Johnny Dangerous wrote:
Surely the Buddha's own words and actions may said to constitute Buddhist Orthodoxy on the matter.
Since critical thought is so highly valued in Buddhism, the Buddha never spoke of being an absolute pacifist, and even Buddhist leaders do not speak with one voice..the no, I would argue it is not Buddhist Orthodoxy, nor am I sure there is any such thing outside of overzealous followers, as any religion has.
"Killing is Demerit" is not the same thing as saying "never, ever, ever commit violence under any circumstances whatsoever". I know there are many other examples in the suttas of the evils of violence, ill-will, anger etc. But to my knowledge there is no endorsement of absolute pacifism (though of course feel free to correct me if i'm wrong), and in my view this is likely intentional, as a reasoned answer to questions of war and violence, especially one backed up by a long tradition of deep, profound ethical thought is always preferable to simple, off the cuff answers that fail to provide any direction for real life decision making.
How is it that you cannot take HHDL's words at face value? There is no need to read into and further interpret them, he says clearly he believes that WW2 might be justified, and even the Korean war..which i'm not sure about!
You are really grasping at straws trying to eke any other meaning out of what he says, the rest of what is there is stuff that i'm willing to bet you would find almost 100% agreement on on a Buddhist forum - that human beings are better off never killing or committing violence, that the culture of war perpetuates itself, and that the outcomes of wars are impossible to know beforehand.
The Buddha's own homeland was ransacked and I have yet to read that he rushed off with arms to avenge it. I
Unless you have lived the exact life of the Buddha, there is no point in you using this as "proof" of the position of absolute pacifism. Obviously Buddhism and The Buddha condemn war and abhor violence on the whole, this is not the same thing as absolute pacifism, certainly not of the kind that westerners living in the first world, most of whom live comparatively safe lives are free to engage in.
I think the First Major Precept on Killing in the Bodhisattva Precepts and therefore arguably the Buddha is pretty clear on this one. It reads as follows:
“A disciple of the Buddha must not himself kill, encourage others to kill, kill by expedient means, praise killing, rejoice at witnessing killing, or kill through incantation or deviant mantras. He must not create the causes, conditions, methods or karma of killing, and shall not intentionally kill any living being. As a Buddha’s disciple, he ought to nurture a mind of compassion and filial piety, always devising expedient means (upaya) to rescue and protect all beings. If instead, he fails to retrain himself and kills sentient beings…he commits a Parajika Offense.”
So my response would be, Yes, there is an orthodox stance of non-violence taken by the Buddha. And Yes, Buddhism does endorse complete pacifism. Yes, Buddhism does encourage critical thought- it also however has some base values and principles which if not accepted make it hard to call oneself a Buddhist. For example, in taking Refuge you are trusting in the Buddha and the Dharma- if you don’t trust the basic premise’s of his teachings and thus the man himself, it is hard to see how one may be a Buddhist. Obviously, I am not suggesting that we just accept everything “off the cuff” but I don’t see this particular domain of discourse as being ‘up for debate’ if we are “Buddhists” if you will excuse the expression.
Why do I not take his words in this instance at face value in this instance? Because his own actions (and we all know the famous maxim “actions speak louder than words”) regarding the forceful occupation of his homeland(for which he was awarded the Peace Prize) and because of the fact that he goes on to state that such behaviour on both sides leads to nothing more than an uneasy arms build-up. And most importantly because I cannot imagine a Bodhisattva condoning conditional killing ‘for real’ (which would have to be ok if his authority as a Bodhisattva…of compassion…is maintained). Let alone the fact that Upaya is a central tool in teaching Buddhism and the text from which you quote was not one aimed at a traditionally Buddhist audience but rather a Western one.
Clutching at straws? I think the above quote from the Brahmajala Sutra is pretty direct- re devising skilfull means instead.
Yes, the outcomes of wars are unknown, and for that very reason, I don’t see a case in which a Buddhist would be justified in violence because much of the horror cannot be known until post-atrocity (of course I am not stating that this is always the case). Yes the culture of war perpetuates itself and thus is never ended through continued application of violence.
I think referring to the destruction of the Buddha’s homeland can be used as an example in this case, I’m not sure I understand why you disagree.
I might also add (even though not strictly necessarily as I have used a quote to suggest Buddhism teaches pacifism) that while most quotes from the Sutta’s and Sutra’s telling us to refrain from violence do not make a blanket statement like the one above suggesting complete pacifism, I have yet to read a single Sutra in which the Buddha says, ‘do not kill! Except when…’ If the system has as a foundational belief that taking life is the worst thing we can do, it must be applicable unconditionally. And in my opinion the opposite proposition; that is that our not killing may be conditional has always seemed a bit iffy to me…