Ending War

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The very first of the major precepts given by the Buddha to laypeople is to not kill or harm other beings. One of the four offenses for which a monk can be permanently expelled from the Sangha (the monastic Sangha that is) is to kill another human being (a prohibition which includes participating in or encouraging abortion, suicide, or euthanasia). Monks are also prohibited from being present on battlefields or from travelling with armies. I speak only of the monks here because the nuns have a different set of precepts – though I know that the prohibition against killing is also one of the eight offences for which a nun can be permanent expelled.
On the other hand, the Buddha had several kings, princes, generals, and members of the warrior caste who were considered lay-followers and had taken refuge. The Buddha never forbid them from fulfilling the duties of their positions, and it is known that several of them did wage wars of self-defence during the life-time of the Buddha and did execute criminals. It is true also that the Buddha did on at least one occasion save a the serial-killer Angulimala from being apprehended and executed on the grounds that he had become an arhat. And on several occasions the Buddha prevented the Shakyas and another clan from going to war. But he did not stop every occasion of capital punishment and war. And on many occasions as the kings excused themselves to leave the presence of the Buddha he would say to them: “Now is the time to do as you see fit.” I take this to mean that the Buddha did not presume to tell these kings, generals and princes what to do – even though they were lay followers. Rather, he taught them the Dharma and then trusted them to follow their own good judgement for better or worse.
So what I am building to is this. The first precept would seem to prohibit war or the use of deadly force in any situation. NBIC’s publication “Awakening the Lotus” states:
The most important goal of any belief is the improvement of self and of the world in general. As a meaningful Buddhist group, Nichiren Shu and its practitioners must strive for the peace, happiness, and enlightenment of ever living thing. Human life and the environment must be cherished and protected, and society must be encouraged toward peace and happiness. Therefore, the Nichiren Shu firmly holds the convictions of opposition to all war, prohibition of nuclear arms, and justice and peace in society. Besides promoting these values in society, we believe that by living as the Buddha taught us in the Lotus Sutra and by following the teachings of Nichiren Shonin, we can manifest these values naturally. We also spread this peace and happiness through the world by teaching others to follow the Buddha’s teachings. ” (p. 20)
I think it should go without saying that war is a bad thing, no matter what the reasons are. By extension, police actions wherein the UN or some group of nations invades another to restore the peace or prevent genocide or some other grave injustice are also occasions in which violence has been resorted to out of desperation and so this too is a tragic occasion.

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Here is a link to an article about how Iraqi prisoners are being abused in Iraq:

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2004/04/27/60II/main614063.shtml

I searched and found three photos of the many that are referred to. I have photos of the Iraqi on the box with the hood and hooked up with electrical wire. I have a picture of the female solier and the naked line up of Iraqis. I have a picture of the Iraqis stacked in a pyramid with what appear to be two US soliders smiling and laughing. So this stuff is for real.
Is it torture? Are people actually being electrocuted, beaten, raped, or killed? The article and others I have read seem to indicate that much worse is going on that just the humiliation exposed in these photos.
One point I find particularly apalling is that Fredericks, the soldier who is interviwed by 60 miutes II argues that the prisons have no guidelines or regulations relating to the treatment of the prisoners. My thought is – so what? Do adult Americans need orders and regulations to tell them what is or is not an acceptable way to treat people? Doesn’t every human being on this entire planet grow up hearing some version of the Golden Rule or the negative Golden Rule: “Do not do unto others, as would not have them do unto you.”
But of course it is also a worldwide experience to “Do unto others before they do unto you” and “Those with the guns make the rules.”
I believe it when the army says that these are the actions of a small minority, but I also DO NOT ACCEPT that as an excuse. The army is ACCOUNTABLE for all its members and can not REFUSE RESPONSIBILITY. I was in the military as an officer and the one thing I learned is that you are responsible for what your unit does. But what I see now are the higher-ups all the way to the president refusing accountability and saying that this was not the action of the US Army but the misguided actions of some individuals – and some were civilians. Well, guess what? Those servicepeople (men and women) and/or civilians were working for you guys and you (the government and the military commanders) were responsible for their actions.
But even leaving aside the culpability of the military and the government – what does this say about the average American. I don’t believe that it was just a few sick individuals. I think, and the article would seem to indicate, that a certain culture of intimidation, fear, and contempt for others was deliberately being fostered. In that kind of situation – with authoritarianism, peer pressure, and the temptation to have a godlike power over others – it would take a strong, mature, and compassionate person to stand up against the culture of abuse and say “NO!” Fredericks himself was apparently a corrections officer here in the States and supposedly “one of the best” who should have known better one would think. Apparently not. And I think this whole situation thus reflects on how criminals are treated here at home too – as subhumans with no hope of redemption who know exist for the pleasure of the gaurds and the exploitation of certain economic interests.
What I see here is that the culture of the United States has become exceedingly rutheless, cut-throat, and inhumane. Might makes right. That is the morality of the US at present – despite the exceedingly thin veneer of fundamentalist Christian “family-values” the Bushes and their ilk try to put on things.
According to Nichiren Shonin’s Rissho Ankoku Ron a country whose values have turned away from the values of the Lotus Sutra – as embodied by Bodhisattva Never Despise – is karmically doomed to civil war within and invasion from without. Just look at Iraq. That is exactly what happened to them under the values of the Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein. Their evil led to decades of war and civil war and now a humiliating occupation. Our country has aways to go before we reach the nadir that Middle Eastern countries have long since reached – but I do not want to see us go down that path at all.
I want to see a day when American servicemen and women do not need to ask for regulations or orders in order to realize that people are not playthings and that all beings, even our enemies, have Buddha-nature. That is what will save this country.
Namu Myoho Renge Kyo,
Ryuei

So today is the day when we commemorate the first time that Nichiren formally chanted Namu Myoho Renge Kyo and initiated what we now call Nichiren Buddhism. Happy Birthday Odaimoku!
This past Sunday we commemorated a few days in advance at the temple by chanting Odaimoku for an hour with the taiko drums. That was really nice. I even tried my hand at drumming with two sticks with mediocre results – but practice makes perfect so I will keep at it.
The I went up to Marin County to meet with a couple of people I meet there on every fourth Sunday (or so). We do gongyo together and then discuss various topics in Buddhism (though the last three months our talks have centered on the Devadatta chapter and related stories – the story of Devadatta’s schism, the Dragon-Girl and sex swapping episode in the Vimalakirti Sutra, and the enumeration of the Buddha’s virtues, qualities and powers).
That evening I spent sitting and chanting at the Faithful Fools in the Tenderloin, and then I went upstairs from the meditation room to their community hall and joined the people who were gathered there for the Strong Medicine Show (which I caught the tail end of but am still unable to really describe what it is). Anyway, the people at Faithful Fools seem to be a really kind, caring, and thoughftul group of people. They have generously allowed the use of their meditation space (for free) so that I can meditate and chant there every Sunday night in what amounts to my own private temple space in San Francisco (at least for the two hours that I am there with my Gohonzon). I guess I should say who they are – the Faithful Fools is a street ministry at 230/234 Hyde Street which was founded by a Unitarian minister named Rev. Kay Jorgensen and a Catholic nun named Sr. Carmen Barsody. They have a copy shop there as well. They have collected a group of local artists, artisans, writers, poets, performers, activists, advocates, students, homeless, and just plain folk who get together to be thoughtful, silly, and above all caring. I have only been peripherally involved with them but hope to get to know them better as time goes on. I became aware in the past year that they held sitting meditation sessions in the mornings during the week, so I asked if they would like someone to run something in the evening. They were happy to have me onboard, and so every Sunday I come in to sit and do gongyo. The Faithful Fools also hold homeless retreats where for a day (or maybe more) one lives on the street as a homeless person would as an act of compassion and solidarity.
So my Sunday was my busy commemoration in advance of the founding of Nichiren Buddhism as I chanted my way up and down the Bay Area from San Jose to Marin County and then the Tenderloin back in SF.
Namu Myoho Renge Kyo,
Ryuei