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Switch to Forum Live View Self defence, karma and Buddhism
7 years ago  ::  Dec 14, 2007 - 12:34PM #1
wanapitei
Posts: 1
Recently I was in dialogue with a fellow Buddhist about Right Action, one of the Eightfold Path and we came to the injunction not to harm.

The question came up, "What about self defence? Is one allowed to defend oneself if attacked?" No, he said, in that case the situation has already gone too far. You should have already have left the scene. "But what about the woman alone in an enclosed space, say her bedroom, and a big bruiser in a drunken fury, not necessarily angry with her just with the world, comes in for the attack? What then?" No, she should just push him away and exit the scene as rapidly as possible. To pick up something at hand and use that to knock him in self defence may harm him and therefore cause negative karma. "No way!! That's tantamount to blaming the victim and siding with the aggressor." From here the dialogue proceeded in circles without resolution.

Where's the balance, where's the middle way in questions of self defence? One can think up any number of real life circumstances where this question applies. Say the small child who is assaulted by a drugged or drunken parent. Say stumbling innocently upon a violent scene involving others and you're assaulted simply for being a witness.

My fellow Buddhist's concern and focus was entirely with karma, avoiding creating negative karma by becoming involved in any form of violence, no matter its motive, which could cause bodily harm.

Did the Buddha ever speak directly about self defence? If so, can someone point to a place in the canon?

With Metta.
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7 years ago  ::  Dec 14, 2007 - 1:29PM #2
ronnewmexico
Posts: 490
Can't speak about any canonnoic response. If you want that don't read this. This thread is probably more appropriate to Dharma discussion or Buddhist Discussion.

Those issues aside, His Holiness the Dali Lama states if in some such circumstance, of course someone could protect themselves, injure the attacking persons leg or some such to stop the violence.

In my thinking, the negative effect from killing that person would probably be so severe as to negate the good from protecting oneself. In spiritual terms, we should protect ourselves as we are in a very good position, being human, to advance ourselves spiritually. The killing of another in that aim would probably negate the positive effect of this lifetime, though there are examples of people, such as one  serial killer of the Buddhas time that did make significant spiritual progress despite that(killing others).

Myself personally I would never intend to kill another, but would certainly defend myself with force if necessary and have, fairly recently.  There are some people that will attack you just to see how you will react. If you frequent such circles and are born into such cultures this is not unusual nor unexpected, nor is the response though violent, one that is not expected, nor necessarily uncalled for. A bad circumstance and a bad result, but perhaps you try not to do any lasting harm when attacked.   Thusly a result that is not as bad as it may have been. A circumstance invariably carried over from a bad choice lifetime or lifetimes ago. A perfect action now....probably not possible for us, it is a imperfect circumstance that leads to bad result . 

On another aside, people seem to have a idealized conception of a perfect Buddhist person or perfect Buddhist response encompassing nonviolence in everything. The reality is we may be born into circumstance that is less than favorable(even though human) due to past life misaction and thusly be virtually forced to perform things such as violence and other misdeeds. While this is very unfortunate, we cannot deny the circumstance exists for us and must be worked through. The most we can expect from some bad circumstance is perhaps to know we are in a bad circumstance and perfect action is not possible at this present time. To try to cause the least harm.

The Teacher Buddha himself was in a circumstance once prior to becomeing enlightened in which he was a captain on a ship. He happened upon a person who was in the process of making a big hole in the bottom of the boat. This person apparently had a irrational hate of merchants. The boat was ferrying 500 merchants. He did kill this person. I am guessing other means did not exist to save the lives of the 500 and allow this person to continue to live. So he did invariably suffer bad effect from this action but it was bad circumstance that created the necessity for bad action, and consequential effect (karmic effect) was undoubtably much less than if such act was perfomed for other reason or even just to save ones personal life.

Buddhist are not Jains, they do not abstain from any harm in any circumstance even in some extremes to the extent of starving themselves in the intent of causing no harm. If that is your belief you may consider exploring that religion.

On another aside, pacifism does not equate with being passive. Our language infers that, because our culture which formed this language, recognizes no such distinction.  In historical terms action was equated with violence,(in this culture), hence the linguistic common derivitive. They are not equal or similiar. The Buddha was born into the warrior cast and his approach includeing his dealing with Mara were of a warriors mentality and approach. The idea that Buddhists are necessarily meak and mildmannered passive people, is not necessarily a true one. They may be, they may not be. 

Many great spiritual leaders have worked life time upon life time generating good effect. Their lives may portray this good effect/result for our viewing in this life. As per example the Dali Lama. We have not had such good direction and thusly good effect, nor do we have such spiritual understanding which helps to mold circumstance.   So we may be similiar to HHDL in being human but not be in a favorable circumstance to be able to help others very effectively. We may in fact be in bad circumstance which leads us to hurt others. This will gradually become better as we accept these circumstances with the view they are bad cirumstances and our actions(though not perfect) if intended with good will, will gradually erode the causes of such bad circumstances and produce lives when such is not necessary(this coupled with spiritual means) .

We also cannot look down upon others in such bad cirumstance such as soldiers (who may care to just shoot up into the sky as opposed into another), but still in very bad circumstance. As we have compassion for ourselves, being in less than ideal circumstance and performing action which is less than perfect, we must have compassion for those that are in equally bad or worse circumstance due to no fault in this life of their own.     

This all to my very limited understanding and knowledge, and not cannonic in nature or form.
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7 years ago  ::  Dec 14, 2007 - 2:10PM #3
ronnewmexico
Posts: 490
We may live in, gated communities, or even in rurally environed campus towns, with good police forces and a safe secure environment, of little or no fear. No reason for violence or any violent action. We may be vegans and even recycle everything, be wise environmentally conscious beings doing what we can in causeing less  harm.  Be in a present circumstance of great fortune. This is very fortunate but almost always a result of past lifetime effect not the present one(by my personal observation).

Very many are Buddhists born into not so favorable circumstance of killing death harm and destruction and yes, circumstance that causes harm when action is performed to save life or prevent greater harm. How do you stop a person from rapeing your sister(or brother or son or daughter or mother) but without causeing harm......you do not. They are no less Buddhists than us, nor less correct is their action and daily conduct. We must not forget that. 

As we have compassion for them we must have compassion for ourselves and remember in this realm, perfect action is almost always a result of perfect effect, and relatively rare, for those that are not enlightened. We work towards that but it is not generally a immediate process. Our actions are generally incomplete and less than perfect.

Want a completely passive approach to things, saying a prayer perhaps when your sister is being raped, substitute yourself perhaps for your sister be raped and then killed,(and then after you your sister thusly suffers and dies)  wear a mask so not to inadvertantly inhale a bug, perhaps eat next to nothing as all eating causes death, explore perhaps some other religion perhaps Jainism,(though I claim no understanding of this religion just for example) you will undoubtably be reborn in a heaven realm, that's my advice. This does not seem a middle way.

There exist circumstance in which a passive response is the correct appropriate response, not all circumstance is however that. More becomes that, as we advance ourselves spiritually. Eventually we may be in that circumstance, most of us however do not live in that circumstance presently. We work towards that. The first paragraph shows circumstance which may  seem that, but it is not that. Fortunate effect we must not forget for a minute the mileau in which it is imbibed. A split nonsecond away, from another reality.

To my limited understanding.
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7 years ago  ::  Dec 14, 2007 - 9:20PM #4
RenGalskap
Posts: 1,420
Hi wanapitei,

I've been asking myself this question all my life. I still don't have a definitive answer. :)

Legally, we can use as much force as is necessary to defend ourselves or others, but not any more force than that. I tend to think of that as the "Buddhist answer" also, but as ronnewmexico says, there's nothing canonical about it. And some Buddhists disagree, as you've noticed.
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7 years ago  ::  Feb 07, 2008 - 3:34PM #5
sophrosyne
Posts: 37
[QUOTE=wanapitei;139147]
Did the Buddha ever speak directly about self defence? If so, can someone point to a place in the canon?

With Metta.[/QUOTE]

Hi Wanapitei,

The Pali Vinaya, or monastic rules, allows a monk to strike back in self-defense, but never with anger or the intention to kill.

"Even if bandits were to carve you up savagely, limb by limb, with a two-handled saw, he among you who let his heart get angered even at that would not be doing my bidding. Even then you should train yourselves: 'Our minds will be unaffected and we will say no evil words. We will remain sympathetic, with a mind of good will, and with no inner hate. We will keep pervading these people with an awareness imbued with good will and, beginning with them, we will keep pervading the all-encompassing world with an awareness imbued with good will — abundant, expansive, immeasurable, free from hostility, free from ill will.' That's how you should train yourselves."
- MN 21
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7 years ago  ::  Feb 07, 2008 - 3:34PM #6
sophrosyne
Posts: 37
[QUOTE=wanapitei;139147]
Did the Buddha ever speak directly about self defence? If so, can someone point to a place in the canon?

With Metta.[/QUOTE]

Hi Wanapitei,

The Pali Vinaya, or monastic rules, allows a monk to strike back in self-defense, but never with anger or the intention to kill.

"Even if bandits were to carve you up savagely, limb by limb, with a two-handled saw, he among you who let his heart get angered even at that would not be doing my bidding. Even then you should train yourselves: 'Our minds will be unaffected and we will say no evil words. We will remain sympathetic, with a mind of good will, and with no inner hate. We will keep pervading these people with an awareness imbued with good will and, beginning with them, we will keep pervading the all-encompassing world with an awareness imbued with good will — abundant, expansive, immeasurable, free from hostility, free from ill will.' That's how you should train yourselves."
- MN 21
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7 years ago  ::  Feb 15, 2008 - 2:30PM #7
Redford
Posts: 1
What does Buddism have to do with God? What kind of Faith is this. Is it like Science?
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7 years ago  ::  Feb 15, 2008 - 7:09PM #8
RenGalskap
Posts: 1,420
[QUOTE=Redford;290584]What does Buddism have to do with God?[/Quote]

I used to think that there was a simple answer to that question, but it turns out to be complicated. Keeping it simple, there's no creator god in buddhism. For other types of gods, there are Buddhists who believe in some sort of deity, and Buddhists who are atheists.

[Quote]What kind of Faith is this.[/Quote]

Buddhism is a way of overcoming duhkha. Duhkha is a Sanskrit  word with no good translation, but it has been variously translated as suffering, impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, etc. Different individuals and groups emphasize different ways of overcoming duhkha, but they always seem to involve meditation or chanting, or both.

[Quote]Is it like Science?[/QUOTE]

No. No religion is like science. Science and religion have different goals and methods and aren't comparable.
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7 years ago  ::  Apr 25, 2008 - 11:57AM #9
moongod
Posts: 2
i enjoyed your opinion very much.

all is well
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7 years ago  ::  Apr 26, 2008 - 2:41PM #10
nancyflorencecarlson
Posts: 170
To me there is only 3 situations where it is ok to harm anything. 1. your going to eat it 2. it is endangering your life 3. on accident.
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