This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
By Paisarn Likhitpreechakul Published on February 18-19, 2011 (Magha Puja) In this photo released by the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, Nuon Chea, former deputy secretary of the Communist Party of Kampuchea, looks on during a joint hearing with other top Khmer Rouge leaders, Khieu Samphan, former head of state, and Ieng Thirith, former social affairs minister, at the court hall of the U.N.-backed genocide tribunal on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Monday, Jan. 31, 2011 (AP) PART I "You did not have any intention, therefore you did not commit any sin." Most Buddhists will accept this statement as true to the Buddha's teachings when, for example, it involves a doctor who lost a patient's life despite the best professional effort. However, it is chilling when used by Nuon Chea, the Khmer Rouge's "Brother Number 2" to convince his subordinates of their innocence after their reign of terror caused millions of deaths.
You stop. Angulimala shouted for the Buddha to stop. therefore. "I've already stopped. only to be perplexed and converted when he was told. The Buddha pointed at volition behind our deeds as the "karma" .Nuon Chea was not wrong to think of intention as paramount in Buddhism.not the action per se. and the discourse is considered a lesson in the redemptive power of the compassionate Buddha and the universal human potential for spiritual progress. too. Angulimala. The author believes that the Buddha specifically rejected Nuon Chea's philosophical "license to kill" in a famous discourse. Angulimala Sutta tells of the eponymous brigand who exhausted all his speed and strength while trying to attack the serenely-paced Buddha." Tradition explains that the Buddha referred to cessation of violence against other beings. Buddhist scholar Piya Tan adds depth to . although this important point has until now been overlooked. even though "karma" originally means "action". no bad karma is incurred if one merely follows orders without "taking it personally". According to Nuon Chea.
a gruesome mission with a high death toll would be a perfect proof of his success. obtaining this mental attitude can be facilitated by making the physical acts an act of sacrifice .this miraculous scene by describing Angulimala's chase after the Buddha as a Sisyphean run in which what went nowhere was not only Angulimala's feet but also his spiritual development. Pali scholar Richard Gombrich brilliantly concluded that Angulimala. the "Oxford of ancient India". The Buddha is known for his skillful means. At the foundation of Brahmanical philosophies. which include Shivaism. who was said to be among the brightest students at Taxila.much less accompanied with a miracle . In his paper "Who Was Angulimala?". But the obvious message that murder is unwholesome is so painfully obvious it's hardly worth being spelt out . According to Indologist Johannes Bronkhorst. (The same paradox applies to the Twin Miracle to which the author proposed an answer in a previous article. is the belief that no karma is incurred if one does not attach oneself to the actions or their results.) The only exception to this reproach is the use of miracles as a teaching tool.to Shiva in Angulimala's case. Angulimala would hope to attain liberation from the cycles of rebirth and associated sufferings.to Angulimala. . By supposedly eliminating all karma this way. This would explain why the hitherto kind and intelligent Angulimala came to follow his teacher's instruction to kill a thousand victims. was in fact an early worshipper of Shiva. son of a Brahmin chaplain. An even bigger problem is that it doesn't explain the fact that the Buddha here performed a miracle despite his own prohibition of them elsewhere in the Cannon. The shortcoming of the traditional explanation is that it doesn't sufficiently touch on the intention behind Angulimala's gruesome acts. tailoring his teachings to suit the audience's predispositions. If his education was the doctrine of detaching himself from actions. the god of destruction.
For the Buddha. belief. cause. Why did the Buddha bother to give Angulimala the first version. The Buddha's presentation of the converted Angulimala to the king.like a "moon coming out of hiding cloud". Angulimala the Shiva worshipper would have no problem uttering it because he would claim no intention whatsoever against his victims. regime or institution doesn't lessen our moral responsibility. we can never detach ourselves from or deny responsibility for our deeds because we are the sum of volitions reflected in them. therefore.like a butcher being told that his hands are bloody . Buddhism emphasises mindfulness over our actions at all time. the converted Angulimala couldn't say it.and solicited a "So what?" response. "I have not intentionally committed violence to all beings". .Had Angulimala only been emotionally insensitive to blood. declares not only a triumph of compassion over violence but also a philosophical victory. then the Buddha's statement that he hadn't ceased violence would have sounded obvious . Committing action in the name of a god. This first statement can be considered an opportunity for Angulimala to openly disavow his former belief. However. Other things that previously looked out of place and now make better sense are the two statements the Buddha gave Angulimala to proclaim. declaring that he hadn't intentionally committed any violence since he was (re)born into the Buddhist order. Similar to Nuon Chea. But if Angulimala had been philosophically desensitised to violence. The second version the Buddha gave allowed Angulimala to confirm his transformation. It would certainly jolt Angulimala into an awakening . then the Buddha's argumentative viewpoint would truly have caught him by surprise . So when the Buddha said that Angulimala hadn't stopped incurring karma.like a high priest being told his lifelong worship actually leads to hell. ideology. it was not only Angulimala's violence that was rebuked but also its underpinning philosophy of moral suspension. which both knew full well to be false? The key word here is "intentionally".
is a story not only about the Buddha's compassion but also his wisdom. Abhisit!" Although Mahatma Gandhi and most modern Hindu thinkers would interpret Gita verses like "Holding pleasure and pain alike. then gird thyself for battle. thus thou shalt not get evil" as addressing a spiritual battle inside oneself. A poem dedicated to prime minister cried out. To justify the foreseeable bloodshed. especially now that more and more people are following Angulimala's former murderous path. countering moral suspension with mindful moral responsibility. To read it merely as a tale of an individual man's spiritual struggle deprives Thai society of the moral foundation that Buddhism has to offer. not committing oneself to an act is as good as not committing it. moral responsibility . In other words.and. PART II Prior to last May's crackdown on red-shirt anti-government protestors. there were calls for Prime Minister Abhisit to perform his duty and "return Bangkok to normalcy". fundamentalists see it literally as a validation for an actual war. therefore. some of these callers cited a key part from the Hindu sacred scripture "Bhagavad Gita" when the demigod Krishna urged Arjun to perform his soldierly duty by going to war with his own cousins. which disastrously resulted in dozens of deaths.is incurred if one detaches oneself from the actions or their results. . victory and defeat. Imbued in such an interpretation is the ancient Brahmanical belief that no karma . "Go to war. therefore. gain and loss."Angulimala Sutta".
And once you've done this.and debated with other main rival schools on how to free oneself from cycles of rebirth.in fact." During the Second World War. this ancient doctrine was likely held by Angulimala as a liberation philosophy before it was rebuked by the Buddha in Angulimala Sutta.then all ethical concerns disappear. is but one example. it would have been surprising if the Buddha hadn't dealt with this kind of Brahmanical soteriology after having extensively criticised its social institutions . Khmer Rouge "Brother Number 2" Nuon Chea's distortion of Buddhism to excuse the Khmer Rouge's atrocities. as well as the determination to carry out their bloody tasks. calling it a just war against evils that "must be unflinchingly prosecuted".not least because it's often confused with the Buddha's teachings. cited in yesterday's article.particularly the caste system . Indeed. Zen Buddhism underpinned Japan's Code of Bushido . author of "Zen At War". summarized: "There is a Zen belief that you can transcend good and evil. Once you believe that discriminating thought is no longer important . But this kind of belief is far from being a thing of the past . as nothing can be further removed from the Buddha's teachings than war and violence.As proposed in yesterday's first part of this article. Brian Victoria. but that it has to be discarded . many Japanese Buddhist leaders cited Buddhism to defend Japan's militaristic expansion.and equipped samurais with bravery in the face of death. that not only is it not important. While those who called on Prime Minister Abhisit to crack down on fellow citizens may have the grand delusion of being modern-day Krishnas. ."the way of the warrior" . you act in a spontaneous and intuitive manner. What passes here as Buddhism is actually closer to Angulimala's religion.
"Now I am become Death. it applies not only to soldiers and their commanders. willed by more and tolerated by all. Rather than the title "Abhi-Siddhatta" coined by a government cheerleader to echo the Buddha's birth name. is believed to have read verses from the Gita to calm his mind and justify his central role in building the world's first nuclear bombs.they are more appropriately compared to Angulimala's teacher who sent him on a bloody mission. "The worst crimes were dared by a few. of which murder is but one possible result. Although Angulimala Sutta obviously censures violence. others unflatteringly called the prime minster "Anguli-Mark" for the resulting bloodshed.no matter if it's those who authorise violence or those who carry out the order. the scientific director of the Manhattan Project. Therefore. it is moral suspension on a grand scale that allows great atrocities like the Holocaust and genocides to happen." . Robert Oppenheimer. even though he was "just doing his job". Combining his nickname with Angulimala also highlighted the Buddhist position that doing something out of duty doesn't make one less responsible for it . Roman historian Tacitus understood this best when he wrote. J. it is arguably more about moral suspension. destroyer of worlds" (by artist Yuri Loenov) Even more chillingly. His case is a great example of how one man's moral suspension can affect the lives and deaths of millions.
there are more and more to-die-for "religions" which tell us it is righteous to "do everything necessary" to safeguard those values . the monarchy. became accomplices to the Holocaust by "just doing their jobs" or turning a blind eye. You stop. freedom. society or country."Angulimala Sutta". equality or human rights . A similar "license to kill" sentiment became extremely loud last year against red-shirt protesters. too. allowing violence to happen. in its broad sense. Judging from the noises clamouring for a crackdown. Last year's film "The Reader" powerfully portrays the guilt and anguish of post-war Germans who. We must be firm in the Buddha's path of non-violence because the Buddha's teachings don't allow us to hide from our moral responsibility behind any doctrine or cause at any time. peace.for example. A Thai monk during the height of the Cold War infamously proclaimed. there are many Angulimalas in our society in the guise of "Buddhists". "It's not sinful to kill communists". especially when it's committed in our name as a movement. their supporters and accessories.violently if unavoidable. speaks not only to aggressors. justice.national unity. but also to those who keep silent. in their own ways. But no matter how noble a cause is .should listen carefully and hear the Buddha's word: "I've stopped. the environment.it is our moral responsibility to be vigilant and stop ourselves from directly or indirectly doing violence to other human beings. Angulimala. inciting a war with a neighbouring country to serve the religion of nationalism . Those who favour violence as a means to end conflicts . Neither can we keep silent when violence happens." . democracy. In this 21st century.