Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Buddha and the Terrorist

This does remind me of a line in a Woody Allen movie where they are talking about a Nazi group marching.

Woody Allen: "Has anybody read that Nazis are gonna march in New Jersey? Ya know? I read it in the newspaper. We should go down there, get some guys together, ya know, get some bricks and baseball bats, and really explain things to 'em."

Victor Truro: "There was this devastating satirical piece on that on the op-ed page of the Times – devastating."

Allen: "Whoa, whoa. A satirical piece in the Times is one thing, but bricks and baseball bats really gets right to the point of it."

Helen Hanft: "Oh, but really biting satire is always better than physical force."

Allen: "No, physical force is always better with Nazis."

Although that may indeed be true; and, although I must confess myself to a gut instinct to search out the families and friends of every terrorist and suicide bomber and eliminate their entire family line and group of friends from this planet; and although that might very well in the end eliminate this type of nonhuman attitude and despicable personages from our existence; and, although we have no need for people such as those; and, although killing those people off, may very well not only, NOT work, but could even work against us; it is therefore even more important to come across stories such as the following, as both a consideration and a lesson....

The Buddha and the Terrorist

Satish Kumar
Algonquin Books 09/06 Paperback $14.95
ISBN: 1565125207

We live in a world where terrorists cut off hostages' heads and fighters in the so-called war on terrorism murder civilians in their beds. The cycle of violence is fueled by virulence in the media and harsh rhetoric in political circles.

Satish Kumar made an 8,000-mile peace walk around the world and later founded the London School for Nonviolence. Now he has come up with a very timely contribution to the cause of peace and reconciliation — a compelling retelling of an ancient parable about the Buddha and the terrorist.

In his foreword, Thomas Moore sets it alongside the Gospel of Jesus, the Tao of Lao Tzu, and the way of love in Sufism as a renunciation of violence and a plea for "restoring the holiness of life's power."

In a northern town of India, a man known as Angulimala has been randomly murdering people and cutting off their fingers. No one can stop him since he is so strong and determined.

The Buddha hears about this killer and is unafraid: "Life lived in fear is no life.... I must reach out to those who are possessed with anger and ignorance." Encountering Angulimala, he tells him that he is capable of being a friend, of compassion, and of change. The killer is taken aback for the Buddha enables him to see himself afresh, to deal with the pain of his past, and to come to terms with the separation he feels from others.

Thanks to his dialogue with the Buddha, Angulimala becomes a monk and takes the name Ahimsaka ("The Nonviolent One"). But the King and those who lost their loved ones to the terrorist want revenge. Here is where we recognize the forces that are at play in our society.

Approaching the eighth anniversary of 9/11, many Americans still cling to the idea of an eye for an eye and the illusion that we can create a society where all are secure from the deeds of evil-doers. What we see at work in this brief story is the restorative power of forgiveness. This poignant parable emphasizes the primacy of loving the enemy and practicing nonviolence.

This may in part relate to the situation of the Mosque being built two blocks from Ground Zero in New York City. Not to even mention that those Muslims are of a type that we need to support, world wide.

We need to change the social situations that led to 9/11. We may need to simply kill some terrorists. But I suspect that many terrorists, especially they young, suicide bombers, are not unlike suicides in general, in that they need reorientation.

Its a complex situation requiring complex solutions. Nothing is easy in this area. Just consider that you cannot use a blanket solution to such complicated situations. And, that we need long term solutions to finally end it completely.

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