I realize I'm a little late to this thread, but I'd just like to add some context to this discussion from a different point of departure. I'm a US Marine, having joined years before I found out about Buddhism. I have less than a year left on my contract and it looks like I won't have to deploy, fortunately. Obviously, that killing is against the precepts, period, is not something I'm debating. As ronnewmexico said, it's an unfortunate circumstance to be in.
ronnewmexico wrote:But intelligence officers usually interrogate prisoners and may use torture on them (Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, etc.). I don't think it's possible for an ethical person to be an intelligence officer in the military over a long period of time. Most ethical people would probably quit the job once they see what's actually going on.
Psychological warfare is all about deception and that creates bad karma.
Harsh interrogation methods and torture are generally considered to be poor methods of intelligence gathering. If you look at those particularly heinous examples you just mentioned, you'll find that the crimes at Abu Ghraib can mainly be attributed to a poor command climate that allowed military police to run wild (not intelligence, MP) and that a lot of the ridiculousness at Guantanamo has little to do with the military and a lot to do with civilian leadership. Waterboarding, etc. originated at the top with Rumsfeld and his crew, and while that doesn't justify those who carried it out, ultimately it came from Washington bureaucrats. Most intelligence activity is sitting in a room with no windows, staring at maps and listening in to radio signals.
Huifeng wrote:Regards "chaplains", it would seem at first that they are perhaps quite ethical, but I've heard too many stories of how these types end up being used for propaganda purposes, the kind of "God is on our side! God says to kill the enemy, for they are Evil!", to really believe this. In many ways, because this stance combines wrong views with the negative acts, it is even more pernicious.
It is interesting to note that although there are now Buddhist chaplains, the Buddha himself made Vinaya rules to prevent association of the bhiksu/nis with the army. Almost any association is suggestive of support and condoning of such a profession.
And for similar reasons, such as the Buddha disapproving of a bhiksu who told an executioner how to "kill quickly, with less pain" - which is still to condone the act of killing, this is why as a bhiksu, I shall refrain from commenting on "which are most ethical".
Perhaps the question could be reformulated as, "which is less unethical"?
Ven. Huifeng, I'm curious, when/where exactly did you hear these stories? I'm sure there must have been a lot of that in the past, and of course many religious groups still encourage violence against their perceived enemies. But do you get the impression that this is common in modern professional militaries? I can say from my experience, never, not once, have I ever heard a chaplain encourage this kind of thinking. Chaplains aren't given a soapbox to rally the troops in the name of God, most of their work is dealing with personal issues and leading services for their respective faiths. I'm sure chaplains do get a lot of people questioning whether killing is justified, and I'm sure many if not most will talk about "just war" and such. But, in my personal experience, the chaplains I've talked to generally prefer to not "tell you what to think" and will approach the question with due humility.
Venerable, if a military asked you to teach soldiers meditation and only meditation, would you accept the offer?
I was thinking about this recently and it poses an interesting ethical question.
On one hand they're people would could benefit from meditation and suffer less as a result, but on the other meditation being a neutral tool it could be used to train a person to be a more effective killer.
As a bhiksu, is there any regulation preventing you from accepting an invitation to teach soldiers meditation (but not dharma)?
I think this is an unrealistic distinction. In reality, wouldn't it make a lot of sense to do an introductory type lecture that emphasizes meditation anyway? You know, "So, here's how you sit, this is how you meditate in Buddhism, here's why Buddhists do what we do, 4NT, I have some literature on that table over there, any questions?" I'm no dharma teacher, so correct me if I'm wrong. I mean, if you got invited to talk to a bunch of gun store owners or something, would you rush in and start doing this gesture?
I can't imagine how meditation would make you a better killer. Combat effectiveness is something you develop in a team, through muscle memory. Combat training is all about developing split-second instincts, deep in that animal brain, not the prefrontal cortex. Also, your statement would imply that great yogins and meditation masters are the most effective combat force known to man.
Huifeng wrote:the justifications that they use to fight, "they are attacking our families, they are destroying our religion, they are evil and lie!", are precisely the same things that the so-called "enemy" is saying about them!
??? If you're saying that the military (US military in particular) is full of Islamophobia, that may have been true in 2003 or so. But, do you really think someone who spends 3 or 4 years working in Afghanistan and Iraq, training their forces, working alongside them, protecting their villages, will have such a naive understanding? Again, I'm not saying there isn't chauvinism in the military, but I think you're underestimating the ability of people to see the political reality they're mired in, pick up a newspaper, etc.
I'll just put it out there, I'm honestly thinking about becoming a chaplain in the future. I see a lot of decent, intelligent people in the military who are searching for answers, and for a way to balance their minds. I can only imagine that a military without good chaplains would be more violent and more prone to Abu Ghraib type events. So I guess you could say this post is me thinking out loud, against my own nagging doubts about chaplaincy, which are pretty much what you have all been saying.
So, please, dissuade me from chaplaincy! Tell me I'm wrong.