Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Does Dalai Lama approve of killing Osama?

It's not so strange for a Buddhist to endorse killing [Oh yes it is!]
Stephen Jenkins (
The Dalai Lama's attitude to Bin Laden's death should not be too surprising – Buddhism is not as pacifist as the West fantasizes, claims Jenkins. [We beg to differ: bracketed rebuttal and commentary by Wisdom Quarterly.]

The Dalai Lama [a CIA asset] said Osama bin Laden deserved compassion but his killing was "understandable" (AP/Jim Mone).

How could the Dalai Lama, who hesitates to harm mosquitoes, endorse killing Osama bin Laden? The terrorist deserved compassion, the Dalai Lama said, but "if something is serious…you have to take counter-measures."

[If China, a criminal state with little regard for human rights, points out that Tibet's traditional god-king ran a religious oligarchy and ruled a kingdom of "serfs," then taking "counter-measures" that include killing opponents, we suppose, makes sense. It seems His Holiness is being consistent, wrong and anti-Buddhist, but consistent.]

The apparent inconsistency here is with idealistic Western fantasies of pacifist Buddhism, not with Buddhism itself. [Of course, "Buddhism" is what the Buddha taught. It needs to be distinguished from what "Buddhists" practice or what we in the West imagine should be taught or should be practiced.]

The power of those fantasies is so strong that it even affects Tibetans themselves. Some young refugees blame Buddhism for losing Tibet. [This Dalai Lama in private blames Bon-era black magic practices allegedly continued by the Shugden Movement. There wasa no freedom of religion in Tibet under the Dalai Lama system.]

Saying "we were warriors once," they invoke their history of empire [Tibet's former Vatican-style leadership had far-reaching influence like an empire] and incorrectly think their ancestors did not resist Chinese invasion. Those fantasies also cause us to fail to appreciate how extraordinary the Dalai Lama is. [He's a pope and a politician, a spokesperson for peace and a secret CIA operative fighting China.] We take his values as those of a typical Buddhist or a typical dalai lama, and he is neither.

Buddhists work out their values through stories of Buddha's past lives [Wrong, wrong, wrong! Values are laid out explicitly in sutras (such as the Sigalovada Sutra for laypeople) and monastic disciplinary guidelines (Vinaya), whereas Buddhist Birth Stories (Jataka Tales) are fables that illustrate various moral truths. If Buddhist values depended on Buddhists cherry picking and interpreting their values from animal stories and Aesop Fables, there wouldn't be a Buddhism], which show him in myriad roles, such as a battle-elephant or minister defending his besieged city.

The following story is analogous to a terrorist situation. It is known throughout northern Buddhism. [The historical and canonical Jatakas are Theravada or "Southern Buddhism" texts, so it's interesting that later apocryphal Birth Stories start justifying and promoting non-Buddhist ideas, like China making war against Korea. Of course, Jenkins may not be aware of these subtleties, he does not seem to go out of his way to investigate the matter by asking anyone would know. That's not good journalism as he implicitly undermines Buddhism's view of peace and compassion, mars the super-politically correct Dalai Lama's actual words, and promotes the killing of anyone deemed a "terrorist."]

Communists even used it to rouse Chinese Buddhists to fight in Korea. The Buddha, in a past life as a ship's captain named Super Compassionate, discovered a criminal on board who intended to kill the 500 passengers.

[The "Buddha" only lived once. The Buddha does not appear in any Birth Story since every life recounted in the Jatakas is about the Bodhisattva, the "being trying to become a buddha"; in no way are the characters in the fables, fairy tales, and simplified histories the actual "Buddha" or Buddhist saints, even if they were to evolve into such figures much, much later in future lives. It would be like considering the acts of an infant the same as that of that same person as an adult; there is not a "soul" or "self" that persists through time to be called the same person. One arises dependent on what came before but is different from it. So these figures are not meant to be used as guides on how to behave. Often the opposite is true; they are cautionary tales on how not to behave. The sutras themselves give examples of what the Buddha and exemplary Buddhist nuns, monks, lay disciples, and good non-Buddhists did.]

If he told the passengers, they would panic and become killers themselves, as happened on a Southwest Airlines flight in 2000. With no other way out, he compassionately stabbed the criminal to death.

[It can never be "compassionate" to intentionally kill someone. Misguided by delusion by misunderstanding, one might imagine killing or euthanasia were justified. But when that karma bears its result, or sees it with the divine eye bearing its result for someone else, one will clearly understand one made a mistake. By not thinking of the person we harm, focusing instead on the good one imagines one is doing for others, it is possible for a more or less "good" person to kill. And we might all understand that -- but it is not justified, it is not okay, it is not good, nor is it without painful result, nor would a buddha or any arhat praise it or excuse it as okay. "Understandable," yes, but okay, no way! And in Jenkin's Guardian article, the Dalai Lama has been quoted as saying he finds the executing of Osama bin Laden "understandable," not good or acceptable as Jenkins seems to be suggesting.]

Captain Compassionate saved the passengers not only from murder, but from becoming murderers themselves. [And of course it's not as if Super Compassionate in this apocryphal Jataka could have conked him on the head, or arrested him, or otherwise stopped him. Does anyone believe he had to be stabbed "to death"? If one stabs to stop and the person dies, that is not murder as such. Manslaughter, harming, or something not good, but it's a far cry from "murder."

Unlike him, they would have killed in rage and suffered hell. He saved the criminal from becoming a mass murderer and even worse suffering. He himself generated vast karmic merit by acting with compassion.

[It's a wonderful make believe story ripe for abuse by governments: "Hey, soldiers, go be like Super Compassionate and kill out of compassion. Then it won't be 'killing,' so have at it! Let's go wage war against those terrorists in Korea for the glory of our peace-loving China!" What a wonderful spin Jenkins and Chinese generals are putting on Mahayana (or "Northern") Buddhism. The American military used this exact same sophistry in Vietnam, right, when some young soldiers zealously following CIA/FBI/Military Intelligence orders "burned a village to save it" from Communism.]

The story is double-edged. Killing protects others from the horrific karma of killing. At Harvard in April 2009, the Dalai Lama explained that "wrathful forceful action" motivated by compassion, may be "violence on a physical level" but is "essentially nonviolence."

[If he did, and if this is what he meant, then the Dalai Lama is wrong. It's very simple. People imagine that the Dalai Lama is "holy" and speaks infallibly as the pope of Buddhism. He is not. He is not the Buddha. He may not even be a bodhisattva, someone reborn purposely to become a buddha, but we hold out hope that he has vowed to be one, and that the correct tulku, or incarnation, was found. Even so, he does not represent Buddhism. He does not even represent all Tibetan Buddhists. He is stained by his association with the CIA, military resistance to grave Chinese crimes, and his position as a god-king, who of course recently stepped down from his position as king.]

So we must be careful to understand what "nonviolence" means. Under the right conditions, it could include killing a terrorist. [It could never include intentionally acting to kill someone, not even bogeymen, "demons" (yakkhas, asuras, nagas, pretas) or Mara, the very worst being in Buddhism. If killing could be "compassionate," would not the Buddha have killed Mara? Would he not have at least instructed a powerful disciple like Maha Moggallana to kill him? No, far from it. He would not even allow Maha Moggallana to slay a terrible dragon (a naga or powerful reptilian who encircled the world and threatened the Buddha and a company of saints in space.]

People fail to appreciate how extraordinary the Dalai Lama's commitment to nonviolence is. After all, he is a Buddhist and [as a bodhisattva and leader] the manifestation of AvalokiteĊ›vara [the Bodhisattva of Compassion], the deity of compassion.

But Buddhist values are not simply pacifist, and Buddhist scripture and legend inform us that AvalokiteĊ›vara readily takes a warrior's form when needed and supports the warfare of righteous kings.

[It seems to us that Buddhist values are, by and large, pacifist even if Buddhist behavior is not. One may defend oneself; one may do anything. But one will not thereby evade the karmic results of such actions because "one had to" or "had a right to." The Buddha taught what he understood would bring suffering -- when it came to fruition -- and what would bring happiness. In our shortsightedness, we imagine that the immediate visible results of what we have done are the karmic results. That is incorrect. That karma has had no time to mature. A buddha, a far-seeing teacher, someone versed in the Dharma tells us what is difficult to see, difficult to perceive, difficult to guess: Actions are like seeds. They are shaped by intention and categorized this way. When we think, speak, or act with an "impure" mind -- intentions tainted by even residual amounts of greed, hate (aversion, fear, disgust), or delusion -- then the karma laid down will ripen in unpleasant and unwelcome ways. This does NOT make "common" sense. The Buddha was not blithely uttering commonplaces and easy-to-swallow truisms. Many things he taught were hard to see, hard to accept, hard to finally understand.

[For example, if I steal, what will happen? I will be richer to the extent of what I've stolen. But later, when that act ripens, I will be poor. When will that act ripen? It will ripen when it finds the opportunity, which could be aeons. So it may not be "me" (the personality, name, and form who did it) who will bear the result and consequence but some future version of "me" at the time (a personality, name, and form who did not steal). Likewise, I am rich, beautiful, healthy, and influential now. What did I do to deserve it? Not much. But in the past, it is possible to trace someone who did do such things as now ripen. I call that person "me," but it is not me. And I call this person "me," but it is not me either. I call the line of beings passing away and being reborn "my soul," but it is not one thing, and it is not me. There is action (karma and cetana), and there will be result (vipaka and phala). That is, deeds and intentions are willed and carried out, and when they mature there are mental-resultants and fruits to be experienced. But we personalize it, imagine it is happening to an immutable entity that cannot die or change when it is dying and changing every moment leaving us nothing worth clinging to.

[There are things that if done will bear a bad (painful, unpleasant, unwelcome, unwished for) result. What are those things? Five of them are universal: killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, false speech, and taking intoxicants that occasion heedlessness). It's not a punishment from the Buddha, God, or anyone else. It's a natural ordering of things referred to as karma. Understandably, it's hard for us to imagine anything being impersonal. But the personal gets mixed in there. People are not satisfied to wait for our karma to come back onto us; they taint themselves by helping it along through revenge or engaging in things that hard us and them.]

Buddhist cultures, including Tibet, have not historically been pacifist.

["Buddhist" cultures have not historically been Buddhist. Long before Buddhism entered anywhere, there was a culture. Buddhism could not solve the root societal problems of greed, hatred, and delusion. It could, however, solve the root personal problems of these poisonous internal motivations for those who practiced Buddhism. But good luck curing society or a culture just because it adopts Buddhism as a religion. Nevertheless, wherever it went, the people became kinder, more generous, and far more peaceful. Kings still crave greater influence (territory and honor), more material goods (war booty), and more of everything. And in their blind ambition, whether Buddhist or not, they instigate their populations to fight for these ends. That in no way means "Buddhism" advocates them. Even intentionally killing in "defense" is not defensible, which is to say even such an "understandable" act will have a negative consequence. One would be wiser to find another solution, as hard or fleeting as that other solution may be.]

The previous dalai lama strove to develop a modern military. So the current one's dedication to nonviolence should not be taken as a matter of course. He was influenced by Gandhi, a British-trained lawyer whose pacifism was rooted in Thoreau's Civil Disobedience. His nonviolent approach is exceptional for a Buddhist political leader and integrates Indian and western concepts of nonviolent struggle. More