Thursday, September 8, 2011

Terrorism and the War on Terror: Ceremonies Mark 10th Anniversary of Terror Attacks

 September 8, 2011 (Sun-Times) Antioch, Illinois, marks the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C., with a variety of programs and events beginning Friday through Sunday:  Remembrance ceremony: The village will host a 9/11 remembrance ceremony Sept. 11 at 7:30 p.m. at the bandshell. The event will be observed with remarks by village officials, a candle lighting ceremony and moment of silence. 

Terrorism: A Buddhist Response -- Ven. Omalpe Sobhita Thero
Buddhism does not support terrorism

Five years after 911, the horrors of terrorism continue to haunt the world while the war against terrorism intensifies. Whatever the causes, religious, ethnic or ideological, terrorism is an evil, marked by malice and fear. It involves the gross violation of human rights, senseless killing of innocent lives and social disorder. Terrorism cannot be condoned by any religion which emphasizes non-violence and peace. The first of the five precepts (panca sila) observed by Buddhists states: "I refrain from the taking of life."

Buddhism does not support war against terrorism

The idea of revenge - an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth- is rejected in Buddhism. Instead, the Buddha teaches tolerance, compassion and forgiveness. The Buddha said:

"In those who harbor such thoughts as, "He abused me, he struck me, he overcame me, he robbed me," hatred never ceases... In those who do not harbor such thoughts, hatred will cease."
"Hatred never ceases through hatred in this world; through love alone it may cease. This is an eternal law." Dhammapada

From this, we may say that from the Buddhist perspective, both terrorism and the war against terror are morally wrong. But what happens when there is no room for reason, when all efforts to seek peaceful resolutions fail and when retaliation by force is the only option? In this instance, what do we base our judgment of what is right or wrong?

Use of force - right or wrong?

In our everyday life, the use of force is sometimes necessary in varying degrees. We may punish a child who misbehaves or shoot a mad dog attacking people in the street. Under difficult circumstances, police or army has to use force to stop a hijacker from blowing up a plane or a man running amok with a gun in a school, or even to save a woman intent on jumping off the top of a building with her baby in hand.

The intention behind such use of force is a selfless one; it is carried out with no hatred or ill will but for the welfare of the others and many. Many people would consider them as commendable.

So what about the ruler or government who engages in military action as a last resort with the intention of safeguarding his people and nation?

The protection of the citizens and territory from external and internal threats is one of the foremost duties of a government as told to King Katthiya in the Cakkavathi Sihananda Sutta. A government must fulfill 4 duties:

1. To provide righteous care, ward and protection to all citizens, including the people of all professional classes, religious teachers and the army.

2. To ensure that there is no crime.

3. To take care of the economic well being of the people.

4. To enforce policies which are based on righteous principles and the leaders are to act in consultation with enlightened religious teachers and philosophers in decision making.

In our response to the war on terrorism, we ought to consider the motives behind it and the means employed. The problem is that in the real world, the line between black and white is often not so clear.


It's no shock that Buddhism does not support terror, but were you surprised that Buddhism doesn't support the War Against Terror either? Please comment.


Anonymous said...

I'd like to hear Buddhist commentary on the War on Drugs, while you're at it.

Anonymous said...

OK, I get that I am supposed to figure it out for myself, but doesnt this guy have any answers at all? Saying it's not black and white, worthless.