Bhikkhu Bodhi on War and Thanissaro's rebuttal

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
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Which view do you agree with most (on this issue)?

Bhikkhu Bodhi
40
47%
Thanissaro Bhikkhu
46
53%
 
Total votes: 86

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mikenz66
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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi on War and Thanissaro's rebuttal

Post by mikenz66 »

Digity wrote:The Buddha wasn't interested in running governments and polices.
True, but he was certainly interested in stable societies, and gave a lot of advice to kings and others.

See Chapter IV of In the Buddha's Words for some key suttas:
http://dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=25&t=14640
and the Introduction to that chapter:
http://www.wisdompubs.org/blog/201310/t ... esent-life
While the Nikayas reveal the crown of the Buddha’s teachings to lie in the path to final release from suffering, it would be a mistake to reduce the teachings, so diverse in the original sources, to their transcendent pinnacle. We must again recall the statement that a Buddha arises “for the welfare of the multitude, for the happiness of the multitude … out of compassion for the world, for the good, welfare, and happiness of devas and humans”. The function of a Buddha is to discover, realize, and proclaim the Dhamma in its full range and depth, and this involves a comprehensive understanding of the varied applications of the Dhamma in all its multiple dimensions. A Buddha not only penetrates to the unconditioned state of perfect bliss that lies beyond samsara, outside the pale of birth, aging, and death; he not only proclaims the path to full enlightenment and final liberation; but he also illuminates the many ways the Dhamma applies to the complex conditions of human life for people still immersed in the world.
:anjali:
Mike
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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi on War and Thanissaro's rebuttal

Post by Reductor »

My first objection is that people already need little reason to think their violence is justified, and leaders have little trouble convincing their people that some enemy will do them harm if they get their chance. As we've seen recently, even people born in Buddhist society are ready to burn down another persons home and kill the inhabitants if they perceive them as threats to their identity, or believe some harm has been done by them. Do we need a highly visible monk making any statement at all which can be seized as excuse for more violence?

In the second world war, was the impulse to fight Hitler driven by a desire to protect from tyranny, or was it driven by the usual bullshit that makes one group of people desire their own identity and way of life over any other simply by virtue of those things being theirs? Did anyone really give a shit about what Hitler was doing at home to his people before he moved into Poland? Where was the compassion that led the Allies to invade Germany to emancipate it's people from that tyranny? Oh, right! There was appeasement, and the Allied people's hoped that it was enough to keep the Germans from expanding outside of their borders - little material action to help the abused in Germany was proffered, but plenty of concern with preserving their various forms of national autonomy and cultural identity was evident.

Looking back we see the Nazis as horrible, and their evil as self-evident, and we are sure it was right to jump into the fray, and God help us, what would have happened if we hadn't done so, and hadn't won. But was compassion in the hearts of those men and women that went forward to fight and kill, or was it love for their nation and identity instead? As it was, 75 million people died horrible, millions of them killed by Allied (and morally commendable) persons fighting tyranny!

We look back at the bits of B. Bodhi's essay and see the reference to empathetic identification with others as the foundation of good morals, of the precepts. But then that article forgets that madmen don't want to suffer, and those employed it their machinations don't want to suffer, and we don't want to suffer, yet then say that to inflict suffering and death on them is 'morally commendable', although we must admit that those engaged in this 'morally commendable' act of war are forming the will to kill hundreds of times, and acting on them.

Now, what's my point. I'm rambling. :rolleye: Haha.

My point is that Buddhist shouldn't call violence 'morally commendable', esp. robed ones with the ear of millions of lay persons. In Buddhist terms, it is not morally commendable to kill a person, however nuts he or she may be - it is socially acceptable, and ethically sound. But to give it the label of 'moral' from a Buddhist perspective is to ignore the fact that crazy, violent people don't want to suffer any more than the rest of us: they're simply less capable of happiness and peace. Killing them is not 'commendable', it is simply necessary, and should be treated as an unfortunate thing for everyone involved, especially the one who had to form the intent, act on it, and reap the psychological repercussions (and kammic ones too, in the next life).

To label this ugly business of violence as anything but ugly and horrible, let alone 'morally commendable', is gross, and I see it as gross.

Anyway, I'm sure I'll regret wading into this, but there you go.
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tiltbillings
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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi on War and Thanissaro's rebuttal

Post by tiltbillings »

Reductor wrote:My

My point is that Buddhist shouldn't call violence 'morally commendable',
Just to be clear here: I am not calling violence morally commendable, but it may be necessary.
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723
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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi on War and Thanissaro's rebuttal

Post by Reductor »

tiltbillings wrote:
Reductor wrote:My

My point is that Buddhist shouldn't call violence 'morally commendable',
Just to be clear here: I am not calling violence morally commendable, but it may be necessary.
I didn't think you did, but B. Bodhi (hesitantly) adopted that view in the snippet David provided above. I don't blame a lay person when he or she adopts the view that we occasionally must choose the less of two evils. I prickle when a highly influential monk labels that choice 'commendable', and that's what I react to.
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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi on War and Thanissaro's rebuttal

Post by Spiny Norman »

It's a very difficult question. Many years ago I served in an Army reserve unit and our role was primarily home defence. The idea of protecting the civilian population from a potential aggressor seemed worthwhile at the time, leaving aside the political ambiguities around the definition of "aggressor".
Fortunately I can't imagine a scenario now where I'd have to "go to the rifle", but I have sympathy for anyone who might find themselves in that position, Buddhist or otherwise.
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Digity
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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi on War and Thanissaro's rebuttal

Post by Digity »

tiltbillings wrote:
Digity wrote:As soon as you justify killing you're no longer a Buddhist in my opinion. Sometimes you need to take a firm stance on some things. The Buddha wasn't interested in running governments and polices. Again, killing is part of the "wordly way" and the Buddha had no interest in that. He was interested in liberating people and he gave them a set of standards to live up to and one of them was never to kill. The Dhamma is a set of instructions for liberation...it's not a set of instructions for running a government or military. Of course these other agencies will justify killing...but the military or government or whatever is far removed from the Dhamma.
So, we just let the baddies have their way.
I think you're missing my point. The "worldly way" wouldn't allow that. It believes in tit-for-tat...you kill one of ours then we're coming after you! The "worldy way" is to stock up on weaponry, develop devastating bombs and find new ways to kill and destroy enemies. This will never change, even if Buddhist think killing is wrong, those who follow the Buddhist path are a small minority. Their influence on the world is small. However, the goal of a Buddhist isn't to change the world. It isn't to try and end war and create world peace. That won't happen, since people are victims of the defilements so they'll continue to engage in battle with each other.

The goal of the path is to liberate those who have little dust in their eyes and free them from samsara. That's a rather small group of people in the grand scheme of things. The vast majority of people fall outside of this group and they continue to be ruled by the defilements. Those who follow the path are dedicated to ridding themselves of the defilements and part of that process involves not killing under any circumstance.
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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi on War and Thanissaro's rebuttal

Post by Digity »

mikenz66 wrote:
Digity wrote:The Buddha wasn't interested in running governments and polices.
True, but he was certainly interested in stable societies, and gave a lot of advice to kings and others.
Show me one place where the Buddha advises a king or anyone else to kill for the sake of stability. Even though the Buddha provided advice to these people it was always inline with the Dhamma.
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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi on War and Thanissaro's rebuttal

Post by Modus.Ponens »

tiltbillings wrote:
Modus.Ponens wrote:
Either you can try to reduce the suffering of the humans on your side, by killing the pawns of the tyrant that is attacking your side _ and thus causing the suffering. Or you can just walk away, knowing that this world is, unfortunately, a lot harder to change than with a World War. And that the dhamma is the best way to change the world in a small scale intervention.
And so we do not fight a war and the very naughty people have a very easy time of doing what they want.
I don't consider it my duty to kill anyone, for any reason.

There are a lot of ways we can help in such times: being a paramedic/nurse/doctor/pharmacist in the battlefield, or near it. Doing volunteer work to help soldiers recover, when they return from the frontline. Helping other citizens that may be affected by food shortage. Etc., etc., etc.

Most people would agree that these would be positive interventions in a war. Ultimately they may be pointless from the point of view of someone who wants to attain nibbana. But if a buddhist feels moraly obliged to intervene in a war, these would be preferable to take a gun and start shooting the "enemy".

I've never been to a war and I don't have children, so I may be simplifying what is tremendously complex. Nevertheless, I think this is the buddhist way.
"He turns his mind away from those phenomena and, having done so, inclines his mind to the property of deathlessness: 'This is peace, this is exquisite — the resolution of all fabrications; the relinquishment of all acquisitions; the ending of craving; dispassion; cessation; Unbinding.' " - Jhana Sutta
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waterchan
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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi on War and Thanissaro's rebuttal

Post by waterchan »

Has anyone in the thread mentioned the midway possibility of, you know, shooting to disable rather than kill?
quidquid Latine dictum sit altum videtur
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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi on War and Thanissaro's rebuttal

Post by Spiny Norman »

waterchan wrote:Has anyone in the thread mentioned the midway possibility of, you know, shooting to disable rather than kill?
Unfortunately I don't think that's a realistic option, particularly in the chaos of a shooting war, and generally people in the services are trained to aim at the torso anyway.

While in the Army reserve I spent a lot of time as a machine gunner, where obviously such subtleties are irrelevant and impracticable.
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Alex123
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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi on War and Thanissaro's rebuttal

Post by Alex123 »

waterchan wrote:Has anyone in the thread mentioned the midway possibility of, you know, shooting to disable rather than kill?
Or doing good kamma so that one will hopefully avoid being in a situation where one is killed or hurt.
"Life is a struggle. Life will throw curveballs at you, it will humble you, it will attempt to break you down. And just when you think things are starting to look up, life will smack you back down with ruthless indifference..."
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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi on War and Thanissaro's rebuttal

Post by Spiny Norman »

Alex123 wrote: Or doing good kamma so that one will hopefully avoid being in a situation where one is killed or hurt.
Sadly it seems that there are parts of the world where just being present is likely to get one killed or hurt.
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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi on War and Thanissaro's rebuttal

Post by martinfrank »

For me the Bhikkhu Bodhi vs. Bhikkhu Thanissaro discussion is about "how real is this world?"

When we meditate we can see this world as an emanation of the other world, or the other world as an emanation of this world. It is a butterfly-like picture where one wing is this world and the other wing is the other world dependent on each other. If there would be no this world, there would be nobody meditating. If there would be no other world, meditation would be mere brain gymnastics.

Lord Buddha taught the Middle Way, which means to avoid causing suffering in this world and in the other world. I believe it is best for us to follow Lord Buddha's Teaching even when we don't have the meditative insight to understand fully.
The Noble Eightfold Path: Proposed to all, imposed on none.
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mikenz66
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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi on War and Thanissaro's rebuttal

Post by mikenz66 »

Digity wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:
Digity wrote:The Buddha wasn't interested in running governments and polices.
True, but he was certainly interested in stable societies, and gave a lot of advice to kings and others.
Show me one place where the Buddha advises a king or anyone else to kill for the sake of stability. Even though the Buddha provided advice to these people it was always inline with the Dhamma.
I didn't say he that. I said he was interested in having stable societies. The monasticism he prescribed requires a reasonably stable society to provide support.

:anjali:
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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi on War and Thanissaro's rebuttal

Post by Zom »

While discussing this dilemma buddhists often forget a wider persective:

1). If someone is to be killed, and you are going to save him, are you sure his present life threat is not his kammic fruit? If so, you don't save anyone. You just postpone the inevitable (which will happen in the next life for example).

2). There are always places in the world where there is no war or conflict zones, where local community of people live in harmony, peacefully. Why don't go there when confict begins? Probably - craving and attachment is the answer here. So we start to kill and injure generally because of our greedy mind. We consider our relatives, our home, our possessions, our land, our own country as "This is Mine". And then we take a gun and go to "defend" it. Thus we justify our delusion, we think that what we do is "right" - while actually it is completely wrong.

So in reality if a bad case happens and you are going to kill the attacker or injure him, you should just understand as it really is -- "At the present moment I'm acting on account of delusion, craving, and hatred, and I so I'm about to accumulate bad kamma right away". The choice is always yours, of course, and of course, it will always be affected by the level of your defilements in every circumstance.

Can you imagine Buddha or an arahant take a gun and "compassionately kill / injure" attacker? I don't. Do we consider buddhas and arahants to be ideal beings whose conduct is absolutely correct and never incorrect? It seems to me we do. So, is there really a dilemma here? I think, no.
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