Violence and self-defense

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  • ZenHarmony
    Member
    • Feb 2012
    • 315

    Violence and self-defense

    I read recently that Buddha said that under no circumstances are we to use violence against another, not even in self-defense. Are we classifying violence as harm-done-in-anger? And if so, is there any martial arts tradition that you can use as self-defense that does not involve anger and therefore, would be acceptable? If not, am I to resign myself to death if attacked?

    Gassho,
    Lisa
  • Heisoku
    Member
    • Jun 2010
    • 1338

    #2
    Hi Lisa... many members including Jundo's wife practice Aikido which is about repelling an attack by harmonising with the attacker to subdue the attack... it's what attracted me to it...aikido also is great for thinking about non-thinking since if you think things tend to go a bit wrong!!! I know!!! Anyway have a look at a local club, Ki based clubs practice a softer version and it's a great practice! Gassho.
    Last edited by Heisoku; 06-23-2012, 10:19 AM. Reason: spelling!!
    Heisoku 平 息
    Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home. (Basho)

    Comment

    • Jundo
      Treeleaf Founder and Priest
      • Apr 2006
      • 39474

      #3
      Hi Lisa,

      The subject of self-defense comes up from time to time ... for example, in this good thread ...

      In the thread "A question on anger" Jundo said the following, which I have been thinking about for a while (and I don't want to hijack Christopher's thread, so I'm starting a new one). I find this fascinating. Do you, Jundo, know if these teachers actually saw taking lives as a path or a goal (which it could be


      and here (a thread featuring Fuken, our Buddhist Marine on active duty) ...

      With all of this talk about how it is wrong to use violence, what about the use of violence in a self-defense situation? As a Buddhist, I would never want to inflict harm on another being but if someone was attacking me with lethal force or with the intention of raping me, I would do what ever it would take to get myself out of


      ... and each year in our preparations for Jukai, as we consider the Precept on Preserving Life ...




      In a nutshell, the Suttas and Sutras offered many opinions on these questions (having been written, of course, by men of many opinions), and modern teachers are of many minds of this. From the above linked thread ...

      Originally posted by anista
      I find this fascinating. Do you, Jundo, know if these teachers actually saw taking lives as a path or a goal (which it could be considered to be if you take lives in order to prevent a greater loss of life)? I have a hard time imagining support for this stance in any buddhist school (but I could be wrong!).
      From the opinions of Buddhist teachers from various traditions which I have read, I would say that almost all who saw the need for some response involving the taking of life saw it as a "necessary evil" ... not as a path or goal in any positive sense. Sometimes we must break a Precept to keep a Precept. And given modern warfare, most of the teachers were aware that this might include the unavoidable taking of civilian and other "non-combatant" lives in order to save a much greater number of lives.

      I believe that the following responses, some by the Dalai Lama, are representative of the diversity of opinion.

      http://www.tricycle.com/p/1487 (the comments which follow are also very interesting)



      Thich Nhat Hanh may have been most representative of the "any violent response only leads to increased violence" opinion ...



      The Buddha also seems to have been of two minds on this. On the one hand, there are some writings in which he is framed to say that killing is never skillful.



      On the other hand, in other Sutta he did seem to countenance a nation having an army for certain limited purposes, and its discreet use.

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      Almost all the Buddhist teachers I can think of (including me too, for what it is worth) would say that we must also bear all the Karmic consequences of our volitional words, thoughts and acts, no matter whether we had a "reason" for killing or not.

      You may kill the cat, but you still likely have to pay the price in some way.

      A Tibetan teacher (Chagdud Tulku) relates this famous Jataka legend about a previous incarnation of the Buddha ...

      (In a previous life, the Buddha was Captain Compassionate Heart, sailing with 500 merchants. An evil pirate, Dung Thungchen (Blackspear) appeared, threatening to kill them all. )The captain, a bodhisattva himself, saw the [pirate]'s murderous intention and realized this crime would result in eons of torment for the murderer. In his compassion, the captain was willing to take hellish torment upon himself by killing the man to prevent karmic suffering that would be infinity greater than the suffering of the murdered victims. The captain's compassion was impartial; his motivation was utterly selfless.
      I am not sure about the effect of our Karma in lives to come ... but I do know that we likely will bear the effects of our actions in this life in some way. I have a friend, an ex-policeman, who had to kill someone in a perfectly necessary and justified act to save lives. Yet, my friend still carries that with him to this day.

      No, taking lives is never a "good" thing.
      It is important to remember too that Buddhists do not generally believe in "bad people", only in "people who do bad things" because they themselves are victims of greed, anger and ignorance within. The real evil doer is "greed anger and ignorance".

      Even if one is required to act in self-defense ... of one's own life, the life of another, or to protect society as in the case of a policeman or soldier ... one should best not feel anger even if forced to use force, one should nurture peace as much as one can, avoiding violence as much as one can, using violence as little as one can even when needed.

      Yes, most all flavors of Buddhism teach that, even should one be forced to break a Precept in a big or small way, one should bear the Karmic weight, reflect on having had to do so, seek as one can not to do so in the future.

      The case I usually mention is that friend of mine, a Buddhist policeman, who had to kill someone in the line of duty in order to save an innocent person held hostage. It was a perfectly justified, necessary shooting. However, from that day he always felt a kind of mental scar, a heavy weight ... even though he knew he had to do the right thing. He always felt the need to bring peace into the world in some measure to make up for what he had had to do.

      Gassho, Jundo
      Last edited by Jundo; 06-23-2012, 08:37 AM.
      ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

      Comment

      • Ekai
        Member
        • Feb 2011
        • 664

        #4
        Over my dead body will I allow anyone to rape, assault, or kill me!!! No man has the right to use his control and power over me and never will. I would do whatever it takes to get me and my kids to safety if we are in a dangerous situation. If I end up using my martial arts skills, hopefully I'll be able to use the least amount of force to get away safely.

        In my martial arts school, we are taught numerous methods to prevent attacks, fight only in self-defense and use the equal amount of force our attacker is giving us. If someone comes up to you holding a knife and demands your wallet, just give them your wallet and run. Don't attack unless they attack you. If they attack you, use the self-defense necessary to get away.

        Martial artists learn to use enough force to get the attacker down on the ground so you can get the heck out of there. Now for a woman defending herself against a larger and stronger man, we need to hurt them bad enough to give us time to get away. If we don't, they might get angry and attack us more. Or they can out run us and attack us again. There are many self-defense techniques available ranging from a lethal defense to the throat or to an arm-bar submission. But in real-life, there are only seconds to respond. There's no time to think, "Well I am a Buddhist and if I use this or this technique, it will cause the least bit of harm." Women need to be fierce and ferocious in self-defense and it may involve hurting the attacker. Or you might scare them enough to the point where they run away.

        I believe we can still be Buddhists with the right and ability to protect ourselves. It is important to be here in life for our family and to help all sentient beings.

        Gassho,
        Ekai

        Comment

        • Gary
          Member
          • Nov 2010
          • 251

          #5
          Hi Lisa,

          I'm no expert on martial art traditions, but in my experience I would suggest most would promote calmness and clarity of mind when defending yourself, to be angry would put you at a disadvantage.

          Gassho
          Gary
          Drinking tea and eating rice.

          Comment

          • Khalil Bodhi
            Member
            • Apr 2012
            • 317

            #6
            And here is another take on violence found in the suttas:

            "Monks, even if bandits were to carve you up savagely, limb by limb, with a two-handled saw, he among you who let his heart get angered even at that would not be doing my bidding. Even then you should train yourselves: 'Our minds will be unaffected and we will say no evil words. We will remain sympathetic, with a mind of good will, and with no inner hate. We will keep pervading these people with an awareness imbued with good will and, beginning with them, we will keep pervading the all-encompassing world with an awareness imbued with good will — abundant, expansive, immeasurable, free from hostility, free from ill will.' That's how you should train yourselves.
            It's a pretty high standard but ennobling nonetheless. May this be of benefit!

            Gassho,

            __/\__Mike

            Source: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipit...021x.than.html
            Last edited by Khalil Bodhi; 06-23-2012, 01:08 PM. Reason: Formatting
            To avoid all evil, to cultivate good, and to cleanse one's mind — this is the teaching of the Buddhas.
            -Dhp. 183
            My Practice Blog

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            • Khalil Bodhi
              Member
              • Apr 2012
              • 317

              #7
              Let me add that I think that defending oneself is not at variance with the above. There's story about Sharon Salzberg being attacked by a man in a back alley and Munindra-ji telling her she should have whacked him with her umbrella with a heart full of loving-kindness (I'm badly paraphrasing so forgive me). Mettaya.
              To avoid all evil, to cultivate good, and to cleanse one's mind — this is the teaching of the Buddhas.
              -Dhp. 183
              My Practice Blog

              Comment

              • Mp

                #8
                Hello Lisa,

                Thanks for the question ... it is an interesting topic. I too practice Aikikai Aikido and from my experience, (as I practice with two teachers with two different forms) it comes down to your own intentions. The one teacher I have is a pre-war (more aiki-jujutsu) Aikidoka and the other is a post-war Aikidoka. The pre-war is very much a "Marshall" form based on the sword (we use the bokan or wooden sword) and intended to kill. Where the post-war form is more "Big & Flowing" and based on the Jo (long staff).

                Like Heisoku said "aikido also is great for thinking about non-thinking ...".
                I enjoy the flowing Aikido as it teaches me to be humble and respectful of my uke (partner). Without my partner I am not able to practice, so I always have their health and best interests at heart.

                I hope these ramblings help you out Lisa ...

                P.S. I feel that practicing a Martial Art is to help us prevent or de-escalate violence through our own state of mind.
                Last edited by Guest; 06-23-2012, 02:17 PM. Reason: added additional thoughts

                Comment

                • tedmac
                  Member
                  • Jun 2010
                  • 89

                  #9
                  Is it just me or are there a disproportionate number of Aikidoka here vs. on the average city bus? Anyhow, I, too, practice Aikido (for the past 23 years). I'll go out on a limb here and say that violence in self-defense is rarely if ever justified: with the caveat that our definition of "violence" needs to be adaptable. If I were attacked physically and responded using my martial arts training, the result might not be what I would call violent even if my attacker ended up on the ground with some bumps and bruises.

                  I blogged on the issue of violence and anti-violence a couple of years back when the monks and nuns of the Bat Nha monastery in Vietnam were being evicted (http://sandworms.org/?p=35); I won't quote myself here, but I will say that we shouldn't (I think) become too comfortable with our definitions of what constitutes violence, or coersion, or self-defense. As soon as we do, we begin to think that our definitions have some independent existence and a whole world of you and me, right and wrong emerges.

                  Comment

                  • Ekai
                    Member
                    • Feb 2011
                    • 664

                    #10
                    Originally posted by Gary
                    Hi Lisa,

                    I'm no expert on martial art traditions, but in my experience I would suggest most would promote calmness and clarity of mind when defending yourself, to be angry would put you at a disadvantage.

                    Gassho
                    Gary
                    Yes, I agree Gary. It is important to stay relaxed. Being tense inhibits your ability to respond quickly and effectively. A calm mind with awareness helps to react wisely.

                    Gassho,
                    Ekai

                    Comment

                    • Jiken
                      Member
                      • Jan 2011
                      • 753

                      #11
                      Are there any martial arts systems that do involve anger. Anger is a personal choice, a personal responsibility that we must take credit for... in my opinion.

                      Comment

                      • ZenHarmony
                        Member
                        • Feb 2012
                        • 315

                        #12
                        Thank you everyone for your responses; I am reassured. I will read up on those threads, Jundo, and your post, Tedmac.

                        In my personal experience, the two times I was attacked as an adult, I responded in anger in one case (with my mother) and just took it in the second (with my daughter who stands almost 6') with absolutely no anger... which leads me to think that the level of compassion felt for the person would be the deciding factor. I would like to cultivate the latter attitude and not the former, so to me that means developing compassion for all, even someone whose intent is to kill me.

                        If I ever get to a town big enough to offer Aikido, I will certainly start taking lessons, just in case.

                        Gassho,

                        Lisa

                        Comment

                        • ZenHarmony
                          Member
                          • Feb 2012
                          • 315

                          #13
                          And yes, Daido, I mis-spoke when implying that most martial arts involve anger. Having never participated in the practices, that was simply a layman's perception. My apologies.

                          Gassho,

                          Lisa

                          Comment

                          • Ekai
                            Member
                            • Feb 2011
                            • 664

                            #14
                            I have not heard of any systems that involve anger and if they do, it's not a martial art in my opinion. If anything, martial arts teaches us to let go of our anger and be respectful to others. Learning martial arts cultivates our compassion for others in the world.

                            Gassho,
                            Ekai

                            Comment

                            • Nengyo
                              Member
                              • May 2012
                              • 668

                              #15
                              This is an excellent thread with some excellent links, especially for those of us who are still in the military. For the record, I used to study Japanese jujitsu and it also stressed non-anger and controlling your opponent versus pummeling him (if possible of course.)
                              If I'm already enlightened why the hell is this so hard?

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