Monday, 16 November 2015

Paris, a Buddhist Perspective

How should we respond to the events in Paris? As a Buddhist I feel that the only wise, the only skillful response is compassion.

Compassion for the victims, all the victims, the victims of the past, those whose suffering has produced the hatred of the present, the victims of Friday's terrorist attack, the victims to come and the potential victims who will not be killed, maimed or imprisoned but who will have their compassion killed their humanity maimed and their thoughts and opinions imprisoned in hatred.

The Syrian passport found alongside the dead body of one of the terrorists is significant. ISIS hates the compassion that Europe has shown to the victims of their bloody war; they loath the welcome shown to the refugees in many European countries, how better to sour the succour given than to sow suspicion and distrust precisely when the sheer numbers involved are causing disquiet.

The Buddha said that, "He abused me, he beat me, he defeated me, he robbed me,"— in those who harbour such thoughts hatred will never cease. "He abused me, he beat me, he defeated me, he robbed me," — in those who do not harbour such thoughts hatred will cease. For hatred does not cease by hatred at any time: hatred ceases by love, this is an unending truth." The Dhammapada verses 3 - 5.

The Dalai Lama was once asked why didn't you fight back against the Chinese. He replied that "war is obsolete, you know. Of course the mind can rationalise fighting back ... but the heart, the heart would never understand. Then you would be divided in yourself, the heart and the mind, and the war would be inside you."

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for dealing so well with such a difficult topic at such a difficult time.
    However, I wonder if problems can arise in the application of the Buddha's general principles to particular cases. In other words, is Buddhist pacifism a moral absolute or a relative ethical ideal? Should the quantity and quality of harmful consequences be weighed in the balance when assessing past events or deciding on future acts?
    In your quotations, both the Buddha and the Dalai Lama refer to intentional events that occur within individual minds. But does Buddhism always presume that all actions are determined by the psychological states of individuals, or can this religion cope with a more structural view of society, in which some acts are initiated as much by systematic rules and organisations, as much as by persons? If so, immediate (proximate) acts of self-defence by civil powers may be considered reasonable, whatever states of mind may be around at that time. The problem with such a structural perspective, is how to build the capacity for reflective analysis - which ought to be typical of individuals - into systems and organisations.