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Lama Surya Das

What Would Buddha Do?
page 2

Buddha might well advise us to be very cautious about allowing anger and righteous indignation to drive us towards further violence, extreme nationalism, jingoism, and the further loss of innocent life. As a person of Asian origins, the Buddha might remind us that the Afghani people are starved, exhausted, incapacitated, suffering, even as one billion people on our planet are starving and one third of the world’s population is suffering from hunger today. (A few years ago, the United Nations estimated that there are 500,000 disabled orphans in Afghanistan--a country with no economy, no food, and millions of widows.) New bombings would mainly stir only the rubble of earlier Soviet bombs. Would they the get all the bin Ladens and remove the Taliban from power? Not likely.

I think Buddha would ask us to consider the karmic causes, origins, and conditions that have given rise to the kind of hatred and animosity that drove the perpetrators of this criminal act. Buddha’s vision encompassed the fact that everything in this universe has a cause, and that nothing happens by accident. This is known as the law of karma, or causation, pointing out that each and every effect has its web of myriad causes and conditions. Individuals or nations, who shortsightedly deny causality by ascribing blame to others, short-circuit the profound introspection necessary to see our own karmic responsibility for whatever befalls us and for our own lives, character and destiny--our karma, in short.

The Buddha, as an embodiment of the wisdom of spiritual experience, would exhort us to reflect and explore deeply and conscientiously about what, if anything, can be done to address the causes of those ongoing conditions, and to strive to redress the great imbalances and iniquities we find in our world as well as long for a higher, better spiritual world to come.

I suppose Buddha would note the economic, social, political, and religious differences between we Americans and those who seem to have attacked us, and observe how our own foreign policies, post-modern consumer culture and material lifestyle might contribute to arousing the spite of others with radically different world views and extreme fundamentalist religious beliefs. I think Buddha would point out that unless we get to the roots of these seemingly intractable problems, no solution is in sight.

The events of September 11, their prelude and aftermath, are a rare and terrible gift in our hands, a broken heart. When our hearts are broken open we may find a moment of vital opportunity. Only out of suffering comes understanding. Great suffering can turn to great compassion and beneficial action. We pray for the healing and turning of the perpetrators of these crimes whose damaged hearts and clouded minds have created vast suffering in the present and into the future. We count on the wisdom, patience, and lovingkindness of the world’s leaders, that they may be just and exercise restraint and care in all their actions. Every decision they make should be motivated by compassion.

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Fighting Back
How the great religious leaders might have responded to the attacks.

Jesus: David P. Gushee, Richard Land and T.D. Jakes
Moses: Rabbi David Wolpe
Muhammad: Alex Kronemer

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