[unrev-II] Fwd: [issues] A Buddhist Response

From: Jack Park (jackpark@thinkalong.com)
Date: Tue Sep 25 2001 - 06:33:39 PDT

  • Next message: Jack Park: "Re: [unrev-II] Lucid Thinking"

    >From: Thommandel@aol.com
    >David R. Loy
    >Faculty of International Studies
    >Dear friends,
    >In all the recent discussions, there has been very little from a Buddhist
    >perspective, so I take the liberty of sending you the following. It is
    >also available online at http://www.bpf.org/loy-war.html
    >(and I have received French and German translations too). Apologies for
    >cross-posting, and if this is not of interest; if it is, you are welcome to
    >share it with anyone.
    >David Loy
    >A Buddhist Response
    >Like most other Americans, I have been struggling to digest the events of
    >the last week. It has taken a while to realize how psychically numbed many
    >of us are. In the space of a few hours, our world changed. We do not yet
    >know what those changes will mean, but the most important long-term ones
    >may well be psychological.
    >Americans have always understood the United States to be a special and
    >uniquely privileged place. The Puritans viewed New England as the Promised
    >Land. According to Melville, "We Americans are the peculiar, chosen
    >people." In many parts of the globe the twentieth century has been
    >particularly horrible, but the continental United States has been so
    >insulated from these tragedies that we have come to think of ourselves as
    >immune to them - although we have often contributed to them.
    >That confidence has been abruptly shattered. We have discovered that the
    >borderless world of globalization allows us no refuge from the hatred and
    >violence that predominate in many parts of the world.
    >Every death reminds us of our own, and sudden, unexpected death on such a
    >large scale makes it harder to repress awareness of our own mortality. Our
    >obsessions with such things as money, consumerism, and professional sports
    >have been revealed for what they are: unworthy of all the attention we
    >devote to them. There is something valuable to learn here, but this
    >reality nonetheless makes us quite uncomfortable. We do not like to think
    >about death. We usually prefer to be distracted.
    >Talk of vengeance and "bomb them back to the stone age" makes many of us
    >uneasy, but naturally we want to strike back. On Friday September 14
    >President Bush declared that the United States has been called to a new
    >worldwide mission "to rid the world of evil," and on the following Sunday
    >he said that the government is determined to "rid the world of evil-doers."
    >Our land of freedom now has a responsibility to extirpate the world of its
    >evil. We may no longer have an "evil empire" to defeat, but we have found
    >a more sinister evil that will require a long-term, all-out war to destroy.
    >If anything is evil, those terrorist attacks were evil. I share that
    >sentiment. It must be emphasized. At the same time, however, I think we
    >need to take a close look at the rhetoric. When Bush says he wants to rid
    >the world of evil, alarm bells go off in my mind, because that is what
    >Hitler and Stalin also wanted to do.
    >I'm not defending either of those evil-doers, just explaining what they
    >were trying to do. What was the problem with Jews that required a "final
    >solution"? The earth could be made pure for the Aryan race only by
    >exterminating the Jews, the impure vermin who contaminate it. Stalin
    >needed to exterminate well-to-do Russian peasants to establish his ideal
    >society of collective farmers. Both were trying to perfect this world by
    >eliminating its impurities. The world can be made good only by destroying
    >its evil elements.
    >Paradoxically, then, one of the main causes of evil in this world has been
    >human attempts to eradicate evil.
    >Friday's Washington Post quoted Joshua Teitelbaum, a scholar who has
    >studied a more contemporary evil-doer: "Osama bin Laden looks at the world
    >in very stark, black-and-white terms. For him, the U.S. represents the
    >forces of evil that are bringing corruption and domination into the Islamic
    >What is the difference between bin Laden's view and Bush's? They are
    >mirror opposites. What bin Laden sees as good - an Islamic jihad against
    >an impious and materialistic imperialism - Bush sees as evil. What Bush
    >sees as good - America the defender of freedom - bin Laden sees as evil.
    >They are two different versions of the same holy-war-between-good-and-evil.
    >Do not misunderstand me here. I am not equating them morally, nor in any
    >way trying to excuse the horrific events of last Tuesday. From a Buddhist
    >perspective, however, there is something dangerously delusive about the
    >mirror-image views of both sides. We must understand how this
    >black-and-white way of thinking deludes not only Islamic terrorists but
    >also us, and therefore brings more suffering into the world.
    >This dualism of good-versus-evil is attractive because it is a simple way
    >of looking at the world. And most of us are quite familiar with it.
    >Although it is not unique to the Abrahamic religions - Judaism,
    >Christianity, and Islam - it is especially important for them. It is one
    >of the reasons why the conflicts among them have been so difficult to
    >resolve peacefully: adherents tend to identify their own religion as good
    >and demonize the other as evil.
    >It is difficult to turn the other cheek when we view the world through
    >these spectacles, because this rationalizes the opposite principle: an eye
    >for an eye. If the world is a battleground of good and evil forces, the
    >evil that is in the world must be fought by any means necessary.
    >The secularization of the modern West did not eliminate this tendency. In
    >some ways it has intensified it, because we can no longer rely on a
    >supernatural resolution. We have to depend upon ourselves to bring about
    >the final victory of good over evil - as Hitler and Stalin tried to do. It
    >is unclear how much help bin Laden and Bush expect from God.
    >Why do I emphasize this dualism? The basic problem with this way of
    >understanding conflict is that it tends to preclude thought, because it is
    >so simplistic. It keeps us from looking deeper, from trying to discover
    >causes. Once something has been identified as evil, there is no more need
    >to explain it; it is time to focus on fighting against it. This is where
    >Buddhism has something important to contribute.
    >Buddhism emphasizes the three roots of evil, also known as the three
    >poisons: greed, ill will and delusion. The Abrahamic religions emphasize
    >the struggle between good and evil because for them the basic issue depends
    >on our will: which side are we on? In contrast, Buddhism emphasizes
    >ignorance and enlightenment because the basic issue depends on our
    >self-knowledge: do we really understand what motivates us?
    >According to Buddhism, every effect has its web of causes and conditions.
    >This is the law of karma. One way to summarize the essential Buddhist
    >teaching is that we suffer, and cause others to suffer, because of greed,
    >ill will and delusion. Karma implies that when our actions are motivated
    >by these roots of evil, their negative consequences tend to rebound back
    >upon us. The Buddhist solution to suffering involves transforming our
    >greed into generosity, our ill will into loving-kindness, and our delusions
    >into wisdom.
    >What do these Buddhist teachings imply about the situation we now find
    >ourselves in?
    >We cannot focus only on the second root of evil, the hatred and violence
    >that have just been directed against the United States. The three roots
    >are intertwined. Ill will cannot be separated from greed and delusion.
    >This requires us to ask: why do so many people in the Middle East, in
    >particular, hate us so much? What have we done to encourage that hatred?
    >Americans think of America as defending freedom and justice, but obviously
    >that is not the way they perceive us. Are they just misinformed, then, or
    >is it we who are misinformed?
    >"Does anybody think that we can send the USS New Jersey to lob
    >Volkswagen-sized shells into Lebanese villages -- Reagan, 1983 -- or loose
    >'smart bombs' on civilians seeking shelter in a Baghdad bunker -- Bush,
    >1991 -- or fire cruise missiles on a Sudanese pharmaceutical factory --
    >Clinton, 1999 -- and not receive, someday, our share in kind?" (Micah
    >In particular, how much of our foreign policy in the Middle East has been
    >motivated by our love of freedom and democracy, and how much has been
    >motivated by our need - our greed - for its oil? If our main priority has
    >been securing oil supplies, does it mean that our petroleum-based economy
    >is one of the causes of last week's attack?
    >Finally, Buddhist teachings suggest that we look at the role of delusion in
    >creating this situation. Delusion has a special meaning in Buddhism. The
    >fundamental delusion is our sense of separation from the world we are "in,"
    >including other people. Insofar as we feel separate from others, we are
    >more inclined to manipulate them to get what we want. This naturally
    >breeds resentment - both from others, who do not like to be used, and
    >within ourselves, when we do not get what we want. . . . Is this also true
    >Delusion becomes wisdom when we realize that "no one is an island." We are
    >interdependent because we are all part of each other, different facets of
    >the same jewel we call the earth. This world is a not a collection of
    >objects but a community of subjects. That interdependence means we cannot
    >avoid responsibility for each other. This is true not only for the
    >residents of lower Manhattan, as I write uniting together in response to
    >this catastrophe, but for all the people in the world, however deluded they
    >may be. Yes, including the terrorists who did these heinous acts and those
    >who support them.
    >Do not misunderstand me here. Those responsible for the attacks must be
    >caught and brought to justice. That is our responsibility to all those who
    >have suffered, and that is also our responsibility to the deluded and
    >hate-full terrorists, who must be stopped. Those who intend other
    >terrorist actions must also be stopped. If, however, we want to stop this
    >cycle of hatred and violence, we must realize that our responsibility is
    >much broader than that.
    >Realizing our interdependence and mutual responsibility for each other
    >implies something more. When we try to live this interdependence, it is
    >called love. Love is more than a feeling, it is a mode of being in the
    >world. In Buddhism we talk mostly about compassion, generosity, and
    >loving-kindness, but they all reflect this mode of being. Such love is
    >sometimes mocked as weak and ineffectual, yet it can be very powerful, as
    >Gandhi showed. And it embodies a deep wisdom about how the cycle of
    >hatred and violence works and about how that cycle can be ended. An eye
    >for an eye makes the whole world blind, but there is an alternative.
    >Twenty-five hundred years ago, the Buddha said:
    >"He abused me, he beat me, he defeated me, he robbed me" -- for those who
    >harbour such thoughts hatred will never cease.
    >"He abused me, he beat me, he defeated me, he robbed me" -- for those who
    >do not harbour such thoughts hatred will cease.
    >In this world hatred is never appeased by hatred; hatred is always appeased
    >by love. This is an ancient law. (Dhammapada, 3-5)
    >Of course, this transformative insight is not unique to Buddhism. After
    >all, it was not the Buddha who gave us the image of turning the other
    >cheek. In all the Abrahamic religions the tradition of a holy war between
    >good and evil coexists with this "ancient law" about the power of love.
    >That does not mean all the world's religions have emphasized this law to
    >the same extent. In fact, I wonder if this is one way to measure the
    >maturity of a religion, or at least its continuing relevance for us today:
    >how much the liberative truth of this law is acknowledged and encouraged.
    >I do not know enough about Islam to compare, but in the cases of Buddhism
    >and Christianity, for example, it is the times when this truth has not been
    >emphasized that these two religions have been most subverted by secular
    >rulers and nationalistic fervor.
    >So where does that leave us today? We find ourselves at a turning point.
    >A lust for vengeance and violent retaliation is rising, fanned by a leader
    >caught up in his own rhetoric of a holy war to purify the world of evil.
    >Please consider: does the previous sentence describe bin Laden, or
    >President Bush?
    >Many people now want retaliation and vengeance - well, that is what the
    >terrorists wanted. If we pursue the path of large-scale violence, bin
    >Laden's holy war and Bush's holy war will become two sides of the same war.
    >No one can foresee all the consequences of such a war. They are likely to
    >spin out of control and take on a life of their own. However, one sobering
    >effect is clearly implied by the "ancient law": massive retaliation by the
    >United States in the Middle East will spawn a new generation of suicidal
    >terrorists, eager to do their part in this holy war.
    >But widespread violence is not the only possibility. If this time of
    >crisis encourages us to see through the rhetoric of a war to exterminate
    >evil, and if we begin to understand the intertwined roots of this evil,
    >including our own responsibility, then perhaps something good may yet come
    >out of this catastrophic tragedy.
    >David R. Loy
    >18 September 2001
    >David R. Loy
    >Faculty of International Studies
    >Bunkyo University
    >1100 Namegaya
    >Chigasaki 253-8550
    >tel. (81) 467-53-2111
    >fax. (81) 467-54-3722
    >The problem with every war is that the victor learns that violence
    >succeeds. (A. J. Muste)
    >(tom) Now you see why systemics is really rooted in deep philosophy,
    >roots that go back thousands of years..

    ------------------------ Yahoo! Groups Sponsor ---------------------~-->
    Pinpoint the right security solution for your company- Learn how to add 128- bit encryption and to authenticate your web site with VeriSign's FREE guide!

    Community email addresses:
      Post message: unrev-II@onelist.com
      Subscribe: unrev-II-subscribe@onelist.com
      Unsubscribe: unrev-II-unsubscribe@onelist.com
      List owner: unrev-II-owner@onelist.com

    Shortcut URL to this page:

    Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to http://docs.yahoo.com/info/terms/

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2.0.0 : Tue Sep 25 2001 - 06:23:28 PDT