Saturday, November 05, 2005

Compassionate Violence

When is violence acceptable in Buddhism?

According to the S.F. Chronicle on the Dalai Lama's question-and-answer session, he stated, "History shows the Second World War protected the western world - protected democracy...The Iraq War - it's too early to say right or wrong." Then the Dalai Lama concluded that "war and violence led to more war and more violence, more hatred and more resentment."

I find the Dalai Lama's sentiment on violence is contradictory. On one hand, the use of violence such as dropping the atomic bombs protected democracy and the violenct invasion of Iraq under the false pretense of weapons of mass destruction to spread democracy is justifiable. On the other hand, violence is not good.

Revolution is violent. Living is violent. Buddhism is violent.

7 Comments:

Blogger 珮珮 (peipei) said...

Malcolm X makes a really important difference between violence and self defense, which I think is more useful than what the DL seems to have said.

When people or the system is violent towards us, self-defense is necessary and justified. Self-defense may take violent forms when justified. You have to speak a man's language for him to understand. If that language is the threat of violence, then so be it. Of course, X was using the situation of the KKK and of police brutality in Black and poor neighborhoods, like the West O.

3:25 PM  
Blogger ana_be_good said...

I wouldn't go as far as to say that Buddhism is violent. This was perhaps the dilemma that many Tibetans felt back in the 1950s. While being attacked by the Chinese, what do they do? Fighting back would go against the philosophy that is their life. On the other hand, not fighting back would mean being wiped off the surface of the earth. Which is why I always say that one should never make judgement on the actions of another. Given the same circumstances and conditions, who know what we ourselves are capable of...

6:07 AM  
Blogger Right Wing Nut said...

There are a number of problems I find with your posting.

First, you asked when is violence acceptable in Buddhism. This was really not the topic of the SF Chronicle article on the Dalai Lama. Instead, Dalai Lama addressed when violence was compassionate, not when violence was acceptable.

Secondly, the Dalai Lama discussed when violence was compassionate in his opinion, and not in Buddhism. The Dalai Lama only represents one sect of Buddhism and does not speak for all sects of Buddhism as a whole.

I also think you omitted a key element from the Dalai Lama's address. While you noted the phrase "compassionate violence," you did not provide a summary of his understanding of that phrase, assuming that we are reading the same article -- Dalai Lama brings his own brand of Buddhism.

The article stated that the the Dalai Lama "considers actions taken out of compassion to be nonviolent, even if lives are lost, if those actions reduce future suffering."

Furthermore, I also believe that you misstated the Dalai Lama's position on the Iraq War. He never said that the invasion of Iraq under the false pretense of weapons of mass destruction to spread democracy was justifiable. Those were your own words and political biases that were injected in. As you noted in the first paragraph of your posting, his true sentiment is that "it's too early to say right or wrong."

It's easy for a young radical to mouth off meaningless slogans like "Living is violent" or "Buddhism is violent." But, what does any of this really mean?

Their is a certain truth to the Dalai Lama's lecture in that society does not look at a particular action in isolation--e.g., killing--but looks instead at the intention and result of that action. That's how we distinguish between gang members who kill store owners with a shotgun blast to the head and train conductors who accidentally kill people who were walking on the railroad tracks.

And, in a black-and-white world where all killing must go punished with the death penalty, treating these two killings differently mean that the law is contradictory. In reality, it just demonstrates your lack of depth and understanding.

Don't think I haven't noticed that you are finding common cause with Japanese and Iraqi war criminals. It's always the criminals who find society to be unfair and their punishment to be disproportionate because they do not accept and cannot properly value the damage they have done to society.

4:13 PM  
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