[Buddha-l] Compassionate Violence?

Jayarava jayarava at gmail.com
Fri Jun 7 04:02:31 MDT 2013

On 7 June 2013 09:19, James A Stroble <stroble at hawaii.edu> wrote:

>  We take karma to be the crucial insight of Buddhism, that there is a cause for suffering.

Is this what karma tells us? Dependent arising tells us that there are
conditions for suffering. Karma tells us that no evil action, not even
the most private of thoughts, goes unpunished. I think of these as two
different branches of Buddhist metaphysics.

Although they are mashed together the two doctrines are not entirely
compatible since "imassim sati idam hoti" implies the condition must
be present for the effect to occur, and karma clearly over-rides this
and allows for dependence at a distance, even beyond death. I suspect
that karma was simply how the culture that Buddhism emerged in thought
about morality (possibly influenced by Zoroastrianism but that's
another story). And once dependent arising was invented there was an
attempt to apply it to everything (an attempt which is ongoing).

> But if karma can be short-circuited by enlightened beings, we have to wonder if the whole system of accounting is not
somehow misconstrued.

It depends on which era you are thinking of. In early Buddhism not
even the enlightened can avoid their karma - which is why Angulimala
is pelted with missiles at the end of his eponymous sutta in it's Pāli
version, but not in the Chinese version which has a Mahāyana slant.
Buddhaghosa also seems to believe you can run but not hide from karma
and uses Dhammapada 127, and it's back story, to illustrate this. But
the situation does change in the Mahāyāna which allows for escaping
karma through pious observances (a little suffering now avoids a
larger suffering later) - these are exemplified in Santideva's other
book The Shiksasamuccaya. Pragmatic tantrikas with more important
things to worry about boil it all down to a 100 syllables to be
chanted when required.

Post hoc rationalisations of bad behaviour are a standard feature of
elites. Any war can be justified given a talented enough propagandist.
Even a Buddhist war.


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