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Thread: Taking lives as a good thing?

  1. #51
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: Taking lives as a good thing?

    Quote Originally Posted by anista
    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse
    Right. Okay, you go follow your Zen - we'll all be over here waiting for you. Don't let the years and sheer numbers of people who have explicitly stated that awakening is not a goal to be attained deter you. Clearly, we must all be wrong.
    No, I didn't say that at all. I apologize deeply if this is how I came off.

    You are all probably right. The thing is, Chet, that zen and mahayana is not the only perspective. Yes, I know, I know, this is a zen sangha, but I'm still pretty much influenced by theravada teachings, that in many cases correspond with my own experience of reality. I'm really sorry if this is bothering you, and if you want, I can keep my mouth shut if it's not proper to express these views in a zen context. Really, I didn't know, I'm not just trying to please you by saying that. Because it does seem to offend you, but maybe I'm just reading you wrong?
    No, you don't offend me - I just have a hard time containing my frustration most of the time and that causes me to speak a little bit more harshly. I hope that doesn't offend you actually.

    Quote Originally Posted by anista
    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse
    Let me get this straight - you've been on this path for six years or so and you still think that awakening is something fundamentally different and separate from delusion? No offense, but what exactly the fuck have you been doing on that cushion'? An awakening that can be attained is exactly a conditioned thing - only an awakening that can neither be attained nor lost is unconditioned.
    No offense taken. I believe, perhaps wrongly, that once it is attained, it becomes unconditioned. It is unconditioned, not uncaused. But you don't have to reply to that one, I see a whole row of "what the fuck!"s coming my way if you do . Just kidding of course.
    Read Nagarjuna please. It is difficult text, but basically, if something can become - it is conditioned and cannot thus become unconditioned. Conditioned things do not suddenly become unconditioned.

    Once again, I don't mean to offend so much as shock you out of your complacency with what you think you know. Please feel free to do the same to me, as I know I often need it.

    Chet

  2. #52

    Re: Taking lives as a good thing?

    Quote Originally Posted by anista
    You are all probably right. The thing is, Chet, that zen and mahayana is not the only perspective. Yes, I know, I know, this is a zen sangha, but I'm still pretty much influenced by theravada teachings, that in many cases correspond with my own experience of reality. I'm really sorry if this is bothering you, and if you want, I can keep my mouth shut if it's not proper to express these views in a zen context. Really, I didn't know, I'm not just trying to please you by saying that. Because it does seem to offend you, but maybe I'm just reading you wrong?
    I just posted something that is not unrelated to this topic ... on the 'Hwadu' thread ...

    viewtopic.php?p=33627#p33627

  3. #53
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: Taking lives as a good thing?

    ph0kin-what an interesting post! Thanks!

    In response to the general discussion on this thread, and particularly directed to anista:

    I used to very much have a goal/effort oriented practice, with a clear sense of "the right way" and "the wrong way." The only way to "accomplish the goal" was to "sit correctly," which meant being able to settle the mind and develop deep concentration. My ability to enter into deep concentration states where I experienced mind/body bliss was "proof" to me that I was "doing it right."

    Well, there's nothing wrong with bliss, but I was wrong. That sort of practice served me alright for a while, but when life got tough--when "the real shit" started going down--it became apparent how useless all of that was. That sort of practice doesn't free you. It just fetters you with a golden fetter. That's at least what my experience bore out.

    The problem with that angle on practice is that it is rooted in the very same delusion it is supposed to help you see through. It is based in the competitive, acquisitive, controlling orientation to reality often referred to as "ego." With such a practice, ego takes over practice and one falls prey to what Chogyam Trungpa called "spiritual materialism." The ego is practicing because it thinks it can get something for itself out of it, a shiny trophy to put on a shelf. It is another exercise in control.

    My experience has clearly shown me that this is not the way to freedom. The way to freedom is to let go of ideas of "right" and "wrong," and really look. Look with a full willingness to admit it if what you see isn't the same as what you believe or want to believe. I think that's what Chet is getting at by emphasizing the importance of honesty. Our ability to be honest with ourselves is the basis of the self-correcting mechanism of the spiritual path. The only way I've come back from all the dead ends I've hit has been being able to admit, "I really don't know what I'm doing, or if this is right."

    I am grateful for the teachings and approach of Zen, especially Soto, because it is these teachings that have set me free, and that have been verified by my experience over and over again. The mind that is obsessed with right and wrong, and holding on to a position, and mastering things, and accomplishing goals, and acquiring rewards... this mind will never free us. It is what keeps us chasing our tails. What a relief to realize that whatever we get ourselves into in life, Truth and Reality are always Right Here. As an old spiritual friend used to say: "You can't fall off the floor." What a relief that in our practice we get a break from the striving and struggle that otherwise consumes our days. What a shame that it is so easy for the attitude of mind that oppresses us to take over the one arena that can free us from it--spiritual practice.

  4. #54

    Re: Taking lives as a good thing?

    Hi PhOkin

    Yes, I agree. We are always exuding our inner via our body language- tone of voice, movement qualities etc. etc. (and perhaps in another way too). This also relates to the topic at hand in terms of learning to do this. One is far less likely to be attacked when out wandering the streets if one is walking confidently- one of the key teachable things relates to eye contact. Someone who keeps their eyes away from another- perhaps a very, very quick look and then head back down- and someone who stares are both more likely to find trouble in an area where trouble lives. Someone who looks at the other for a good solid 1 to 2 seconds and then returns their head to the direction of travel gives a powerful signal of awareness and confidence- the opposite to a victim mentality.

    General comment: Off of the topic of personal dealings with non-violence and on to nation led violence- the more I study the less I am able to find wars that aren't based on greed and/or trying to correct stupid decisions previously made. While the majority of the brave service people are indeed acting for what they believe to be a just cause, that situation has usually arisen from the ignorance, greed and aversion of our leaders and the influences around them. As a Buddhist I hope we all lessen those three poisons so that we wouldn't take a life ourselves.

    All the best everyone

    rich

  5. #55

    Re: Taking lives as a good thing?

    Thank you, Stephanie. That was very inspiring.
    /Rich

  6. #56

    Re: Taking lives as a good thing?

    Quote Originally Posted by ph0kin
    ... the best kind of war is the one that never happens.
    I think all around here can agree on that.

    I had relatives who died in Concentration Camps in Poland in WW2 ... and so I tend to think that American participation in that war was a necessary evil.

    I have two uncles who were likely in the same battles in the Pacific ... but on opposite sides (my uncle, and my Japanese wife's uncle, likely both in the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa ... they would be good friends if they had met). I also did some legal work for Australian-Dutch-American and other POWs suing the Japanese government for their treatment in camps during the war as a war crime ... the Japanese treated them horribly ....

    http://library.thinkquest.org/26074/japanese.htm

    Some of those POWS, by the way, have bent over backwards to 'forgive and forget' ... others have not. Some Japanese have forgotten, some have not (most do not know these days, as they are not educated about that period) ...

    http://www.amazon.com/Wages-Guilt-Memor ... 0374285950

    I also think that Hiroshima-Nagasaki was horrible and a war crime (although perhaps they actually saved lives in the long run ... the jury is out on that, and we were killing many more people here in sheer numbers with conventional bombs alone ... and it was thought that tens of thousands more soldiers and civilians would die if an invasion of the Japanese mainland had to occur) ... Nishijima Roshi did not kill anyone in the war he says, but he was in some government function in Manchuria, and an American bomb burned his family house to the ground while he was in China ...

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bombing_of_Tokyo

    On the other hand, the Japanese make a good case that they were driven into 'Pearl Harbor' by the Allied oil boycott and such ... Most Americans can only see things in black/white and 'you are with us or against us' terms ...

    On the other hand ... on the other hand ...

    I think we can all agree that the best kind of war is the one that never happens.

    Gassho, J

  7. #57

    Re: Taking lives as a good thing?

    Agreed Ph0kin.

    I think that the immediate defence issue is valid, but I'd say two things. From my first post- that the response can be "skillful action" that doesn't take lives (or even hurt) and secondly- the teachings state that there has to be a being, an intent to kill a being and a plan to kill that being etc. before it is "wrong". I hate moving into hypotheticals but lets arrange a scenario like this- an individual is being attacked by a gang and one person is kicking them when they are down and there is a real chance of serious permanent damage or death. You can't get to them because the other gang members are blocking your path and telling you to move on. In that situation you might have to (attempt to) get through them to save the individual using force. However, there doesn't have to be an intent to kill anyone. You just need to get to the victim and so knocking a few people out to do that would be OK- and then, assuming it worked out, calling ambulances for everyone as you got the victim out of the way.

    I agree Jundo, about having to respond in WW2. What is little known is that if it wasn't for oil companies in the US and UK (and some money laundering by someone else) then the Nazis wouldn't have had the resources to have waged war. That was why I mentioned greed and stupid decisions. I can't think of a war that "had to happen" without the greed /stupidity of others outside of the aggressor (and oftimes those "others" are the defendants in the end). Of course, its the ordinary folk that pay the worst price in the end as you detail in your post- and now the news brings the curent victims to our minds, whether it be duped brave service people who have been killed or innocent civilians' deaths or those incarcerated without trial or those being tortured etc.

    One of the hardest parts of my practice is offering metta to the war-makers, but slowly over the last few years I can now at least visualise faces and link that with wishing them well and some degree of loving kindness. That reminds me of a story about a hippie lass giving a flower to a soldier at an anti-war rally. The soldier said years later that the look of hatred in her eyes as she gave the flower made him really angry (if I recall his words correctly- the sentiment is correct though). It made me realise that until I can really look with love upon those that act in ways that hurt others I would be doing more harm than good by trying to reason with them. So I have a flower for each of them that someday I'll be able to give.

    All the best

    Rich

  8. #58

    Re: Taking lives as a good thing?

    Like all things though, we should examine the root. Taking lives as a good thing? What is good? What is evil? A saying I've always thought was very profound is that "we kill people who kill people, to show that killing people is wrong." So, is it good to stop some one from killing two people, if the only way to stop them is to kill them? Is it bad to kill someone, though not killing them means that two other lives are snuffed out, their hopes and dreams destroyed?

    Is it good? Is it evil? We can't really know for sure. All we can know is what we think at that time with what we know. Would it be "good" for someone to have taken Pol Pot's life, before he murdered a million plus Cambodians? No, I don't think it would have been "good". Would it have been necessary? Would it have saved others? Would that one act, the karma of which the actor would not be able to escape, have been worth it? I wholeheartedly think so.

  9. #59
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: Taking lives as a good thing?

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnsonCM
    Like all things though, we should examine the root. Taking lives as a good thing? What is good? What is evil? A saying I've always thought was very profound is that "we kill people who kill people, to show that killing people is wrong." So, is it good to stop some one from killing two people, if the only way to stop them is to kill them? Is it bad to kill someone, though not killing them means that two other lives are snuffed out, their hopes and dreams destroyed?

    Is it good? Is it evil? We can't really know for sure. All we can know is what we think at that time with what we know. Would it be "good" for someone to have taken Pol Pot's life, before he murdered a million plus Cambodians? No, I don't think it would have been "good". Would it have been necessary? Would it have saved others? Would that one act, the karma of which the actor would not be able to escape, have been worth it? I wholeheartedly think so.
    You keep going back to Pol Pot and dictators as if you have any direct experience of these situations. You do not. You have movies in your mind based on things you've read or been told.

    Stories, stories, stories - hypothetical situations for a hypothetical life.

    Do you want to move your life beyond hypothesis? Because you can't do it the way you're going about it.

    Chet

  10. #60

    Re: Taking lives as a good thing?

    Perhaps we might start to tie up some threads in this thread ... before our thoughts run away with us, conflict results and a war starts ...

    Maybe something like this ...


    Killing sentient beings is never good, all can agree.

    Killing from hate, jealousy, for revenge and the like is never good, all can agree.

    Sometimes, killing a sentient being may be needed to save the lives of other sentient beings. (We may never know for sure, in a given moment, that taking a life is truly necessary, the 'best course' to save life. We can only act honestly as we judge in that moment).

    Although killing is never 'good', it may have both good and bad effects ... or, at least, stop some evils in this world. Unfortunately, any violence will likely have accompanying bad effects too ... breed resentments somewhere, calls for revenge from someone. Violence (even to prevent violence or save lives) may lead to more violence in the future, and hate breeds hate.

    Where possible and the situation allows, every reasonable and creative alternative to the use of force should be tried first. When violence is necessary, it should be kept to the minimum necessary to the circumstance.

    Despite whether a killing may be justified a not, the person who was compelled to take the life of another must bear the Karma for that volitional act, and reflect upon and carry the weight of that ... whether or not in future lives, for all of this one. The taking of life must never be done easily, and the person who has done so should mourn that fact and the life of the person(s) whose life he had to take ... 'justified' or not, no matter who they were.

    Even if forced to take a life, one must do so as if a physician administering a harsh and painful medicine out of need, and never with anger, hate, feelings of pleasure or revenge.

    Both the violent individual and the target of his violence may be seen as victims of "greed, anger and ignorance" in this world. The rapist, thief, murderer or terrorist is just a product of that. Thus, the true 'enemy' is greed, anger and ignorance'.

    Despite the rapist, thief, murderer or terrorist being seen as just a victim of his own Karma, his broken childhood and the like, sometimes force must still be used against such individuals, which may include the taking of his life if needed to protect others.

    Despite all our speaking of hypothetical situations, personal and religious ideals ... we cannot truly know how we will react in a given situation, nor our true motivations. Will we take a life when attacked? Will we charge into that burning building to save a stranger? Hopefully, we will just act as best we can when such times come, guided by all the Wisdom and Compassion that has penetrated our hearts up to that moment.

    In Zazen, one is that realm by which there is never a drop of greed, anger or ignorance ... no separate self to act in violence, no separate self to be a recipient of violence, no birth no death, no stealing or anything lacking, no gain or loss. In Zazen, one is that realm free of all hate, jealousy, revenge. There is no violence from the start, no taking of life possible.

    Through Zazen, rising from the cushion, we may bring out and express such perspectives more and more in this dualistic world.

    In this world, wars and conflicts begin with long, sordid histories of "who did what to whom" ... and it is almost impossible to tell who is in the right (if anyone). The only solution is for people to learn to live together in peace, dropping past conflicts with forgiveness. We should focus away from "I'm right and you're wrong" to simply living together in the future, sharing this world and being cordial. We should share the plentiful resources of this world, and there is enough for everyone if we act wisely. We must learn to live together, dropping excess greed, dropping anger and jealousy.

    Until that day comes, however, some wars may be necessary ... but only in the cause of saving lives. (Perhaps we should not speak of "saving more lives in sheer quantity" ... and perhaps we should not speak in terms of "saving innocent lives" for few of us are truly innocent. Yet, it is generally necessary for us to speak in those terms). My teacher, Nishijima Roshi, believes that some wars may be necessary merely for the general cause of protecting Western civilization, for civilization is a treasure of humankind affording peace, health, education and well-being to vast numbers of people. I agree with Nishijima Roshi, although I believe that Western civilization, in turn, must find better ways to spread the fruits of peace, health, education and well-being to everyone on this planet, and do a better job of spreading the benefits and protecting the world's resources. (Until we are all living in the equivalent of peaceful and prosperous Sweden! )

    So long as wars are necessary, the force used should be kept to a minimum and employed only after all reasonable alternatives. We need to think outside the box more, and try as a society to "kill with kindness" and "turn the other cheek" more before resorting to force. Non-deadly weapons should be developed by science and used where possible ... "Buddha-bombs". However, until such weapons are available, conventional weaponry is necessary. Soldiers should be honored for the role they play and their sacrifice for our benefit. As well, soldiers too should act as physicians administering a harsh and painful medicine out of need, and not with anger, hate, feelings of pleasure or revenge.

    As my {Jundo's] personal belief ... we should continue research to identify the sections of the brain responsible for anger, hate, a desire for revenge ... and develop ways to neutralize those "in hospital" as an alternative to wars, bombings, torture, maximum security prisons and the like. Mental neutralization of violence after trial by a jury of one's peers should be applied with the greatest care, much as the 'death penalty' or other serious punishments are now handed out with protections and care (although mistakes are made). However, we need to turn murderers, rapists, terrorists and the like into loving Bodhisattvas ... whether they want to be or not!

    I believe that it is possible for human beings to evolve to the point where we can live without excess desire, without anger, bigotry, jealousy, violence against our fellows, war. Someday, we will get there and realize a bit of the Pure Land in this world.

    In a moment of Zazen, Good and Evil are forgotten ... and whether they exist in the "greater scheme of things" in the universe, well, we can leave that to God to say. In any case, truly Good and Evil exist in this world, as real as real can be, the moment we act in a good or evil way, through our own words, thoughts and actions. Good is that direction which avoids harm to self and others (not two, ultimately), seeking health and benefit to sentient beings. Evil is its mirror image. Most actions in this life have a mixture of good and evil effects, yet we must strive as we can to do good. What this world and life become is largely up to us, individually and as one people.

    No, the taking of lives is not a good thing.

    Gassho, Jundo

  11. #61

    Re: Taking lives as a good thing?

    I generally agree with what you have said Jundo but two points I think need to be clarified.
    1) I wasn't talking hypotheticals in my post. I was showing how hypotheticals have led to unecessary violence which my actual real world experience has shown to be untrue, or at the very least much less than universally applicable and appropriate.
    2) The point I made about the Buddha saying there has to be an intention to kill. This means there must be a being, a means to kill that being settled upon and an intention to do that. Whatever situation I am in I can avoid that. In the situations I have been in, and any future ones, I will not hold an intention to kill anyone. That is my vow and it is realisable.
    Rich

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