Bhikkhu Bodhi on War and Thanissaro's rebuttal

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism

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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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi on War and Thanissaro's rebuttal

Post by DNS »

Zom wrote: 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).
Calls for speculation. Using that logic we shouldn't have any hospitals or doctors; anyone gets sick, tough luck, it's their kamma.
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?
Not everyone has that luxury. It takes money, resources, jobs, career, school changes to move.
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.
Not necessarily. If a person walks into a room and sees 2 men ripping apart people limb by limb, he can turn around and walk away as if he didn't see anything. Or out of compassion he could try to stop the men from injuring or killing any others (if he has the means to stop them and assuming there is not time to call police or others to help out). Turning away would be the easy way out and not involving yourself in the incident. Helping out and putting your own life at risk while doing so would be out of great compassion for those being killed.

I am not in any way advocating vigilantism just presenting a hypothetical use of force for compassion not based on delusion, craving, or hatred.
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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi on War and Thanissaro's rebuttal

Post by Mr Man »

David N. Snyder wrote:
I am not in any way advocating vigilantism just presenting a hypothetical use of force for compassion not based on delusion, craving, or hatred.
And once one has created the hypothetical justification for the use of force what next? Why would we want to create a hypothetical justification? Shouldn't we rather work on peaceful solutions for imaginary dilemmas? Or not even create imaginary dilemmas.
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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi on War and Thanissaro's rebuttal

Post by Alex123 »

David N. Snyder wrote: Calls for speculation. Using that logic we shouldn't have any hospitals or doctors; anyone gets sick, tough luck, it's their kamma.
Healing person is good kamma for the healer. Not so about killing.
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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi on War and Thanissaro's rebuttal

Post by DNS »

Mr Man wrote: And once one has created the hypothetical justification for the use of force what next? Why would we want to create a hypothetical justification? Shouldn't we rather work on peaceful solutions for imaginary dilemmas? Or not even create imaginary dilemmas.
Of course peaceful situations are preferred, but sometimes peaceful solutions are not available for example in the middle of an already violent incident. Of course, we should continue to look for the best and most peaceful solution. In the example I provided, one can walk away and ignore the victims and let them die or one can take action to prevent the killing or injury to any further people. In both cases, the one leaving and the one attempting to stop the killers, they are both acting out of a preference for peace. In the latter, the person puts his own life on the line to try and save others but I am not necessarily saying he is better since the former may not have the means or ability to even attempt saving the victims.
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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi on War and Thanissaro's rebuttal

Post by Mr Man »

David N. Snyder wrote:
Of course peaceful situations are preferred, but sometimes peaceful solutions are not available for example in the middle of an already violent incident.
These are hypothetical situations that you are creating but the message seems to be we should be ready to commit acts of violence. Perhaps we should even arm ourselves because of the possible potential for the need to use violence in an efficient way? Perhaps that is our duty?
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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi on War and Thanissaro's rebuttal

Post by cooran »

It appears that a minimal amount of physical violence is allowable to monks. I'm not sure if this has already been quoted in this thread, but here is what the Vinaya says - thanks to David for posting this in a previous thread on Self-defence:

http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... 37#p119835

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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi on War and Thanissaro's rebuttal

Post by Mr Man »

cooran wrote:It appears that a minimal amount of physical violence is allowable to monks.
Or should that be phrased that it is not an offense.
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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi on War and Thanissaro's rebuttal

Post by culaavuso »

cooran wrote:It appears that a minimal amount of physical violence is allowable to monks. I'm not sure if this has already been quoted in this thread, but here is what the Vinaya says - thanks to David for posting this in a previous thread on Self-defence:

http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... 37#p119835
The rule discussed in that post is pācittiya 74, which states it is an offense for a monk to give a blow but does have some allowances for cases where the act is not considered an offense. It is also worth noting when investigating rules discussing violence that pārājika 3 prohibits killing humans. Notably pācittiya 74 seems to mention an allowance in cases of self defense unlike the significantly more strict pārājika 3 which prohibits even direct verbal requests resulting in the action. The intention to kill appears to be a key factor in deciding which rule should be consulted.
Bhikkhu Vibhaṅga: Pārājika 3 wrote: If a monk intentionally kills a human being or searches for someone to kill him or praises death or incites someone to die, saying, ‘Good man, what use to you is this wretched, difficult life? Death is better for you than life.’ If, thinking and intending thus, he praises death in various ways or incites someone to die, he too is expelled and not in communion.
The non-offense clause for pācittiya 74 does appear to allow a blow desiring freedom
Bhikkhu Vibhaṅga: Pācittiya 74 wrote: There is no offence if, being in some difficulty, he gives a blow desiring freedom; if he is mad, if he is the first wrong-doer.
The non-offense clause in pārājika 3 does not include this exception
Bhikkhu Vibhaṅga: Pārājika 3 wrote: There is no offence if it was unintentional, for one not knowing, for one not aiming at death, for one who is insane, for the first offender.
Some of the examples of pārājika 3 even appear to include cases where the intention was to reduce suffering
Bhikkhu Vibhaṅga: Pārājika 3 wrote: At one time a certain monk went to the place of execution and said to the executioner: “Friend, do not keep him in misery. Kill him with a single blow.” “All right, bhante,” he said, and he killed him with a single blow. He became anxious. “You, monk, have fallen into an offence entailing expulsion.”
It's also interesting to note that the vagueness in Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi's article may be related to the Vinaya. Specifically stating that it would be morally commendable to kill a specific person alive in the modern world would appear to be be considered differently from discussing the ideas in more general terms.
[url=http://www.dhammatalks.org/Archive/Writings/BMC_v140110.pdf]Buddhist Monastic Code[/url] (p. 106) by Ven. Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu wrote: INDIRECT STATEMENTS. The canon and Commentary differ as to whether indirect statements that are not imperatives would also qualify as commands or recommendations under this rule. The Commentary maintains that a bhikkhu cannot get around a penalty by phrasing his wish for murder in more roundabout ways, and gives an example in which a bhikkhu tells people, "In such-and-such a place a bandit is staying. Whoever cuts off his head will receive great honor from the King." If any of the bhikkhu's listeners kills the bandit as a result of his instigation, the Commentary says, the bhikkhu incurs a pārājika.
Examples of commands and recommendations in the Canon, however, are all expressed as imperatives: "Do this!" "If you want him to die, do this." The only examples of indirect statements are those in which a bhikkhu expresses a wish, "O, if only so-and-so were murdered." According to the Vibhaṅga, this statement incurs a dukkaṭa regardless of whether it is made in public or private, and regardless of whether one knows that anyone else is overhearing it or not. There is no discussion, however, of what one's intention might be in making the statement, nor of the consequences for the speaker if anyone, inspired by his remark, actually kills the person in question. This implies that the authors of the Vibhaṅga did not regard statements of this sort as fulfilling the factor of effort under this rule. This may seem unduly lenient, but given that a bhikkhu whose express command to kill is followed but not to the letter would also incur only a thullaccaya, this judgement seems consistent with the Vibhaṅga's pattern of assigning penalties.
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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi on War and Thanissaro's rebuttal

Post by thepea »

mikenz66 wrote:
phil wrote: But the Dhamma is the Dhamma, it can't be changed to fit with modern values.
Sure, but working out how to apply the Dhamma in real life situations is by no means trivial.
Hi Mike,
Are you suggesting that learning to apply the teachings is done by contemplation of hypothetical situations?
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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi on War and Thanissaro's rebuttal

Post by DNS »

Mr Man wrote: These are hypothetical situations that you are creating
thepea wrote: Are you suggesting that learning to apply the teachings is done by contemplation of hypothetical situations?
Sometimes it is better to refer to some of these things in a hypothetical rather than taking a look at every specific political event, but there are similar things that do happen; including border skirmishes, wars, hostage situations, madmen like Hitler and Pol Pot, Rwanda was not that long ago, etc. Just saying that these are only hypotheticals as if it could never happen is not helpful and is not much of an opinion. Again, it must be pointed out that no one here, including Bhikkhu Bodhi in his article is in any way justifying or condoning current U.S. military operations in Afghanistan or Iraq or the hypermilitarized use of force by some police departments / officers.

Bhikkhu Bodhi mentioned the occasion when there is a clear indication of a madman that could be stopped when it is clear that he is killing innocent people and engaging in genocide and when it is very clear that stopping him would prevent the loss of thousands perhaps millions of lives.
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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi on War and Thanissaro's rebuttal

Post by Bhikkhu Pesala »

Hmm! It seems that fundamentalism is alive and well, and gaining over tolerance and reason.

The fundamentalists should read the Buddha's teaching a bit more, as Bhikkhu Bodhi has done extensively.

Mahākammavibhanga Sutta (Ñanamoli Thera's Translation)
Mahakammavibhanga Sutta wrote:"When he says thus: 'It seems that one who kills living beings... has wrong view, will always, on the dissolution of the body, after death, reappear in the states of deprivation, in an unhappy destination, in perdition, in hell,' I do not concede that to him.
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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi on War and Thanissaro's rebuttal

Post by Phena »

Anagarika wrote:
Mkoll wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:That is one bhikkhu being really nasty towards another.
I agree. Ven. Thanissaro's presentation leaves a lot to be desired.
There may be a backstory here. I've not come across any sources that have had both Ven. Thanissaro and Ven. Bodhi jointly discussing an issue, or serving together on a panel. I've met Ven. Thanissaro, and while he can be warm and humorous, he reminds me of a brilliant and strict professor I had at university that taught with a bit of intimidation. If you raised your hand to offer a response to a question, you'd better be ready to get your head cut off, in an academic sense. I learned a lot in that course, and the requirements were so tough that we dared not disappoint. I remember that prof with fondness and gratitude, because he challenged me to learn, and he expected no less than mastery of the course. At the same time, I had another prof that was brilliant and kind, and who entertained with equanimity even stupid questions from students ( I offered a few of these). I view Bhikkhu Bodhi this way..he seems to teach from a warmer and more flexible center. When the issue of Bhikkhuni ordination arose after Ajahn Brahm's brave effort, Ven. Thanissaro wrote almost a legal brief arguing the fatal defects in the ordinations. Bhikkhu Bodhi took the opposite view, and concluded his response with a request that when issues like this arise that reasonable men and women can disagree upon, we should always take the most compassionate view. This video gives a sense of the perspective that Bhikkhu Bodhi is coming from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7miNzN5n3-s

Is the Ven. Thanissaro response nasty? I don't think so....these two scholar giants approach the EBTs and Dhamma with great precision and authority, and perhaps communicate their perspectives in different ways. One serious and sometimes uncompromising, the other more open and affable. I cannot imagine having to navigate the thicket of the Dhamma without both of these great men, and perhaps sharing a stage, like Olivier and Brando, is just not in the kamma.
Excellent post Anagarika. This pretty much sums up my position too. I have a great deal of respect for both Venerables, and consequently won't be drawn into a polarisation over this matter, most notably by not adding my vote, which essentially tries to pigeon-hole an issue which is far more nuanced.
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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi on War and Thanissaro's rebuttal

Post by Reductor »

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:Hmm! It seems that fundamentalism is alive and well, and gaining over tolerance and reason.

The fundamentalists should read the Buddha's teaching a bit more, as Bhikkhu Bodhi has done extensively.

Mahākammavibhanga Sutta (Ñanamoli Thera's Translation)
Mahakammavibhanga Sutta wrote:"When he says thus: 'It seems that one who kills living beings... has wrong view, will always, on the dissolution of the body, after death, reappear in the states of deprivation, in an unhappy destination, in perdition, in hell,' I do not concede that to him.
So far the poll is a dead heat, Bhante.

Now, would I do violence if I thought it could reduce suffering more than compound it? Yes. Would I say that violence is moral from the view of dhamma? No. Would the Buddha be wiser and more sensible than me? Without a doubt. Would I accept the negative kammic results of my action? What choice would I have?
15. (i) "Now, Ananda, there is the person who has killed living beings here... has had wrong view. And on the dissolution of the body, after death, he reappears in the states of deprivation, in an unhappy destination, in perdition, in hell.[7] But (perhaps) the evil kamma producing his suffering was done by him earlier, or the evil kamma producing his suffering was done by him later, or wrong view was undertaken and completed by him at the time of his death.[8] And that was why, on the dissolution of the body, after death, he reappeared in the states of deprivation, in an unhappy destination, in perdition, in hell. But since he has killed living beings here... has had wrong view, he will feel the result of that here and now, or in his next rebirth, or in some subsequent existence.
Will a person who kills always be reborn in a bad plane come the next round? Clearly not, as the passage above states. Will kamma always ripen for those not yet released? Yes. Can the kamma of killing ever have pure, sweet, unblemished fruit? Not from anything I've read in the suttas. Is it necessary for humans to kill humans in defense of other humans? Clearly.

Why all the questions? Why not? :lol:

Generally, the view that we should step in and kill in defense of others is the common view - there isn't much work to be done in getting agreement from people. It's the other perspective, the sober second thought, the line-in-the-sand view of action that is seldom put forward for serious consideration (at least, it is seldom put forward by any but 'fundamentalist' Buddhists - a nice moniker for those of opposing view, btw - lets us know who the wrong headed folks are right away).
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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi on War and Thanissaro's rebuttal

Post by Spiny Norman »

Reductor wrote:.. the line-in-the-sand view of action that is seldom put forward for serious consideration...
Could you say what you mean by the line-in-the-sand view? And what happens when that line is crossed?
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Re: Bhikkhu Bodhi on War and Thanissaro's rebuttal

Post by Reductor »

Spiny Norman wrote:
Reductor wrote:.. the line-in-the-sand view of action that is seldom put forward for serious consideration...
Could you say what you mean by the line-in-the-sand view? And what happens when that line is crossed?
The line-in-the-sand view is that killing as an option shouldn't be entertained by Buddhists (which is only an ideal for those with defilement remaining, of course).

"Past this line I will not cross, I will not kill, not for anything." Even if most of us decide not to take that stance, it should be brought forward and reflected on. If we decide that there is no line for us, we should do so consciously, having given great thought to the consequences of holding to it, and of not holding to it.

What is the consequence of crossing such a line? In all cases there are kammic results, and when the person crossing the line has poor discernment, there is a compounding of suffering rather than an amelioration of it.
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