Perspectives on Non-Violence

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  • Jakugan
    Member
    • Jan 2013
    • 303

    Perspectives on Non-Violence

    I was wondering what perspectives other people had on the Buddhist concept of Non-Violence (ie: how they apply the idea to different circumstances)?
    For example, does this equate to pacifism in times or war (eg: in cases of self defence or prevention of genocide)?
    I can think of other examples where a 'violent act' may be the more compassionate one (eg: putting a suffering animal to sleep).

    Relating the idea into the context of my own life, I practice a somewhat hands on and physical martial art (Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu) that some people may look on as violent. Analysing my own reasons for taking the sport up, it would seem that intention (in terms of Non-Violence) is just as important as the act itself. There are some people who seem to come with the determination to submit people no matter what the cost (ie: violent intention), whilst there are others who attend with the idea of helping themselves and others improve.
    What do other people think?

    Gassho,

    Simon.
  • Juki
    Member
    • Dec 2012
    • 771

    #2
    I do not believe that pacifism and self defense are mutually exclusive. My felling, and it just MY feeling, is that one should practice ahimsa (non-harm) to both self and others. To harm another is to harm yourself. To harm yourself is to harm others, by rendering you incapable of being able to fulfill the vow of saving all sentient beings. To allow yourself to be physically harmed is the same thing. Hence, pacifism as a primary course with the ingrained idea that you must always be available to help others (and may therefore be called upon to defend yourself from physical harm). Gassho, William
    "First you have to give up." Tyler Durden

    Comment

    • Jundo
      Treeleaf Founder and Priest
      • Apr 2006
      • 39075

      #3
      Hi,

      The subject of self-defense comes up from time to time ... especially each year in our preparations for Jukai (Undertaking the Precepts Ceremony), as we reflect on 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.

      Here is something I posted once ...



      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.

      Explore the vast world of business tech. Stay informed and inspired as we delve into industry trends, innovation, and strategies for success in the digital era.




      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 (married to Mina, a 3rd Dan Blackbelt in Aikido)
      Last edited by Jundo; 04-05-2013, 04:12 PM.
      ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

      Comment

      • Jundo
        Treeleaf Founder and Priest
        • Apr 2006
        • 39075

        #4
        By the way, I always speak honestly about this ...

        It is my conviction (almost happened once, in fact... and having lived in drug and gun Miami much of my early life, it is not a mere hypothetical) that if I found an intruder in our house anywhere near my children or wife, I would hit him hard with a baseball bat, use a knife or any other weapon handy (I do not believe in guns in the house) ... hit him until I felt he was no longer a threat or until (if not sure) he stopped moving (when it comes to PCP and other drugs, that may take some effort) ... then chant for him after. I have no doubt.

        Although he may be a victim of greed, anger and ignorance ... I would not hesitate to stop an intruder including the use of deadly force if necessary.

        Having sat with this question each year as we reflect on the Precept on Preserving Life, I am comfortable with such an action under those circumstances, and I am willing the carry any Karma which may result.

        I don't think it good to play the saint "beyond" all such things, cause this world is ugly sometimes.

        Let us hope it never happens ... and that I am never forced to put this to the test.

        The Dalai Lama once famously said (speaking to a group of American school kids about what to do if an armed intruder were to come into the school) ...

        “If someone has a gun and is trying to kill you, it would be reasonable to shoot back with your own gun.”

        Rumor: The Dalai Lama said it 'would be reasonable to shoot back with your own gun.'


        Gassho, J
        Last edited by Jundo; 04-05-2013, 04:21 PM.
        ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

        Comment

        • Nengyo
          Member
          • May 2012
          • 668

          #5
          I would not hesitate to stop an intruder including the use of deadly force if necessary.
          Let us hope it never happens ... and that I am never forced to put this to the test.
          This is pretty much the point I've reached in life. I try to take all of the precautions and security measures I can, deescalate conflict, and act a reasonably as possible to avoid violence.

          I also don't consider the practice of martial arts inherently violent, especially akido, judo, jujitsu, and wrestling. It is the intent that makes all the difference here. I view training in them as a way to master life, as I doubt I will be engaged in many more grappling matches in my life.
          If I'm already enlightened why the hell is this so hard?

          Comment

          • MyoHo
            Member
            • Feb 2013
            • 632

            #6
            Hi guys,

            I like to comment on this:

            I think we never can fully oversee the consequences of violence? Sometimes, after knowing all facts and reasons for others to go on the path of violence, we can get to the point where we maybe gladly would lie down our lives to end the cycle. I'm a Bosnia Vet and it will always stay with me weather the violence I used, carrying out orders, caused more harm than good? What are the consequences of taking a life and for those around the person that got killed by our hand? Can we ever fully oversee all and make such a decision? No, so we can never take a life based on our own decisions. Not in war, not in self defense and even not in death punishment of a criminal. A human never has the right to end the life of another human, no matter the circumstances. There is always another way.
            I’d like to share something on this, that happened in my life.

            I was in a NATO IFOR squad doing night patrolling close to Sarajevo once. We were wired and jumpy because of reports and briefings about danger levels in the area etc. Every shadow was a potential danger and as the night went on all of us got into a certain state of mind. In the early morning, I remember the sun coming out over the mountains, we came to a few houses built close together. Not a town really but more a road crossing. A small child was playing war and took an aggressive attitude towards us. He was just playing, came out running from the shadows with something in its hand. He was going to throw that something at us. Our guys in point saw him coming, never hesitated and gunned the poor kid down. I was the medic in the squad at the time and tried all I could to save the kid but failed in the end. People came out running and I sat on my knees near the shot kid watching mother and father take the it into their arms and then just walk away. Just walked away without a word! The image never left me since then.

            Turns out later that what the kid had in his hand, was a CocaCola can, wrapped in silver paper. A self made grenade to play war with, like his hero daddy. It turned out a deadly grenade all right. So much for self-defense split-second decisions, made by humans. Like Forrest Gump once said: that’s all I have to say about this.

            Goes to show we cannot take back what we do, even if the reasons for doing it were the right ones.

            Gassho

            Enkyo
            Mu

            Comment

            • Jakugan
              Member
              • Jan 2013
              • 303

              #7
              Thanks for sharing guys.

              I think that if someone attacked me and my life was in danger, I would do what is necessary. I don't necessarily think that person's right to life should carry more weight over mine in such a situation if they are trying to kill me. I guess I would just have to deal with the consequences of what I have done.
              Having said that I think violence should be the very last solution and should rarely (if ever) be used because (as Enkyo said) we cannot take back what we do.

              Gassho,

              Simon
              Last edited by Jakugan; 04-06-2013, 02:03 PM. Reason: typo

              Comment

              • Jakudo
                Member
                • May 2009
                • 251

                #8
                I agree violence should be a last defence after all other venues have been exhausted, but sometimes situations arise that do not allow us the opportunity to explore other options, as seen in Enkyo's horrible situation above. If we keep a non violent intention, I guess that's the best we can do sometimes. I also believe if we try to keep a non violent intention in our lives we are less likely to develop the dis-ease of violence and fear, which can be easy to acquire with today's fear based media bombarding us daily. Just my 2 cents worth.
                Gassho, Jakudo
                Gassho, Shawn Jakudo Hinton
                It all begins when we say, “I”. Everything that follows is illusion.
                "Even to speak the word Buddha is dragging in the mud soaking wet; Even to say the word Zen is a total embarrassment."
                寂道

                Comment

                • RichardH
                  Member
                  • Nov 2011
                  • 2800

                  #9
                  I practice non-violence and physical gentleness, but will use force if necessary. Both my brother and I were trained to box by our father. He was a boxer and then a trainer and promoter in Britain back when it was very popular. All his brothers boxed, and we had to learn too. I was sluggish in the ring but had a hammer of a punch, my brother was very fast. I have taught my son to box... we use safety gear and have fun.

                  Here is an old film of my uncle Vic losing a fight. http://www.britishpathe.com/video/al...ery/vic+herman

                  Gassho
                  Last edited by RichardH; 04-07-2013, 07:54 AM.

                  Comment

                  • Jundo
                    Treeleaf Founder and Priest
                    • Apr 2006
                    • 39075

                    #10
                    An article on Buddhist non-violence (already largely quoted in the Snopes article I previously linked to) which may surprise some folks ...

                    --------------------------

                    It's not so strange for a Buddhist to endorse killing
                    The Dalai Lama's attitude to Bin Laden's death should not be too surprising – Buddhism is not as pacifist as the west fantasises

                    Stephen Jenkins
                    guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 11 May 2011


                    The Dalai Lama said Osama bin Laden deserved compassion but his killing was 'understandable'.

                    How could the Dalai Lama, who hesitates to harm mosquitoes, endorse killing Osama bin Laden? The terrorist deserved compassion, the Dalai Lama said, but "if something is serious … you have to take counter-measures". The apparent inconsistency here is with idealistic western fantasies of pacifist Buddhism, not with Buddhism itself. The power of those fantasies is so strong that it even affects Tibetans themselves. Some young refugees blame Buddhism for losing Tibet. Saying "we were warriors once," they invoke their history of empire and incorrectly think their ancestors did not resist Chinese invasion. Those fantasies also cause us to fail to appreciate how extraordinary the Dalai Lama is. We take his values as those of a typical Buddhist or a typical dalai lama, and he is neither.

                    Buddhists work out their values through stories of Buddha's past lives, which show him in myriad roles, such as a battle-elephant or minister defending his besieged city. The following story is analogous to a terrorist situation. It is known throughout northern Buddhism. Communists even used it to rouse Chinese Buddhists to fight in Korea. The Buddha, in a past life as a ship's captain named Super Compassionate, discovered a criminal on board who intended to kill the 500 passengers. If he told the passengers, they would panic and become killers themselves, as happened on a Southwest Airlines flight in 2000. With no other way out, he compassionately stabbed the criminal to death. Captain Compassionate saved the passengers not only from murder, but from becoming murderers themselves. Unlike him, they would have killed in rage and suffered hell. He saved the criminal from becoming a mass murderer and even worse suffering. He himself generated vast karmic merit by acting with compassion.

                    The story is double-edged. Killing protects others from the horrific karma of killing. At Harvard in April 2009, the Dalai Lama explained that "wrathful forceful action" motivated by compassion, may be "violence on a physical level" but is "essentially nonviolence". So we must be careful to understand what "nonviolence" means. Under the right conditions, it could include killing a terrorist.

                    People fail to appreciate how extraordinary the Dalai Lama's commitment to nonviolence is. After all, he is a Buddhist and the manifestation of Avalokiteśvara, the deity of compassion. But Buddhist values are not simply pacifist, and Buddhist scripture and legend inform us that Avalokiteśvara readily takes a warrior's form when needed and supports the warfare of righteous kings.

                    Buddhist cultures, including Tibet, have not historically been pacifist. The previous dalai lama strove to develop a modern military. So the current one's dedication to nonviolence should not be taken as a matter of course. He was influenced by Gandhi, a British-trained lawyer whose pacifism was rooted in Thoreau's Civil Disobedience. His nonviolent approach is exceptional for a Buddhist political leader and integrates Indian and western concepts of nonviolent struggle.

                    The exaggerated image of pacifism projected on Buddhism (and Hinduism) was embraced and promoted by natives, as it conveyed moral superiority over colonialist oppressors and missionaries. Getting the message fed back by natives reinforced the original misconceptions. But the ultimate source is Euro-Americans themselves, weary of a century of warfare and longing for a pacifist Shangri-La. Buddhist cultural values were never so simplistic and practically served rājas, khans, and daimyō for millennia. The main reason Buddhists' history does not match our expectations, aside from them being as human as the rest of us, is that our expectations have been mistaken. Some think that fantasies of a pacifist utopia benefit the Tibetan cause. It can also be argued that they encourage communists to contemptuously dismiss western support for Tibet and obstruct Buddhists from engaging their values.

                    The Buddhist world is racked with violence and it has never been more important to understand Buddhist ethics. These include never acting in anger; exhausting alternatives such as negotiation; striving to capture the enemy alive; avoiding destruction of infrastructure and the environment; and taking responsibility for how one's actions and exploitation cause enemies to arise. They also emphasise the great psychic danger to those who act violently, something we see in the large number of suicides among youth sent to these wars. Above all, rather than "national self-interest", the guiding motivation should be compassion.

                    Since the Dalai Lama's first statement, it became clear that Bin Laden did not die in a firefight to avoid capture, but was shot down unarmed. The Nobel laureate made the news again, calling the killing understandable, but this time he equated the death with the hanging of Saddam Hussein, expressed sadness at the killing, and re-emphasised his commitment to nonviolence.

                    Stephen Jenkins: The Dalai Lama's attitude to Bin Laden's death should not be too surprising – Buddhism is not as pacifist as the west fantasises
                    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

                    Comment

                    • Kyonin
                      Treeleaf Priest / Engineer
                      • Oct 2010
                      • 6739

                      #11
                      Violence ends up creating more violence. That's something I truly believe.

                      However, in the movie V for Vendetta, V says "violence can be used for good". And I share this point of view. I think about people like Hitler. He just had to be stopped and was beyond any negotiation or dialog. We all know how it all ended.

                      As a martial artist myself (Aikido), I believe that we should keep peace for as long as we can. But if anyone threatens my family or myself, I wouldn't hesitate in trying to calm things down by any means necessary.

                      That's why training is important. We prepare ourselves so we never use what we know.

                      Gassho,

                      Kyonin
                      Hondō Kyōnin
                      奔道 協忍

                      Comment

                      • Mp

                        #12
                        Originally posted by Kyonin
                        Violence ends up creating more violence. That's something I truly believe.

                        However, in the movie V for Vendetta, V says "violence can be used for good". And I share this point of view. I think about people like Hitler. He just had to be stopped and was beyond any negotiation or dialog. We all know how it all ended.

                        As a martial artist myself (Aikido), I believe that we should keep peace for as long as we can. But if anyone threatens my family or myself, I wouldn't hesitate in trying to calm things down by any means necessary.

                        That's why training is important. We prepare ourselves so we never use what we know.

                        Gassho,

                        Kyonin
                        I totally agree Kyōnin and as a fellow Aikidoka, I train to prepare myself to not do too much. I train to learn respect, restraint, and balance in the midst of violence.

                        Gassho
                        Shingen

                        Comment

                        • RichardH
                          Member
                          • Nov 2011
                          • 2800

                          #13
                          The Bin Laden execution was one those moments when State power was undisguised . It was like a mob hit... shot between the eyes and dumped in the ocean. “That's what you get”. Seeing kids partying outside the Whitehouse cast a sickly light on it. I was horrified by Sept 11th, who wasn't ? I was just as horrified by the consequences, including the opportunistic implementation of a strategic vision, and the playing on color coded fears, so that a guy in the middle of North Dakota is so paranoid he wraps his house in plastic in case of poison gas. If Bin Laden had it coming , and no doubt he did, how about the authors of “Shock and Awe” ? He was a human being and I can't forget that. I also could not help feeling compassion for Gaddafi when he was pulled , confused, from a culvert, then dragged around in the dust to be beaten and shot by maniacs, who were no better than him in that moment. He was a monster, but in that moment he was a confused old man.

                          The death penalty is barbaric. Killing in the midst of passion is one thing, but to coolly take someone who is completely under your power, bureaucratically process him, then kill him in a “procedure” with witnesses.... that is monstrous.

                          ...Hmmmm sorry, got on a role there... got an opinion or two.

                          Gassho Daizan

                          Comment

                          • Jakudo
                            Member
                            • May 2009
                            • 251

                            #14
                            Originally posted by Daizan
                            The Bin Laden execution was one those moments when State power was undisguised . It was like a mob hit... shot between the eyes and dumped in the ocean. “That's what you get”. Seeing kids partying outside the Whitehouse cast a sickly light on it. I was horrified by Sept 11th, who wasn't ? I was just as horrified by the consequences, including the opportunistic implementation of a strategic vision, and the playing on color coded fears, so that a guy in the middle of North Dakota is so paranoid he wraps his house in plastic in case of poison gas. If Bin Laden had it coming , and no doubt he did, how about the authors of “Shock and Awe” ? He was a human being and I can't forget that. I also could not help feeling compassion for Gaddafi when he was pulled , confused, from a culvert, then dragged around in the dust to be beaten and shot by maniacs, who were no better than him in that moment. He was a monster, but in that moment he was a confused old man.

                            The death penalty is barbaric. Killing in the midst of passion is one thing, but to coolly take someone who is completely under your power, bureaucratically process him, then kill him in a “procedure” with witnesses.... that is monstrous.

                            ...Hmmmm sorry, got on a role there... got an opinion or two.

                            Gassho Daizan
                            I totally agree with you Daizan, I could not have said it better, thank you. What is the difference between justice and revenge?
                            Gassho. Jakudo
                            Gassho, Shawn Jakudo Hinton
                            It all begins when we say, “I”. Everything that follows is illusion.
                            "Even to speak the word Buddha is dragging in the mud soaking wet; Even to say the word Zen is a total embarrassment."
                            寂道

                            Comment

                            • Jiken
                              Member
                              • Jan 2011
                              • 753

                              #15
                              Going to have to disagree a little with Daizan. It goes without saying that I respect his opinion but when I read the post it seemed so it is either black and white to me. Comparing bin ladens demise to a mob hit misses the mark for me and seeing the people dance in the streets at his death was sad but not knowing the suffering they endured due to or because of him and terrorist events I can understand it. I have had a close and personal view of devastation caused by greed anger and ignorance due to my law enforcement career.

                              As for the death penalty...I don't know. Could it be compassion?

                              I do know this. My nine year has been telling me love is the key to all the problems of the world. My nine year old quoting MLK is wondrous to me . Interesting that she tells her dad this before I go to work.

                              Is there love in using violence? In using force? How deep is compassion? I vow to keep practicing and to consider all possibilities

                              Gassho to this thread. Respect to all the opinions

                              Daido

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