© Bhikkhu Pesala 11/9/2011 (All rights reserved)
If we regard ourselves as followers of the Buddha, then we should try to follow what he taught, not what others say that he taught, or what we think he should have taught. In other words, we should not just follow our own views and opinions, or even the views and opinions of learned monks, but we should make a thorough inquiry
into the teachings of the Buddha, and then try to apply those teachings in our daily lives.
If we don’t make a thorough inquiry, then we are not waging war on
error, but waging war in
error. It won’t be a holy war, but a wholly inappropriate war for Buddhists to engage in, and it will be a tragic waste of this very rare and precious human rebirth during an era when the Buddha’s teachings are still to be found in the world, and when there are still Noble Ones who know the right path leading to the end of all suffering. Holy War in Buddhism
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.
In the Milinda Pañha, King Milinda asked Venerable Nāgasena, “Venerable sir, will you discuss with me again?”
“If your majesty will discuss as a scholar, yes; but if you will discuss as a king, no.”
“How is it then that scholars discuss?”
“When scholars discuss there is a summing up and an unravelling; one or other is shown to be in error. He admits his mistake, yet he does not become angry.”
“Then how is it that kings discuss?”
“When a king discusses a matter and advances a point of view, if anyone differs from him on that point he is apt to punish him.”
“Very well then, it is as a scholar that I will discuss. Let your reverence talk without fear.”
To preserve the Dhamma, we should discuss like scholars, not like kings. If we are unable to win over others to our point of view, then the fault lies not with the Dhamma, but most probably with our exposition of it. Even the Buddha himself could not win over everyone to be his disciple, so what can his ordinary disciples do? Finally, after all kindness, generosity, and reasoning have failed, we must practise tolerance, and abide in equanimity. The Dhamma will not disappear because non-Buddhists attack it and try to convert Buddhists to their faith, the Dhamma will disappear only when Buddhists fail to practise it properly. Read More ...