Military and Buddhism

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Military and Buddhism

Postby Straka » Wed Jan 18, 2012 12:27 am

I was wondering what others views of the military and people being in the military and practicing Buddhism. I think threads like this are already out there, but none too specific.
I only ask because i joined the military before i started practicing Buddhism, but i have started practicing it since i joined. I feel as though it really isn't that great of an....idea i guess. My job ultimately entails that i power a machine able to kill hundreds to millions of people at the press of a button.
Anyway, just wanted to see other peoples views on this. Sorry for not being more specific, will add details if requested.
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Re: Military and Buddhism

Postby Straka » Wed Jan 18, 2012 12:30 am

Oh, and there is always the conscientious objector route to be discharged from the military, which i have been considering.
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Re: Military and Buddhism

Postby Mr. G » Wed Jan 18, 2012 12:44 am

Hi Straka,

From the Abhidharmakosabhasyam:

When many persons are united with the intention to kill, either in
war, or in the hunt, or in banditry, who is guilty of murder, if only one of
them kills?

    72c-d. As soldiers, etc., concur in the realization of the same
    effect, all are as guilty as the one who kills.

Having a common goal, all are guilty exactly as he who among them
kills, for all mutually incite one another, not through speech, but by the
very fact that they are united together in order to kill.
But is the person who has been constrained through force to join the
army also guilty?
Evidently so, unless he has formed the resolution, "Even in order to
save my life, I shall not kill a living being."


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

Some other threads you may find of interest:

Military jobs: Which are less unethical?
Buddhist Military Sangha (U.S.)
    How foolish you are,
    grasping the letter of the text and ignoring its intention!
    - Vasubandhu
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Re: Military and Buddhism

Postby Konchog1 » Wed Jan 18, 2012 1:31 am

Straka wrote:I was wondering what others views of the military and people being in the military and practicing Buddhism. I think threads like this are already out there, but none too specific.
I only ask because i joined the military before i started practicing Buddhism, but i have started practicing it since i joined. I feel as though it really isn't that great of an....idea i guess. My job ultimately entails that i power a machine able to kill hundreds to millions of people at the press of a button.
Anyway, just wanted to see other peoples views on this. Sorry for not being more specific, will add details if requested.
It's against Right Livelihood and the First Precept. Monks take vows to not be involved with the military. Also, there's a Sutra in the Pali Canon where the Buddha attacks the Bhagavad Gita idea of soldiers going to heaven and says they actually go to hell.

However, if you are honorably discharged years later without ever killing anymore, I don't know. I know arm makers create bad karma but if you never actually get a launch order...
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Without attachment, self-liberating, like a snake in a knot.
Through the qualities of meditating in that way,
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Re: Military and Buddhism

Postby Straka » Wed Jan 18, 2012 2:02 am

Thanks Mr. G and Kochog1.

As for the whole launch thing, you never know whether or not it will actually happen, and if i did stay in i could end up on an SSN class submarine, a fast attack, (rather than an SSBN class, a nuclear missile bearing submarine), which are actively involved in current wars and conflicts conducted by the US.

As to Mr. G, that would be a very helpful quote to place in any paper i would have to write if i were to apply for conscientious objector.

Many thanks, to both of you.
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Re: Military and Buddhism

Postby Huifeng » Wed Jan 18, 2012 2:17 am

Konchog1 wrote:
Straka wrote:I was wondering what others views of the military and people being in the military and practicing Buddhism. I think threads like this are already out there, but none too specific.
I only ask because i joined the military before i started practicing Buddhism, but i have started practicing it since i joined. I feel as though it really isn't that great of an....idea i guess. My job ultimately entails that i power a machine able to kill hundreds to millions of people at the press of a button.
Anyway, just wanted to see other peoples views on this. Sorry for not being more specific, will add details if requested.
It's against Right Livelihood and the First Precept. Monks take vows to not be involved with the military. Also, there's a Sutra in the Pali Canon where the Buddha attacks the Bhagavad Gita idea of soldiers going to heaven and says they actually go to hell.


I think you've somewhat misrepresented the gist of the Pali sutta. It's somewhat more nuanced than that. Namely, that the problem is their belief that killing the enemy will take them to heaven, not their merely being a soldier per se.

(Not to mention that the Gita is post-Buddhist, but never mind.)

Whatever the case, I'd encourage Straka to find another job as soon as possible. A little blotch on the employment record is nothing compared to a massive stain on one's karmic record (so to speak).

~~ Huifeng
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Re: Military and Buddhism

Postby Mr. G » Wed Jan 18, 2012 2:20 am

Best of luck to you Straka, and stay safe out there.
    How foolish you are,
    grasping the letter of the text and ignoring its intention!
    - Vasubandhu
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Re: Military and Buddhism

Postby Konchog1 » Wed Jan 18, 2012 3:45 am

Huifeng wrote:
Konchog1 wrote:
Straka wrote:I was wondering what others views of the military and people being in the military and practicing Buddhism. I think threads like this are already out there, but none too specific.
I only ask because i joined the military before i started practicing Buddhism, but i have started practicing it since i joined. I feel as though it really isn't that great of an....idea i guess. My job ultimately entails that i power a machine able to kill hundreds to millions of people at the press of a button.
Anyway, just wanted to see other peoples views on this. Sorry for not being more specific, will add details if requested.
It's against Right Livelihood and the First Precept. Monks take vows to not be involved with the military. Also, there's a Sutra in the Pali Canon where the Buddha attacks the Bhagavad Gita idea of soldiers going to heaven and says they actually go to hell.


I think you've somewhat misrepresented the gist of the Pali sutta. It's somewhat more nuanced than that. Namely, that the problem is their belief that killing the enemy will take them to heaven, not their merely being a soldier per se.

(Not to mention that the Gita is post-Buddhist, but never mind.)

Whatever the case, I'd encourage Straka to find another job as soon as possible. A little blotch on the employment record is nothing compared to a massive stain on one's karmic record (so to speak).

~~ Huifeng
I found the Sutra. You're right, but again I wonder if being a soldier but never fighting creates bad karma.

Also, the idea of soldiers going to heaven does appear in the Gita, but it looks like it first showed up in the Vedas but you're right about the dates.

http://www.bhagavad-gita.org/Gita/verse-02-37.html

Here's part of the Sutra Straka, the rest is in the link below: "When a warrior strives & exerts himself in battle, his mind is already seized, debased, & misdirected by the thought: 'May these beings be struck down or slaughtered or annihilated or destroyed. May they not exist.' If others then strike him down & slay him while he is thus striving & exerting himself in battle, then with the breakup of the body, after death, he is reborn in the hell called the realm of those slain in battle. But if he holds such a view as this: 'When a warrior strives & exerts himself in battle, if others then strike him down & slay him while he is striving & exerting himself in battle, then with the breakup of the body, after death, he is reborn in the company of devas slain in battle,' that is his wrong view. Now, there are two destinations for a person with wrong view, I tell you: either hell or the animal womb."

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn42/sn42.003.than.html
Equanimity is the ground. Love is the moisture. Compassion is the seed. Bodhicitta is the result.

-Paraphrase of Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Tsephel citing the Guhyasamaja Tantra

"All memories and thoughts are the union of emptiness and knowing, the Mind.
Without attachment, self-liberating, like a snake in a knot.
Through the qualities of meditating in that way,
Mental obscurations are purified and the dharmakaya is attained."

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Re: Military and Buddhism

Postby Nighthawk » Wed Jan 18, 2012 4:56 am

A Buddhist has no place in the military. Stay away as far as possible.
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Re: Military and Buddhism

Postby Indrajala » Wed Jan 18, 2012 4:59 am

Straka wrote:I was wondering what others views of the military and people being in the military and practicing Buddhism. I think threads like this are already out there, but none too specific.
I only ask because i joined the military before i started practicing Buddhism, but i have started practicing it since i joined. I feel as though it really isn't that great of an....idea i guess. My job ultimately entails that i power a machine able to kill hundreds to millions of people at the press of a button.
Anyway, just wanted to see other peoples views on this. Sorry for not being more specific, will add details if requested.


If that machine is used to kill hundreds to millions of people (I assume you're speaking about strategic bombers that deliver nuclear weapons judging from the numbers you mentioned?), you will have directly participated in the act and will suffer the same responsibility for the deed.

Actually, assuming you're in the US military, you're already karmically responsible for whatever evil deeds were committed by that force since whenever you joined. Armies all bear collective karmic responsibility. The US military is aggressive and actively carrying out the imperialistic ambitions of the powers that be. Self-defence is one thing, but Libya, Afghanistan and Iraq are on other continents and never posed a threat to the US.

In my opinion, you should quit as soon as possible and take on vows of non-violence, swearing to never intentionally harm another being or encourage others to harm other beings. Confessionary practices under the guidance of a genuine dharma teacher are also advisable as it will reduce, perhaps even eliminate, the consequences that will be experienced when that karma ripens. Overwhelming virtue will wash away the effects of transgressions.
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Re: Military and Buddhism

Postby plwk » Wed Jan 18, 2012 6:39 am

Straka...say if you can't leave, there are other options within right?
Executive, administrative, and managerial, Construction, Electronic and electrical equipment repair, engineering, science, and technical, healthcare, human resources development, media and public affairs, protective service, support service, transportation and material-handling, vehicle and machinery mechanics...
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Re: Military and Buddhism

Postby Huifeng » Wed Jan 18, 2012 8:52 am

Please note at this point that the idea that a soldier in a given army is karmically responsible for all the acts of that army is one that while found in one or other important text, is not universally across all Buddhist schools of thought.

~~ Huifeng
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Re: Military and Buddhism

Postby Indrajala » Wed Jan 18, 2012 9:09 am

Huifeng wrote:Please note at this point that the idea that a soldier in a given army is karmically responsible for all the acts of that army is one that while found in one or other important text, is not universally across all Buddhist schools of thought.

~~ Huifeng


Better to err on the side of caution.
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Re: Military and Buddhism

Postby Huifeng » Wed Jan 18, 2012 9:22 am

Huseng wrote:
Huifeng wrote:Please note at this point that the idea that a soldier in a given army is karmically responsible for all the acts of that army is one that while found in one or other important text, is not universally across all Buddhist schools of thought.

~~ Huifeng


Better to err on the side of caution.


Best to just be as accurate as possible.

Otherwise, all sorts of bizarre conclusions could result. eg. during times of military conscription, are all conscripts - even those who do not wish to be in the military - equally responsible for all the deaths that result? Such a conclusion would be unreasonable.

Why not further argue that all those from a militarily involved country are equally responsible, after all, they provide the various conditions that allows the military to fight. Again, such a conclusion would be unreasonable.

Because, karma is intention. Intention is a mental state of a given designated person. If that person enacts a given volitional intention, then they have the karma; if they don't, they don't. Whether or not the person next to them in some conventionally designated group has similar or different states is irrelevant.

In my mind, the Kosa statement may stem from an early idea, namely that one who commands others to kill (or enact some karma) partakes of the karma just as the one who does the physical act. ie. equating the verbal karmic command with the physical karma. The idea is that generals and so forth who command but do not raise the weapons are culpable. If a general or commander issues commands that lead to the deaths of many, they are responsible for that. This would be as much an issue in Vasubandhu's time as it is in the present. But to then argue that all soldiers are equally responsible for all the deaths of the army - doesn't conform with either sutra or reason.

~~ Huifeng
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Re: Military and Buddhism

Postby Konchog1 » Wed Jan 18, 2012 9:29 am

So a sailor who spends his term in a SSBN with his finger on the Big Red Button generates (relatively) minor negative karma due to his willingness to kill but nothing else?
Equanimity is the ground. Love is the moisture. Compassion is the seed. Bodhicitta is the result.

-Paraphrase of Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Tsephel citing the Guhyasamaja Tantra

"All memories and thoughts are the union of emptiness and knowing, the Mind.
Without attachment, self-liberating, like a snake in a knot.
Through the qualities of meditating in that way,
Mental obscurations are purified and the dharmakaya is attained."

-Ra Lotsawa, All-pervading Melodious Drumbeats
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Re: Military and Buddhism

Postby Huifeng » Wed Jan 18, 2012 10:27 am

Konchog1 wrote:So a sailor who spends his term in a SSBN with his finger on the Big Red Button generates (relatively) minor negative karma due to his willingness to kill but nothing else?


Yeah, it's tempting to try to make things like karma into easy formula.
But in truth, it just isn't that simple.
The principles aside, each actual case has so many factors and variables.

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Re: Military and Buddhism

Postby Indrajala » Wed Jan 18, 2012 10:45 am

Huifeng wrote:Best to just be as accurate as possible.


Well, if your karmic record as it were is at stake, best not to take too serious a risk.

If Vasubandhu is correct, then the individual soldier is equally responsible for every misdeed his army commits. That is quite serious.


Otherwise, all sorts of bizarre conclusions could result. eg. during times of military conscription, are all conscripts - even those who do not wish to be in the military - equally responsible for all the deaths that result? Such a conclusion would be unreasonable.


As Vasubandhu asserts, provided they have the conviction that they will not kill no matter what, then they will share in the responsibility of the collective misdeeds if they mentally consent to those deeds.

Why not further argue that all those from a militarily involved country are equally responsible, after all, they provide the various conditions that allows the military to fight. Again, such a conclusion would be unreasonable.


To varying degrees this is true. If you pay taxes and consent to your country launching aggressive military campaigns against foreign nations that don't pose a real threat to you, you are assenting to the misdeeds. This is the same in principle as rejoicing when others commit misdeeds.

I don't think the taxpayer suffers the same karmic weight as the general in that sense, but it is still mentally giving consent and providing support (in the case of taxes) to misdeeds. If the collective karma theory is correct, the taxpayer who support said military campaigns is part responsible for the misdeeds taking place as they support them.

It really comes down to whether you mentally consent to and/or support the deeds being committed or not. This is the principle Vasubandhu conveys in the Abhidharmakośa:

But is the person who has been constrained through force to join the army also guilty?

Evidently so, unless he has formed the resolution, "Even in order to save my life, I shall not kill a living being."



Because, karma is intention. Intention is a mental state of a given designated person. If that person enacts a given volitional intention, then they have the karma; if they don't, they don't. Whether or not the person next to them in some conventionally designated group has similar or different states is irrelevant.


Collective karma is possible when all parties involved in a group to which they all know they belong to collectively form the intention to do something and then carry it out. They all concur in the mutually-supported act. If someone within that group disagrees and only acts under duress, then they are not sharing in the collective support for the deed(s).


In my mind, the Kosa statement may stem from an early idea, namely that one who commands others to kill (or enact some karma) partakes of the karma just as the one who does the physical act. ie. equating the verbal karmic command with the physical karma. The idea is that generals and so forth who command but do not raise the weapons are culpable. If a general or commander issues commands that lead to the deaths of many, they are responsible for that. This would be as much an issue in Vasubandhu's time as it is in the present. But to then argue that all soldiers are equally responsible for all the deaths of the army - doesn't conform with either sutra or reason.


It conforms perfectly with reason which can be ascertained from sūtra.
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Re: Military and Buddhism

Postby Dave The Seeker » Wed Jan 18, 2012 11:47 am

To varying degrees this is true. If you pay taxes and consent to your country launching aggressive military campaigns against foreign nations that don't pose a real threat to you, you are assenting to the misdeeds. This is the same in principle as rejoicing when others commit misdeeds.

I don't think the taxpayer suffers the same karmic weight as the general in that sense, but it is still mentally giving consent and providing support (in the case of taxes) to misdeeds. If the collective karma theory is correct, the taxpayer who support said military campaigns is part responsible for the misdeeds taking place as they support them.


This is quiet confusing to me.
In the Precepts it states that we should not steal. Which in turn means we shall not take what is not meant for us correct?
If we do not pay our taxes, we are keeping what doesn't belong to us.
So in this sense which ever we do, not pay taxes (which support the military) and keep what belongs to another, or pay taxes and support a military that is unjustly killing and/or causing suffering, we are breaking one of the precepts.
No matter what our intent is, as in not supporting the action of killing or causing suffering nor stealing from our government.
In turn damaging our Karma no matter what we do.

Kindest wishes, Dave
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Re: Military and Buddhism

Postby Indrajala » Wed Jan 18, 2012 12:01 pm

The Seeker wrote:This is quiet confusing to me.
In the Precepts it states that we should not steal. Which in turn means we shall not take what is not meant for us correct?
If we do not pay our taxes, we are keeping what doesn't belong to us.


Where do you get the idea that the money you earn belongs to your government?

People only pay taxes because it is either automatically taken off their pay cheques or because they simply have to under penalty of legal prosecution.

The government appropriating your wealth whether you consent or not could be argued as theft in a sense.


So in this sense which ever we do, not pay taxes (which support the military) and keep what belongs to another, or pay taxes and support a military that is unjustly killing and/or causing suffering, we are breaking one of the precepts.


If you honestly believe your wealth belongs to the state, then you are guilty of theft if they demand it and you refuse to hand it over.

If, on the other hand, you don't perceive your wealth as belonging to the state, then there is no transgression.


No matter what our intent is, as in not supporting the action of killing or causing suffering nor stealing from our government.


Not co-operating with evil by refusing to pay taxes or only doing so under duress is not a sin. It is a moral obligation.
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Re: Military and Buddhism

Postby plwk » Wed Jan 18, 2012 1:06 pm

I was wondering what others views of the military and people being in the military and practicing Buddhism.
Anyway, just wanted to see other peoples views on this....

This may be useful for you...
From someone who's been there and done that... the late Ven Master Dr Shèng-yán Image
http://www.dharmadrum.org/content/about ... aspx?sn=43
Moving to Taiwan as a Soldier
In 1949, China was in chaos. After much deliberation, Master Sheng Yen changed his name to Zhang Caiwei and took refuge in the army. His decision was not unlike that of Hui-neng, the Sixth Patriarch of Chan Buddhism, who once joined a group of hunters to flee from danger.
Yet as a soldier, Master Sheng Yen never for a day forgot that he had been a monk; he never wavered in his conviction that he would once again take up his monastic robes and return to the path to enlightenment.
In the army, the young Zhang Caiwei closely observed life in the lay world and wondered about the origins of life. Eventually, his mind was totally immersed in a great ball of doubt. Then chance brought Zhang to meet Master Lingyuan, a lineage disciple of the legendary Master Xuyun. That night, under Master Lingyuan's guidance, Zhang Caiwei experienced a powerful epiphany. A strong feeling of release swept over his whole being.
Describing the experience, Master Sheng Yen says: "It was as if my life suddenly exploded out of the tin can in which I had imprisoned it."

Returning to Monastic Life
In 1960, after ten years in the service, Zhang Caiwei left the army and received tonsure again under Master Dongchu, taking the Dharma-name Sheng Yen. Not long afterwards, Master Sheng Yen went to southern Taiwan and took up a six-year solitary retreat in the mountains.

His take on the matter in his Orthodox Chinese Buddhism 'Can Buddhists Engage in Military or Political Activities?' (Page 165-66)

From one Theravada POV...from the late Ven Dr K Sri Dhammananda, Maha Thera Nayaka of Malaysia and Singapore Image
From his What Buddhists Believe: Can we justify war? & Can a Buddhist Join the Army?

From His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama ImageThe Reality of War & The Dalai Lama's Message to the Armed Forces

From the Ven Master Xīng Yún's Pearls of Wisdom Image 'A Prayer for those in Military Service' (Pages 50-3)
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