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Monday, June 12, 2017

Buddhism and violence

Despite all the yoga mats, meditation, and facile introduction of Westerners to Buddhism, many misunderstand the global tenets of Buddhism. They assume that it is outside the norm when compared to other religions. The biggest misunderstanding is that Buddhists would never use violence.

Here is a Thai example of Buddhists advocating violence in defence of attacks by global muslim jihad.

This next passage explains the eigthfold path:

The path is a process to help you remove or move beyond the conditioned responses that obscure your true nature. In this sense the Path is ultimately about unlearning rather than learning - another paradox. We learn so we can unlearn and uncover. The Buddha called his teaching a Raft. To cross a turbulent river we may need to build a raft. When built, we single-mindedly and with great energy make our way across. Once across we don't need to cart the raft around with us. In other words don't cling to anything including the teachings. However, make sure you use them before you let them go. It's no use knowing everything about the raft and not getting on. The teachings are tools not dogma. The teachings are Upaya, which means skillful means or expedient method. It is fingers pointing at the moon - don't confuse the finger for the moon.

Remember that Buddhism like any religion is occupied by humans, ones that don't understand, others that inject their personal interpretation into it, ones that fall accustomed to luxuries that the Buddha himself would blush at. Any religion drifts and repurposes reality as needed. I wrote earlier dispelling the existence of Buddhism itself.

Recall that while the Dalai Lama possesses nothing and lives nowhere, his monk minders gather $400 per person per event to upkeep his personal well being despite that. Does this fully agree with what Buddha had in mind? While I am not here to judge another's personal interpretation, I hasten to point out there are many interpretations on many issues. 

The Buddhists you should least trust in interpretation are the dogmatic ones telling you a Buddhist can't do that. The ones that don't listen to the original meaning are just as guilty of hubris as christians or muslims.

The hang up word is "right" - right speech, right action, right livelihood...

Right in the dogmatic West is not the whole meaning.

"Right action" in the West means always do good, or never do wrong. But define what is wrong and right in a holistic Buddhist perspective? Good doesn't mean follow the law - even christians disobey the ten commandments and national law at will.  Are you certain that covers all action within a Buddhist mindset? The problem is that the original (eightfold) path guides you to decide what is best to discover (uncover) your true nature and contribute to well-being. You reach nirvana when you've shed everything else, when you attain perfection through the removal of imperfections. How you arrive was meant as a personal journey, not a church-directed one. Buddhism is not a lazy man's religion where your lot is measured for you and your role is obedience.


Thich Quang Duc killed himself in the 1960's protesting.

Does this look like a nonviolent act? This monk determined the greater good, the global happiness, was better served by his action for the benefit of others than to live in silence and contemplation as the world he knew burned.

Like anything else there is a tension between two competing goals. Global happiness and personal attainment can mean many things. If one's purpose requires violence to attain nirvanna then that is not excluded by 
Samma-Ajiva ( right livelihood )
Samma-Vayama (full effort )
Samma-Sati (complete awareness )
Samma-Kammanta  (integral action)