...Buddhism for Urban America
Urban Dharma Newsletter... March 4, 2003
2. ARMED FORCES PENPALS MESSAGE BOARD.
3. Can a Buddhist Join the Army? ...Venerable K. Sri Dhammananda
4. Buddhism & The Soldier ...Major General Ananda Weerasekera
5. The Buddha and the Four-Limbed Army: The Military in the
Pali Canon ...Matthew Kosuta
6. Temple/Center/Website- of the Week:
Upaya Zen Center
7. Book Review: An Introduction
to Buddhist Ethics : Foundations, Values and Issues ...by
8. Peace Link: AlterNet.org
The Other Side
day a young Buddhist on his journey home, came to the banks
of a wide river. Staring hopelessly at the great obstacle in
front of him , he pondered for hours on just how to cross such
a wide barrier. Just as he was about to give up his pursuit
to continue his journey he saw a great teacher on the other
side of the river. The young Buddhist yells over to the teacher
"Oh wise one , can you tell me how to get to the other
side of this river"?
teacher ponders for a moment looks up and down the river
and yells back "My son, you are on the other side".
ARMED FORCES PENPALS MESSAGE BOARD.
Posted: Aug 08, 2002
me: I heard about a program to adopt a pagan soldier, but I
found out too late. They only took the first 1000 people that
signed up. Well, there have got to be more than 1000 of you
guys and gals that are missing the summer solstice. I'd like
to help you out. But don't think you've got to be a pagan soldier,
any soldier will do. My significant other would like to support
a Buddhist soldier too! Drop me a line anytime. As for me, well,
I'm a college senior, and I am about to graduate with a BA in
History. I like Anime and Bruce Lee and Jet Li. I like religion,
spirituality, philiosophy, art, music, movies, and all things
geeky. Be a geek and email me! You guys are doing a great job!
One last thing: Most of all I love to laugh; I hope I can help
you with that. Blessed Be! -Angela
Can a Buddhist Join the Army? ...Venerable
K. Sri Dhammananda Maha Thera
can be a soldier of Truth, but not the aggressor.
day, Sinha, the general of the army, went to the Buddha and
said, 'I am a soldier, O Blessed One. I am appointed by the
King to enforce his laws and to wage his wars. The Buddha teaches
infinite love, kindness and compassion for all sufferers: Does
the Buddha permit the punishment of the criminal? And also,
does the Buddha declare that it is wrong to go to war for the
protection of our homes, our wives, our children and our property?
Does the Buddha teach the doctrine of complete self-surrender?
Should I suffer the evil-doer to do with what he pleases and
yield submissively to him who threatens to take by violence
what is my own? Does the Buddha maintain that all strife including
warfare waged for a righteous cause should be forbidden?'
Buddha replied, 'He who deserves punishment must be punished.
And he who is worthy of favor must be favored. Do not do injury
to any living being but be just, filled with love and kindness.'
These injunctions are not contradictory because the person who
is punished for his crimes will suffer his injury not through
the ill-will of the judge but through the evil act itself. His
own acts have brought upon him the injury that the executors
of the law inflict. When a magistrate punishes, he must not
harbor hatred in his heart. When a murderer is put to death,
he should realize that his punishment is the result of his own
act. With his understanding, he will no longer lament his fate
but can console his mind. And the Blessed One continued, 'The
Buddha teaches that all warfare in which man tries to slay his
brothers is lamentable. But he does not teach that those who
are involved in war to maintain peace and order, after having
exhausted all means to avoid conflict, are blameworthy.
must exist, for all life is a struggle of some kind. But make
certain that you do not struggle in the interest of self against
truth and justice. He who struggles out of self-interest to
make himself great or powerful or rich or famous, will have
no reward. But he who struggles for peace and truth will have
great reward; even his defeat will be deemed a victory.
a person goes to battle even for a righteous cause, then Sinha,
he must be prepared to be slain by his enemies because death
is the destiny of warriors. And should his fate overtake him,
he has no reason to complain. But if he is victorious his success
may be deemed great, but no matter how great it is, the wheel
of fortune may turn again and bring his life down into the dust.
However, if he moderates himself and extinguishes all hatred
in his heart, if he lifts his down-trodden adversary up and
says to him, 'Come now and make peace and let us be brothers,'
then he will gain a victory that is not a transient success;
for the fruits of that victory will remain forever.
is a successful general, but he who conquers self is the greater
victor. This teaching of conquest of self, Sinha, is not taught
to destroy the lives of others, but to protect them. The person
who has conquered himself is more fit to live, to be successful
and to gain victories than is the person who is the slave of
self. The person whose mind is free from the illusion of self,
will stand and not fall in the battle of life. He whose intentions
are righteousness and justice, will meet with no failure. He
will be successful in his enterprise and his success will endure.
He who harbors love of truth in his heart will live and not
suffer, for he has drunk the water of immortality. So struggle
courageously and wisely. Then you can be a soldier of Truth.'
is no justice in war or violence. When we declare war, we justify
it, when others declare war, we say, it is unjust. Then who
can justify war? Man should not follow the law of the jungle
to overcome human problems.
Buddhism & The Soldier ...Major
General Ananda Weerasekera
people have understood Buddhism differently. It is often debated
whether Buddhism is a religion, philosophy or a way of life
or not. Since Buddhism contains all these aspects one is justified
in drawing any conclusion so long as one does not give an exclusive
and rigid title. The Buddha-dhamma (Doctrine), as most of the
scholars say, is a moral and philosophical system which expounds
a unique path of enlightenment, and is not a subject to be studied
from a mere academic standpoint. It is certainly to be studied,
more to be practiced , and above all to be realized by oneself.
the teachings of the Buddha deal, in one way or another with
the path, known as The Noble Eightfold Path. It was the path
realised and introduced by Buddha and it is as follows.
is also known as the 'Middle Path', since in actual practice
it avoids extremes. This Noble Eightfold Path is discussed in
detail in the Buddhist Texts. It is sufficient to
that it is a code of conduct clearly laid down by Buddha to
all four sections of the Buddhist Society. That is Bikkhu (monks),
Bikkhuni (nuns), Upasaka (laymen), Upasika (laywomen).
deciples of the Buddha whether men or women belong to many walks
of life from a King to a Servant. Whatever their civil status
may be a code of conduct and moral obligations for each one
has been clearly laid down by the Buddha. This code of conduct
is collectively referred to as Virtue (seela) which encompasses
disciplined speech, disciplined thought and controlled senses.
A layman or a laywomen is advised to observe the five basic
precepts as the minimum limit of their 'discipline' in the society.
The limits of 'seela' are different for those who have renounced
the lay life in search of liberation, The Nirvana.
the five precepts are not commandments but aspirations voluntarily
undertaken by each one. The first precept is to abstain from
taking life. "The life", according to Buddhism covers
the entire spectrum of living beings and are covered in 'Karaneeya
Mettha Sutta' as follows.
Tasa-Tava:- moving, unmoving
Anuka-minute, Thula- fat
Ditta-that can be seen,
Additta-that cannot be seen,
Dure-which live far,
Avidure-which live near
Sambavesi- seeking birth
teachings are quite clear in regard to the extent to which 'love
& compassion' should expand,. 'Sabbe satta bhavanthu sukhitatta',
ie. 'May all beings be happy' Buddha not only condemned the
destruction of living beings as higher seela, he also condemned
the destruction of the plant life. Buddhism being a 'way of
life' where plant animal and human lives are protected ,how
does one explain the 'destruction and suffering caused by war.'
is violence, killing, destruction, blood and pain. Has Buddha
accepted these? According to Buddha, the causes of war being
greed, aversion and delusion are deep rooted in human mind.
The milestones of the path being seela, samadhi and panna make
the human being realize the causes that contribute to warfare
and for the need for the eradication of same.
tremble at violence, All fear death,
oneself with others
Should neither kill nor cause others to Kill' (Dammapada)
any form of violence is not acceptable . He further says,
Victory breeds hatred
defeated live in pain,
the peaceful live,
up victory and defeat (Dammapada)
and Defeat are two sides of the coin of War. It is clear in
Buddhism, what breeds in war whether it is victory or defeat.
us now deal with those having a direct involvement with War,
The King or in today's context the Government and the soldier.
Does Buddhism permit the State to build and foster an Army?.
Can a good Buddhist be a soldier? and can he kill for the sake
of the country? What about the 'Defence' of a country.? When
a ruthless army invades a country, does Buddhism prohibit a
Buddhist King to defend his country and his people? If Buddhism
is a 'way of life,' is there any other way for a righteous king
to battle against an invasion of an army.?
Damma is a way of life based on Right Thought, Right Livelihood,
Right Action etc. culminating in the supreme goal of Nibbana
. However it is a gradual process of training and progressing
on the path through one's long samsaric journey until one has
fulfilled the necessery conditions and is ready to let go the
cycle of birth decay and death. Hence, until then the King has
to rule, the farmer has to farm, teacher has to teach, the trader
has to trade and so on. But they are expected to do it the Buddhist
way in order to help them progress on the path.
'chakkavatti- sihanada sutta' (The Lion's Roar on the Turning
of Wheel) of the long discourses of the Buddha, Buddha justified
the requirement of the king having an Army to provide guard,
protection and security for different classes of people in the
kingdom from internal and external threats. It refers to a Wheel
Turning monarch named Dalhanemi, a righteous monarch of the
law, conqueror of the four quarters who had established the
security of his realm and was possessed of the seven treasures.
He had more than 1000 sons who were heroes, of heroic stature,
conquerors of the hostile army. Explaining the noble duties
of a righteous king, Buddha also pointed out the advice given
to the king in regard to his obligation to provide security
for its people. The advisor tells the king " my son, yourself
depending on the Dhamma, revering it, doing homage to it, and
venerating it having the Dhamma as your badge and banner, acknowledging
the Dhamma as your master, you should establish guard, ward
and protection according to Dhamma for your own household, your
troops in the Army, your nobles and vassals, for Brahmins and
householders, town and countryfolk, ascetics and Brahmins, for
beasts and birds. Let no crime prevail in your kingdom"
further the duties of a righteous king, Buddha states, "…Son,
the people of your kingdom should from time to time come to
you and consult you as to what is to be followed and what is
not to be followed, what is wholesome and what not wholesome,
and what action will in the long run lead to harm and sorrow,
welfare and happiness. You should listen and tell them to avoid
evil and to do what is good for the country. This sutta clearly
indicates that Buddhism permits a king to have an army since
a righteous king, who is also the commander of the army, knows,
the righteous way to engage the army and to protect his people.
Senapathi Sutta' of Anguttara Nikaya-5 shows how, one of the
army commanders named 'Seeha' went to Buddha to clarify certain
doubts on the Dhamma and how the Buddha advised him without
requesting him to resign from the Army or to disband the army.
Having clarified his doubts on the Dhamma, Commander Seeha requested
Buddha to accept him as a deciple of the Buddha. But Buddha
instead of advising him to resign from the army advised thus
it is proper for a popular person of your status to always think
and examine when attending to affairs and making decisions '
Seeha, the commander became a sotapanna (stream enterer = first
fruit of the Path) having listened to the Dhamma, but remained
in the army as a commander.
this instance too one could see that Buddha did not advise Seeha
against the Army or being a commander of an Army, but only advised
to discharge his duties the proper way.
Ajasattu, had a unsatiable desire to conquer other kingdoms.
He even murdered his father for the throne and aided Devadatta
who was plotting to kill the Buddha. Once Ajasattu having decided
to conquer the kingdom of Vajjians sent his chief minister Vassakara
to Buddha to find out Buddha's views about his decision to conquer
the Vajjians. Ajasttu wanted to know whether he will gain victory,
cunningly using Buddha's ability to predict the future with
the usual complimentary greetings were exchanged, between the
Buddha and Vassakara and the purpose of his visit was made known,
Buddha turned to his chief attendant Venerable Ananda with praise
of the Vajjians and their noble democratic confederacy. Buddha
further inquired from Venerable Ananda whether the Vajjians
are strictly following the conditions of Dhamma NOT leading
to decline as taught to the Vajjians by Buddha to which Ven.
Ananda replied 'yes'.
Buddha turned to venerable Ananda and declared thus, "As
long as they would continue on these lines, taught them by Buddha
earlier at Vasali, they cannot be defeated and not expected
to decline but to prosper." The shrewd minister drew his
own conclusion that the Licchavis of vajji state could not be
conquered in battle at that moment, but if their unity and alliance
is broken they could be defeated and ran back to his king with
this news. In fact Ajasattu defeated vajjians not even three
years after the Buddha's death purely by shrewdly creating disunity
amongst the rulers of the Vajjians
conclusions could be drawn from this story too. Buddha knew
that both States did have strong armies and that they are needed
for the protection of their people. Buddha did not advice minister
Vassakara that the concept on 'Army' is against Buddhism and
that he should advice the king not to declare war against Vajjis
but to desolve the army. Buddha at this instance also brought
up important lessons in 'state craft.' It helped the crafty
minister to adopt a different strategy to invade Vajji State,
by using psychological approach first and then the physical
assault next. Further, by having a conversation with Venerable
Ananda Buddha indicated to minister Vassakara that even though
king Ajasasattu has a mighty strong army, and have conquered
several states he will not be able to defeat Licchavis so long
as they adhere to the said noble policies. It is also an indirect
advice to king Ajatasattu that it is in order having an army
but that army will not be able to conquer people with virtuous
qualities. It was also an indication to Ajasattu that he too
should be a righteous king with an army where no other king
could defeat him, by adhering to the said policies which will
not lead a society to decline. These policies are referred to
as 'saptha aparihani dhamma' and they are as follows:
Having meetings and assemblies frequently.
Rulers assembling in harmony, conducting their affairs in harmony
and dispersing in harmony.
Adhering to the accepted ancient noble traditions and not extirpating
the accepted established norms and traditions by introducing
Respecting the elders, worshiping them, consulting them, and
believing that they must be listened to.
Respecting and protecting the women folk and not living with
them forcibly or molesting them.
Paying respect to all internal and external places of worship,
paying homage to those worthy of veneration and continue to
make spiritual offerings traditionally done.
was accepted by the Buddha as a noble profession.The soldier
was known as " Rajabhata." Buddha did not permit rajabata
to become monks whilst in service as a soldier.
Sidhartha Gauthama's father, king Suddhodana came to Buddha
Buddha, my son, when you were the most suitable for the throne
of a Sakvithi King, you left all of us and became a monk. Then
you insulted me by begging for meals, walking house to house
along the streets in my own town. The relatives laughed at me
and they insulted me. Now you are trying to destroy my Army."
Why " the Buddha asked. " What has happened to your
great Army, my father."
the king answered," Can't you see, my soldiers are deserting
the army one by one and joining your group as monks."
why are they becoming monks, great king and why are they leaving
the Army." Asked Buddha.
Can't you see " the king answered. " They know that
when they become monks they get free food, free clothes, free
accommodation and respected by all."
smiled and requested the king to go back to the Palace and said
that he will settle the issue. Buddha then promulgated a law
( Vinaya ) for the monks to the effect that, No soldier could
become a monk whilst in military service. This law is still
valid to date. Accordingly even today unless a soldier is legally
discharged from the army or unless a soldier retires legitimately,
he is NOT ordained as a monk and will not be accepted into the
order of monks. This ensures that soldiers do not desert the
army even to join the Buddhist order.
in terms of the Vinaya ( the code of conduct for monks) monks
permitted to visit the battle field but they were ordered to
return before the sunset. Permission was also given to visit
the injured relatives in the battlefield.
whilst the expressly referred to five occupations as unrighteous
Soldiering is not included amongst those.
Buddha once describing the qualities of a good monk, compared
those to the essential qualities of a good king to be as follows:
at the city of Savatti, Buddha describing five types of monks
in comparison to the five types of soldiers in the world, (A.iii,
duthiya yodhajeevupama sutta ) classified the soldiers as follows:
A soldier who enters the battle field armed with sword and shield,
bow and arrows and who gets himself killed by the enemy during
battle. This is the first type of soldier.
A soldier who enters the battle field bravely armed with sword
and shield, bow and arrows but gets injured during battle and
taken to his close relatives. But he dies on the way before
he reaches his relatives. This is the second type of soldier.
Soldier who enters the battlefield bravely armed with sword
and shield, bow and arrows, gets injured and having taken to
his close relatives, receives medical treatment with care. But
he dies with the same ailment although he was surrounded by
relatives. This is the third type of soldier.
Soldier who enters the battlefield bravely armed with sword
and shield, bow and arrows, gets injured and having taken to
his close relatives, receives medical treatment with care. He
recovers from the injury. This is the fourth type of soldier.
Soldier who enters the battlefield bravely armed with armourments
destroys and defeats the enemy. Having won the battle he remains
in the battlefront victoriously. This is the fifth type of soldier.
in ' patama yodhajeevacupama sutta' Buddha explains five types
of soldiers or warriors.
Type -1- Tremble with fear, unsteady, afraid to get into the
battlefield by seeing the dust and clouds created by fighting
men, animals and vehicles.
Type - 2 - Could withstand the dust and clouds. But tremble
with fear, unsteady, afraid to get into the battlefield by seeing
the Standards and Banners of the enemy.
Type-3- Could withstand dust and clouds, the sight of the enemy
Standards and Banners But tremble with fear, unsteady, afraid
to get into the battlefield by hearing the frightening noises
and the battle cries in the field.
Type- 4 - could withstand dust and clouds, Standards and Banners
of the enemy, the noises and the battle cries But Tremble with
fear, unsteady, afraid to get into the battlefield by a small
attack by the enemy.
Type -5- could withstand dust and clouds, Standards and Banners
of the enemy, the noises and the battle cries. He fights back
and wins his battle. Having won, he victoriously enjoys the
fruits seven days staying in the middle of the battlefield.
the Buddha recognized a strong army as an essential requirement
of the king he was also aware that the Commander in Chief of
the Army was also the king of the country and that a strong
Army four main divisions, then known as 'the caturangani sena',
consisting of Cavalry (horses), Elephant force, Armed vehicles
and the Infantry, each having its own functions in battle.
knowledge of the battlefield is so evident for the similis frequently
quoted by him from the battlefield. In Akkhama sutta of Anguttara
Nikaya Buddha compares five weak qualities of elephants selected
to go into battle with that of 5 weak qualities of monks proceeding
through the battle of 'Liberation.'
the Sutta the Buddha says, An elephant belonging to the 'caturangani
sena' [four divisions of the Army of the ruler] will not be
suitable if , it get frightened, trembles, unable to control
merely by the sight of other elephants, horses, military vehicles
and soldiers in the battle field,
merely by hearing noises and sounds of the battle cries of elephants,
horses, infantry and worrier drums in the field,
merely by the body smell and the smell of urine etc of other
majestic elephants in the battle field,
merely for not getting its food and water for one day or few
days in the battle field.
the above it is clear that contrary to the popular belief the
Buddha has not rejected or prohibited soldiering as a profession
or occupation and the right of a king or a government to have
an army and to defend one's country and its people. In the contrary
the Buddha has expressly recognized the necessity for a king
to have an army and providing protection to the subjects of
a country has been recognized as a prime duty of the king .
Buddha in his wisdom did not expect a nation or the rulers to
be lame ducks in the wake of an enemy invasion. However Buddha's
expectations from one who is training to be an Arhant whether
monk or layman are different and it should not be mistaken with
the Buddha's expectations from the laity burdened with numerous
worldly responsibilities. It is also because the Buddha in his
wisdom did not expect every 'Buddhist' to opt for Arahantship
nor to become an ascetic renouncing the worldly affairs. To
the majority Buddhism is a way of life rather than a faith,
philosophy, or a religion.
it should be stressed that a soldier like all others is subject
to the law of Kamma and will not escape the Kammic fruits of
"taking the Life"of a sentient being (panatipatha)
even though he may have had the overall noble intention of protecting
his country and his people.
killing may be inevitable in a long and successful army career
opportunities for merit too is unlimited for a disciplined and
disciplined soldier fights his enemy in accordance with the
best of traditions and norms maintained by an army. He doesn't
kill a defenseless person. A good soldier provides medical treatment
to the injured enemy captured. He doesn't kill prisoners of
war, children, women or the aged. A disciplined soldier destroys
his enemy only when his or the lives of his comrades are in
is one who thrives for peace within because he is one who realizes
the pain of his own wounds. He is one who sees the bloody destruction
of war, the dead, the suffering etc. Hence his desire to bring
peace to himself as well as to the others by ending the war
as soon as possible. He not only suffers during the war but
even after the war. The painful memories of the battles he fought
linger in him making his aspire for true and lasting peace within
and without. Hence the common phenomenon of transformation of
brutal kings having an insatiable desire to conquer to incomparable
and exemplary righteous kings such as Drarmasoka king of Mourian
dynasty of India.
The Buddha and the Four-Limbed Army: The Military in the Pali
Canon ...Matthew Kosuta Ph.D.
paper is a summary of my masters thesis. I undertook this study
in order to clarify what I saw as an apparent contradiction
in Theravada Buddhism and its pacifist ethic. Pacifism constitutes
a main and ever-present theme in the Theravada Pali Canon. It
best expresses itself in ethical conduct (sila), which is
founded, on the concept of universal love and compassion. The
practice of this ethical system is absolutely necessary in order
to attain nibbana. Yet, after the introduction of Buddhism into
the now Theravada countries, Sri Lanka and Buddhist Southeast
Asia (excepting Vietnam), a strong military tradition has continued
in these countries, remaining side by side with the Buddhist
coexistence of a pacifist ethic and a military tradition creates
an apparent contradiction. In an attempt to better understand
this paradox, I studied the treatment of the military in the
Pali Canon. The general focus of my studies is the interaction
between a pacifist religion, in this case Theravada Buddhism,
and the military apparatus that protects the country within
which this religion is found. Specifically, within the bounders
of my thesis I examined the canonical texts relative to this
question. My study had three objectives: first, examine how
the Pali Canon treats the subject of the military; second find
the attitude, whether implicit or explicit, expressed by this
treatment; and third, verify the accuracy of the Pali Canon's
description of the military by comparing it to contemporary
sources also treating the ancient Indian military. I feel that
an analysis of the military in the Pali Canon allows us to better
understand Buddhism, pacifism, and militarism in their various
working hypotheses were as follows: strong ties even inseparable
ones can exist between a pacifist religion and the military;
the canon must in some way, support military action; and a pacifist
religion has no real means of affecting the military.
theory framing this study states: Pacifism and militarism are
diametrically opposed. The military references found in the
Pali Canon were analyzed and contextualized both historically
and philosophically. The historical context being the world
of the kshatriya (Sanskrit, this term rather than the Pali khattiya
will be used throughout as it is already well known) and the
ancient Indian four-limbed army (caturangini sena), the four
limbs being chariots, elephants, horses, and foot soldiers.
The philosophical context being Theravada ethical and soteriological
found that the Pali Canon treats the military in a variety of
different ways, which I arranged in six main categories. The
first category I titled Scenery, Symbol and Security. This category
contains the Doctrinally neutral references, ones in which the
military appears as part of the background or scenery of the
passage. It may appear as a symbol of the power and prestige
of a king or as security for him or the state. The military
may well be used in teaching a point of Doctrine, but it does
not constitute the subject of the teaching. So, no opinion is
given or a judgment rendered on the military, and its absence
would cause more a loss of color than substance and in no way
affect the meaning of the passage.
comes the category of Mundane (lokiya) vs. Transcendental (lokuttara).
Here are the references in which the Pali Canon places the military
in the mundane; thus, military actions are the performance of
mundane actions as opposed to being the performance of otherworldly
or transcendental actions. Buddhist laity typically operate
within the mundane, while someone performing Path actions, usually
a monk, operates in the transcendental (Reynolds, 1979). The
Canon makes it clear in numerous passages that military action
is not conducive to following the Path; that it should be recognized
as such and renounced. The Buddha himself, in his last life
and in previous lives, renounced the apex of kshatriya life,
that of a king. The skills and actions of a warrior are said
to lead to a rebirth in a purgatory or hell. But, the military
does not find itself singled out and condemned more harshly
than any other mundane profession, action or skill. In fact,
even when being condemned as ultimately unproductive, the Pali
Canon often corroborates the high social status of the military
within the mundane.
surprisingly, due to the mundane position of the military, a
set of monastic regulations governing a monk's interactions
with the military has been laid out in the Viniyapitaka (the
Book of Discipline) and this makes up the third category: Monastic
Discipline and the Military. Some of the more important rules
include: a monk may visit an army that has marched out of its
garrison only if he has sufficient reason and if his stay does
not last longer that three days; monks are forbidden from viewing
a mock combat, army deployment, or an army review. These regulations
were necessary, for some monks still had the desire to witness
the above activities. Idle gossip, which includes talking of
military matters, has also been forbidden. One of the crucial
references in this study concerns the regulation banning soldiers
in the king's service from joining the sangha (the monastic
community). This passage leads one to believe that the Buddha
made a political decision in recognition of Buddhism's need
for protection from physical dangers.
military also figures in the category treating the utopic rule
of the cakkavattin (a Wheel Turning King). Here, the military
plays a strange role where the cakkavattin maintains a complete
four-limbed army and his sons are described as "foe crushers";
yet, neither performs a military function. They seem to appear
only as a necessary symbol of kingship.
next category I termed The Metaphor: Nibbanic Action is War.
Here the military plays an important role in serving as the
referent in this metaphor. Striving for nibbana, i.e. performing
Path actions, is so difficult that the Buddha expresses this
endeavor in a series of analogies, which express the powerful
metaphor Nibbanic Action is War. In order to explain the difficulties
of Path actions, and the superior qualities and skills necessary
to overcome them, a monk is frequently told that he must be
like a warrior or elephant skilled in battle. The Canon frequently
speaks of "conquering" various mundane elements, and
just as a raja would have his senapati, his army leader, the
Buddha had his second in command the dhammasenapati, Doctrine
army leader. And finally, there is the Buddha's "battle"
with Mara just before his enlightenment. The use of military
elements in such a fashion expresses implicitly a favorable
attitude towards the military.
final category is titled The Bodhisatta in Battle. Here we
find militarily involved Jataka or past life stories of the
Buddha. In them the Bodhisatta and future arahants participate
in military conflicts. Several of these Jataka present the battlefield
as an excellent place to perfect energy (viriya, often appearing
as perseverance in translations). Several stories raise questions
as to the kammic fruits reaped by the Bodhisatta because of
his military actions. As we have seen these kammic fruits should
be negative, but the Canon remains silent on the matter. From
the Jataka we learn that being a soldier in no way negates one's
ultimate ability to attain nibbana; and, in fact, being a soldier
might be an aid, since, as seen in the category Nibbanic action
is War, a superior soldier has the necessary qualities for a
monk to succeed. The fact that the Bodhisatta and the future
arahants were able to perform military actions and still reach
the ultimate Buddhist goal could and can reassure any Buddhist
soldier that with the right effort their ultimate well-being
could and can be assured. Within the Jataka, the military and
military actions come across as perfectly normal in ancient
military appears frequently in the Pali Canon. In fact, if all
the military sutta and passages were collected together in one
text, they could form a separate volume of the Canon, as together
they number over five hundred pages in length. However, if we
place these references in the context of the entire Pali Canon,
we see a minimal numerical representation. It is possible that
these references have a greater impact than their numbers suggest.
Also, given the wide variety of subjects covered in the Pali
Canon, these seemingly small numbers may not be so in comparison
to other subjects, should they also be numerically organized.
The Jataka stands out as the division of the Canon, which contributed
the most references. Of the one hundred ten references to the
military collected nearly half of them came from the Jataka.
This is important because the Jataka are the main source from
which the laity obtain Buddhist instruction. Thus, there is
an exaggerated importance of the Jataka in teaching the Theravada
point of view on the military.
Pali Canon's descriptions of the ancient Indian army fall in
line with those of other contemporary sources. Some specific
details remain uncorroborated, but these are the exceptions
and not the norm. Given that the Buddha is said to have been
a kshatriya and considering the number of kshatriya said to
have entered the sangha, one would expect this kind of accuracy
from the Canon when treating military subjects. As a whole,
the military references lack in both technical details of the
army and detailed descriptions of battles. The Canon never describes
explicit scenes of blood, severed limbs, or the deaths of men,
animals and supernatural beings, as does epic Indian literature.
Whether this stems from the Canon's pacifist ethos or another
source remains unclear. The Pali Canon does, however, echo the
kshatriya ethos of duty and honor in battle.
nearly all the military references women play a secondary role.
Generally speaking, they represent one of two things: for kshatriya
they are objects to be fought for; for monks they are objects
to be avoided. In several Jataka, a king or prince, and even
the Bodhisatta, fights to win one or more maidens. In the Anguttarnikaya,
it is a monk's ability to resist the temptations of a woman
(and thereafter gain release) that equates him with a warrior
victorious in battle. The mother in the birth story of the Asatarupajataka
(#100) stands out as a notable exception. It is she who suggests
to her son the successful strategy of laying siege to a city,
instead of fighting a pitched battle to take it.
this study, while trying to draw out the Pali Canon's opinion
of the military, an apparent contradiction arose: the Canon
alternates between explicit condemnation and implicit praise
of the military. For the Pali Canon, the military seems to represent
several things, both positive and negative. On the positive
side, the Canon frequently praises the military and accords
it great prestige - in fact the military maintains its contemporary
social status unchanged. The military provides one of the best
examples for the type of man, qualities, and skills necessary
for attaining nibbana. The battlefield proves excellent ground
for perfecting and using certain of the Ten Perfection's (dasaparamita)
, especially energy/effort (viriya). The battlefield also
provides excellent ground for fulfilling of one's duty despite
great personal danger.
the negative side, war causes death and destruction and it engenders
a cycle of revenge. The Canon considers dealing with the military
as "ill-gotten". And finally, the most powerful condemnation:
military life and skills lead warriors to rebirth in ahell or
a purgatory. To understand this contradiction we must look to
when and from where the praise and condemnation is coming from.
It becomes clear that praise of the military appears in a mundane
context and condemnation in a transcendental context. Explicit
praise of the performance of military actions come from mundane
figures, such as kings, warriors, backsliding monks, and even
the Bodhisatta. Condemnation and avoidance of military actions
come from transcendental figures, such as the Buddha, arahants,
monks, and from the Bodhisatta, kings, warriors, etc., who have
realized the truth of the world from a Buddhist point of view.
Since the transcendental ultimately has precedence, the final
opinion of the Pali Canon toward the military must be said to
be a negative one.
the implicit praise surrounding the military as expressed in
the metaphor Nibbanic Action is War can be reconciled under
this distinction. Since the transcendental was the unknown,
the Buddha had no choice but to refer to the mundane in an attempt
to make the transcendental understood. The metaphor must be
thought of in the same way as all the other training: it is
a raft to take you to the other side, but once you arrive you
do not carry it along, you must leave it behind. Yet, the question
remains as to why a militaristic reference point was chosen
for a pacific mode of behavior. I propose two main reasons in
partial explanation for this choice. First, the aforementioned
difficulties of performing Path actions. Only success under
the most difficult mundane circumstances could be equated with
striving for nibbana -- success in battle filled this perfectly.
Second, since the Buddha and many monks were kshatriya, they
were trained from infancy to consider war to be their natural
calling, their dharma (sanskrit). Thinking of a difficult challenge
in a military sense would have been second nature for these
a final note, what did all this mean for a kshatriya of the
era, and what has it meant for Buddhist soldiers through the
ages? Any Buddhist soldier conversant in the Pali Canon's references
to the military cannot have been or now be reassured about his
profession. However, again there is a positive side. These soldiers
can look at the various Jataka stories telling of the Buddha
and future arahants victorious in battle and the rewards obtained
therefrom. Other sutta and passages also express a favorable
attitude toward the military, and the Buddha himself recognized
the necessity of an army when he banned fighting-men in the
service of a king from joining the sangha. Perhaps most reassuring
is the fact that should a Buddhist be a model soldier he will
also possess many of the important qualities necessary for a
person to obtain nibbana. But, all this is outweighed by the
condemnation the military receives when viewed with proper Buddhist
insight. A soldier by virtue of his raison d'être violates
many of the basic ethical principles of Buddhism. Professional
soldiers are told that should they die in combat they will be
reborn in a purgatory and the Bodhisatta at one point stated
that his expert military skill would, in the end, lead to hell.
It would seem that a professional soldier begins his carrier
with a negative kammic balance sheet.
study has shown that the Pali Canon indeed forms an explicit
opinion on the military. The Canon recognizes that, in a mundane
perspective, the military is ever present, of high prestige,
and even necessary in some circumstances for the protection
of Buddhism. But, ultimately it must be judged from the higher
insight of the transcendental, the lokuttara, where it becomes
evident that the military is not conducive to Buddhist ethics
and thus not conducive to performing Path actions. From this
point of view, the military even loses its value in the mundane,
where military pursuits are seen as prideful, destructive, and
in vain, engendering a cycle of revenge which only leads to
G. D. 1990. Mahabharata a Military Analysis. New Delhi: Lancer
Arthur L. 1976. La civilisation de l'Inde ancienne. Trans. of
the English. Paris: Librairie Arthaud.
Mathieu. 1993. "Le rôle didactique de la Métaphore
dans le Milindapañha". Religiologiques, 7, Littérature
et sacré, II, p. 35-47.
S.T. 1969. Indian Military -- Its History and Development. New
Delhi: Sagar Publications.
Govind T. 1929. The Art of War in Ancient India. London: Oxford
V. R. Ramachandra. 1944. War in Ancient India. London: MacMillan
and Co., Ltd.
Peter. 1990. An Introduction to Buddhism: Teaching, History
and Practices. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.
George, and Mark JOHNSON. 1980. Metaphors We Live By. Chicago:
The University of Chicago Press.
Étienne. 1976. Histoire du bouddhisme indien: Des origines
à l'ère Saka. Louvain: L'Institut Orientaliste de
Arthur A. 1976. A Practical Sanskrit Dictionary. Oxford: Oxford
P. 1951. L'Inde antique et la civilisation indienne. Paris:
Éditions Albin Michel.
Sunthorn. 1976. The Buddhist Concepts of Karma and Rebirth.
Bangkok: Mahamakut Rajavindyalaya Press.
TEXT SOCIETY. 1963-. Books of the Pali Canon. London: PTS.
TEXT SOCIETY. 1969-. Pali Text Translation Series. London: PTS.
Walpola. 1962. What the Buddha Taught. New York: Grove Press,
Frank E. 1979. "Four Modes of Theravada Action". Journal
of Religious Ethics, vol. 7 no 1, p. 12-26.
DAVIDS, T. W. and W. STEDE. 1992. The Pali Text Society's Pali
English Dictionary. Oxford: The Pali Text Society.
P. 1970-73. Bhisma Parva and Drona Parva. Vol. V and VI of The
Mahabharata. Trans. of the Sanskrit. New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal.
H. 1970. Buddhist Ethics: Essence of Buddhism. New York: George
J. 1969. Military History of India. New Delhi: Orient Longman's,
Philibert. 1984. L'analogie. Paris: Presses Universitaires de
France, coll. "Que sais-je?", no 2165.
P. 1975. Kurukshetra War: A Military Study. Ganganagar, India:
R. 1967. Kautilya's Arthasastra. Trans. of the Sanskrit. Mysore:
Mysore Printing and Publishing House.
A. K. 1985. Ancient Indian Army: Its Administration and Organisation.
Dehli: Ajanta Publications.
A. K. 1970. Indian Buddhism. Dehli: Motilal Banarsidass.
1991. Introduction to Pali. Oxford: The Pali Text Society.
Benjamin. 1968. An Encyclopedic Survey of Hinduism. London:
George Allen and Unwin, Ltd.
Matthew Kosuta is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Religious
Studies, Université du Québec à Montréal.
All foreign terms are in Pali unless otherwise noted. [Due to
technical reasons (notably in connection with the online edition
of this journal), it has not been possible tu use the standard
diacritic marks (viz., nibbåna, sa[integral]gha) for the
transliteration of pali and/or sanskrit words and phrases. The
The Pali Canon represents Theravada Buddhism's canonical literature.
Some 85 volumes in length, it was maintained in oral form, with
the first written copy not appearing till about the first century
B.C.E., approximately 400 years after the Buddha's death.
In Theravada Buddhism the term Bodhisatta designates someone
destined to become a Buddha, this conception differs significantly
from the Mahayana Bodhisattva and the Bodhisattva path.
The ten qualities that a Bodhisatta must perfect in order to
become a Buddha.
Upaya Zen Center
Sanskrit for "skillful means" or "the craft of
compassion," is a Buddhist study center nestled in the
foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, just minutes from
the plaza of Santa Fe. We offer courses and retreats on engaged
spirituality and on contemplative care of the dying. We also
offer Zen training, meditation retreats and international retreats.
Groups and individuals may use our facility for retreats.
Halifax, Ph.D. is a Buddhist teacher and an anthropologist.
academic teaching credentials include being on the faculty of
Columbia University, the University of Miami School of Medicine,
the New School for Social Research, the Naropa Institute and
the California Institute for Integral Studies.
books include: The Human Encounter with Death (with Stanislav
Grof), Shamanic Voices, Shaman: the Wounded Healer, The Fruitful
Darkness, Simplicity in the Complex: A Buddhist Life in America
and Being with Dying (forthcoming).
has worked with individuals suffering from life-threatening
illnesses since 1970. She has worked with indigenous healing
systems in southern Florida and with indigenous peoples in Asia
and the Americas on environmental and health issues.
1979, she founded The Ojai Foundation where she lived and worked
that time, she founded Upaya in Santa Fe, NM, where she now
practices, teaches, and works in the New Mexico Penitentiary
with maximum-security prisoners and men on death row, works
with individuals who have catastrophic illnesses and is the
founder of the Project on Being with Dying.
has practiced Buddhism since the late 1960s and was formally
ordained in 1976 by Zen Master Seung Sahn. In 1990, she received
the Lamp Transmission from Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh and is
a Dharmacarya in the Tiep Hien Order. She is a Founding Teacher
in the Zen Peacemaker Order of Roshi Bernie Glassman and the
late Sensei Jishu Holmes and is a Soto Priest and teacher.
An Introduction to Buddhist Ethics : Foundations, Values and
Issues ...by Peter Harvey
Reviewer: Rajith Dissanayake- from Harrow Great Britain... This
is an easy to understand account of the basis and content of
ethical teachings in Buddhism as a global tradition.
with the foundations of Buddhist ethics, Harvey then describes
the major precepts in turn as they apply to ordinary practitioners.
then looks at the implications of these ethics from the social
and historical context in many countries from Sri Lanka to Japan.
He gives special treatment to topics like Enviromentalism, Feminist
issues, Economics and Homosexuality in a Buddhist context and
gives an overview of many accounts expressed on these topics.
The treatment is sometimes academic, always balanced and frequently
is an important book for people who are interested in Natural
Justice and the role of Human Rights vs Human Responsibilities
in the context of human legal codes and religion. It is also
a must for anyone who wants to know the difference between right
and wrong and why from a non Theistic position.
is a project of the Independent Media Institute, a nonprofit
organization dedicated to strengthening and supporting independent
and alternative journalism.
launched in 1998, AlterNet's online magazine provides a mix
of news, opinion and investigative journalism on subjects ranging
from the environment, the drug war, technology and cultural
trends to policy debate, sexual politics and health issues.
The AlterNet article database includes more than 7,000 stories
from over 200 sources.
is an online magazine and information resource where pressing
issues are subject to examination and debate.
providing quality journalism, dependable research, issue-focused
public interest content and passionate advocacy, we believe
our readers will be better equipped to make informed decisions
about problems that affect us all.
we seek to engage our community of readers in problem solving,
community action and awareness of current events in the United
States and abroad.
Urban Dharma Newsletter Archives:
Los Angeles Buddhist-Catholic Dialogue:
Subscribe or Unsubscribe: