The Five-Minute Buddhist Books

Recommended Host

Question: Follow-up to War

Q&A #10

Follow-up to “War”

I have more comments on yesterday’s War post. As expected, opinions are going both ways. I have two of them here for your consideration. I really don’t want to drag this topic out for too long in the emails, since I have a few older ones I need to cover soon. You can read the comments on War and make your own comments at the link below:


A Reader recently wrote:


“There is an account about a previous life of the Buddha, in which he was a navigator who went to sea with a group of five hundred people in search of a buried treasure. There was one man in this party who had very greedy thoughts and, in order to steal all the jewels for himself, was plotting to murder the five hundred. The bodhisattva (Shakyamuni Buddha in a previous life) was aware of this and thought that to let the situation develop was incorrect, as one man would kill five hundred. Therefore, he developed the very courageous thought to save the five hundred by killing this one man, willingly accepting upon himself the full responsibility of killing. If you are willing to accept having to be reborn in a hell in order to save others, you have a greatly courageous thought. Then you can engage in these acts, just as the Buddha himself did.

To protect your wife and child is a positive constructive act, but to harm the enemy is negative and destructive. You have to be willing to accept the consequences of both.”

Tsenzhab Serkong Rinpoche I, answering a similar question from one of his audience.


And another Reader also wrote:


Although I am deeply opposed to war, I am not advocating appeasement. It is often necessary to take a strong stand to counter unjust aggression… [But] war is violence and violence is unpredictable. Therefore, it is better to avoid it if possible and never to presume that we know beforehand whether the outcome of a particular war will be beneficial or not. The Dalai Lama

The taking of a human life is the ultimate wrong action no matter what path you chose. If it comes down to kill or be killed, I’m sorry to say your choice should be, death‚Ä®Just my interpretation of things; Mike.‚Ä®


My Response


I am not about to argue with the Dalai Lama or any Rinpoche. As I’ve said many times, Buddhism is very rational and considered, and practitioners are going to come to their own conclusions about these difficult topics. One Buddhist says ‚Äúthe good of the many outweighs ‚Ķ‚Äù and the other says, ‚Äúviolence is always bad‚Äù both are right from their own perspective. This openness to alternative viewpoints is (in my opinion) one of the most attractive traits of Buddhism over many other religions.

1 comment to Question: Follow-up to War

  • Hi,

    Yes Buddhism a rational religion and philosophy.

    I think that Bertrand Russell had his finger on what was really important in his book Sceptical Essays. Writing on the Chinese he said that te Chinese admit in theory that there are some occasions when it is proper to fight and in practice that these occasions are very rare whereas the Western nations state in theory that there are no occasions when it is proper to fight and in practice that these occasions are very frequent.

    It is best to not have your standards set so high that ordinary people cannot follow them. The teachings of the Bible and the Sermon of the Mount are so exalted that ordinary persons cannot possibly follow these teachings. They can only be put into practice by an enlightened person.

    What we can do is to not get caught up in our ideals and look at the situation and our own state of development as it is. The Buddha or Jesus Christ may well turn the other cheek or offer himself to be killed rather than commit the sin of killing others but for us ordinary beings such a course of action would be doing violence to our own nature.

    Have the ideals as something to aspire to and do not hope to follow the teachings in the literal sense.