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War in Buddhism

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#1 rahula



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Posted 09 November 2007 - 09:59 AM


It is said that Buddhism have never got involve in war.

However, I found this passage quoted in a book:

"The Sri Lankan Buddhist text, the Mahavamsa, presents itself as a historical chronicle describing the various wars and conquests by the Buddhist Sri Lankan dynasty of kings."

And in Chapter 25, Mahavamsa, we find:

Arrived at Mahiyangana he overpowered the Damila Chatta. When he had slain the Damilas in that very place he came then to Ambatitthaka, which had a trench leading from the river, and (conquered) the Damila Titthamba; fighting the crafty and powerful foe for four months he (finally) overcame him by cunning,' since he placed his mother in his view. When the mighty man marching thence down (the river) had conquered seven mighty Damila princes in one day and had established peace, he gave over the booty to his troops. Therefore is (the place)called Khemäräma.

A book I was reading, commenting on the passage says:

"Apparently it is legitimate to use someone's mother as a hostage in Buddhism."

How do we explain these?

Dutthagamani is reported also to have said:
"Not for the joy of sovereignty is this toil of mine, my striving (has been) ever to establish the doctrine of the Sambuddha."

The angle I am interested is how would Buddhists explain to non-Buddhist/skeptics?


#2 Bhikkhu Pesala

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Posted 14 November 2007 - 08:19 PM

The Mahāvamsa is an historical work composed many centuries after the time of the Buddha. What does it have to do with the teaching of the Buddha? It is just the history of a Buddhist country.

Even during the time of the Buddha, kings like Pasenadi and Ajatasattu were fighting wars. Even the Buddha's own relatives, the Sākyans, were getting ready to fight for irrigation water until the Buddha intervened.

That is worldly matters. It is not the Buddha's teaching to kill or cause to kill other human beings. If war is waged, it is something to be regretted. When diplomacy fails, then countries fight wars, but it is due to ignorance that they do this.

As for holding hostages: have you heard the saying, “All is fair in love and war”? Another saying, “The truth is the first casualty of war.”

We have to accept the fact that most Buddhists, including most monks and nuns, are not Stream-winners, Once-returners, Non-returners, or Arahants. Only the Noble Ones have perfected morality so that they will not kill in any circumstances — not even to save their own life. For others, that is an ideal to strive for, but when push comes to shove what would you not do to save your own life?