Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Pacifism

I'm in an online religious studies class this semester and today we were asked a discussion question today. This was the question:

The Dalai Lama's beliefs and actions earned him the Nobel Peace Prize. He consistently teaches non-violence. Do you think non-violence or ahimsa is possible and more than just an admirable view? How can religion play a role in bringing about non-violence and peace?


Here's how I responded:

The Buddha was once asked if he had ever been provoked to such anger that he wanted to hit another man. He answered, "Yes, but then I realized that he and I are the same and by hitting him I would be injuring myself."

When one chooses to be nonviolent it has a disarming effect on his/her opponent. That is, the opponent is not used to fighting someone who refuses to fight back and even though the opponent may vanquish the pacifist, it is a hollow victory indeed. While nonviolence certainly is more than an admirable view, these days it rarely seems to be honored to the point that we choose it. It seems that we mostly give it lip service by saying something like "Oh, yes, we'd like to have peace but we have to defend ourselves." Well, I'm not sure that's true pacifism. Certainly not the kind that Gandhi espoused.

I think religion can play a role in supporting and encouraging nonviolence and peace by promising a reward for those who adhere to it in this life with a reward in an afterlife. However, I think that nonviolence, martyrdom, and self-sacrifice often get confused by religious people to the point that they feel dying "fighting" is an option. Until nonviolence is truly embraced and coexistence is accepted, real peace will remain impossible.


Whaddya think?
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