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Missouri Zen Center’s Statement of Opposition to War

March 2, 2003

What do Buddhists say about war? Is war justified if the motive is just? We have the teaching of the Buddha to guide us. In the Dhammapada we read;

‘He insulted me, he hurt me, he defeated me, he robbed me.’
  Those who think such thoughts will not be free from hate.

‘He insulted me, he hurt me, he defeated me, he robbed me.’
  Those who think not such thoughts will be free from hate.

Enmity is not appeased by enmity, but by non-enmity. This is the law forever.

Many do not know that we are here in this world to live in harmony. Those who know this do not fight against each other.*

The Buddha taught that suffering is caused by the three poisons of greed, hatred and delusion. The way to end our own suffering and the suffering of others is through the elimination of those three poisons. Can this be accomplished by war?

If we examine war we see that war is actually the three poisons put into action. People in general have a great reluctance to kill their fellow humans. In order to wage war we must first foster and promote the delusionary concept of an “enemy”. We must promote an image of people who are “other,” not having the same right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as “us”. In order to wage war against those “others” we must promote a deluded view of them as inhuman. Thus we see that war increases rather than decreases the poison of delusion.

The usual conduct of war is to seize and secure for one's own side the land and resources of the enemy. That is the primary function of armies. Seizing and taking what does not belong to oneself is stealing, that is greed in action. Thus we see that war increases rather than decreases the poison of greed.

Most people will resist attempts to take their land and goods. In order to do so an army must use force; deadly force, killing all who offer resistance. As stated before, people do not want to kill their fellow humans. They will not do so unless made to hate the so-called others. Thus we see that war increases rather than decreases the poison of hatred.

If the people of the United States of America want to be happy and want to lead lives of contentment they must oppose the voices calling for war by speaking the truth. The short range and long range results of war will be increased suffering and misery, not only for the so-called losers of the war but for the so-called winners as well.

Currently the United States is persuing a war against the people of Iraq in order to seize Iraq’s oil fields for the American oil industry. A cover story of deposing Iraq's president, Saddam Hussein and instituting a democratic government has been devised in order to promote and justify that war. That was the same story given to justify attacking the people of Afghanistan. The Taliban rulers were to be deposed and democratic government installed. We have killed many thousands of innocent people, injured and deformed many more, along with the life sustaining eco-system system in which they live; but we have not seen any move toward democracy in Afghanistan. We do see instead, an oil company executive installed as head of Afghan government and progress toward an oil pipeline through that nation.

Tolstoy’s Sin and Punishment tells that the ends do not justify the means. Huxley said that means and ends must match. Peace satisfies this dictum. Peace is wholly peace as the means and ends. War never is. War is unjust, not only for the so-called enemy, but for all. War is unholy, not wholesome to the whole system in space and time. War is the worst choice, not the last choice. It is not even a chioce. The Missouri Zen Center opposes all war, whatever justification might be offered. War is immoral, damaging all life forms and life systems. War is no solution for a peaceful world; but the cause of further problems for the world. We call upon all people, whatever their spiritual path to join in the effort to reduce suffering in the world by living peacefully and speaking truthfully.

*Dhammapada Ch.1 Vss. 3 - 6 translated by Juan Mascaro (Vs. 5 translated by Rosan Yoshida).