Just War and Buddhism

An open and inclusive investigation into Buddhism and spiritual cultivation

Re: Just War and Buddhism

Postby kirk5a » Fri Jan 07, 2011 4:17 am

Alright so I guess the question as Tilt has framed it is:

"Is it never justified to kill one person to save a another?"

My view is one cannot go wrong, by never intentionally killing another human.

edit: nevermind, I don't want to encourage anyone to even attempt to use the Buddha's words to justify killing. Shouldn't be done.
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230
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Re: Just War and Buddhism

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Jan 07, 2011 5:08 am

kirk5a wrote:Alright so I guess the question as Tilt has framed it is:

"Is it never justified to kill one person to save a another?"

My view is one cannot go wrong, by never intentionally killing another human.
A situation may arise that could only be responded to by violence, harming which could result ib death of another, to stop someone from being raped or murdered for a few dollars. It is your choice.

A pit-bull is mauling a child, do you smash it in the head with a baseball bat, probably killing it, to save the child? Or do you just stand there wringing your hands?

kirk5a wrote:Now I'm not particularly interested in the counter-examples of a buncha deluded worldlings (love you guys :smile: ) so why doesn't someone produce something the Buddha said or did that would indicate I'm wrong about that. Otherwise, I don't see any reason to spend a single second wondering whether I need to be out there killing somebody to prevent evil. Just saying it like that shows its preposterousness. But ok, enough of me doing the heavy lifting, now show me the Buddhadhamma that says killing might be necessary.
You have not done any heavy lifting here at all. You are simply dodging the questions put to you here:


viewtopic.php?f=16&t=6726&start=120#p108042

So, it is 1968 and you are in front of your local Selective Service Board asking to be classified as a Conscientious Objector, and as I am any number of others were, you are going to get asked questions like the ones in the linked msg you ignored. How you answer is going to significantly shape what happens to your life from that moment on. For me and for the other men in that situation is was not a game. It was real life, and potentially life and death hung in the balance of what was said.

Here is my original question in this thread, which was very close to what I was asked in 1968: A bad man is going to kill an innocent, but you can stop him, but the very strong likelihood is that to do so would result in the bad man's death. What choice do you make? Put Buddhist principles to work here; give an honest answer as if what happens to the rest of your life depends upon it.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Just War and Buddhism

Postby kirk5a » Fri Jan 07, 2011 5:23 am

tiltbillings wrote:You have not done any heavy lifting here at all. You are simply dodging the questions put to you here:


viewtopic.php?f=16&t=6726&start=120#p108042

So, it is 1968 and you are in front of your local Selective Service Board asking to be classified as a Conscientious Objector, and as I am any number of others were, you are going to get asked questions like the ones in the linked msg you ignored. How you answer is going to significantly shape what happens to your life from that moment on. For me and for the other men in that situation is was not a game. It was real life, and potentially life and death hung in the balance of what was said.

Here is my original question in this thread, which was very close to what I was asked in 1968: A bad man is going to kill an innocent, but you can stop him, but the very strong likelihood is that to do so would result in the bad man's death. What choice do you make? Put Buddhist principles to work here; give an honest answer as if what happens to the rest of your life depends upon it.

No problem. I'd put my life at risk to stop the killing but I will not kill.
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230
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Re: Just War and Buddhism

Postby manas » Fri Jan 07, 2011 5:25 am

tiltbillings wrote:
manasikara wrote:There was a question, I'm not sure if we are still on that one, about this hypothetical situation where 'the bad man is going to kill the 'innocent' man...you can only stop this by killing the bad man...what do you do?'

Well assuming that life could ever be that simplistic, I was wondering what then happens to us after we have killed the 'bad man'; I'd say we have just become like him. So we have removed one 'bad man' and have just created another in his stead - ourself.
And why would we become like him if we saved a life or lives by our actions? It is a matter of motivation.


Darn it I should not have got involved in this (interesting) discussion. I often get misunderstood. Anyway...
I did NOT mean that 'we' become 'bad' I guess my response sounded simplistic because the whole hypothetical question was also simplistic (no offense intended by that). But I do feel that if we tried to 'protect' the Dhamma, for example, by using violence to stop, say, a venerated Teacher from being killed, that we have sort of (unintentionally) 'killed' Dhamma instead, not saved it at all. I haven't read anywhere that the Buddha said that 'the end justifies the means'. He seems to advocate that both the means, and the end, should be similarly ethically sound.

Anyway I won't get involved again in this, I just thought that I had better clarify that yes, this is a complicated issue, with no simple answer. For the record, I sometimes kill mosquitoes, just out of sheer frustration at itching all the time. Sometimes I train my mind to do it calmly, with zero malice, apologetically, just to stop the constant biting. But I always feel like I've FAILED when I do this, that in that moment I killed Dhamma because that mosquito's life, while not precious to me, is certainly precious to her. I usually let them live, however; sometimes I even just let them feed till they fly off by themselves. It's not really that much blood.

Ok I'm signing off this post, I can't seem to be very logical today. :)
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Re: Just War and Buddhism

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Jan 07, 2011 5:31 am

A real life situation. My best friend from high school did two combat tours in Vietnam. During one of his tours one of the medics in their unit was a conscientious objector. He did not carry a gun, and he was very strongly religious. He was well liked and did his job extremely well. However a situation did arise where if he did not act, picking up a the gun of the man he was treating, not only would he have been killed but also a number of others, including the civilians who were seen as collaborating with the Americans. He killed two Vietcong men, saving the lives of close to ten others. It tore him up inside my friend said, but he also said that this medic also recognized that it needed to be done.

I am not asking for a Buddhist justification for something such as this, but it does happen and it does not hurt to ask "What would I do?" It might actually help clarify one's own understanding of things, or not.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Just War and Buddhism

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Jan 07, 2011 5:33 am

kirk5a wrote:. . . but I will not kill.
The reality is, of course, you don't know that.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Just War and Buddhism

Postby kirk5a » Fri Jan 07, 2011 5:41 am

tiltbillings wrote:
kirk5a wrote:. . . but I will not kill.
The reality is, of course, you don't know that.

It is not your place to say that actually.
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230
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Re: Just War and Buddhism

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Jan 07, 2011 5:47 am

kirk5a wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:
kirk5a wrote:. . . but I will not kill.
The reality is, of course, you don't know that.

It is not your place to say that actually.
So, you know exactly how you will act in an extreme, fast moving lethal situation where your life and others' lives are on the line. Alrighty then.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Just War and Buddhism

Postby kirk5a » Fri Jan 07, 2011 5:53 am

tiltbillings wrote:So, you know exactly how you will act in an extreme, fast moving lethal situation where your life and others' lives are on the line. Alrighty then.

I said I would not kill another. That was your question, that is my answer.
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230
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Re: Just War and Buddhism

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Jan 07, 2011 5:58 am

kirk5a wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:So, you know exactly how you will act in an extreme, fast moving lethal situation where your life and others' lives are on the line. Alrighty then.

I said I would not kill another. That was your question, that is my answer.
And let us hope you won't ever be put into a situation like the medic who said the same thing. (But you really don't know that.)
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Just War and Buddhism

Postby kirk5a » Fri Jan 07, 2011 6:05 am

tiltbillings wrote:And let us hope you won't ever be put into a situation like the medic who said the same thing. (But you really don't know that.)

So having arrived at the foregone conclusion that killing is the right thing to do in such a situation, Tilt will accept no other answer, is that it?
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230
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Re: Just War and Buddhism

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Jan 07, 2011 6:19 am

kirk5a wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:And let us hope you won't ever be put into a situation like the medic who said the same thing. (But you really don't know that.)

So having arrived at the foregone conclusion that killing is the right thing to do in such a situation, Tilt will accept no other answer, is that it?
That is not it. The reality is, that while a person would say he or she would not kill, how that person might react in a highly charged, fast moving, life threatening (kill or be killed ) situation is not something that can be known beforehand with any certainty. Such has it been for the few people I know who have had to face such a situations. You may be the exception.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Just War and Buddhism

Postby kirk5a » Fri Jan 07, 2011 6:53 am

tiltbillings wrote:That is not it. The reality is, that while a person would say he or she would not kill, how that person might react in a highly charged, fast moving, life threatening (kill or be killed ) situation is not something that can be known beforehand with any certainty. Such has it been for the few people I know who have had to face such a situations. You may be the exception.

You say that with certainty. On the basis of the example of a few people. I don't think there's all that much to your certainty as it applies to everyone actually.

As for people putting their own lives at risk in fast moving lethal situations, I would certainly not be "the exception" it happens all the time, and people are killed trying to save others, and yet without making a move to kill.

To take a prominent example, how about "tank man" in Tiananmen Square? He faced down a line of tanks holding a shopping bag. Did it "work" in preventing the tanks from continuing? No. Did it stop the further killing? No. He might have died too, apparently we don't know. Was that image an inspiration to tens or hundreds of millions or even billions of people around the globe? Yes.
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230
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Re: Just War and Buddhism

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Jan 07, 2011 7:10 am

kirk5a wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:That is not it. The reality is, that while a person would say he or she would not kill, how that person might react in a highly charged, fast moving, life threatening (kill or be killed ) situation is not something that can be known beforehand with any certainty. Such has it been for the few people I know who have had to face such a situations. You may be the exception.

You say that with certainty. On the basis of the example of a few people. I don't think there's all that much to your certainty as it applies to everyone actually.
"Fight or flight" the adrenaline fueled response to life threatening situations is part of what it to be human. With a lot of training, it can be controlled, but that is a lot of training.

As for people putting their own lives at risk in fast moving lethal situations, I would certainly not be "the exception" it happens all the time, and people are killed trying to save others, and yet without making a move to kill.
And if it is a kill or be killed situation? Ever been there? If not, you haven't any idea as to what it feels like and what you are capable of doing.

To take a prominent example, how about "tank man" in Tiananmen Square? He faced down a line of tanks holding a shopping bag. Did it "work" in preventing the tanks from continuing? No. Did it stop the further killing? No. He might have died too, apparently we don't know. Was that image an inspiration to tens or hundreds of millions or even billions of people around the globe? Yes.
Tank man, who was counting the humanity of the tank driver, is one thing, but having someone lunge at you with a knife, meaning serious harm to you is another. If you have never been there, you have not a clue.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Just War and Buddhism

Postby Spiny O'Norman » Fri Jan 07, 2011 10:31 am

tiltbillings wrote: The reality is, that while a person would say he or she would not kill, how that person might react in a highly charged, fast moving, life threatening (kill or be killed ) situation is not something that can be known beforehand with any certainty.


I think that's right, it's one thing to explore how we feel about hypothetical situations, it's quite another to be caught up in an extreme situation where instinctual behaviours are likely to kick in.
But talking hypothetically, it seems to me that the first precept is uncompromising, it says don't take life, not "it's OK to take life in specific scenarios". That's extremely challenging IMO.

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Re: Just War and Buddhism

Postby kirk5a » Fri Jan 07, 2011 1:53 pm

tiltbillings wrote: If you have never been there, you have not a clue.

I do have a clue. And I have faith in Buddha. And so I have faith in what I am capable of not doing. Killing.
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230
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Re: Just War and Buddhism

Postby andre9999 » Fri Jan 07, 2011 2:08 pm

kirk5a wrote:
tiltbillings wrote: If you have never been there, you have not a clue.

I do have a clue. And I have faith in Buddha. And so I have faith in what I am capable of not doing. Killing.


Tilt can speak for himself, but I don't believe that he's questioning your faith, your intent, and your willpower. But pragmatically, if you haven't been in the situation you simply cannot know - you can only prepare.
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Re: Just War and Buddhism

Postby kirk5a » Fri Jan 07, 2011 2:14 pm

andrer9999 wrote:Tilt can speak for himself, but I don't believe that he's questioning your faith, your intent, and your willpower. But pragmatically, if you haven't been in the situation you simply cannot know - you can only prepare.

I said I do have a clue. Now since this thread isn't about me, I'll leave it there. Have a great day.
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230
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Re: Just War and Buddhism

Postby Spiny O'Norman » Fri Jan 07, 2011 2:58 pm

andrer9999 wrote: But pragmatically, if you haven't been in the situation you simply cannot know - you can only prepare.


Do you mean "prepare" in the sense of doing Buddhist practice and keeping the precepts?

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Re: Just War and Buddhism

Postby andre9999 » Fri Jan 07, 2011 3:10 pm

Spiny O'Norman wrote:
andrer9999 wrote: But pragmatically, if you haven't been in the situation you simply cannot know - you can only prepare.


Do you mean "prepare" in the sense of doing Buddhist practice and keeping the precepts?


I meant it more as being aware of the possibility of an event and trying to understand how you would like to respond in that situation.
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