I read in the paper this morning that Al Queda was claiming responsibility for the machete death of a civilian Bangladesh blogger it claimed was a blasphemer, along with other victims it had recently murdered. In the same paper was an article on the mounting suicides of Lakota youth on the Wounded Knee Reservation in South Dakota. In a synchronicity of irony there was another article on the return of a golden statue that held the remains of a meditating Buddhist monk to its original temple in China. A foundational premise of Buddhism is that peace and serenity can only be obtained through acceptance. The instant question arises, “does acceptance prohibit taking action to change something that appears to be inhuman?”
The Al Queda story is a story of religious intolerance that has been repeated over and over and over. When will the world say “enough”? Does the world have the right to say “enough”? How many mutilated girls, murdered innocents and kidnapped virgins in the name of Allah does it take for the world to push back? Is the answer really prayer and acceptance? It is the Buddhist way to abhor violence and accept whatever is as the interplay of karma and the human condition. It is extremely difficult to take a benign position on something as inhuman as the taking of life. However, the Buddhists also take the view that this is all an illusion and if we find Samadhi (bliss) in this lifetime through meditation and acceptance, we can influence these events. Sometimes I wonder what we are up to…
The climbing Lakota suicide rate seems to also be a complicated issue with no easy answer. The youth are targets of racism and poverty, living in below poverty level conditions without much hope of improvement. Native Americans in general are still warehoused in governmental reservations in substandard conditions. How can we allow this to happen on our soil? Yet it does.
I wonder sometimes if Buddha got it wrong. I read another article the other day that argued that acceptance is an avoidance of working through hard problems. When we accept someone for who they are and don’t confront inappropriate behavior, we avoid having hard conversations which may be needed to challenge that individual and help everyone grow.
I recently spent over a year in a cult organization headed by a charismatic man who is highly abusive to his employees and his followers. I accepted that behavior because I was a “spiritual” man, and felt that since he claimed to have mystical powers (which some claimed was a fraud) I had to accept his behavior. I learned a very valuable lesson during that time. No one has the right to abuse others and I do not have to accept that behavior.
There is a saying that in the West we would stop a man from beating a donkey for the donkey’s sake and in the East we would stop a man from beating a donkey for the man’s sake. This means that if a man is committing violence, it is acceptable to stop him because “he knows not what he does” as Jesus said on the cross. It certainly seems plausible that if Al Qaeda seemingly has no conscience or care for the sanctity of human life, we should stop them. The question is how.
Gandhi, Martin Luther King and other spiritual leaders have achieved great things through the practice of passive resistance. This is not acceptance; rather it is a means of interfering with the socio-political economics of a group without resorting to violence. It is obvious that attempts to bomb and destroy Al Qaeda have been ineffective. Perhaps it is time to discover who keeps supplying them military aid and intelligence. God forbid it would be some of the clandestine intelligence agencies which Hollywood suspects of everything. However, a civilized society cannot accept violence in any form without causing more violence. We have certainly seen in this country that prison is not the answer either. I wonder if a million man march to Washington DC protesting the actions of terrorist groups would have any effect? If the flapping of a butterfly’s wings in China can cause a hurricane in the Caribbean, can we affect the actions of religious fanatics/criminals in other countries.
I certainly get that these are complicated issues and there are considerations that I am not aware of on national or global scales. However, it seems that we are just accepting the fact that terrorism is a given in this world and we just have to live (or die) with it. Sending troops seems to be a colossal failure. It is time to stop the man beating the donkey. We have to come up with a better solution.