Sunday, December 05, 2010

Buddhist Perspective on Terrorism

In recent years, unfortunately, terrorism related news are always on the headline. It seems that the world political leaders do not know the best way to handle this complex situation. 
I found compassion and wisdom in Ven Thubten Chodron views on Terrorism, and I totally agree with her. She is an American and below is her view on 9-11 & Terrorism. This is a rare gem!

Taken from "Dealing with Life's Issues - A Buddhist Perspective" by Ven Thubten Chodron
If you like this article, you can download the e-book from this link.

Question: The Buddha preached non-violence. How do we reconcile this with the concept of justice that the American government and many people internationally are demanding after the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C.? Is revenge a solution? How can innocent victims be compensated for their loss and suffering?

Reply: I haven’t heard the word “justice” used in Buddhism. I haven’t read that word in the scriptures or heard it in a teaching. But some other major world religions speak of “justice” a lot, and it’s a major concept or principle in those faiths.

What does “justice” mean? In listening to people use this word nowadays, it seems to mean different things to different people. For some, justice means punishment. In my experience, punishment doesn’t work. I work with prisoners in the States, and it is clear that punishment does not reform people who have nothing to lose to start with. In fact, punishment and disrespect only increase their defiance. Punishment doesn’t work with individuals, and I don’t think it works on an international level either. The Buddha never advocated punishment as in “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”. Instead, he encouraged compassion for both the victims and the perpetrators of harm. With compassion, we try to prevent people who could potentially do criminal and terrorist activities from harming others in the future.

If compensation for loss means revenge, then as Gandhi said, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind”. Revenge doesn’t work. It does not undo the past. It only provokes more anger, hatred and violence, which causes both sides to suffer more. If victims of a tragedy think that somebody else experiencing suffering will alleviate their grief, they haven’t understood their grief. When we want others to suffer and we rejoice in their pain, how do we feel about ourselves? Do we respect ourselves for wishing others to suffer? I don’t think so. It seems to me that in the long run, holding grudges and cultivating vengeance only make us feel worse about ourselves. It neither relieves our grief nor pacifies dangerous situations.

If justice means preventing others from doing more harm, that makes a lot of sense. From a Buddhist perspective, those who have perpetrated great harm are suffering and have little control over their minds and emotions. They might harm others in the future. We have to prevent them from doing that for their own sake as well as for the sake of the potential victims. These people create tremendous negative karma when they harm others and will suffer greatly in future lives. Cultivating compassion for people on both sides — for the perpetrators and for the victims of terrorism — is extremely important. Motivated by compassion, we try to capture the people who perpetrated the terror and imprison them. We do this not because we want to punish them or make them suffer, but because we want to protect them from their own harmful attitudes and actions that damage themselves and others.

I am not saying that Buddhists advocate remaining passive when confronted with danger or harm. We can’t just sit back and hope that it doesn’t happen again. That does not make sense. We have to be pro-active in preventing future harm. We must find the people who support terrorism and stop their activities. But we do so motivated by compassion, not by hatred, anger or revenge. In addition, we must be honest about what we contributed to the situation and remedy that.

No comments: