Monday, February 27, 2012

Holy War in Buddhism

The War on Error 
by Bhikkhu Pesala

Like other religions, Buddhism also has a concept of holy war. Ignorant people use such ideas to justify physical violence, intimidation, denial of basic human rights, and the oppression of others. However, there is only one holy war that deserves the name, and that is the struggle to be waged by each individual to remove his or her own craving and ignorance. No other war, crusade, or campaign is worthy of the appellation “holy.”

Such battles with the external world do not lead to mental peace or to the cessation of defilements (nibbāna), but only to more suffering and greater ignorance. If you impose your views on others and deny them the right to hold different views, then you are not practising the Buddha’s teaching. Right views can be promoted by teaching Dhamma, by pointing out what is not Dhamma, and by allowing others the freedom to decide for themselves which is which. If they choose the wrong path, that is for their loss and harm, but it is not your responsibility.

Even the Buddhas 
can only show the way, 
those who claim to be 
his disciples must follow 
his instructions to reach the goal.

When the Dhamma is not properly practised, then the ignorant need to wage war in the name of protecting the religion, but actually all they are doing is protecting their own self-interest. This is not the way to preserve the Dhamma, but the way to destroy it. During wars, even if the nation is victorious, many lives are lost, much wealth is dissipated, many enemies are made, and the young men who return from war do so with both physical and mental scars. The way of the ideal Buddhist ruler — the Cakkavatti, or Wheel-turning monarch — is to conquer by means of generosity, friendliness, and by speaking the truth, not by the force of arms and threats of violence. Such a campaign, of course, would not be a war, but a diplomatic mission.

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