Violence and Disruption in Society:
Study Of The Early Buddhist Texts
1. The Forms of Violence
2. Reasons for Buddhism's Attitude Towards Violence
3. The Roots of Violence
4. Can Violent Tendencies Be Eradicated?
8.15 a.m. Japanese time, on August 6th 1945, a U.S. plane dropped
a bomb named "Little Boy" over the center of the city
of Hiroshima. The total number of people who were killed immediately
and in the following months was probably close to 200,000. Some
claim that this bomb and the one which fell on Nagasaki ended
the war quickly and saved American and Japanese lives -- a consequentialist
theory to justify horrific violence against innocent civilians.
Others say the newly developed weapons had to be tested as a
matter of necessity.
and Nagasaki ushered in a new age. Humankind's tendency towards
conflict and violence can now wipe out the entire human habitat.
The weapon used on Hiroshima had a destructive force of 12.5
kilotons; a contemporary cruise missile has the power of 200
kilotons. All war, violence and conflict at national and international
levels in the last quarter of the twentieth century has thus
taken on sinister proportions. It is not that human nature has
changed but that the resources at our disposal have. No country
is free from the threat of nuclear annihilation; no country
is free from internal conflict and the barrel of the gun. It
is against the urgency of this background that the teachings
of Buddhism about violence must be studied and interpreted.
such as the following have been extracted and used to sum up
the Buddhist attitude to this issue: All fear death; Comparing
oneself with others One should neither kill nor cause others
to kill." Dhp. v. 129
breeds hatred, The defeated live in pain. Happily the peaceful
live, Giving up victory and defeat." Dhp. v.
verses would seem to indicate a clearly defined Buddhist perspective.
Yet such text extraction can lead to misrepresentation if not
undergirded with a strong supporting framework. Furthermore,
if Buddhism has a message for a violent world, it must do more
than condemn violence. It must be able to interpret its nature,
its roots, its hold on the world and the possibilities for its
transformation. It must dialogue with other philosophies and
ideologies such as utilitarianism,  scientific socialism
and the belief in a just or "holy" war. For instance,
utilitarianism still lives among those who believe that violence
can be justified if more people will benefit than will be hurt,
and the consequentialist theory mentioned with reference to
Hiroshima is similar to this. Then there are those who hold
that certain forms of injustice and exploitation can only be
destroyed through violence and that history will justify its
legitimacy. The view that violent change is a historical inevitability
is close to this. Buddhism must be able to comment on the stance
which argues that if Hitler had been assassinated early in his
career numerous deaths would have been avoided, or the claim
that force is justified against a government which is using
violence against its people under the pretext of law. If it
cannot, it will stand accused of irrelevance.
this study, I define violence as that which harms, debases,
dehumanizes or brutalizes human beings, animals or the natural
world; and the violent person, as one who causes harm in speech
or action, either directly or indirectly, or whose mind is filled
with such thoughts.  The approach will be scriptural,
and the resource I use will be the Pali texts. The basic issue
I investigate is what this resource says on the subject of violence.
Identity is not assumed between the sixth century B.C. and the
twentieth century A.D. Rather, the potential of the scriptures
of any religion to provide guidelines for action and models
for contemporary interpretation is recognized. Hence, the following
specific questions will provide the framework for my study:
What different forms of violence do the Buddhist texts show
For what reasons do the texts condemn violence or call it into
What do they see to be the roots of violence?
Do the texts give any guidelines for the eradication of violence
in the individual or in society?
1. The Forms Of Violence [^]
sermons of the Buddha, as they have been handed down to us,
are replete with details about the contemporary realities of
the times. They reveal much about the social contexts within
which the Buddha moved and the faces of society with which he
Canki Sutta shows a brahmin overlord insisting that the Buddha
is equal to him in birth, riches and the knowledge of the Vedas.
Indeed, sirs, King Seniya Bimbisara of Magadha with his wife
and children has gone to the recluse Gotama for refuge for life.
Indeed, sirs, King Pasenadi of Kosala with his wife and children
has gone to the recluse Gotama for refuge for life. Indeed,
sirs, the brahmin Pokkharasati with his wife and children has
gone to the recluse Gotama for refuge for life." 
here is the reference to kings. The texts show clearly that
the Buddha had an intimate knowledge of statecraft. Records
of his conversations with Pasenadi and Bimbisara show him speaking
in a language which those involved in government could understand.
Pasenadi, for instance, comes through as a man torn between
his duties as king, involving some degree of ruthlessness, and
his concern for spiritual things. At one moment, he is seen
preparing a sacrifice in which many animals are to be slaughtered
and menials beaten and, at another, speaking seriously with
the Buddha about the dangers of wealth, power and evil conduct. 
What is significant is the level of knowledge shown by the Buddha
about the pressures on a king such as Pasenadi. His use of similes
and illustrations, for instance, appeals to Pasenadi's experience,
including the central concern of all rulers at that time --
defense against aggression. At one point Pasenadi asks about
the value of gifts and to whom a gift should be given for the
gift to bear much fruit. The Buddha replies:
gift bears much fruit if given to a virtuous person, not to
a vicious person. As to that, sire, I also will ask you a question.
Answer it as you think fit. What think you, sire? Suppose that
you were at war, and that the contending armies were being mustered.
And there were to arrive a noble youth, untrained, unskilled,
unpracticed, undrilled, timid, trembling, affrighted, one who
would run away -- would you keep that man? Would such a man
be any good to you?" 
Buddha thus uses similes from Pasenadi's military world to indicate
that virtue does not depend on birth but on qualities of character.
In fact, in a number of texts, illustrations drawn from the
context of the state, defense and martial arts can be found.
Not only does the Buddha make use of military metaphors, but
the texts show that he had extensive knowledge of the strategies
of war, punishment and political patronage. The Mahadukkhakkhandha
Sutta, for instance, uses graphic description to show that war
and conflict spring from sensual desires:
again, monks, when sense pleasures are the cause ... having
taken sword and shield, having girded on bow and quiver, both
sides mass for battle and arrows are hurled and knives are hurled
and swords are flashing. Those who wound with arrows and wound
with knives and decapitate with their swords, these suffer dying
then and pain like unto dying....
again, monks, when sense pleasures are the cause ... having
taken sword and shield, having girded on bow and quiver, they
leap on to the newly daubed ramparts, and arrows are hurled
and knives are hurled and swords are flashing. Those who wound
with arrows and wound with knives and pour boiling cow-dung
over them and crush them with the portcullis and decapitate
them with their swords, these suffer dying then and pain like
unto dying." 
the next part of the sutta, a variety of horrific punishments
are described and a keen awareness of their nature is seen:
having arrested such a one, deal out various punishments: they
lash him with whips and they lash him with canes and they lash
him with rods, and they cut off his hand ... his foot ... his
hand and foot ... his ear ... and they give him the "gruel-pot"
punishment ... the "shell-tonsure" punishment ...
"Rahu's mouth" ... the "fire-garland" ...
the "flaming hand" ... etc."
another sermon handed down to us, two men are pointed out while
the Buddha is talking to a headman, Pataliya. One of them is
garlanded and well-groomed; the other is tightly bound, about
to lose his head. We are told that the same deed has been committed
by both. The difference is that the former has killed the foe
of the king and has been rewarded for it, whilst the latter
was the king's enemy.  Hence it is stressed that the
laws of the state are not impartial: they can mete out punishment
or patronage according to the wish of the king and his cravings
for revenge or security.
cannot be argued that the Buddha was ignorant of the political
realities of his day. He spurned frivolous talk about such things
as affairs of state  but he was neither indifferent
to them nor uninformed. On the contrary, his concern for the
human predicament made him acutely aware of the potential for
violence within the economic and political forces around him.
The political milieu of rival republics and monarchies in northern
India forms a backdrop to his teaching, whether the rivalries
between the kingdoms of Kosala and Magadha or the struggles
of the republics to maintain their traditions and their independence
in the face of the rising monarchies. 
the violence attached to politics and statecraft forms one section
only of the picture which emerges from the texts. Violence is
detected in the brahminical sacrificial system, in the austerities
practiced by some wanderers, and in the climate of philosophical
dispute among the many sramana groupings as well as in the area
of social discrimination and the economic order.
to take this first, is seen as a cause of physical, verbal and
mental violence. The violence inflicted through sacrifices is
at that time a great sacrifice was arranged to be held for the
king, the Kosalan Pasenadi. Five hundred bulls, five hundred
bullocks and as many heifers, goats and rams were led to the
pillar to be sacrificed. And they that were slaves and menials
and craftsmen, hectored about by blows and by fear, made the
preparations with tearful faces weeping." 
contrast, the sramana groupings within this period eschewed
sacrifice. Denying the authority of the Vedas and a realm of
gods to be manipulated, their emphasis was on renunciation,
the gaining of insight and philosophical debate. Nevertheless,
a form of violence was present. The austerities practiced by
some of those who came to the Buddha were worse than any enemy
might inflict as punishment. The Buddha himself confessed to
having practiced them before his enlightenment. In the Mahasaccaka 
and the Mahasihanada  Suttas there is vivid description
of the excesses undertaken. Taken together, the two suttas cover
the complete range of contemporary Indian practices, which included
nakedness or the wearing of rags, tree-bark fiber, kusa grass,
wood shavings or human hair; deprivation of food to the extent
of existing on a single fruit or rice grain; self-mortification
through lying on thorns or exposing the body to extremes of
heat and cold; copying the habits of animals such as walking
on all fours or eating similar food. It was the Buddha's view
that such practices were a form of violence, although undertaken
in the name of religion and truth-seeking. 
also in the name of truth were verbal battles between different
groups of wanderers. The Buddha's followers, in fact, were frequently
at the receiving end of an aggressive campaign by other groups
to ridicule their beliefs. The description of these incidents
gives useful evidence of the prevailing atmosphere. 
In the Udumbarika Sihanada Sutta, Nigrodha the Jain claims:
householder, if the Samana Gotama were to come into this assembly,
with a single question only could we settle him; yea, methinks
we could roll him over like an empty pot." 
the Kassapa Sihanada Sutta, the Buddha speaks out:
there are, Kassapa, certain recluses and brahmins who are clever,
subtle, experienced in controversy, hair splitters, who go about,
one would think, breaking into pieces by their wisdom the speculations
of their adversaries." 
of state and violence in the name of religion were two faces
of the Buddha's society. Violence within the economic order
was another. The sixth century B.C. in India witnessed urbanization
and commercial growth. Savatthi, Saketa, Kosambhi, Benares,
Rajagaha and Champa would have been some of the most important
centers known to the Buddha, who spent much time in urban environments.
As Trevor Ling argues in his study, The Buddha,  the
growth of these cities spawned individualism and competition
in response to changing economic patterns and social dislocation.
The potentially violent tensions generated are reflected in
the Buddha's teachings through such themes as the rightful gaining
of wealth, the place of service and work,  correct
duties towards employees, and the wise choosing of friends.
For instance, a Samyutta Nikaya text contains a conversation
between Rasiya the Headman and the Buddha. The Buddha speaks
out against those who gain wealth by unlawful means, especially
with violence.  Then, in the Sigalovada Sutta, the
Buddha outlines rights and duties for the different social relationships
in society.  An employer is advised to: assign work
according to the strength of the employee; supply food and wages;
tend workers in sickness; share with them unusual delicacies;
grant them leave. The same sutta comments on friendship and
says that four foes in the likeness of friends should be avoided:
a rapacious person, a man of words not deeds, the flatterer
and the fellow-waster.
study of what the Early Buddhist texts say about violence must
be seen against this background of political violence and social
change. The empiricism of Early Buddhism also demands this --
the Buddha's appeal to what is observed in society as a basis
for evaluating the truth of his teachings. 
analysis of historical context calls into question whether any
philosophy or thought system can have universal relevance. Since
the human situation across the permutations of history is indeed
subject to change, the issue is a valid one. Yet there is also
a continuity in evolution such that parallels can be drawn between
the forces at work in the sixth century B.C. and those operating
in the latter part of the twentieth century. The sixth century
B.C. is not identical to the twentieth but neither is it completely
different. The teaching of Early Buddhism on violence, therefore,
should not be used as if there were either identity or utter
separateness. In each new context and historical period, there
is a need for re-interpretation and re-evaluation. At this point,
it is enough to stress that the texts reveal much about Indian
society at the time of the Buddha and about the Buddha's own
breadth of awareness. It cannot be argued that he had no knowledge
of the violence within his own society or that his words were
divorced from the tensions around him. On the contrary, their
import drew urgency from contemporary observable reality.
Buddha's Approach to Empirical Questions
to Buddhism's approach to the analysis of social phenomena is
the doctrine of paticca samuppada or dependent origination,
which can be expressed thus:
this is, that is; this arising, that arises. When this is not,
that is not; this ceasing, that ceases.
sati idam hoti; imass' uppada idam uppajjati. Imasmim asati
idam na hoti;imassa nirodha idamnirujjhati.
and tendencies within the material world are interpreted from
the standpoint of causality. Phenomena are conditioned. Buddhism,
therefore, calls for an analytical attitude in dealing with
anything to do with human life, including the question of violence. 
consequence which flows from this is that generalizations and
statements based on categories of pure reason are suspect. Evidence
can be drawn from the suttas to show that the Buddha insisted
on making discriminations when presented with dogmatically held
views. For instance, in the Subha Sutta, Subha comes out with
the view that a householder is accomplishing the right path
and one who has renounced is not. The Buddha replies: "On
this point, brahmin youth, I discriminate, on this point I do
not speak definitely." He stresses that both householder
(gihin) and the one who has renounced (pabbajita) can be living
wrongly; both can be living rightly. The deciding factor is
not the label, but rightness of action, speech and thought. 
similar approach can be seen in the Esukari Sutta where the
Buddha speaks about service. In this case, the deciding factor
as to whether a person should serve is whether the one who serves
is better for the service in terms of such things as growing
in moral habit and wisdom.  Then, when faced with the
question of sacrifice by the brahmin Ujjaya, there is again
discrimination according to condition. Not every sacrifice is
blameworthy. Where living creatures are not killed or where
the sacrifice is an offering for the welfare of the family,
there is no blame: "No, brahmin, I do not praise every
sacrifice. Yet, I would not withhold praise from every sacrifice." 
The deciding factor here is the presence of suffering for animals.
samuppada opposes the human tendency to generalize and encourages
analysis on the basis of empirical data and moral values applied
to these.  It criticizes standpoints which use inappropriate
categories through insufficient observation and dogmatic statements
about right and wrong which do not take empirically observed
facts into account.
understand Early Buddhism's analysis of violence, this conditionality
is important. When the Buddha speaks about the causes and the
remedies of violence, his approach is dependent on the conditions
prevalent in a particular situation. For instance, psychological
factors are not emphasized when the Buddha is speaking to those
in power about societal disruption; social and economic causes
are stressed instead.  Yet, in other contexts, particularly
when monks are addressed, it is the psychological factor which
is given prominence.  In contrast again, with King
Pasenadi, the Buddha does not condemn violence in defense of
the realm but places it within the larger context of impermanence
and death to encourage reflection. 
is possible to hold together the above divergent emphases if
we bear in mind the full implications of conditionality and
the empiricism of Early Buddhism. We should not expect dogmatic,
non-empirical generalizations. For instance, if craving (tanha)
is to be posited as the root of much violence, it would not
follow that every situation was conditioned by tanha in the
same way or that the remedy in each situation would be identical.
Likewise, it would not follow that what was incumbent on one
type of person in one situation would be incumbent on all sections
of society in all contexts.
2. Reasons For Buddhism's Attitude Towards Violence [^]
looking more closely at what is said about the roots of violence,
it is worth drawing out reasons given in the texts for the avoidance,
questioning or non-espousal of violence. Interconnected frameworks
emerge: nibbana as the goal of the spiritual life; the
demands of metta and karuna (loving kindness and
compassion); the need for peace, concord and harmony within
the ultimate goal of the spiritual path for the Buddhist is
nibbana, attitudes towards violence must first be seen
in relation to it. Nibbana is the ultimate eradication
of dukkha. It is a possible goal within this life and,
among other things, involves a complete de-toxification of the
mind from greed, hatred and delusion, a revolution in the way
the world is perceived, freedom from craving and liberation
from the delusion of ego. The Therigatha or Songs of
the Sisters contain some of the most moving testimonies to this
reality; they are paeans of joy about liberation:
is the ecstasy of freedom won As Path merges in Fruit and
Fruit in Path. Holding to nought, I in Nibbana live, This
five-grouped being have I understood. Cut from its root, all
onward growth is stayed, I too am stayed, victor on basis
sure Immovable. Rebirth comes never more." 
and samsara are antithetical. One is the ceasing of the
other. In the context of the goal of nibbana, actions,
thoughts and words can be evaluated as to whether they build
samsara or lead to nibbana: whether they are unskilled
(akusala) or skilled (kusala). Indulgence in violence
is normally deemed akusala. In other words, it cannot
lead to the goal of nibbana. In the Ambalatthika-Rahulovada
Sutta, the Buddha says to the Venerable Rahula:
you, Rahula, are desirous of doing a deed with the body, you
should reflect on the deed with the body, thus: "That
deed which I am desirous of doing with the body is a deed
of the body that might conduce to the harm of self and that
might conduce to the harm of others and that might conduce
to the harm of both; this deed of body is unskilled (akusala),
its yield is anguish, its result is anguish." 
to others is central to what is unskilled. In the Sallekha Sutta
advice is given to monks about the cleansing of the mind as
the basis of spiritual progress. Foremost among the thoughts
which have to be cleansed are those connected with harming and
violence; both represent unskilled states which lead downwards:
as every unskilled state leads downwards, as every skilled
state leads upwards, even so, Cunda, does non-harming (avihimsa)
come to be a higher state for an individual who is harmful,
does restraint from onslaught on creatures come to be a higher
state for the individual who makes onslaught on creatures."
the Buddha is in conversation with Bhaddiya, sarambha
is added to lobha, dosa and moha (lust,
hatred and delusion) as a defilement which flows from them.
Sarambha can be translated as "accompanied by violence."
As the mind filled with lobha, dosa and moha
is led to actions which are akusala, so is the mind filled
with the violence which accompanies the triad. All lead to a
what think you, Bhaddiya? When freedom from malice (adosa)
... from delusion (amoha) ... from violence (asarambha)
that goes with these arises within oneself, does it arise
to one's profit or to one's loss?" -- "To one's
profit, sir." 
point of the above suttas is that violent action and violent
thought, actions which harm and debase others and thoughts which
contemplate the same, stand in the way of spiritual growth and
the self-conquest which leads to the goal of existence. In this
respect, indulging in violence is doing to oneself what an enemy
would wish. It is a form of self-harming:
who is exceedingly corrupt like a maluva creeper strangling
a sal tree does to himself what an enemy would wish."
Dhp. v. 162
contrast, abstaining from violence has personal benefit in the
present and in the future. It is part of the training of mind
and body which lays the foundation for spiritual progress.
accusation has been made that the application of the terms kusala
and akusala are oriented only towards an individualistic
goal, making the motivation for abstention from violence a selfish
one. But it can be argued that the distinction between altruism
and egoism breaks down for anyone truly following the Noble
Eightfold Path. There are also many textual references to the
inherent importance of harmony, justice and compassion in society
to balance those passages which seem to be solely individualistic.
Harmony and justice are recognized as worthwhile in themselves
as well as a prerequisite for the spiritual progress of society's
members. Hence, in society, violence is to be eschewed because
it brings pain to beings with similar feelings to oneself:
tremble at violence, Life is dear to all. Comparing others
with oneself One should neither kill nor cause others to kill.
" Dhp. v. 130
the level of personal analogy, men and women are to condemn
violence. It is an analogy which demands metta (loving
kindness) and karuna (compassion) of the human being.
 They call on a frame of mind which
cannot remain insensitive to suffering in others or untouched
by the agony produced by violence. Non-violence, therefore,
arises through the urge to prevent anguish in others:
oneself with others in such terms as "Just as I am so
are they, just as they are so am I" (yatha aham tatha
ete yatha ete tatha aham), one should neither kill nor
cause others to kill. "Snp. v. 705
Buddha, however, did not credit all people with this level of
awareness. He is recorded as saying that shame and fear of blame
protect the world, and if there were not these forces, the world
would come to confusion and promiscuity. 
Not all beings rally to the call for compassion on the grounds
that others have like feelings to themselves or that harmony
in society is necessary. Therefore, some texts invoke the concepts
of heaven and hell, rewards and punishments, to control violence.
Vivid pictures are drawn of the agonies of hell:
youth, here some woman or man is one who makes onslaught on
creatures, is cruel, bloody-handed, intent on injuring and
killing, and without mercy to living creatures. Because of
that deed, accomplished thus, firmly held thus, he, at breaking
up of the body after dying, arises in the sorrowful way, the
bad bourn, the Downfall, the Niraya." 
so, monks, that anguish and dejection that man experiences
while he is being stabbed with three hundred spears, compared
with the anguish of Niraya Hell does not count, it does not
amount even to an infinitesimal fraction of it, it cannot
even be compared to it. Monks, the guardians of Niraya Hell
subject him to what is called the fivefold pinion. They drive
a red-hot iron stake through each hand and each foot and a
red-hot iron stake through his breast. Thereat, he feels feelings
that are painful, sharp and severe. But he does not do his
time until he makes an end of that evil deed." 
self-interest in terms of avoidance of future pain is appealed
to as a reason to desist from violence. This emphasis can also
be seen in the Petavatthu in which those fallen to the realm
of the petas speak to those on the human level about
the reasons for their suffering.  Falsehood,
failing in the duties of wife or husband, stinginess and fraud
are some of the actions mentioned. Story No. 32, however, speaks
of a deerhunter who explains that he was
ruthless man of bloody hands":
harmless creatures, I, with wicked mind, walked about, very
ruthless, ever finding delight in slaying others unrestrained,"
declares in verse three. His punishment is to be devoured by
dogs during the daytime, the hours when he used to be involved
in slaughter. He is able to teach the living that the First
Precept should be kept and that it applies not only to the killing
of human beings but also to animals. The deerhunter, therefore,
is held up as an authoritative witness to what happens to violent
individuals. His story is useful as a deterrent to socially
disruptive elements and is confirmation of the importance Buddhism
places on non-violence within the social fabric. The threat
of future punishment is used to control potentially violent
broad, interconnected areas, therefore, emerge in the reasons
for the condemnation of violence within the Early Buddhist texts.
Firstly, thoughts of violence and violent action are defilements
and must be eradicated if nibbana is to be reached. In
this light, nibbana is the highest ethical good. This
stress alone, however, can lead to distortion if nibbana
is seen as a metaphysical state above the empirical world and
the path to it as divorced from society. Early Buddhism was
rooted in the empirical. Violence was to be repudiated because
it caused anguish to men and women and disruption in society.
The human person was seen as precious. Harming a being who desired
happiness and felt pain could rarely be right. If a society
was to be established in which people could live without fear
and with the freedom of mind to follow the Eightfold Path, violence
had to be eschewed.
question of political, defensive violence, however, must be
mentioned here. Can violence be justified in a situation where
the state needs to defend its citizens against external and
internal threats? Is this a situation in which violence is not
condemned? The texts suggest Buddhism would here insist on discrimination.
The Cakkavatti Sihanada Sutta gives this advice to the righteous
dear son, that you, leaning on the Dhamma, honouring, respecting
and revering it, doing homage to it, hallowing it, being yourself
a Dhamma-banner, a Dhamma-signal, having the Dhamma as your
master, should provide the right watch, ward and protection
for your own folk, for the army, for the nobles, for vassals
and brahmins and householders, for town and country dwellers,
for the religious world and for beasts and birds. "
passage implies that the need for an army and consequently for
the use of force in defense is accepted as a worldly necessity.
But the picture which emerges is not glorification of the "just"
war but an appeal for war and violence to be seen against a
higher set of values.
perspectives on these political realities are seen in the Buddha's
advice to the Vajjians and to King Pasenadi. The Vajjians are
faced with vicious aggression from King Ajatasattu, King of
Magadha, who is bent on destroying them. The latter sends a
brahmin to the Buddha for advice and a prediction about how
successful he will be in war. The very fact that he does so
shows that he does not consider the Buddha either ill-informed
or dismissive of such political conflicts. The reply he receives
is significant. The Buddha does not refer directly to Ajatasattu
but implies that the use of arms against a people who are morally
pure and in concord would be fruitless. His words to Ajatasattu
become words of advice to the Vajjians that they should meet
together in concord and give respect to their elders, their
ancient institutions, their traditions and their women. No mention
is made of the Vajjian military strength; only of their moral
strength. Moral strength is held up as defense against violence.
Yet it is not denied but implicitly understood that the Vajjians
would have to use force to repulse aggression, and also present
is an implicit condemnation of Ajatasattu's intentions. 
Pasenadi is also seen in conflict with Ajatasattu, meeting force
with force. At first, Ajatasattu is the aggressor and the victor.
The reported response of the Buddha is significant:
Monks, the King of Magadha, Ajatasattu, son of the Vedehi
Princess, is a friend to, an intimate of, mixed up with, whatever
is evil. The Kosalan King Pasenadi is a friend to, an intimate
of, mixed up with, whatever is good." 
Pasenadi's role as defender of the nation against aggression
is accepted as necessary and praiseworthy. In the next battle,
Pasenadi is the victor. Ajatasattu's army is confiscated but
Pasenadi is merciful enough to grant Ajatasattu his life. It
is still Ajatasattu who is condemned. His fate is seen in kammic
man may spoil another just so far As it may serve his ends,
but when he's spoiled By others he, despoiled, spoils yet
again. So long as evil's fruit is not matured The fool does
fancy: "Now's the hour, the chance!" But when the
deed bears fruit, he fareth ill. The slayer gets a slayer
in his turn, The conqueror gets one who conquers him, The
abuser wins abuse, the annoyer frets: Thus by the evolution
of the deed A man who spoils is spoiled in his turn."
one respect, Pasenadi becomes an instrument of kamma for Ajatasattu.
At another level, acceptance of political realities emerges.
The king has a duty to protect his citizens from external threats
of violence. Therefore, the advice given to a king or those
with responsibility for government about reacting to the violence
of others is fitted to the situation, a situation in which the
use of violence may become a political necessity in a world
governed by craving (tanha). Yet, even with affairs of
state, war is placed in the perspective of a more important
set of values. To Pasenadi, burdened by responsibility, the
Noble and brahmin, commoner and serf, None can evade and play
the truant here: The impending doom overwhelms one and all.
Here is no place for strife with elephants Or chariots of
war or infantry, Nay, nor for war or woven spell or curse
Nor may finance avail to win the day." 
is not presented as worthy of praise in itself. It is recognized
that battle cannot take place without hatred and the wish to
kill, in both the mind of aggressor and victim. A Samyutta Nikaya
passage illustrates this. A fighting man comes to the Buddha
and explains his belief that the warrior who is killed whilst
fighting energetically in battle is reborn in the company of
the Devas of Passionate Delight. The Buddha's answer condemns
this idea as perverted. A warrior is always led by the idea,
"Let those beings be exterminated so that they may be never
thought to have existed." Such a view can only lead downwards
rather than to any heavenly world. The Buddha thus rejects any
glorification of war, since there can be no glory when the mind
is dominated by hate.
duty of the state is to punish. Punishment, although a harming
of creatures and a cause of pain to them, is nevertheless seen
as a social necessity because of the need to protect society
from the greater violence which would flow from undeterred greed.
Fear of punishment (dandabhaya) is described in vivid
terms, with the mention of specific punishments. A man sees
them and thinks:
I were to do such deeds as those for which the rajahs seize
a bandit, a miscreant, and so treat him ... they would surely
treat me in like manner." 
here is the fact that Early Buddhism would make discriminations
about the question of punishment. As a deterrent, punishment
has value. Meted out as an expression of hate, it is to be rejected.
Inflicted where social justice is the requisite, it is also
condemned, as seen in the Kutadanta Sutta, referred to in the
3. The Roots Of Violence [^]
Attadanda Sutta of the Sutta Nipata is the voice of someone
overcome by despair because of the violence he sees:
results from resorting to violence -- just look at how people
quarrel and fight. But let me tell you now of the kind of dismay
and terror that I have felt.
people struggling like fish, writhing in shallow water, with
enmity against one another, I became afraid.
one time, I had wanted to find some place where I could take
shelter, but I never saw such a place. There is nothing in this
world that is solid at base and not a part of it that is changeless.
had seen them all trapped in mutual conflict and that is why
I had felt so repelled. But then I noticed something buried
deep in their hearts. It was -- I could just make it out --
a dart. "
above is from a translation of the Sutta Nipata which attempts
to preserve the spirit of the text rather than the letter. Here
it is the spirit of dismay and fear leading to discovery which
is of prime importance. The speaker detects a common root --
the dart of craving (tanha) and greed (lobha) -- a view directly
in line with the Four Noble Truths. Violence arises because
the right nourishment is present.
it has been pointed out earlier that differences may exist in
the way in which tanha conditions situations of violence. On
analysis, two broad and mutually interdependent areas emerge:
(1) violence arising from an individual's maladjustment, and
(2) craving and violence arising from unsatisfactory social
and environmental conditions, caused by the craving of others.
latter can be taken first with reference to the following texts:
The Kutadanta Sutta; the Cakkavatti Sihanada Sutta; and certain
Anguttara Nikaya passages. The first weaves a myth within a
myth. The inner myth tells the story of a king, King Wide-Realm,
whose land is wracked with discontent and crime such that people
are afraid to walk in the streets for fear of violence.
king's solution is to hold a sacrifice for the nation and he
goes to a holy man for advice. But the king is not given what
he expects. The sage tells the king that fines, bonds and death
for the wrongdoers would be self-defeating. Punishment is not
the right path. On the contrary, it would increase the malady
because the root causes remained untouched, in this instance,
economic injustice and poverty. King Wide-Realm is advised to
give food and seed corn to farmers, capital to traders and food
to those in government service:
perchance his majesty might think: "I'll soon put a stop
to these scoundrels' game by degradation and banishment and
fines and bonds and death." But their license cannot be
satisfactorily put a stop to so. The remnant left unpunished
would still go on harassing the realm. Now there is one method
to adopt to put a thorough end to this disorder. Whosoever there
be in the king's realm who devote themselves to keeping cattle
and the farm, to them let his majesty give food and seed corn.
Whosoever there be in the king's realm who devote themselves
to trade, to them let his majesty give capital. Whosoever there
be in the king's realm who devote themselves to government service,
to them let his majesty give wages and food. Then those men,
following each his own business, will no longer harass the realm;
the king's revenue will go up; the country will be quiet and
at peace; and the populace pleased with one another and happy,
dancing their children in their arms, will dwell with open doors." 
above analysis recognizes that men and women can be pushed to
violence if the prevailing conditions do not enable them to
preserve their own lives without it. The instinct to survive
is credited with enough strength to push people to struggle
before they will sink into need. In such a situation, it follows
that to press down the hand of the law will not be effective.
In fact, it could encourage a growth in serious crime.
is what happens in the Cakkavatti Sihanada Sutta, another mythological
story dealing with disruption in society. It has already been
mentioned with reference to the duty of kingship. But there
is one clause concerning his duty that has not yet been mentioned:
your kingdom let no wrongdoing prevail. And whosoever in your
kingdom is poor, to him let wealth be given." 
kings of the story who keep to this are blessed with peace.
Yet a king eventually arises who neglects the giving of wealth
to the poor. He is soon faced with a situation beyond his control.
Poverty becomes rampant and this leads to theft, since people
would rather steal than die. When the king realizes the cause,
he starts by being lenient on the wrongdoer, by giving him the
means to live. Such kindness too late leads others to see the
only way to survive is turning to theft and receiving a royal
handout in return. The king has given charity, not justice,
and crime increases leading to a return to brutal punishments.
The brutality of the punishments encourages the people to be
more extreme in their own crime as they try to survive. Punishment
here fails to deter because of the desperation of the people.
sutta presents a disturbing picture of how a society can fall
into utter confusion because of a lack of economic justice.
The extremes reached are far greater than anything envisaged
in the Kutadanta Sutta and they stem from the state's blindness
to the realities of poverty. Thus the sutta states in refrain
after every deterioration:
from goods not being bestowed on the destitute, poverty ...
stealing ... violence ... murder ... lying ...
evil-speaking ... immorality grew rife.
and killing lead to false speech, jealousy, adultery, incest
and perverted lust until:
such humans, brethren, there will arise a sword-period (satthantarakappa)
of seven days during which they will look on each other as wild
beasts; sharp swords will appear ready to their hands, and they
thinking, "This is a wild beast, this is a wild beast,"
will with their swords deprive each other of life." 
the Cakkavatti Sihanada Sutta, the nourishment of the violence
is the state's neglect of the poor. The whole myth illustrates
the principle of paticca samuppada. Each state of degeneration
is dependent on the state before it. An evolutionary process
is seen. An inevitability seems to emerge, an inevitable movement
towards bestiality. It is significant that the sutta does not
concentrate on the psychological state of the people. The obsessive
cravings which overtake them are traced back to the failure
of the state rather than to failings in their own adjustment
to reality. The root is the defilement in the state -- the raga,
dosa and moha in the king which afflict his perception of his
Anguttara Nikaya passage states this principle in simple and
direct terms. If the king is righteous, his ministers will be
righteous, the country will be righteous and the natural world
will be a friend rather than an enemy. The opposite, of course,
is also true and is placed first in the sutta:
such time, monks, as rulers are unrighteous (adhammika), their
ministers are unrighteous, brahmins and householders are also
above passages show that a change of heart is needed where violence
exists but this change is needed in those who wield power in
society. When a state is corrupt, the citizens become victims
of the state and their own wish to survive and they are then
led to actions they would never consider if they were free from
want. There is an understanding that, besides those who do evil,
there exists a category of people to whom wrong is done and
whose reactions are conditioned by the original wrongdoing.
pass now to the psychological roots of violence, another myth
can be cited, the Agganna Sutta. Like the Cakkavatti Sihanada
Sutta, it describes an evolutionary process which takes on its
own momentum. The root of the process is significant -- the
craving of beings. The sutta explains, in myth form, the process
by which undifferentiated beings come to earth from a World
of Radiance to eat the earth's savory crust, to the point where
there is private property and the division of labor. One of
its purposes is to challenge the static, non-evolutionary theory
of a divinely ordained caste system but it is significant also
because evolution is guided by the growth of craving and individualism.
The whole sutta turns on the individual and his craving as the
root of violence. It depicts a situation before state power
is established. Craving first enters when the beings taste the
crust of the earth:
Vasettha, some being of greedy disposition said, "Lo now,
what will this be?" and tasted the savory earth with his
finger. He thus, tasting, became suffused with the savor, and
craving (tanha) entered into him. "
craving develops. The natural world evolves to accommodate the
beings, becoming ever less easy to manage. The bodies of the
beings become gross and individually differentiated into male
and female, comely and unlovely. Jealousy and competition enter.
The savory crust disappears. Vegetables and plant life evolve.
An important point is reached when the beings establish boundaries
around their individually owned rice plots. Individualism is
therefore institutionally consolidated and the consequence is
some being, Vasettha, of greedy disposition, watching over his
plot, stole another plot and made use of it. They took him and,
holding him fast, said, "Truly, good being, you have done
evil in that, while watching your own plot, you have stolen
another plot and made use of it. See, good being, that you do
no such thing again." "Aye, sirs," he replied.
And a second time he did so. And yet a third. And again they
took him and admonished him. Some smote him with the hand, some
with clods, some with sticks. With such a beginning, Vasettha,
did stealing appear and censure and lying and punishment became
sutta illustrates that tanha coupled with individualism nourishes
violence and conditions the necessity for state power to curb
excesses. As such, its teaching is directly in the mainstream
of Buddhist thought: craving and grasping lie at the root of
negative and unwholesome states in society. However, more needs
to be said about the causes and consequences of individualism.
term "puthujjana" is used to describe the ordinary,
monks, an uninstructed ordinary person, taking no account of
the pure ones (ariyanam), unskilled in the Dhamma of the pure
ones, untrained in the Dhamma of the pure ones, taking no account
of the true men, unskilled in the Dhamma of the true men, untrained
in the Dhamma of the true men, does not comprehend the things
that should be wisely attended to, does not comprehend the things
that should not be wisely attended to. "
term "puthu" has two main meanings: "several,
many, numerous," on one hand, and "separate, individual,"
on the other. The usual definition of puthujjana is "one
of the many folk," linking it with the first of the above-mentioned
meanings. However, a case can be made for the second meaning
also. In this analysis, the puthujjana is one who believes himself
to be separate from the rest of humankind; one who believes
he has a self to be protected, promoted and pampered. It is
this assumption which leads to so much that is disruptive in
tendencies link, at this point, with the defilement of moha
in terms of a misunderstanding of anicca and anatta. The latter
states that there is no abiding, unchanging substance within
the human being. Men and women are verbs rather than nouns,
causal processes rather than unchanging souls. Buddhism does
not deny that there is a person, but it reformulates the definition
of what constitutes a person to embrace continuity rather than
static entity. As the sound of the lute cannot be found within
the lute as it is taken apart, so the "I am" cannot
be found in the human personality when it is dissected into
the five khandhas." 
anger and violence stem from the felt need to defend what is
seen to be one's own or to grasp personal gain. It is a need
which sees the gain of others as a threat to personal power
and the rights of others as an attack on personal prestige.
This is none other than the fault of the puthujjana, a failure
to see the truth of anatta and the interdependence of all phenomena.
It is this failure which leads to the self becoming the touchstone
and measuring rule for every perception and judgment. It is
the failure which leads to the urge to be violent in defense
of needs and seeming rights. The Agganna Sutta shows this ego
illusion manifesting itself in the form of competitive individualism.
That the ego illusion and tanha feed on one another is a theme
found in many texts:
I will teach you the craving that ensnares, that floats along,
that is far flung, that clings to one, by which this world is
smothered, enveloped, tangled like a ball of thread, covered
as with blight, twisted up like a grass rope, so that it does
not pass beyond the Constant Round, the Downfall, the Way of
Woe, the Ruin....
when there is the thought: "I am" -- there come to
be the thoughts: "I am in this world; I am thus; I am otherwise;
I am not eternal; I am eternal; Should I be? Should I be in
this world? Should I be thus? Should I be otherwise? May I become.
May I become in this world. May I become thus. May I become
otherwise. I shall become. I shall become otherwise." These
are the eighteen thoughts which are haunted by craving (tanhavicaritani)
concerning the inner self (ajjhattikassa)." 
result of this interdependent feeding, the Buddhist texts assert,
is disruption in society.
important area of study is the mechanism through which the "I"
notion helps to generate unwholesome states. Buddhism sees a
danger in the view of some schools of psychology that there
is a creative use of the concept of self. In this respect, the
Pali term "papanca," commonly translated as proliferation,
is important. The Madhupindika Sutta declares papanca to be
the root of taking up weapons, and the defeat of papanca is
the way to end such violence:
is itself an end to the propensity to ignorance, this is itself
an end of taking a weapon, of quarreling, contending, disputing,
accusation, slander, lying speech." 
the previous analysis in this paper points out, discrimination
is central to the Buddhist approach and therefore generalizations
such as the above need to be studied carefully. There is no
doubt, however, that papanca is central to a Buddhist psychology
of violence and to an understanding of the danger in the "I
study by Bhikkhu Nanananda, Concept and Reality, gives extensive
coverage to the term "papanca". He puts forward
the view that it is linked with the final stage of sense cognition
and that it signifies a "a spreading out, a proliferation"
in the realm of concepts, a tendency for the conceptual process
to run riot and obscure the true reality of things. He makes
much use of the above-quoted Madhupindika Sutta and quotes the
consciousness, brethren, arises because of eye and visible forms;
the meeting of the three is sensory impingement; because of
sensory impingement arises feeling (vedana); what one feels,
one perceives (sanjanati); what one perceives, one reasons about
(vitakketi); what one reasons about, one turns into papanca
(papanceti); what one turns into papanca, due to that papanca-sanna-sankha
assail him in regard to visible forms cognizable by the eye
belonging to the past, the future and the present." 
same is said of the other senses.
points out that a grammatical analysis of the above reveals
that the process of perception involves deliberate activity
up until papanceti. After this, deliberation vanishes. The subject
becomes the object. The person who reasons conceptually becomes
the victim of his own perceptions and thought constructions.
So Nanananda writes:
the legendary resurrected tiger which devoured the magician
who restored it to life out of its skeletal bones, the concepts
and linguistic conventions overwhelm the worldling who evolved
them. At the final and crucial stage of sense-perception, the
concepts are, as it were, invested with an objective character." 
analysis is of immense significance to the study of how certain
negative and destructive tendencies can grow in society; how
objective perception and reason can seem to fade before the
force of what might be irrational and obsessive. He roots the
cause in the nature of language in the minds of persons governed
by tanha, mana and ditthi -- craving, conceit (the tendency
to measure oneself against others), and views -- which in themselves
flow from ego-consciousness. Papanca, according to this analysis,
manifests itself through tanha, mana and ditthi. It underlies
each of these qualities and breeds conflict in society.
look at the process in more detail: The conventions of language
enter near the beginning of the process of sense perception,
at the point where feeling gives rise to mental activity and
concepts. The mind, if unchecked, will attempt to place order
on its feelings through language. This language immediately
introduces the duality of subject and object, subject and feeling.
The "I" enters with "I feel aversion" or
"I feel attraction" or "I like this" or"
I don't like this." This emphasis on the "I"
is predetermined by the very nature of language and reinforces
the strength of the feeling and the tendency for the person
to identify completely with what is felt. What seems to happen
after that is that language takes on a dynamism of its own.
Concepts proliferate and leave the empirical behind, under the
driving force of tanha, mana and ditthi. For instance, the observation,
"I feel aversion" might lead to further thoughts such
am right to feel aversion.... Therefore, the object is inherently
worthy of aversion.... So, the object must threaten me and others....
Therefore the objects must be got rid of.... I cannot survive
unless the object is annihilated from my sphere of vision and
feeling.... It is my duty to annihilate this for my sake and
the sake of others."
the entrance of "I" leads to the urge to protect the
wishes of the ego and what is ego-based becomes a seemingly
rational decision about duty. The above is a purely hypothetical
progression, yet it is not an implausible one. It illustrates
the way in which thought progresses further and further away
from what is empirically observed. Speculation enters as the
mind attempts to reason. Eventually, as the thought process
develops further, what might appear to be reason cloaks obsession
which, in turn, can make the person a victim of the apparent
logic of language.
in his Critique of Pure Reason  seems to adopt a similar
point of view. He challenged the view that speculative metaphysics
using the categories of pure reason could extend our knowledge
of reality. He attacked particularly those theologians who believed
that the existence of God could be proved through logic alone.
There was, he claimed, an irresistible impulse of the mind towards
seeking unification and synthesis which led to the illegitimate
use of language. It is this which is particularly relevant to
this study. For instance, he posited that the mind assumed an
unconditional personal ego just because all representations
were unified by the "I think" construction. It also
assumed a concept of God because of the drive to find an unconditioned
unity. Such concepts, Kant felt, arose through the impulse of
the mind and passed beyond the legitimate purview of language.
It passed beyond the perceptions which could add knowledge and
were not based on truly empirical data. Therefore, they could
not give statements with any factual reality.
grasped that there was an irresistible impulse which led to
concepts taking on an unwarranted life of their own. Buddhism
says that these concepts can generate obsessions, victimize
the person who believes he or she is thinking logically, and
lead to disruption in society. What is lost in the process is
the ability to see objectively and value the empirical through
senses unclouded by craving, conceit and views, or by greed,
hatred and delusion.
fed and generated by tanha, is therefore central to the theme
of violence in the thoughts and actions of human beings. Buddhism
suggests that the human person can become the victim of obsessive
actions, thoughts and inclinations. It holds that the drift
towards violence within one person or within society, especially
if a communal or cultural obsession has arisen, may become an
inevitable causal process unless the inner mechanism is discovered.
Related to this is the danger and motivating force of dogmatic
and speculative views as one of the roots of violence -- the
ditthi, connected in the above analysis with papanca. In his
advice to the Kalamas and to Bhaddiya, the Buddha said:
not mislead by report or tradition or hearsay. Be not misled
by proficiency in the Collections, nor by mere logic or inference,
nor after considering reasons, nor after reflection on or approval
of some theory, nor because it fits becoming, nor by the thought:
the recluse is revered by us." 
logic and inference are deemed to be as dangerous as what is
passed on by doubtful report and tradition. The same approach
is seen in the Brahmajala Sutta  where a number of
mistaken views, according to Buddhist analysis, are discussed.
Tanha is seen as the root of these but logic and inference are
the following, the question of conflict in relation to dogmatic
views is more clearly expressed. The Buddha points out the danger
of saying, "This is indeed the truth, all else is falsehood"
(idam-eva saccam, mogham-annam). For dispute is the result and:
there is dispute, there is contention; if there is contention,
there is trouble; if there is trouble there is vexation." 
dogmatically to views is a form of papanca, a particularly dangerous
form. Several suttas in the Sutta Nipata take up this theme:
the Pasura Sutta and the Kalahavivada Sutta,  for instance.
The former speaks of the person who goes forth roaring, looking
for a rival to contest with, filled with pride and arrogance
over his theories. A battle-like situation is implied, an attitude
closely allied to that which actually results in warfare and
armed struggle. Contemporary struggles in the world give ample
evidence to prove that war and struggle are caused by the conflict
of ideas, ideologies and concepts. They show how powerful and
charismatic a force ideas can be. Whether it is nationalism,
ethnicity or religion, groups can be pushed towards violence
in defense of them. Buddhist analysis points out that some ideologies
which might appear logical could, in fact, be the fruit of papanca.
Adherents may be convinced of their truth but they might have
progressed far from analysis based on empirical data.
the above analysis of the roots of violence, two broad areas
have been studied: the external and the internal, the environmental
and psychological. Yet the two are not separate. They interconnect
and feed one another, just as external sense objects interconnect
with the senses, giving rise to consciousness and psychological
processes. If a people's environment is unhealthy, corrupt or
unjust, the seeds are sown for violent resistance, through the
growth of motivating ideologies which take on a life of their
own as they grip the minds of those who are being oppressed.
If the environment is excessively competitive, consumer-oriented
and materialistic, tanha will quickly arise, develop and expand
into obsessive patterns of greed, taking over and dominating
the perception of people who find themselves victims of craving
rather than masters of their own perceptual processes. The step
to violence is then small. If other elements are present, such
as a group without access to the wealth visible in others, discrimination
against minorities or racism, then the drive towards violence
will be more rapid.
4. Can Violent Tendencies Be Eradicated? [^]
saying seasonably what is fact and true -- he is the most admirable
and rare. Why so? Because, Potaliya, his discrimination of proper
occasions (kalannuta) is admirable." 
Buddha mentions the quality of kalannuta, in place of the word
used by Potaliya -- upekkha. The translation given by the Pali
Text Society is "discrimination of proper occasions."
The ability to discriminate and make objective evaluations,
not indifference, is the consequence of curbing papanca. A certain
silence of the mind is indicated but it is not the silence of
apathy. The proliferation of concepts which is papanca results
in an obscuring of the empirical, since this proliferation moves
one further and further away from the empirical because of the
linguistic edifice of "therefore" and "therein"
erected on top of the initial emotion of like or aversion. Preventing
the erection of this edifice on the foundation of tanha leads
to a clearer perception of the empirical and to judgments and
analyses being made with greater validity. The conclusions reached
through papanca may seem to be analytical. They are not. Resisting
papanca is not a moving away from analysis but a moving towards
objective analysis unclouded by emotional responses. It is this
kind of analysis which is so often lacking when there is violence
and conflict in society.
perceptions, judgments and consequent action are governed by
the roots of papanca, there will be no objectivity but a danger
that obsessions will grow. When papanca is allayed, what is
good and bad, kusala and akusala, praiseworthy and blameworthy,
will be more clearly visible. The injustices in society, for
instance, will be more apparent. Judgments about those who are
oppressed in society or about those who gain wealth illegally
through violence and extortion will not be clouded either by
the tendency to look down on those who suffer or the wish to
gain patronage from the wealthy. What is wrong and what is right,
what harms and what promotes happiness, will stand out untouched
by personal wishes or personal greed.
clarity of judgment can be seen in the words of the Buddha.
In the Assalayana Sutta, the Agganna Sutta and the Madhura Sutta
the caste system is vigorously opposed.  The Esukari
Sutta condemns the kind of service which becomes slavery. 
Meaningless ritual is attacked in the Sigalovada Sutta. 
Brahminical excesses are uncovered in the Brahmajala Sutta,
the Ambattha Sutta and the Tevijja Sutta.  The violence
and shame of sacrifices is condemned in the Kutadanta Sutta. 
These are not the only examples. The Buddha is revealed as a
person who was unafraid to point out wrong when he saw it and
to use uncompromising words. It is this kind of effective speech
and action which should flow when tanha, mana and ditthi are
from the harmful or violent is not enough by itself. The texts
stress that the active cultivation of the opposite is necessary.
A replacement is needed as well as an annihilation. This is
seen at lay level as well as among the ordained. For instance,
in the Saleyyaka Sutta, addressed specifically to lay people,
the two courses of faring by Dhamma and not-Dhamma are explained.
Malevolence is explained by reference to the wish to kill:
is malevolent in mind, corrupt in thought and purpose, and thinks:
"Let these beings be killed or slaughtered or annihilated
or destroyed or may they not exist at all." 
by Dhamma is explained in opposite terms and yet the effect
is not merely a negation of or a restraining from not-Dhamma
but the practice of positive virtue. So, the one who abandons
slanderous speech becomes
reconciler of those who are at variance and one who combines
those who are friends."
one who restrains himself from malevolent thought is the one
those beings, friendly, peaceful, secure, happy, look after
during meditation, positive qualities are to be cultivated to
replace the five hindrances. For instance:
away ill-will and hatred (vyapadapadosa), he abides with heart
free from enmity (avyapannacitta), benevolent and compassionate
towards every living being (sabbe panabhutahitanukampi) and
purifies his mind of malevolence." 
Early Buddhist emphasis, therefore, indicates that the eradication
of the tendencies which cause violence leads to greater realism,
the growth of positive, wholesome qualities and more effective
speech and action against what is unjust and exploitative. An
important question, however, remains unanswered, the third question
mentioned at the beginning of this section: When there is violence
inherent in the structures of society as a whole, what steps
can be taken?
many societies, violence is institutionalized in structures
which oppress certain sections of the people. Some would mention
the caste system in India in this context, corrupt trading practices,
or the forces which keep some groups of people poor. On the
other hand, violence can flow from the monarchy or state, from
internal terrorist groups or an outside threat. In these situations,
violence is rarely lessened by changes in a few individuals,
unless these individuals have considerable power. What strategies
should be used to oppose such violence? Is there any situation
where violence should be met with violence? Is there a different
path for the lay person than for the monk? Is there a situation
where it might be justifiable to overthrow the state? If so,
could this lead to a changed society? If undeserved suffering
occurs because of the greed of others, do the demands of compassion
(karuna) ever involve what could be called violent resistance
to the perpetrators? These are crucial questions in the light
of current world tensions such as racial injustice, capitalistic
monopolies, terrorism and fascism. The question here is whether
any guidelines can be gained from the Buddhist texts themselves.
is no doubt that the person who renounces the household life
is called to abstain from violence completely. It is one of
the hallmarks of the bhikkhu. Not to react in violent retaliation
to abuse was part of the training of the disciple. Where there
was state-instigated violence, the Early Buddhist position seems
to have been that the Sangha could act as advisers to rulers
and, in this capacity, could raise issues connected with righteous
government, but it could not become involved in violent resistance.
As for the lay follower of the Buddha, he or she undertakes
to desist from harming others through the first precept. To
break this intentionally is to risk serious kammic consequences.
For the lay person, as for the monk, the approved line of action
would seem to be advice and non-violent pressure or resistance
towards those in a position to change violent structures.
different set of responsibilities, however, is laid on the state
itself. As previously discussed, rulers with the protection
of their citizens at heart were inevitably drawn into conflict
when threatened by aggression. The question can therefore be
raised as to whether non-violence is an absolute value in Buddhism.
For instance, is a father, as head and protector of the family,
justified in using violence against a person forcefully entering
his house with the intention to kill? Has an elder sister the
duty to protect a younger brother if he is attacked violently,
by using similar violence? Has a group of citizens the right
to kill a dictator if, by doing so, they might save the lives
of oppressed minorities to whom the citizens feel a duty? Should
the terrorist gun be challenged with similar methods? These
are areas where absolutes seem to break down. As a ruler might
realize that some aggressor cannot be deterred by persuasion,
so some citizens might feel that violence or injustice in society
cannot be stopped merely by giving advice to those in power.
That lay people should never initiate violence where there is
harmony or use it against the innocent is very clear. That they
should not attempt to protect those under their care if the
only way of doing so is to use defensive violence is not so
about the consequences of violence, however, are laid down.
The danger of violence, even if it is defensive, is that it
will generate further violence. Non-hatred (avera) and loving
kindness are the powers which halt it. Metta (loving kindness)
is shown to have great power: it can turn away the poison of
a snake or the charge of an elephant;  it can render
burning ghee harmless.  The latter story concerns a
wife, Uttara, who is married to an unbeliever. A courtesan,
Sirima, is given to her husband so that Uttara can be released
to attend on religious duties. A quarrel arises between the
two women which ends in Sirima pouring boiling ghee over Uttara.
As she prepares to do this, Uttara thinks:
companion has done me a favor. The circle of the earth is too
narrow, the world of the devas is too low, but the virtue of
my compassion is great because by her help, I have become able
to give alms and listen to Dhamma. If I am angry with her may
this ghee burn me; if not, let it not burn me."
ghee does not burn. Sirima tries again. Then the other women
present attack Sirima and throw her to the ground. Uttara continues
to show compassion by coming to her rescue, by preventing her
from being hurt.
to violence with metta and non-anger is deemed superior to any
other path. Non-violent resistance is clearly the best path.
Yet Buddhism cannot claim to be completely pacifistic. Absolutes
of that kind cannot be found and perhaps should not be sought
for in a teaching which spoke of the danger of claiming of a
view, "this alone is truth, all else is falsehood."
The person who feels violence is justified to protect the lives
of others has indeed to take the consequences into account.
He has to remember that he is risking grave consequences for
himself in that his actions will inevitably bear fruit. He or
she has to be aware that there is a dynamism within hatred and
violence when the causal chain has not had its nourishment removed.
Such a person needs to evaluate motives in the knowledge that
violent tendencies are rooted in the defilements of lobha, dosa
and moha, and in the obsessions generated by papanca. Yet that
person might still judge that the risks are worth facing to
prevent a greater evil. Whether the assassination of Hitler
would have prevented numerous innocent deaths is still an open
conclusion, it can be said that Buddhism lays down a form of
mental culture to lessen the mind's tendency to veer towards
violence. However, it is a culture which involves qualities
of faith (saddha) and effort (vayama) that many in society are
unable to cultivate. Therefore punishment either by the state
or in an after-life is seen as a valid deterrent for extremes
of violence. However, where violence flows directly and unjustifiably
from the state or from other groups or institutions, questions
are raised which are not dealt with directly by the texts. The
drawing of conclusions is therefore fraught with difficulty.
Yet these questions must be tackled if Buddhism is to provide
guidelines in a violent world. What seems to emerge from the
above analysis is that non-violence in the face of violence,
although preferable for all and incumbent on the monk, is not
a moral absolute in all circumstances.
was claimed at the beginning that the advent of the nuclear
bomb had issued in a new era of violence and that Buddhism should
be able to address this development. The foregoing analysis
started from a study of the Buddha's awareness of violence in
his own society and passed to questions concerning the condemnation
of violence, the roots of violence, and the possibilities for
its eradication or reduction. Each of these issues has relevance
for the present age, although it has been pointed out that many
conditions have changed between the sixth century B.C. and the
twentieth century A.D.
area in which difference can be seen is in the nature of warfare.
In the Buddha's time, professional armies were used to settle
conflicts. Although civilians were no doubt killed as victorious
armies took their plunder, it was the army itself which bore
the brunt of the slaughter. Today the cost in civilian, animal
and plant life in any future nuclear war is thinkable only in
terms of the most horrific nightmare. The duty of the Cakkavatti
King might be to defend his people. Yet no nuclear weapon can
be used in defense. If it was, it would prove the Buddhist view
that the use of violence leads to escalation. The slim, ever-shaky
defense that nuclear weapons provide is MAD -- Mutually Assured
Destruction -- an uneasy, computer-controlled peace feeding
on fear and the willingness to annihilate millions in retaliation,
if the other side dares to be the aggressor.
would seem that, in nuclear weapons, man has created something
out of his greed which now makes him victim. The analysis given
earlier about the effects of papanca and the process of perception
is relevant here. Some people might see the development of ever
more sophisticated weapons of destruction as the result of objective,
scientific probing into the nature of reality, in this case
the use of the atom. An approach more in accordance with Buddhism
would be to see the root as tanha, mana and ditthi: the craving
for power over the material world and over other people; the
wish to protect self and judge other groups as inferior; the
clinging to one ideology whilst condemning all others. The result
of tanha, mana and ditthi is papanca, the proliferation of ideas
which turn the so-called perceiver into the victim of obsessions
bearing little relation to the empirical. Nuclear and chemical
weapons are horrific projections of the human mind. It has come
to the point where they possess the mind rather than the mind
the weapons. Humanity is now the victim.
this atmosphere, one may ask how effective change in the individual
is and whether the few who work to conquer tanha, mana and ditthi
can act as leaven within the whole. The obstacles are great
today as they were in the Buddha's time. The Buddha saw the
puthujjana as a person hard to convince or change, given the
strength of craving and views. Today, ideas have a charismatic
force. Nationalism, ethnicity and religion, for instance, push
groups towards violence. They form ego-feeding, identity-creating
creeds which are hard to break down. In such situations, empirical
evidence shows that some who try to show the alternative force
of metta become the victims of violence, at least in the frame
of their present life.
insights from the foregoing study are relevant here: the reaction
which took place in the Cakkavatti Sihanada Sutta and the interdependent
nature of the environmental and the psychological. In the Cakkavatti
Sihanada Sutta, the truth that violence leads to greater violence
and crime to ever-deepening bestiality eventually pierces the
consciousness of some members of society as they see what is
happening around them. Some realize that change is possible
through a change in thought patterns. A reaction takes place
after the trough of bestiality has been reached. Today, there
are those who are "turning around," who are realizing
how destructive and bestial is the present and potential violence
in the world. However, for just as long as the external environment
remains tension-creating, the rise of violent tendencies will
continue. Similar injustices exist today as are mentioned in
the Kutadanta Sutta, but their scope has altered and widened
to include relationships between blocks of countries as well
as within countries. In most countries of the world, the poor
are becoming poorer. Between countries, the richer nations are
becoming richer at the expense of the poorer. The warning which
the Buddhist texts give is that such conditions breed violence
and that the arm of the law or the gun will not curb it. Only
change at the level of the root causes will create more peaceful
conditions. This is one of the gravest challenges which the
world faces, since it points to a complete re-drawing of the
world economic system. The formidable obstacle in the way of
such change is tanha in those with power or economic might --
for profit, influence and a luxurious lifestyle.
reaction of the individual to the above tension is complete
withdrawal into a life of inaction. This was evidently a temptation
in the sixth century B.C. It has been a temptation across all
religions throughout the centuries. The mistake is to confuse
renunciation and inaction, detachment (viraga) and apathy. The
life of renunciation aims at detachment from raga, dosa and
moha, but the result should not be apathy but rather greater
compassion (karuna) and loving kindness (metta). In the Samanamandika
Sutta, a wanderer, Uggahamana, declares that the one who does
no evil deed with his body, speaks no evil speech, intends no
evil intention and leads no evil livelihood is the recluse who
has obtained the most worthy end. The Buddha responds:
being so carpenter, then according to the speech of Uggahamana
a young baby boy lying on its back would be of abounding skill,
of the highest skill, an unconquerable recluse, attained to
the highest attainments. "
contrast, the Buddha lays down the importance of developing
wholesome qualities, not merely abstaining from what is unwholesome.
The demands of the Eightfold Path are stressed, demands incumbent
not only on the monk but on all followers:
to this, carpenter, a monk is endowed with the perfect view
of an adept, he is endowed with the perfect intention of an
adept, ... the perfect speech ... the perfect action ... the
perfect mode of livelihood ... the perfect endeavor ... the
perfect mindfulness ... the perfect concentration ... the perfect
knowledge of an adept (sammananena), he is endowed with the
perfect freedom of an adept." 
a violent world, therefore, the duty of the Buddhist disciple
is not inactive withdrawal or apathy but culture of the mind
to root out personal defilements so that perception and judgment
can be unbiased and objective; cultivation of positive qualities
which will create harmony and peace; and, most important, a
readiness to speak out and act against what is blameworthy and
in praise of what is worthy of praise.
references have been taken from the Pali Text Society's editions
of the Nikayas. Unless specified otherwise, English translations
have been taken from the PTS versions, though some have been
Utilitarianism is a philosophy which claims that the ultimate
end of action should be the creation of human happiness. Actions
should be judged according to whether they promote the greatest
happiness of the greatest number. The most important exponent
of this philosophy was the nineteenth century British thinker
John Stuart Mill. One of the weaknesses of utilitarianism is
that it can be used to justify the violation of minority rights.
Reference may be made to many texts which stress that encouraging
others to do harm is blameworthy. AN ii,215, for instance, speaks
of the unworthy man and the more unworthy man, the latter being
one who encourages others to do harmful actions such as killing
The Kosala Samyutta (Samyutta Nikaya, vol. 1) records the conversations
which this king had with the Buddha. The examples mentioned
have been taken from this section.
In several suttas, the Buddha comes across groups of wanderers
engaged in heated discussions about kings, robbers, armies,
etc. (e.g. DN iii,37; MN ii,1). In contrast, the Buddha advised
his disciples either to maintain noble silence or to speak about
See Romila Thapar, A History of India (Pelican Books UK, 1966),
At the end of the Buddha's description of his austerities in
the Mahasaccaka Sutta he says: "And some recluses and brahmins
are now experiencing feelings that are acute, painful, sharp,
severe; but this is paramount, nor is there worse than this.
But I, by this severe austerity, do not reach states of further
men, the excellent knowledge and vision befitting the Ariyans.
Could there be another way to awakening?" (MN i,246).
The Mahasakuludayi Sutta (MN 77/ii,1ff.) reflects contemporary
realities when a town plays hosts to various groups of wanderers.
Trevor Ling, The Buddha -- Buddhist Civilisation in India and
Ceylon (Penquin Books UK, 1973).
See Esukari Sutta, MN 96.
Reference can be made to the following:
AN i,188ff. The Buddha's advice to the Kalamas.
AN ii,167ff. The Buddha advises the monks to scrutinize closely
anything said to have from his mouth.
Canki Sutta: MN 95/ii,170-71. The Buddha says that belief,
and personal preference are not guarantees of
Vimamsaka Sutta: MN 47. The Buddha urges his disciples to
his own conduct before deciding whether he is an
One, and to investigate empirical evidence rather
accept things through blind faith.
23. The following texts provide fuller discussions about paticca
Sammaditthi Sutta: MN 9.
Mahatanhasankhaya Sutta: MN 38.
Mahanidana Sutta: DN 15.
Reference may be made to the following:
Assalayana Sutta: MN 93.
Madhura Sutta: MN 84.
AN ii,84. Here, four types of people are mentioned, two of
are bound for light and two of whom are bound for
Deeds, not birth, is the criterion for the
between the two sets.
For instance, the Kutadanta Sutta and the Cakkavatti Sihanada
Sutta, to be discussed below.
The Mahadukkhakkhandha Sutta (MN 13) is an example.
Therigatha vv. 105-6 (Sona).
Metta and karuna, as two of the brahmaviharas, are mentioned
at DN i,250-51, MN i,38, etc.
MN 129/iii,169-70. A similar approach is adopted in the Devaduta
Sutta: MN 130/iii,178ff.
The Petavatthu is one of the books of the Khuddaka Nikaya. It
contains 51 stories in four chapters, all concerning the petas,
a class of ghost-like beings who have fallen from the human
plane because of misdeeds done.
Snp. vv. 935-38. Translation by H. Saddhatissa (Curzon Press,
MN 2/i,7. The description of the puthujjana is a stock passage
recurring throughout the Canon.
See SN iv,195.
Bhikkhu Nanananda, Concept and Reality in Early Buddhist Thought
(Kandy: Buddhist Publication Society, 1971).
Concept and Reality, p.6.
Immanuel Kant, 1724-1804. His major work, The Critique of Pure
Reason, studies the place of a priori ideas in the formation
of concepts and examines the role of reason and speculative
AN i,188; AN ii,190.
DN 1. See e.g. DN i,16: "In the fourth case, monks, some
recluse or brahmin is addicted to logic and reasoning. He gives
utterance to the following conclusion of his own, beaten out
by his argumentations and based on his sophistry...."
Snp. 824-34; Snp. 862-77.
AN ii,173ff. The Buddha here quotes three views which result
that all feelings are due to previous kamma;
all feelings are due to a supreme deity;
that all feelings are without cause or condition.
A stock passage found in many suttas (e.g. MN 51/i,344) extols
the homeless life as the only way "to fare the holy life
completely fulfilled, completely purified, polished like a conch
Dantabhumi Sutta: MN 125/iii,128ff.
Body, feelings, thoughts and mental objects are the four foundations
of mindfulness (see DN 22, MN 10).
MN 27/i,181, and elsewhere.
This point is developed in Trevor Ling, The Buddha.
Respectively MN 65, MN 21, MN 70, MN 15.
The Mahasakuludayi Sutta (MN 77) and the Dhammacetiya Sutta
(MN 89) describe the impact which the general concord of the
Buddha's followers had respectively on groups of wanderers at
Rajagaha and on King Pasenadi.
Respectively MN 93, DN 27, MN 84.
Respectively DN 1, DN 3, DN 11.
DN 2/i,71 and elsewhere.
See AN ii,71. A monk dies of snakebite, and the Buddha declares
that if he had suffused the four royal families of snakes with
a heart of metta, he would not have died. A story in the Cullavagga
of the Vinaya Pitaka relates how the Buddha's envious cousin,
Devadatta, tried to kill him by releasing a notoriously ferocious
elephant called Nalagiri at him in the streets of Rajagaha.
The Buddha is said to have subdued it by exercising metta and
karuna, so that the elephant lowered its trunk and stopped before
the Buddha. Hiuen-Tsang refers to a stupa at the place where
this is said to have happened.
Vimanavatthu, No. 15.
Wheel Publication No. 392/393 ISBN 955-24-0119-4 Copyright 1990
by Elizabeth J. Harris Buddhist
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