June 28, 2009

Military ≠ Buddhism?

In response to an article on two Washington educators who spent four days in San Diego as participants in the Marine Corps Educators Workshop, two commentators suggested a “Buddhist boot camp” would be more suitable for our educators.
Gregor Samsa: Wow. Rather than glorify a program probably intended to amp teachers up to be better recruiters in high schools for the military, to convince kids that their future interests are best served as being cannon fodder for the loathsome and evil Military-Industrial Complex, why don’t we send teachers to buddhist camps and meditation education programs where they can open their closed minds to a world without gun and grenade slinging hate bots, a world without the need to dominate others at the point of a gun. Sorry. Not impressed.

I often get torked by comparisons where the military and Buddhism are presented as two ends of some spectrum. That says a lot about how little people understand of both. Besides, I’d like to see Gregor Samsa go to boot camp and a 12 day meditation retreat, and tell me which one was tougher.

7 comments :

  1. Yes!! I doubt it has occurred to some of those commentators that some of those military instructors might in fact be Buddhist.

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  2. I fail to see how one could be a holder of any of the householder precepts or the Vinaya and be in the military voluntarily.

    The military is an expresion of power through the ability (and willingness) to kill the enemies of the state to which they are attached. Buddhists shouldn't take up a profession of killing. It is against Right Livelihood (along with the basic precept of "Not Killing").

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  3. Oh, and this would also apply just as much to the Bodhisattva Vows, which also include the precept of "Not Killing" within them.

    So, I guess, technically, a lay person holding no vows whatsoever could engage in a military profession (just as they could engage in the profession of being a bartender) but I don't see how any vowholder could do so unless they are in a completely non-combat role and, even then, one could argue that they are supporting killing by helping the military do that role.

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  4. Who are we to say who is and who is not following Right Livelihood?

    There are many Buddhists who are willingly serving in the all-volunteer Armed Forces, and there are also Buddhist dependents of active-duty servicemembers, some of whom are recent immigrants to this country. They may have signed up for various reasons, but each one has taken an oath to defend this country and its people. The Buddha allowed for a ruler of a country to provide for its defense, so where did these people come from? Can they not call themselves "Buddhists" because they are willing to sacrifice their safety or even their lives to protect their communities? Can we look at each one's intentions, much less judge?

    Although we are guided by the precepts, in many cases we are unable to follow them thoroughly, especially if we are not monks or nuns. Would a Buddhist be forbidden to be a police officer or what about a veterinarian? Both of these professions may involve the taking of life. How many living things do we kill on our way to work or school, or how often to we participate in the act of killing in the very food that we eat, even if it is vegetarian? Farmers must cultivate fields to grow crops.
    Yes, killing is an evil act, yet even if our profession or actions should directly or indirectly cause us to take life, making us persons of karmic evil, that does not preclude one from hearing the Dharma.

    Ultimately, we cannot rely on our own self-guided efforts but should fully understand our own limitations and our karmic burdens, and have faith in and place ourselves within the Great Compassion of Amida Buddha.

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  5. The killing that a vet or a doctor may do is a bit different than taking up the profession of a professional killer for a government, isn't it?

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  6. I did want to add that the attitude espoused by:

    "Ultimately, we cannot rely on our own self-guided efforts but should fully understand our own limitations and our karmic burdens, and have faith in and place ourselves within the Great Compassion of Amida Buddha."

    only applies to certain sects of Pure Land Buddhists. Many of the rest of us *do* rely on our self-guided efforts (with the help of the teachings of the Buddha and the support of the Sangha).

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