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11/03/201417:54(Xem: 1030)
Violence And Disruption In Society:
A Study Of The Early Buddhist Texts

Elizabeth Harris



At 8.15 a.m. Japanese time, on August 6th 1945, a U.S. plane dropped a bomb named "Little Boy" over the center of the city of Hiroshima. The total number of people who were killed immediately and in the following months was probably close to 200,000. Some claim that this bomb and the one which fell on Nagasaki ended the war quickly and saved American and Japanese lives -- a consequentialist theory to justify horrific violence against innocent civilians. Others say the newly developed weapons had to be tested as a matter of necessity.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki ushered in a new age. Humankind's tendency towards conflict and violence can now wipe out the entire human habitat. The weapon used on Hiroshima had a destructive force of 12.5 kilotons; a contemporary cruise missile has the power of 200 kilotons. All war, violence and conflict at national and international levels in the last quarter of the twentieth century has thus taken on sinister proportions. It is not that human nature has changed but that the resources at our disposal have. No country is free from the threat of nuclear annihilation; no country is free from internal conflict and the barrel of the gun. It is against the urgency of this background that the teachings of Buddhism about violence must be studied and interpreted.

Excerpts such as the following have been extracted and used to sum up the Buddhist attitude to this issue: All fear death; Comparing oneself with others One should neither kill nor cause others to kill." Dhp. v. 129

"Victory breeds hatred, The defeated live in pain. Happily the peaceful live, Giving up victory and defeat." Dhp. v. 201

These verses would seem to indicate a clearly defined Buddhist perspective. Yet such text extraction can lead to misrepresentation if not undergirded with a strong supporting framework. Furthermore, if Buddhism has a message for a violent world, it must do more than condemn violence. It must be able to interpret its nature, its roots, its hold on the world and the possibilities for its transformation. It must dialogue with other philosophies and ideologies such as utilitarianism, [1] scientific socialism and the belief in a just or "holy" war. For instance, utilitarianism still lives among those who believe that violence can be justified if more people will benefit than will be hurt, and the consequentialist theory mentioned with reference to Hiroshima is similar to this. Then there are those who hold that certain forms of injustice and exploitation can only be destroyed through violence and that history will justify its legitimacy. The view that violent change is a historical inevitability is close to this.
Buddhism must be able to comment on the stance which argues that if Hitler had been assassinated early in his career numerous deaths would have been avoided, or the claim that force is justified against a government which is using violence against its people under the pretext of law. If it cannot, it will stand accused of irrelevance.

In this study, I define violence as that which harms, debases, dehumanizes or brutalizes human beings, animals or the natural world; and the violent person, as one who causes harm in speech or action, either directly or indirectly, or whose mind is filled with such thoughts. [2] The approach will be scriptural, and the resource I use will be the Pali texts. The basic issue I investigate is what this resource says on the subject of violence. Identity is not assumed between the sixth century B.C. and the twentieth century A.D. Rather, the potential of the scriptures of any religion to provide guidelines for action and models for contemporary interpretation is recognized. Hence, the following specific questions will provide the framework for my study:
  1. What different forms of violence do the Buddhist texts show knowledge of?
  2. For what reasons do the texts condemn violence or call it into question?
  3. What do they see to be the roots of violence?
  4. Do the texts give any guidelines for the eradication of violence in the individual or in society?
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30/06/201115:11(Xem: 1997)
The 'Going for Refuge' and taking the Precepts define a person as a practising Buddhist. Going for Refuge gives a continual perspective on life by referring one's conduct and understanding to the qualities of Buddha (wisdom), Dhamma (truth) and Sangha (virtue). The Precepts are also for reflection and to define one's actions as a responsible human being.
30/06/201115:07(Xem: 1360)
The ultimate goal of Buddhism is the deathless condition of Nibbana, the sole reality. Hence, one who aspires to that state should renounce mundane pursuits and attachments, which are ephemeral, for the sake of that reality. But there are very few who are sufficiently mature to develop themselves to achieve that state in this very life. Thus the Buddha does not force the life of renunciation upon those who lack the spiritual capacity to embark upon the higher life.
30/06/201115:01(Xem: 1430)
Dukkha often translates as "suffering", but it also means the quality of unsatisfactoriness and uncertainty related to change. According to Buddhists all the conditional states of life are dukkha. The alleviation or elimination of dukkha or the path to freedom is a very personal path which may include western psychotherapies and or spiritual practices.
23/06/201116:41(Xem: 1270)
Anger seems to be an emotion that people have a lot of difficulty with, so I'd like to talk about how to deal specifically when such an emotion occurs. Say you're sitting and anger appears and you think, "Oh no - anger!" - that's resistance. But what about, "Oh, great, anger!"? Do you see the difference? We are usually very accepting of the moment when the bird sings, but with anger it is more difficult.
23/06/201116:36(Xem: 1083)
Brothers and Sisters, I would like to address the topic of spiritual values by defining two levels of spirituality. To begin, let me say that as human beings our basic aim is to have a happy life; we all want to experience happiness.
23/06/201116:28(Xem: 1264)
"He who attends on the sick attends on me," declared the Buddha, exhorting his disciples on the importance of ministering to the sick. This famous statement was made by the Blessed One when he discovered a monk lying in his soiled robes, desperately ill with an acute attack of dysentery. With the help of Ananda, the Buddha washed and cleaned the sick monk in warm water.
12/06/201103:21(Xem: 1463)
Ideally, education is the principal tool of human growth, essential for transforming the unlettered child into a mature and responsible adult. Yet everywhere today, both in the developed world and the developing world, we can see that formal education is in serious trouble.
11/06/201115:35(Xem: 1859)
Buddhism teaches to, and expects from, its followers a certain level of ethical behaviour. The minimum that is required of the lay Buddhist is embodied in what is called the Five Precepts (panca sila), the third of which relates to sexual behaviour. Whether or not homosexuality, sexual behaviour between people of the same sex, would be breaking the third Precept is what I would like to examine here.
11/06/201115:30(Xem: 1877)
In his 1983 paper "The 'Suicide' Problem in the Paali Canon," Martin Wiltshire wrote: "The topic of suicide has been chosen not only for its intrinsic factual and historical interest but because it spotlights certain key issues in the field of Buddhist ethics and doctrine.
11/06/201115:25(Xem: 1355)
Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche is the foremost disciple of Lama Thubten Yeshe and a highly revered teacher in his own right. He has taught the graduated path to enlightenment to thousands of people, over one hundred of whom have taken ordination as monks and nuns. This teaching was given at Tushita on July 4th, 1979.