, I suppose you could belong to an army and yet be completely opposed to its overall mission.

    July 10 at 5:06am · Edited · Like · 1
    Soh As for the article itself -- it states that there is no getting away from the karmic consequences, so even if you want to engage in for example, battle, somehow out of 'compassion', then you must take responsibility for the karmic results. And the karmic results are not easy to bear. Unless one is willing to bear, for example, rebirth in hell (and who knows for how long?), then one should seriously think again and contemplate on the results of cause and effect. It is very easy to make decisions on haste and come to regret it for a long time later. On the other hand, all these are meaningless to non-believers of karma and rebirth, but I'm talking about Buddhists who hold the right view of karma and rebirth. And I'm not talking about a psychologized version of karma and rebirth (like interpreting PTSD as 'hell'), but literal rebirth. Buddha never taught karma and rebirth in the psychologized modern version, he always spoke of it in the literal sense.
    July 10 at 5:52am · Edited · Like
    Arjuna Ranatunga I sympathise with & understand your point, Ngak'chang Rangdrol Dorje. It's said that if an otherwise good person commits an offence, the results are mitigated by his virtue, in the same way that a crown prince who steals a goat, will be punished less than a poor person would be. It's from the same discourse (the Lonaphala Sutta) as the simile of the salt crystal being dissolved in a lake, as opposed to a cup of water - in terms of the effects on their saltiness of taste. Also relevant is the teaching on intention. If you have a good intention, even if you do an action which is otherwise considered unwholesome / bad, there'll be no harmful results for you - in the same way that a hand that has no wound, can handle even poison unscathed (Dhammapada verse 124).
    July 10 at 1:57pm · Like
    Arjuna Ranatunga
    July 10 at 2:00pm · Like
    Arjuna Ranatunga
    July 10 at 2:01pm · Like
    Soh Arjuna Ranatunga: I don't think the Buddha ever said that if you have 'compassionate' or 'good' intentions, then if you perform so called 'unwholesome actions', then somehow there will be no harmful results for you.

    That is no different from saying because the Jihadists are acting out of compassion for their brethrens, when they kill the enemies they will go to the heaven with all the virgins.

    There is no escaping the effects of karma. Don't practice idiot compassion.
    July 10 at 4:50pm · Edited · Like
    Soh As for Lonaphala Sutta, it is talking about a stream enterer. A stream enterer has unbroken virtue, and whatever evil deeds done by him are only triffling, and they will repent and make ammends. These trifling deeds will not result in rebirth in hell but only a small ripening in this life. Compared to their virtue which is like an ocean, their evil deeds are trifling like a mere drop of water. Stream enterers however will not perform great unwholesome karmas like killing and so on.

    It does not mean anything like "if you do something unwholesome with good intentions, then the results are mitigated by his virtue".
    July 10 at 5:00pm · Edited · Like
    Arjuna Ranatunga Soh, you neglect the Dhammapada verse 124 I've linked to above (123 Papavagga). I recommend a look at it's commentarial background story too, I'll link below. Also there's no mention of stream-enterers in the Lonaphala Sutta.
    July 10 at 8:48pm · Like
    Arjuna Ranatunga
    July 10 at 9:06pm · Like
    Soh In that story, the wife have not directly killed anything even though she may have handled arrow, etc. If the wife have directly killed anything, the same cannot have been said. Likewise, although some may be involved in military, like I do, as long as I never get involved in killing, nor approve of killing, then I do not incur the karma of killing.
    July 11 at 9:20am · Edited · Like · 1
    Arjuna Ranatunga The karma of killing is a shorter life & maybe susceptibility to illness, as well as maybe ugliness in looks. One can redeem oneself, especially if one is of good habits (of body, speech & mind). We should forgive those who are forced into unwholesomeness reluctantly, often with our own best interests at heart. We should not condemn them. Noble intentions --> noble results, in the long run.
    July 11 at 11:22am · Like
    Kyle Dixon Drukpa Kunley was a talented and seasoned drinker, but this cornucopia was too much for even his capability. He reached a state of definite tipsiness, and then couldn’t resist going back to his bantering with the old woman. Just how devoted are you to me? he asked. There is no limit, she said. I would give my life for you.

    And now comes the hard part of the story. Drukpa Kunley took up his bow and shot the woman right through the chest. The other women in the room were shocked. Murder, they screeched, and ran out of house as fast as their ancient legs could take them.

    Later a crowd gathered, stunned and astonished. Someone began to swear at him. "You miserable savage! You murderer! Why did you kill this harmless old lady!" Others wept and wailed. "He is my Lama, and I have complete trust in him," whispered the dying woman from the floor. "He is my best friend. Do not treat him like an enemy." And so saying, she expired.

    So far, there are two ways to look at the story. One is to agree with the villagers: Drukpa Kunley murdered the old lady in a drunken state. The other is to accept the explanation in the Compilation—before he shot the arrow, Drukpa Kunley realized that the woman was fated to die that night anyway. Subsequent events suggest that the second point of view might be the right one.

    Kunley carried the old lady’s corpse to a storeroom. He locked the door and told the village people to keep the door locked for seven days, when he would return. But after six days the old woman’s son returned to the house and heard the whole gruesome story from the neighbors.
    "Ah! These wretched Tibetans!" the son raged. "They come here demanding our hospitality, murder their benefactors, and calmly lock up their victims’ corpses to rot."
    The son broke open the door and was astonished to find his mother’s body transformed to rainbow light (a sign that she had gone to a better place). This was enough to convince him that Drukpa Kunley, in his entirely unconventional and ostensibly horrifying way, had actually conferred a great blessing on his mother.
    July 11 at 11:36am · Like · 1
    Matthew Morse It's painful to read that article. It's totally against common sense. But I guess common sense is rather uncommon.
    July 11 at 1:56pm · Like
    Kyle Dixon Interesting quote from the Abhidharmakosabhasyam:

    When many persons are united with the intention to kill, either in
    war, or in the hunt, or in banditry, who is guilty of murder, if only one of
    them kills?

    72c-d. As soldiers, etc., concur in the realization of the same
    effect, all are as guilty as the one who kills.

    Having a common goal, all are guilty exactly as he who among them
    kills, for all mutually incite one another, not through speech, but by the
    very fact that they are united together in order to kill.
    But is the person who has been constrained through force to join the
    army also guilty?
    Evidently so, unless he has formed the resolution, "Even in order to
    save my life, I shall not kill a living being."

    (Thx to Ben for sharing)
    July 19 at 5:17am · Edited · Like
    Kyle Dixon Taken from a currently active thread on the vajracakra forums...

    Buddhism and the Military:
    July 19 at 5:18am · Like
    Yor Sunyata What about euthanising a pet to save the animal from suffering?
    July 19 at 9:38am · Like
    Tom Radcliffe Killing people is not recommended by the Buddha. It is absolutely forbidden for a monk. If you want to kill you will and you will experience the resultants - which are horrific. Out of compassion the Buddha and all the other good teachers suggest you don't. Just joining the Army is traumatising - let alone the rest. Let's just look at reality.
    July 19 at 10:22am · Like · 1
    Justin Struble Serving in the military, even if one is indirectly providing logistical support, still makes one complicit in the killing that the military carries out. If one wants to be harmless, it would be best to totally disassociate with all harmful organizations. This extends not only to serving in the military, but even to funding the military, via taxes or donations.

    All current forms of government and their military, by their very nature are involved in initiating aggression and force against peaceful people. Due to this, one should avoid associating or supporting government / military.

    That said, I do think that there are some circumstances where self defense ( but never the initiation of aggression ) is just and warranted.

    Individuals have a right to defend themselves and others from bodily harm, and they are just in doing so as long as they are not the initiators of aggression. It's always wrong to initiate aggression, but it's not always wrong to defend onself or others.

    To defend oneself or others against a violent aggressor, is compassionate action. It can prevent the attacker from generating even worse karma for themselves, and it can prevent the suffering and loss of this precious human rebirth for those being defended. Using force should always be a last resort.
    July 19 at 2:39pm · Edited · Like
    Tom Radcliffe "Monks, I say to you; even if robbers should saw you in half with a two handed saw if you should allow one thought of hatred, you are no monks of mine." - The Buddha. Not big on compromise, was he. Well, not on that day. Well, that only applies to monks. It doesn't say you can't fight back - just that you can't hate them. Ok, so we can kill if we're not ordained and we don't hate them. I guess robbers are bad guys too - so if they are bad and we are not ordained and we don't hate them we can kill them. Ah but it just says not to think hating thoughts - hmmmm - well that's even better because if we go on and on about how we are right and doing the world a favour by killing them then there won't be time to have hating thoughts and we can feel good about what we are doing so we might even be having loving thoughts about protecting the world so...............
    July 19 at 9:46pm · Like
    Justin Struble would you stand idly by while your family is murdered in front of you? while genocide is carried out on your family, friends, loved ones, neighbors in front of you? or would you use force to stop those intent on murdering your family or committing mass murder?

    using force doesn't mean one does so with a mind of hatred. even if as a last resort one decides to use force in defense, and does so with a mind free from hatred or ill-will, there will still be karmic consequences, and this should be mindfully understood.

    one can also choose to renounce the worldly life completely, and become a monk. one can choose to never exercise self defense, to never defend others from harm, choosing total pacifism, and refusing all violence. but there are karmic consequences to allowing others to be murdered when one could have stopped this as well. it is up to each individual, your actions and their consequences are your own.
    July 19 at 10:31pm · Like
    Tom Radcliffe That is your opinion and I am not saying I don't sympathise or that I would refuse to take action under the circumstances you describe. I am just pointing out that the Buddha's take on the subject is different. In all honesty I don't know what I will do about anything until I am doing it.
    July 19 at 10:35pm · Like
    Tom Radcliffe I have used Martial Arts twice in the street - both times to defend a stranger from attack. Both times the incident ended without injury to anyone. There was no hatred in my mind either. In my youth, however I used to attack total strangers when intoxicated with ferocious hate. times have changed.
    July 19 at 10:39pm · Like · 1

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