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Collective Violence and Religions. Religions are about ethics and morality, peace and order Religious persons often violate ethics and morality, undermine peace, and bring disorder Religious identity is among one of many causes of violence and warfare — religious war

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Collective Violence and Religions

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collective violence and religions
Collective Violence and Religions
  • Religions are about ethics and morality, peace and order
    • Religious persons often violate ethics and morality, undermine peace, and bring disorder
    • Religious identity is among one of many causes of violence and warfare—religious war
  • Is there any religion that clearly and unambiguously disapprove and condemn violence and war?
    • Buddhism is most likely the candidate
violence and buddhism
Violence and Buddhism
  • Theoretically, violence is not associated with Buddhism
    • Its “five precepts,” which all Buddhists, including monks, nuns, and lay Buddhists should observe, begins with “non-violence” or “not killing”—abstain from violence or killing.
    • The second precept: refrain from appropriating other’s property
    • The third precept: refrain from sexual misconduct
  • monks were expected to uphold these precepts,
  • In reality, they often participated in violent act, including war.
  • The problems:
    • Tension exists between values/norms and constraint of ordinary life or worldly aims
    • Idealism inherited in religious doctrines fails to help people deal with complex realities
scriptures reference to non killing
Scriptures’ reference to non-killing
  • Buddhist Scriptures in Pali language have explicit reference to nonviolence and non-killing
    • monks should not only themselves abstain from killing but should also refrain from encouraging--even out of passion—other people to kill themselves (Vinayapitaka III:71-74)
    • They should not even drink or pour out water containing tiny animals (Vin IV:49)
    • They should not even destroy seeds or plants (Vin: IV:34)
scripture reference to non participation in war
Scripture reference to non-participation in war?
  • Pali scriptures less expressly prohibit monks from actively participating in war.
    • Partly because it is a matter of course for monks
    • But they do state that monks should not even watch military parades or maneuvers
    • Nor should they stay with an army beyond need, because doing so might have aroused suspicion of espionage (Vin IV:105-107)
scriptures reference to lay followers violent behavior
Scriptures reference to lay followers’ violent behavior
  • Characterization of lay followers’ violent behavior:
    • Cruel, bloody, merciless habitual killing
  • Buddha’s denial of heroic death
    • A warrior dies a hero’s death won’t go to heaven, instead he will go to a special hell (for his mind is in an evil state)
    • Bad karma rises when one wishes that the enemies be killed
      • Regardless whether the killing is a result of defensive or offensive war
    • Killing is bad karma even in case of self-defense, or of defending friends
is buddha s teaching pacificism
Is Buddha’s Teaching Pacificism?
  • Buddha’s kinsmen saw his teaching of not-killing as pacificism and preferred being massacred to breaking this Buddhist precept, when being attacked by furious king Virudhaka
    • Buddha stopped Virudhaka three times, but eventually let the attack on his hometown happen
  • Modern scholars think that the Buddha was rather reserved and ambiguous when asked question about whether attacking other people is practicable
    • King Ajatasatru attempted to attack Vrjis, the Buddha merely stated that it would not be successful
    • King Psenadi of Kosala did not get direct answer to questions about the implementation of bloody sacrifice and mass imprisonment
non killing and war
Non-killing and War
  • Buddha’s seeming ambiguity leaves a room for interpreting Buddha’s view as not necessary pacific
  • Strict application of the Buddhist ethical principle of not killing should lead to the rejection of war in any form
    • Prince Temia prefers to become an ascetic to holding kingship
    • King Mahasilavant refrains from defending himself by military force
  • Monks or lay followers tend to prefer flexible application of the principle
ethics and politics
Ethics and Politics
  • Harmonization of Buddhist Ethics and Politics follows example of King Asoka, the universal monarch, who rules justly and without killing
    • uses force only against violent and wicked people
    • Is justified to use force defensively but not offensively
    • Or uses force but without killing
  • This harmonization/adjustment of ethical theory and political practice results in relativization of Buddhist norm
relativizing norm
Relativizing Norm
  • Monks/Buddhists protect themselves when being attacked, but leave the job of killing to non-Buddhists
    • lay followers
      • should use weapons and fight to defend the Buddhist religion
      • Should use weapons to defend pure monks
    • killing icchantikas (persons who discard the Mahayana and who promulgate unwholesome doctrines) is less grave than killing of an animal
      • This killing is like felling trees, mowing grass, or dissecting a corpse and not at all a violation of the precept of not killing
buddhist justification of violence
Buddhist Justification of Violence
  • Similar relativization is also found in Vajrayana texts:
    • Discerning person can kill the following:
      • Those who hate the Three Jewels
      • Those who have wrong attitude toward Buddha’s teaching
      • Those who disparage the Vajrayana masters
    • A Bodhisattva king led his army to conquer and annihilate the Muslim forces (Kalacakratantra) and to reestablish Buddhism
    • A Budhisattva can Kill out of compassion, to save someone from being murdered by a dacoit
use emptiness to justify killing
Use “Emptiness” to Justify Killing
  • Buddhist theory of emptiness
    • All dharmas are empty
    • All realities are empty
    • Perceived realty is transient. In such reality there is neither good conduct nor bad conduct, neither keeping nor breaking of the precepts
  • The theory can lead to the overemphasis on the relativity of conventional values and their opposites and its misuse, which leads to violence
reasons for explicit exceptions to norm
Reasons for Explicit exceptions to norm
  • Buddhist institutions recognize the necessity of using force or justify the use of violence, because
    • They want to protect their properties and privileges
    • They want the force be used in their interest, such as the legitimation of their religious identity and status
    • They claim they enforce Buddha’s teaching that advise them to punish whoever subverts their religion