During our monthly Zazenkai (seen below) we had people sitting Zazen in our Zendo in Japan from Christian, Jewish and Muslim backgrounds, both Sunni and Shi'ite. All our differences are left at the Zendo door, as we turn to sameness ... space for all of us in our Zen Hall.
But the world is not always so simple.
Today, I will add my voice to the many Buddhist commentators on this week's killing of Osama Bin Laden.
It is a personal view, as interpretation of the Precepts can vary. Some may believe that ALL taking of the life of sentient beings in any form, under any conditions is wrong.
I believe that it is sometimes necessary to take the life of persons who do harm if the taking is in order to save innocent lives. The taking is thus an act in preservation of life. I feel that this was such a case.
However, outright revenge is not justified, for it merely perpetuates hate. Where the death of Osama Bin Laden falls is not clear to me, but it seems that it was needed to prevent future loss of life, as Osama seems to have been plotting some other major attacks from information I have read today (he had several plots in the works). Even a killing in retribution may sometimes serve to dissuade others who might be thinking of taking life, thus serving to preserve life.
Nonetheless, even if we must take a life to preserve life, we must do so with great hesitancy, only after seeking all other possible avenues. Furthermore, we must not act out of anger or vengeance, but simply to protect. Standing in the streets celebrating and waving flags (though understandable, I suppose) is ugly and just brings further hate and division.
You see, Osama Bin Laden is a victim too ... of greed, anger and ignorance. It is "greed, anger and ignorance" that are the real destructive forces here, and both Osama Bin Laden, as well as the people in the Twin Towers on 9-11, the soldiers on battlefields, and all others touched by these tragedies, are all victims. Under other Karmic conditions, any of us might have been "Osama Bin Laden". We must feel compassion even for (especially for) someone like Osama, who was a prisoner of his own anger and violent suffering. That does not mean that action to stop him was not right (including the taking of his life), but we should see that "greed, anger and ignorance" is the real root.
What is more, the person who takes a life, even if needed and justified in defense of the innocent (such as by a soldier or policeman) should reflect on the weight of his/her actions, and will bear the burden of having needed to do so. I have known many policemen and soldiers who, forced to take life in a "justified shooting", still carried the weight and pain of having done so for years afterwards.
In principle, any violence should be avoided because violence ... even if seemingly justified ... may plant the Karmic seeds for future violence.
Of course, the ideal is a society in which, finally, all of us can live peaceably, with mutual respect of our basic human rights.
Until that day, however ... it may sometimes be necessary for society to protect the innocent through taking life.
When he was alive, I would often chant Metta, wishing for peace and kindness within the heart of Osama Bin Laden. Though it may be shocking for some people, the perspective on chanting for Osama Bin Laden is this: If he could have once found, while alive, the peace and non-violence which we chant for, no harms would have happened at his hands as did occur. Yes, he is "Buddha" too ... although hidden under layers and layers of anger, religious divisions, violence and disrespect for life and other ugliness. As the ripples of his actions sweep on into the future (long after his death), we also chant that the effects of those actions may settle into healing and peace. Even here, the real "enemy" is not Osama, but the Greed, Anger and Ignorance that plagues all humanity.
Just my view.
TODAY'S TALK (30 MINUTES) IS PART OF OUR MONTHLY ZAZENKAI: