THAI SCHOLARS?VIEWS ABOUT JUST WAR
 

© DUANGDEN NUREMRUM


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The just war concept is an ethical conflict between the duty not to kill nor disturb others and the duty to defend a country or keep peace. The Just War Theory tries to remedy this conflict by offering conditions under which killing might not be considered as a breach of morality. That is, the Just War Theory states that killing in war is just under certain circumstances. However, Buddhism forbids killing or destroying any living thing which can be seen in first rule of the Pa?ca -s?la (The Five Precepts). Even though Buddhism placed restrictions on destroying life in the course of leading his life, a man may face the moral dilemma between struggling for survival and observing his religious teachings. Thus, war is one of these ethical conflicts. Therefore, this moral dilemma should be considered based on Buddhist Ethics.

The aspect of the Buddhist ethics dealing with just war that should be brought into our consideration is the level of sin from committing P?n??tip?t?, which depends on whether the Cetan? (Will) of an action comes from Kusala-m?la (Root of Good Action) or Akusala-m?la (Root of Bad Action), and finally the kind of the consequences. To study the documentary of relation between Buddhist and wars found that killing or destroying life in war, even just war , is considered sinful by Buddhism because fighting for a country's protection must be prepared, planned and have the intention to use weaponry to kill or injure the enemy. Such an action would complete all Five Factors of P?n??tip?t?. However, when jointly studied with the standards for weighing the severity of P?n??tip?t?, it was found that, even though killing is sinful, each instance of killing has a different level of sin. For this reason, if the reasons for going to war originate from the root of good action, such as: - self-defense, protection to the innocent people or maintaining justice, then the level of sin would be less. Such a point was mentioned by Phra Dhammapitaka (P.A.Payutto) (1995: 48): “In cases where the doer does not have an aggressive or vengeful will such as soldiers fighting a war of self-defense, there actions would be considered less sinful? Finally, when wars neither disturb us nor cause problems for others, then there will be great happiness for others and ourselves.

To study the documentary of relation between Buddhist and wars conclude that Buddhism should sometimes accept just war , when a war is done with Cetan? (Will) from the root of good actions which is composed of kindness in protection of a country and the happiness of people. However, the point that differentiates Buddhism from the Just War Theory of western ethics is that, Buddhism does not have the view that killing human life in war is not breaching morality, but instead considers it as a minor offence which is not equal to killing with anger. Besides, do not forget that not every action done in war is morally justifiable. It should be considered on a case-by-case basis. For example, although a war is started with just case, rape and torture are still not morally justifiable because they are not relevant to the cause.

Having already made clear the stance toward the idea of just war according to the Buddhist Ethics, the writer will discussed the results from the interviews.

From answers given by the scholars interviewed, the writer found that scholars seem to believe that there is just war . However, it cannot be stated that everyone of the interviewees has the opinion that Buddhism accepts the existence of just war . Some scholars' views of just war relied on reasoning that did not refer to Buddhism. This can be seen in the first point , where one respondent accepted that Buddhism does not accept war and at the same time he said that war is an unavoidable natural phenomena. After scrutinizing the interviews, the writer observed that some reasons came from the assumption that ‘ethics and religion' were a different matter ‘reality'. As found in the interviews, “self-defense, which is the duty of society and every citizen, is beyond the religious matter? Such a view may not be exactly in accordance with Buddhism because the Buddha taught that ‘Dhamma' is ‘Nature'. So, religion is not separated from reality, whatever reality it is. The truth that the Buddha has found is still there. In other words, the Buddhist Doctrine has an absolute character, meaning that Buddhism sees moral values as permanent across cultures and time. In Buddhist view, killing for any reason is a breach of morality. War is considered as one form of killing so it also a breach of morality. Therefore, the meaning of breaching the Buddhist moral rule by killing is also be sinful in reality. This is the reason why we have to teach people to be moral. As someone interviewed stated that: - “If each man in our society, or in our religion, helped each other and supported Buddhism, then there would be no suffering from war?

Apart from assuming that ‘ethics and religion' are different from ‘reality', the interviewees also assumed the division between the duty of Buddhism's adherents and the duty of those in the military service. The reasons given to prove that the ‘duty of Buddhism's adherents' is different from ‘the duty of military service', appeared in this statement: - “If we have the duty to protect our country, we should put aside the duty to observe the religious teachings. The soldiers should be able to separate the belief in the religion from the duty to the society's survival which is at the same time the preservation of Buddhism. Sometimes, we have to sacrifice…”. Such a view may not be in strict accordance with Buddhism. That is, when a war occurs and Buddhists simply go to perform their military duty to protect the country, it does not mean that, when they step on to the battlefield, their Buddhist belief would temporarily cease to exist. Together with the need to observe the teachings. On the other hand, only when our country is peaceful, soldiers can be a good Buddhist. It is impossible for humans to stick to only one duty. In other words, the duty of Buddhism's adherents and their duty in the military service are undividable.

More than that, the interviewees discussed the right of self-defense by saying “All people must love their country, tribe and race by being prepared to protect and preserve their home land. If an enemy aggresses, that country has the right to defend themselves . After careful study the right to the conduct of a war as self-defense was found in the Just War Theory, which offered that “Rightful reasons for a declaration of war and self-defense against an external attacker who acts unjustly, the protection of innocents or the protection of the rights and freedoms of a state against intrusion?

Some opinions from the interviews referred to fighting in battles as simply performing our duty to the world's citizens. “Wherever we are born, we have certain duties. If our duty is that of a soldier, then we have to perform that duty. Not performing our duty is wrong and if we do not want to perform that duty then we could leave. Then we could turn to practice meditation and achieve any level of enlightenment? Using such reasoning seems to be based on the presumption that reality, or worldly life, is different from religion. This assumption has the previously mentioned problems. However, this statement is not about reality as such, because it refer to the law of Kamma - “The answer is ‘yes' ?which is also sinful, but not as serious? Therefore, an interesting point is the question whether or not worldly duties can be used to justify actions such as going to war. According to Buddhist Ethics, referring to worldly duties may be used to justify actions. However, at this point we look beyond simply having a duty but to see how just that duty is. For example, the duties of soldiers are different from robber's duties because a soldier acts for the majority's benefit whereas a robber is self-interested. Thus, performing the duty of a soldier is just whereas a robber's duty is unjust. However, the actor's intention must considered individually. A soldier who goes to war with the intention of simply doing his duty according to the doctrine of cause and result called Upekkh? (The Neutralized Mind), would be less sinful than a soldier who goes to war with hatred and anger against his enemy.

In referring to the duty of Buddhists in protecting the country, one interviews said “Being Buddhist, when others aggress, violate and take away our belongings, should we protect our land or should we let them take hold it? It (being Buddhists) is not (the reason). It is not right (to let them do so)? This statement could be connected with Buddhism's view regarding Kindness, such as the protection of society's members and the sacrifice of life in protection of Dhamma (Religious Protection). Thus, the said afore reasoning could be further explained and additionally supported by the Buddhist ethics doctrine. This means that those wars were caused by the will arising from the root of good actions. Such as having kindness for human friends, letting none of them suffer from aggression and never allowing religion to be destroyed by possessing the intention to patronize Buddhism forever. More that that, soldiers who go to war must always keep in mind that what they must do is sinful and unavoidable. Therefore, whatever has been done must be acknowledged and one must increase their good deeds while being ready to accept the consequences of their actions. There are conditions under which such a war may be considered just.

The interviewees also made references to the Buddhist view in justifying war by mentioning ‘Dhamma' - “When our country faced a war, our joining the war was acceptable because we fought to defend ourselves and to preserve righteousness in the world? Dhamma, according to the views of the interviewees, means ‘justice or just' among all nations. That is, all nations sovereignty should be save from invasion from the others. This definition is different from the meaning of ‘Dhamma' in Buddhism. Namely, in Buddhism ‘Dhamma' means ?supreme happiness or nirvana' which means sacrificing our life in this world by offering oneself in the search for the supreme truth and propagating the discovered truth to beings to help them free from their sufferings, which are birth, old age, pain and death.

The respondents mentioned ‘performing good deeds' such as building a new temple, to compensate for the sin of killing in the war. From the consideration of the Buddhist teaching, we can see that this method of clearing away sin is not mentioned. Buddhism regards attempts to clean away sin by performing good deed as impossible because sin cannot be erased. Doing more good deeds, such as making more donations, will only overpower sin. Therefore, the bad deeds may be lightened by the amount of good deeds. This belief is evident in the following words of the Buddha.

Monks, now, a trifling evil deed done by what sort of individual is experienced in the here & now, and for the most part barely appears for a moment? There is the case where a certain individual is developed in [contemplating] the body, developed in virtue, developed in mind, developed in discernment: unrestricted, large-hearted, dwelling with the unlimited. A trifling evil deed done by this sort of individual is experienced in the here & now, and for the most part barely appears for a moment.

Suppose that a man were to drop salt into a small amount of water in a cup. What do you think? Would the water in the cup become salty because of the salt crystal, and unfit to drink?

Yes, lord...

Now suppose that a man were to drop salt into the River Ganges . What do you think? Would the water in the River Ganges become salty because of the salt, and unfit to drink?

No, lord...

In the same way, there is the case where a trifling evil deed done by one individual [the first] takes him to hell; and there is the case where the very same sort of trifling deed done by the other individual is experienced in the here and now, and for the most part barely appears for a moment.

(Anguttaranik?ya Ake-Duk-Tikanip?ta. 20/238-238/540)

However, the writer sees that the beliefs and religious practices, which the interviewees provided as example of cleaning sin after killing a man, as simply a reflection of the belief of some groups of people who perform these rites with the thought that doing more good deeds will eradicate their previous sins. However, these rites simply make one feel good after performing the sin with no metaphysical consequence.

One of the scholars mentioned ‘bearing the consequences of sin' by saying, “In the case that we were soldiers and did not protect our border, then the country would be invaded and our opponents would rule all of us. Our families and hometowns would never be peaceful and all would suffer. Soldiers must decide whether or not their sinful sacrifices in war are better than letting their entire society suffer if the enemy wins? When considering this statement from the perspective of Buddhism, we find that the Buddhist doctrine views all types of killing as totally sinful, even if the killing did not originate from the roots of bad actions and was performed with good will. All killing in war would complete the five factors of P?n??tip?t?. That is, fighting for a country's protection must have a battle plan prepared prior to the fight and the will to stop the enemy with weaponry which would result in life being destroy. This war preparation completes the five factors of P?n??tip?t?, so is considered sinful. The consequences of this action directly belong to the killer and the sin cannot be transferred to others, even if the sin was performed as a service to others. Thus, the argument that soldiers must be willing to bear suffering alone, never letting others suffer from enemy aggression, seems to be a matter of responsibility that man (as a member of society) has to society and his religious doctrine.

When interviewed about the concept of what Buddhism suggests to do when the necessity arises to use aggressive means to defend themselves, the interviewees could not give a clear-cut answer. However, the views given seem to be mainly concerned with the Buddhist teaching of fighting an ‘inner war' (which means fighting inner defilement) instead of and ‘external war'. However, we may say that some strict followers of Buddhism may be ready to sacrifice their life in war to preserve the purity of S?la. However, if we consider this point in reality, we would see that the society in which we live is a human society where everybody loves and cares about his life and his kins'. No human being would let his kin killed without the thought of protecting them. To further explain this matter, the writer would like to offer the interesting view of Somparn Promta (1992: 82-83) as follows: -

Many times we find some people offer ideas that certain things should not be in the society because they oppose this or that teaching in Buddhism. Such a person may only think of what is permissible and what is forbidden according the various teachings of Buddhism. However, these people forget that the society which they criticize is not a society of Phra Ariya (Saints) but simply a society of normal humans, which Buddhism calls ‘Puthujjana' (Ordinary Men). In deciding what should or what should not be reality must be considered as well.

Moreover, results of study found that Buddhism has an answer for war to protect life. That is, Buddhist accept the truth of human who must confront with moral dilemma. We must always keep in our minds that it is sinful and after committing sin we must do more good deeds.

In the responding to the question about their opinion of today's religious wars, the interviewees viewed Buddhism as having a different character from other religions. A war caused by adherents of Buddhism against those having different religious beliefs has never appeared. However, we cannot deny that there have been wars between followers of Buddhism, but the wars between them were all caused by other conflicts and not different religious beliefs. Such wars may be caused by political conflicts in the country or fighting for freedom. Furthermore, the interviewees saw the major reason of religious wars as being the lack of correct understanding and knowledge in the religious teachings which the combatants professed. Therefore, religious adherents' lack of understanding in their religion's teachings may cause wrongful practices, which astrays from their prophet's will. This is the main cause of religious wars. However, the writer thinks that sometimes these wars are not really for religious reasons but simply for another hidden agenda such as territorial expansion in the name of God.

 

Conclusion

To study results showed that the s interviewees's views indicated that they give more weight to having a just war. However, the interviewees gave the opinion that Buddhism does not accept the concept of a just war. The ways which the interviewees provided reasons, supporting the claim that Buddhism does not accept just war, can be divided into the following there groups: -

First Group: Those referred to reasons which are not Buddhist. The whole interviewees agreed on the concept of just war. However, we cannot be declare that everybody in interviewees agreed that Buddhism accepts the concept of just war because some interviewer's views were mixed with other reasons which were not quoted from Buddhism. For example, saying that duty Buddhist adherents are different from duty in the military service or by referring to right of self-defense, etc. However, the interviewees thinks that these reasons could be used to justify war.

Second Group: Those in the group supporting just war, by giving reasons which did not directly involve Buddhism, but after careful consideration those reasons could be traced to Buddhist teaching. In some parts of the interview, some people said that fighting in a war to perform our duty as a world member or our duty to protect our country as a Buddhist adherent is just.

Third Group: Those who directly quoted Buddhist's concepts to justify war. For example, referring to ‘Dhamma' which the interviewees defines as meaning righteousness or justice in the conduct of a war of self-defense. However, the concept of ‘Dhamma' was defined in the Buddhist literature review as meaning “supreme or nirvana? Moreover, the interviewees believed that performing good deeds, such as making donations after war will clean away soldiers' sins. They also accepted that the result from the sin of killing an human neing in war would be the protection and preservation of country and religion forever.

In summary, the study of scholars' views, found that the overall view of these scholars combined Buddhist concepts and personal opinions. The view of the whole interviewees were similar and indicated that all scholars have the view that Buddhism does not allow war because Buddhism teaches to abstain from killing or destroying any living beings. Even though, all scholars agreed that Buddhism does not support war, they still agreed with the concept of just war. Sometimes we cannot avoid war so we must scrutinize the decision to taken action and in what form? Most of the scholars agreed with war, and accepted that killing in war is sinful but still has its reward. All these scholars calculated that even if war is sinful, it may sometimes bring about the greatest benefit to the majority in their country. The conduct of a war is performing duties, for which each and everyone must take responsibility. Such as, the duty of soldiers in preserving and protecting their country from aggression and danger. Therefore, to neglect or disobey their duty would be great mistake because it would be letting the enemy intrude into their country without the thought of defense. This would also cause great lost and suffering to the countries citizens. Therefore, the conduct of a war of self-defense would be acceptable in the views of these scholars.

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