Terrorism vs. Right Intention

The second Noble Truth of the Eightfold Path of the Buddha’s teachings is Right Intention. Right Intention contains three characteristics: the intention of renunciation, the intention of good will, and the intention of harmlessness. The three are opposed to the wrong kinds of intention: intention governed by desire, ill will, and harmfulness.

In the face of terrorism, it is exceptionally challenging and incredibly important to maintain the Right Intent. Even with the blood of our brothers still fresh on our most holy temples to lose the Right Intent is to lose the foundation of our religion.

This author proposes that when executed with the right intention, forceful means of stopping violence is a legitimate use of force. We must ask ourselves is allowing violence to occur onder our watch is for reasons of shock, fear, or uncertainty does not display skilfulness in  presence of mind, the same as reacting to violence in anger and rage. Surely it is the Buddha’s intent to teach the monks (his spiritual heir’s) to not cherish their life, to not be beholden to a long life, and to accept the dessolution of the body as a natural occurence all will one day experience. But that does not mean throwing away life unjustly. It means realizing when the right kamma makes it necassary to act. No one would propose that the Buddha would say to an injured victim, “this is your kamma for some action you have done, you must suffer accordingly.” The Buddha is not a nihilist or an existentialist. No, the Buddha would help the victim as he or she is able. We protect our temples, our bodies, and our minds from nefarious influences, but with a clear mind of what we are doing and why it will reduce suffering.

For more on this topic, the following is a different translation from “Sayings of Buddha”, Pilgrims Publishing, 2003:

“Simha said: “One doubt still lurks in my mind concerning the doctrine of the Blessed One. I am a soldier, and am appointed by the king to enforce his laws and to wage his wars. Does the Tathagata declare that it is wrong to go war for the protection of our homes, our wives, our children, and our property? Does the Tathagata teach the doctrine of a complete self surrender? Does the Tathagata maintain that warfare waged for a righteous cause should be forbidden? Buddha replied:

He who deserves punishment must be punished, and he who isworthy of favor must be favored. Yet at the same time the Tathagata teaches to do no injury to any living being but to be full of love and kindness. These injunctions are not contradictory, for whosoever must be punished for the crimes, which he has committed, suffers his injury not through the ill-will of the judge put on account of his evil-doing. His own acts have brought upon him the injury that the executor of the law inflicts. When a magistrate punishes, let him not harbor hatred in his breast; and a murderer, when put to death, should consider that this is the fruit of his own act.

The Tathagata teaches that all warfare in which man tries to slay his brother is lamentable, but he does not teach that those who go to war in a righteous cause, after having exhausted all means to preserve the peace, are blameworthy. He must be blamed who is the cause of war. The Tathagata teaches a complete surrender of self, but he does not teach a surrender of anything to those powers that are evil, be they men or gods or the elements of nature.

Struggle must be, for all life is a struggle of some kind. But he that struggles should look to it lest he struggle in the interest of self against truth and righteousness. He who struggles in the interest of self, so that he himself may be great or powerful or rich or famous, will have no reward, but he who struggles for righteousness and truth, will have great reward, for even his defeat will be a victory.

Self is not a fit vessel to receive any great success; self is small however, is large enough to receive the yearning and aspirations of all selves and when the selves break like soap bubbles, their contents will be preserved and in the truth they will lead a life everlasting. (This does not appear in the first version)

He who goes to battle, O Simha, even though it be in a righteous cause, must be prepared to be slain by his enemies, for that is the destiny of warriors; and should his fate overtake him he has no reason for complaint. But he who is victorious should remember the instability of earthly things. His success may be great, but be it ever so great the wheel of fortune may turn again and bring him down into the dust.

The doctrine of the conquest of self, O Simha, in not taught to destroy the souls of men, but to preserve them. He who has conquered self is more fit to live, to be successful, and to gain victories that he who is the slave of self. He, whose mind is free from the illusion of self, will stand and not fall in that battle of life. He, whose intention are righteousness and justice, will meet with no failure, but be successful in his enterprises and his success will endure. He who harbors in his heart love of truth will live and not die, for he has drunk the water of immortality. Struggle then, O general, courageously; and fight your battles vigorously, but be a soldier of truth, and the Tathagata will bless you.”

It also does not mean that the Buddhism path lacks ferocity. Many Buddhist temples contain ferocious spiritual guardians like the Singha Lions, Dharmapala, or Naga to scare away bad spirits or people with evil intent. In Western terms, the traditional Buddhist posture could be described like a dog that is ‘all bark and no bite.’ Unfortunately in this corrupt age, we need more than stone lions to protect our heritage.

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