Is there really a "just war"?

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Is there really a "just war"?

Postby Indrajala » Wed Mar 31, 2010 9:37 am

From a Buddhist perspective can you ever say there is a "just war"?

My personal opinion is that no, there is no such thing as a "just war". I suppose I consider myself an advocate of ahimsa or non-violence.

For a moment let us look at the Sangama sutta where we see this remark from the Buddha:

Winning gives birth to hostility. Losing, one lies down in pain. The calmed lie down with ease, having set winning & losing aside.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

The Blessed One later states:

A man may plunder as long as it serves his ends, but when others are plundered, he who has plundered gets plundered in turn. A fool thinks, 'Now's my chance,' as long as his evil has yet to ripen. But when it ripens, the fool falls into pain. Killing, you gain your killer. Conquering, you gain one who will conquer you; insulting, insult; harassing, harassment. And so, through the cycle of action, he who has plundered gets plundered in turn.


http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html


I think the later statement summarizes the line of thought quite well: harass and you will be harassed, assault and you will be assaulted.

However, what about fighting as a means to an end? Can you fight out of compassion?

The Yogâcāra-bhūmi-śāstra does state that if a Bodhisattva in an extreme situation sees a person about to commit a crime that will drive them into Avici Hell and out of pure compassion and without malice kills the perpetrator, there is no violation of precepts and furthermore merit is actually acquired.

《瑜伽師地論》卷41〈10戒品〉:「謂如菩薩見劫盜賊為貪財故欲殺多生。或復欲害大德聲聞獨覺菩薩。或復欲造多無間業。見是事已發心思惟。我若斷彼惡眾生命[4]墮那落迦。如其不斷。無間業成當受大苦。我寧殺彼墮那落迦。終不令其受無間苦。如是菩薩意樂思惟。於彼眾生或以善心或無記心。知此事已為當來故深生慚愧。以憐愍心而斷彼命。由是因緣於菩薩戒無所違犯生多功德。」(CBETA, T30, no. 1579, p. 517, b8-17)
[4]墮那落迦=當隨地獄【宮】【聖】。

So, in an extreme situation where for example someone might seek to kill an Arhat, if the Bodhisattva kills that person they prevent them from falling into Avici Hell. However, the text stresses that it is done with deep shame and compassion -- there is no malice, hatred or anger.

At least according to this text, there are extreme situations where killing can actually be deemed compassionate. However, I would stress here that this is in the case of a Bodhisattva who is presumably already quite advanced and will not experience malice or anger. This doesn't include organized warfare where anonymous people are exchanging gunfire under the banners of various nation states.

Theory aside, however, how about recent history?

I used to think that WWII was a just war for the Allies. After all, the Nazis and Imperial Japanese were brutal and committed horrific acts of murder.

Still, when you look at it from the bigger picture, it didn't solve anything. As the Buddha outlined above: "Killing, you gain your killer."

Yes, Germany and Italy were pacified and the risk of warfare in western Europe breaking out can be ruled out. Yes, Japan was pacified and adopted a pacifist constitution. However, the problems just shifted elsewhere. With the fall of Germany, the stage was set for the the cold war which claimed millions of lives. The Japanese were sent packing home, but then in East Asia the stage was set for Mao, Khmer rouge, the Kim family in North Korea and the Vietnam War. I think more civilians died under Mao and Stalin than there were casualties in WWII.

Nothing was ever solved. Problems just shifted elsewhere. The fallen dead are reborn and the process continues. The cycle of violence only perpetuates itself. No matter how many bad guys you kill, there will be many more to come.

Violence never really resolves anything. Thus why I'm a proponent of ahimsa.
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Re: Is there really a "just war"?

Postby Clueless Git » Thu Apr 01, 2010 9:50 am

Huseng wrote:From a Buddhist perspective can you ever say there is a "just war"?

Not sure about from a buddhist perspective, BUT!

I once watched a TV proggie about war in the days of the Chivalric code.

Gist of it was that only the land owning classes were allowed to fight.

I did see a certain degree of justice in that.
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Re: Is there really a "just war"?

Postby Clueless Git » Thu Apr 01, 2010 10:01 am

Huseng wrote:
Violence never really resolves anything. Thus why I'm a proponent of ahimsa.

You would probably find the Baghvad Gita (the book the mad ahimsa'ist Gandhi used as his 'Bible') a fascinating read Huseng.

It is a story told in the form of a dialogue between Arjuna and Krishna which, very loosely, builds up an unassailable argument in favour of war and then demolishes it again.

Not a strictly buddhist text, obviously. But for compatibility I would have to give it a good nine out of ten.
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Re: Is there really a "just war"?

Postby Indrajala » Thu Apr 01, 2010 10:14 am

Clueless Git wrote:
Huseng wrote:From a Buddhist perspective can you ever say there is a "just war"?

Not sure about from a buddhist perspective, BUT!

I once watched a TV proggie about war in the days of the Chivalric code.

Gist of it was that only the land owning classes were allowed to fight.

I did see a certain degree of justice in that.


In India up until the Muslim invasions war was limited to warriors.

They say in one field a battle could take place and then right beside it in the other field a farmer could till his soil. Civilians were left out of the fighting.

That changed though unfortunately.
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Re: Is there really a "just war"?

Postby Huifeng » Fri Apr 02, 2010 7:10 am

Clueless Git wrote:
Not a strictly buddhist text, obviously. But for compatibility I would have to give it a good nine out of ten.


I'd say, not even close to a Buddhist text, at all.
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Re: Is there really a "just war"?

Postby Astus » Fri Apr 02, 2010 8:38 am

Not exactly about war but the relationship between Buddhism (Mahayana-Vajrayana) and Violance: Compassionate Violance (PDF) by David Gray. It is a great article in my opinion.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Is there really a "just war"?

Postby Clueless Git » Fri Apr 02, 2010 10:24 am

Huifeng wrote:
Clueless Git wrote:
Not a strictly buddhist text, obviously. But for compatibility I would have to give it a good nine out of ten.


I'd say, not even close to a Buddhist text, at all.

You didn't find the message carried in the Baghvad Gita to be compatible with buddhist teaching Huifeng?
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Re: Is there really a "just war"?

Postby Huifeng » Fri Apr 02, 2010 10:55 am

Clueless Git wrote:
Huifeng wrote:
Clueless Git wrote:
Not a strictly buddhist text, obviously. But for compatibility I would have to give it a good nine out of ten.


I'd say, not even close to a Buddhist text, at all.

You didn't find the message carried in the Baghvad Gita to be compatible with buddhist teaching Huifeng?


I find that there are several messages in the Bhagavad gita, as it is something of a hodgepodge of things Vedic trying to keep up to date with the Buddhists and Jains at the same time. However, because of that hodgepodge, they mix up some stuff which has more than a few contradictions.

Regards "ahimsa", the basic idea in the Gita is this: The right way to live (= Dharma) is to fulfill one's duty (= Dharma). Ideally, without expecting any result for oneself, but turning all back to Krsna / God. For a ksatriya like Arjuna, the hero of the story, that means going out there and killing all the bad guys. But that is fine, because it is really Krsna who is in control of everything, no bad karma for Arjuna for all that killing. That's classic Dharma-sastra ideology.

No thanks. It runs so contrary to what the Buddha taught that little explanation should be necessary. Well, to me, anyway.
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Re: Is there really a "just war"?

Postby meindzai » Fri Apr 02, 2010 6:09 pm

Agree with Huifeng. The basic argument of the Bhagavad Gita rests on eternalism, so is incompatible with Buddha Dharma. The basic argument from the get-go is that you can't really kill anybody since they will be reborn anyway.

As for whether war or killing or whatever can be "justifed," I have to ask "justified in what sense?" The always ridiculously-hypothetical example of killing one person to save 1000 people may be justified in humanistic terms, and perhaps you would not be faulted for such a thing. Maybe not even by Buddhists.

However the law of karma doesn't bend, as it is impersonal and not-directed by some entity who is out there saying "Well, in this case I'll make an exception." There will be always be consequences to such an action.

-M
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Re: Is there really a "just war"?

Postby teebee » Fri Apr 02, 2010 7:00 pm

Huseng wrote:From a Buddhist perspective can you ever say there is a "just war"?


No, not possible.

Also not possible from a
Jewish/Christian/Islam view
either since they have a
commandment from their
god, "Thou Shalt No Kill."

Makes you wonder who is
waging all these wars. :rolling:

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Belief systems are like lovely stepping stones over the quicksand of ignorance and amnesia.
Each may be useful, but if you stand too long upon one, it will sink into the quicksand and
you may be trapped. So the wise course is to skip over each stone, appreciate its
usefulness and beauty, and find your way over the quicksand without getting mired in it.
(Anon)

http://buddhism.terryberesford.com/
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Re: Is there really a "just war"?

Postby meindzai » Fri Apr 02, 2010 7:27 pm

teebee wrote:Also not possible from a
Jewish/Christian/Islam view
either since they have a
commandment from their
god, "Thou Shalt No Kill."


Not technically correct. The hebrew word "ratsach" which used to be translated "kill" refers to "killing without cause," so a better translation is "thou shalt not murder." Clearly the Old Testament, condones killing on a mass scale so long as it is sanctioned by God. You're just not supposed to do it if he doesn't tell you to. Otherwise you are not only allowed to do it, but required. This happens again and again in the OT.

So the people waging wars right now are indeed the Christians, Jews, and Muslims who believe their actions are justified, which is very easy to do if you do not have a proper understanding of karma.

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Re: Is there really a "just war"?

Postby Luke » Fri Apr 02, 2010 11:58 pm

Huseng wrote:From a Buddhist perspective can you ever say there is a "just war"?

No, because war involves killing and Buddhists are strictly forbidden from killing any living creature. However, it is fine to defend oneself violently when necessary so long as one does not kill anyone (tear gas, tasers, judo, rubber bullets, etc.).

The only Buddhist "war" I could conceive of would be one in which a Buddhist army would use a wide array of futuristic non-lethal weapons (sound wave generators to disorient enemy troops, sticky foam to immobilize them, EMP bursts to disable their vehicles, microwave bursts which make enemy troops feel a burning sensation and retreat, etc.)

meindzai wrote:Not technically correct. The hebrew word "ratsach" which used to be translated "kill" refers to "killing without cause," so a better translation is "thou shalt not murder." Clearly the Old Testament, condones killing on a mass scale so long as it is sanctioned by God. You're just not supposed to do it if he doesn't tell you to. Otherwise you are not only allowed to do it, but required. This happens again and again in the OT.

So the people waging wars right now are indeed the Christians, Jews, and Muslims who believe their actions are justified, which is very easy to do if you do not have a proper understanding of karma.

-M

Yes, indeed. Sometimes I feel that monotheism is the most effective way to get people to kill each other. It makes people see their violence as justified since they're "fighting for god," and since the only the god of one's own religion is the "true god," this naturally makes many monotheists just itching to take on other monotheists of opposing religions ("my god vs. your god"). Of course, there are exceptions, and many monotheists are quite peaceful, but I still feel that most monotheists feel at least some seed of resentment towards other religions, and that in extreme enough circumstances, that resentment can turn into full-blown violent hatred.

Thankfully, Buddhism is non-theistic, so we can see all conceptions of "god" as equally empty of intrinsic existence, and we can see that the only things worth fighting are negative emotions.
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Re: Is there really a "just war"?

Postby meindzai » Sat Apr 03, 2010 1:26 am

Luke wrote:The only Buddhist "war" I could conceive of would be one in which a Buddhist army would use a wide array of futuristic non-lethal weapons (sound wave generators to disorient enemy troops, sticky foam to immobilize them, EMP bursts to disable their vehicles, microwave bursts which make enemy troops feel a burning sensation and retreat, etc.)


That and other non violent strategies and tactics, such as passive resistance. If we put as many resources into these things as we currently do into violent and destructive technology I think we actually have a viable non-violent strategy for defense. I don't think we should be naive enough to think such things aren't necessary in our world, nor should we succumb to the naive thinking that violence is the only way to stop violence.

Of course,it's not going to happen, not in million years. Or at least nobody will fund it. Maybe we should start a Buddhist militia. lol

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Re: Is there really a "just war"?

Postby Clueless Git » Sat Apr 03, 2010 10:14 am

Huifeng wrote:
I find that there are several messages in the Bhagavad gita, as it is something of a hodgepodge of things Vedic trying to keep up to date with the Buddhists and Jains at the same time. However, because of that hodgepodge, they mix up some stuff which has more than a few contradictions.

Regards "ahimsa", the basic idea in the Gita is this: The right way to live (= Dharma) is to fulfill one's duty (= Dharma). Ideally, without expecting any result for oneself, but turning all back to Krsna / God. For a ksatriya like Arjuna, the hero of the story, that means going out there and killing all the bad guys. But that is fine, because it is really Krsna who is in control of everything, no bad karma for Arjuna for all that killing. That's classic Dharma-sastra ideology.

No thanks. It runs so contrary to what the Buddha taught that little explanation should be necessary. Well, to me, anyway.

Oh ...

Are you refering to the Gita's concept of 'fruitless action' Huifeng. The bit that describes a kind of 'level' a man may reach at which whatever he chooses to do will incur him no 'karmic fruit'?
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Re: Is there really a "just war"?

Postby Huifeng » Sat Apr 03, 2010 10:35 am

Clueless Git wrote:
Huifeng wrote:
I find that there are several messages in the Bhagavad gita, as it is something of a hodgepodge of things Vedic trying to keep up to date with the Buddhists and Jains at the same time. However, because of that hodgepodge, they mix up some stuff which has more than a few contradictions.

Regards "ahimsa", the basic idea in the Gita is this: The right way to live (= Dharma) is to fulfill one's duty (= Dharma). Ideally, without expecting any result for oneself, but turning all back to Krsna / God. For a ksatriya like Arjuna, the hero of the story, that means going out there and killing all the bad guys. But that is fine, because it is really Krsna who is in control of everything, no bad karma for Arjuna for all that killing. That's classic Dharma-sastra ideology.

No thanks. It runs so contrary to what the Buddha taught that little explanation should be necessary. Well, to me, anyway.

Oh ...

Are you refering to the Gita's concept of 'fruitless action' Huifeng. The bit that describes a kind of 'level' a man may reach at which whatever he chooses to do will incur him no 'karmic fruit'?


I'm talking about the whole of the Gita's efforts to re-establish Vedic Dharma-sastra social theories through their soul-theory, while trying not to look like the Buddhists (and others who assign causality to moral factors rather than ritual factors) do not have a very good point, a point which shatters their own.

By positing that the soul is distinct from the body and mind, they try on one hand to suggest that ignorant people still have some sort of causing karma, but the wise act without fruit. Just a second, if the soul is distinct, then nobody can have actions that will effect the soul; there will be no difference between the fool and wise in this regard. This is where they try on Buddhist (etc.) karma theory on the one hand, for the fool, but then soul-theory on the other, for the wise. Sorry, can't have it both ways!!

That's why it's a hodge-podge, a not very well ironed out attempt at syncretism in the face of east Indian systems that are just tearing apart all that Vedic soul-theory stuff. In fact, they probably never iron these out at all, until maybe Sankara. How did he manage it? He's a crypto-Buddhist, that's how! Turn everything into the soul, such that the term now has virtually no useful meaning, and apply moral karma theory post haste. They bought into it. So, Buddhism as a religion died, but the neo-Vedantins got a heavy shot of Buddha-dharma injected into their system for a new lease of life.

Better to just stick with Sakyamuni and his disciples. They do a better job of explanation, because they don't have syncretic problems to get in the way.

--

I heard that Gandhi got as much of his ahimsa ideals from the Jains as the "Hindoos". Note: Jainism is closer to Buddhism than Vedanta. (But we can still do without the jiva-anima line of thought, and the useful physical self-mortification that results in such anima-body dualism.)
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Re: Is there really a "just war"?

Postby Indrajala » Sat Apr 03, 2010 11:21 am

Huifeng wrote:I heard that Gandhi got as much of his ahimsa ideals from the Jains as the "Hindoos". Note: Jainism is closer to Buddhism than Vedanta. (But we can still do without the jiva-anima line of thought, and the useful physical self-mortification that results in such anima-body dualism.)


Gandhi took a vow of vegetarianism in front of a Jain monk.

While a theist, he appreciated the Buddha. He commented on how vulgar and cruel ideas of animal sacrifice were, and praised Shakyamuni for condemning animal sacrifices.
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Re: Is there really a "just war"?

Postby Luke » Sat Apr 03, 2010 12:20 pm

meindzai wrote:...nor should we succumb to the naive thinking that violence is the only way to stop violence.

Yes, negotiation and preventing the root causes of violence are incredibly important as well.

meindzai wrote:Of course,it's not going to happen, not in million years. Or at least nobody will fund it. Maybe we should start a Buddhist militia. lol

Well, I don't think any government would totally convert to non-lethal weapons; however, I think non-lethal weapons technologies will develop quite quickly over the next decade--mainly because there are many ways to use these technologies unethically and many governments are interested in any way to increase their power, whether it's ethical or not.

Many non-lethal weapons seek to create maximum pain while doing minimum permanent damage, which has frightening applications in the area of torture. Also, some electronic beam weapons can manipulate people's moods and could be used by governments to control their own citizens.

As long as there are unethical applications of a technology, governments will keep funding them.
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Re: Is there really a "just war"?

Postby Indrajala » Sat Apr 03, 2010 2:41 pm

Luke wrote:Many non-lethal weapons seek to create maximum pain while doing minimum permanent damage, which has frightening applications in the area of torture. Also, some electronic beam weapons can manipulate people's moods and could be used by governments to control their own citizens.

As long as there are unethical applications of a technology, governments will keep funding them.


Some would say as long as states exist, their unethical behaviours will continue.

I don't think anarchy is the solution, but when you stop and think how a state operates it is by definition oppressive. The state yields authority because it has a monopoly on force and violence. Even in a developed liberal country, the state still has the ability to threaten a citizen to comply with regulations and laws through threatening the citizen's ability to produce and maintain capital income. The credit rating system itself is a way to enforce regulations without having to resort to violence. If you violate certain regulations your ability to operate in society becomes difficult.

In the old days they just branded you with a mark, usually visible, which had the same effect. Nowadays, however, we think that is barbaric, so the state instead just seizes property and takes further measures to ensure your ability to comfortably function in society is hindered.

Modern warfare is quite bizarre. They recruit or conscript persons to fight for a system that usually oppresses them. They utilize vocabulary like "patriotic duty" and "honour" to foster a mentality of pride.

Hermann Goring, a high ranking Nazi and commander of the Luftwaffe, after his capture made the following statement:

Naturally, the common people don't want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship. ...voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.


The man was decidedly evil, yes, but his point is quite pertinent. If you look through history it is the same crap, but different piles.
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Re: Is there really a "just war"?

Postby Luke » Sun Apr 04, 2010 3:45 pm

Yes, both politics and warfare can be reduced to marketing (propaganda) in the end. One has to "sell" a war to the public and other allies just like one has to "sell" a political candidate to the public and the world community. A government can't simply let the public receive plain facts without shaping them into some kind of narrative which show their country as the hero and the opposing country as the "evil enemy."

I guess the essence of power is really persuading large amounts of people to do what you want. Unfortunately, unethical methods of persuasion are very effective in the short term, so leaders become addicted to them (and create horribly bad karma for themselves and others along the way).

We need a political process which would encourage long-term thinking about the consequences of present actions, such as when Native American chiefs would always think about how their present decisions would impact their tribe seven generations into the future.
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