This is January 5 2024. And I'm going to talk about the terrible conflict in Gaza, between the Israeli government and Palestinians in Gaza. It started, of course, on October 7, when Hamas made this terrible incursion into Israel. Some 1400 Israelis were left dead. And according to every account that I've read, Hamas perpetrated just unspeakable sadistic, indiscriminate torture and killing and hostage shaking of Israelis they're
part of the problem in evaluating right and wrong and all this is having to rely on media reports. It's it's mediated our information for all of us is mediated. And there are some some question about the reliability of the statistics. Not in enlarge, it seems pretty haven't heard much haven't heard people disputing that there were 1400 Israelis dead and and all these terrible atrocities that happened. One one account that I read ported that the the idea that the report that 40 babies had been decapitated, had been walked back. At doesn't matter, it's what happened there was just just unspeakable and it's natural, natural that the Israeli government would want revenge. Basic Instinct for retribution seems to be ingrained in human nature. You see this in art. There's a long history of vengeance in art.
And I had to do some reading and reflecting on this matter of revenge
seems to be a wish for a re establishment of universal justice. It seems to be at the heart of revenge. Maybe also delivering a message message to Hamas and Hezbollah and holding to account those who perpetrated this these atrocities against the Israelis, although the question then becomes what is what is the right accounting? Because we know that since then, six since October 7, there has been mass destruction and killing by the Israeli government in Gaza.
The reports I've read say that at least 18,000 Palestinians have been killed. According to another source AlJazeera more than 22,000 residents of Gaza had been killed 70% women and children, according to the Palestinian Authority health ministry, again, are left wondering how accurate these are but let's let's assume that many, many, many 1000s of Palestinians have been killed and wounded. And reports say that most of Gaza 2.3 million people are now homeless, and trapped in a tiny embattled coastal enclave. With little food, water, medical care, fuel or secure shelter the basic infrastructure has have Gaza has been destroyed
according to a Jewish reporter, Gordon Levy 1000s of children are being killed in their beds by bombs dropped from the skies, where almost nobody has enough food or water for survival. A small hell you can never leave is what he said. So mass slaughter
Israel's defense minister is quoted as having said that the Palestinians are human animals.
According to the same reports, on the other side of the ledger, some 150,000 Israelis in Gaza and Gaza have also now been displaced from their homes. But it's what's happening to the Palestinians is horrifying. Why do I need to even say this? Anyone who's read about this would agree that it's horrifying. And the question is, is it justified? And that brings us back to revenge? delivering a message holding to account is this old saying Revenge is sweet. I found an article from psychological science magazine. This goes way back to 2011. But surely human nature hasn't changed much since then. And I'd like to read some segments of that article in Psychological Science says while the idea of revenge is no doubt delectable, the very phrase just desserts promises a treat. Much of its sugar is confined to the coding. The actual execution of revenge carries a bitter cost of time, emotional and physical energy, and even lives. That minute before revenge is savory, as the authors of the science study recognized, but what about the days and weeks that follow? The article continues. In the past few years, psychological scientists have discovered many ways in which the practice of revenge fails to fulfill its sweet expectations. behavioral scientists have observed that instead of quenching hostility, revenge can prolong the unpleasantness of the original offense, and that merely bringing harm upon an offender is not enough to satisfy a person's vengeful spirit. They've also found that instead of delivering justice, revenge often creates only a cycle of retaliation, in part because one person's moral equilibrium rarely aligns with another's. The upshot of these insights is a better a sense of why the pursuit of revenge has persisted through the ages, despite tasting a lot more sour than advertised. And a little more here, he goes on. Perhaps Revenge is sweet, or perhaps the words of Francis Bacon are more accurate. And here are the words bacon's words. One that study if revenge, keeps his own wounds green, which otherwise would heal and do well. And then, in there, the article reports on some study that found that punishers that's what they call them in the study. punishers actually felt worse than forecasters predicted they would have felt had they been given the chance to be punishers Punisher is even felt worse than non punishers despite getting the chance to take their revenge. punishers continue to brood on the on the free rider. It's a reference to that study. As I said, punishers continued to brood significantly more than the others did, and increased rumination that prevented them from moving on. The researchers surmised, all told, the study concluded that people erroneously believe revenge will make them feel better and help them gain closure. When in actuality, punishers ruminate on their deed and feel worse than those who cannot avenge a wrong. And then they, one of the author says, I think uncertainty prolongs and enhances emotional experiences. And one of the things that Avengers do unintentionally, is to prolong the unpleasant encounter. Those who don't have a chance to take revenge are forced in a sense to move on and focus on something different, and they feel happier.
Well, that's pretty compelling evidence of the folly of revenge and how it just circles back on the the one who is exacting revenge. But can we put ourselves in the place of the Israelis and what they saw? Or happened? I've heard, I've heard that Israel is such a small country, relatively speaking, certainly relative to the United States, that every citizen of Israel knew someone who had been killed in that on that October 7, attack. And the viciousness of the attack what we have to ask ourselves, right, I'll ask myself, how would I respond to that family member, Sangha member? Having suffered that atrocious violence? How will we respond? We might also ask, how we would respond, if we were past Palestinians, who have been forced off their land. And for decades, then crowded into a much, much smaller territory, and been deprived of so much of what they had had by this, their neighbor Israel. says this is this is a dilemma. Who would say that Israel should do nothing? No one's going to say that. But what but what Israel has set about to do, let's let's forget about right and wrong. That's we don't need to dwell on right and wrong, you know, in any any long long dispute and there isn't much longer a dispute than that in between Israelis and Palestinians. In any long dispute, you can be sure that both sides are at fault somehow. Okay. Now, let's consider the intelligence or lack of intelligence behind this retaliation.
We have in in Buddhism Of course we have the first precept not to kill but to cherish all life it doesn't take much imagination to see that war. War always is fueled by the three poisons. What are the three poisons greed? hostility, hostilities? sunrays, we say anger, Ill Will hatred. So greed, hostility and delusion. And those three those three poisons are all arise from ignorance. Ignorance, avoid ignorance of the way things are. Ignorance of reality. The
reality is that none of us is separate from anyone else are different. Oh, we're so different. Although these, the Israel, Israelis and the Palestinians in some way are not so different in many ways, but let's grant that we're all different, but, but seeing things as they are means, seeing that within all these differences, there is a sameness a unity. It is not seeing that it is it is being ignorant of that, that causes us to react with greed, hostility and delusion. Over and over again in the in the sutras. The Buddha makes the point that hatred breeds more hatred. And to paraphrase one who kills and other digs to graves and then we have this doctrine of karma.
To put it in simple terms, wholesome and unwholesome actions bring about their respective results. Karma is kind of the equivalent of natural physical laws. But Karma is a natural moral law. We reap what we sow.
In some source, the Buddha called the law of karma, the light of the world because it illuminates how life unfolds and why things are the way they are. Cause and Effect everything that happens is the effect of a previous cause. And the same time is itself a cause of a subsequent effect. Well, that's karma laid out most simply. In another text, Buddhist text. The Buddha very bluntly says, If you think too much about karma, you'll go crazy. Because it illuminates how life unfolds and why things are the way they are. I've been asked numerous times to explain the law of karma. And other than the simple terms that is used. I say it's immensely complex and subtle and encompassing. I wouldn't dare venture to try to explain karma in all of its complexities.
Somewhere else in Buddhist Texas is only a Buddha that is a fully enlightened one can understand the scope and intricacies of karma the law of causation?
st master Dogan the 13th century great Japanese Zen master said those who would practice the Dharma must deeply deeply believe in the passing nature of things and have faith in karma.
But we see injustice all the time. We don't always see harmful actions resulting in we don't often see things that are Don't go around come around. Then we see only we see cause and effect only in our own lifetime. And I think it's, it's you can't, you can't talk about karma, apart from rebirth, multiple lifetimes
and this is where I will lose some of you who can't by the idea of multiple lifetimes of rebirth. But I'm just gonna forge ahead
how can how can we? How can you and I grasp how something that happened five lifetimes ago, bring results in this lifetime? Or 20 lifetimes ago or 3000 lifetimes ago. So when we see these, these criminals in the world is full of criminals, tyrants, murderers, when we see them die without being punished. We can wonder that about karma, but who knows what awaits them? Who knows what awaits us? We can't, we can't even remember what happened before the age of three. Most people I asked quite a few people what their earliest memory was, and most people, it's not before three. But who would say that we weren't alive over the age of three? Of course we were we just don't remember it. And if we don't remember what happened to us, at the age of two or one, how can we hope to remember what happened to us in a past lifetime, even the most recent past lifetime? Well, there are people, I believe who can but very few of them.
The it's just the terrible tragedy of this ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. It's so tragic. How can it not just be self perpetuating? Okay, Hamas got some measure of revenge against their either Israeli oppressors as they see them. And then the Israeli government retaliates with revenge against Hamas. Is it going to stop there? Of course, now, it will go on and on and on and on.
In the Roshi, capitalist book, Zen merging of East and West, he, he read this in a Dharma talk about the first precept not to kill. He said, I want to ask this is Roshi Kapleau. I once asked a sale Annie's Buddhist master, who made frequent trips to Vietnam. Whether Vietnamese Buddhist monks concurred in the view that their sufferings as a nation in the Vietnam War, were a form of karmic retribution. He responded that all the monks he had questioned in Vietnam had unhesitatingly replied in the affirmative, citing in particular, an unusually cruel act of aggression by the Vietnamese several 100 years ago, in which they invaded the territory of other neighbors.
You know, there are probably hundreds of millions of people in the world who unhesitatingly accept karma as a noun. natural moral law that goes around comes around, we reap what we sow.
But that still leaves this is all in this is all make sense. It's got to make sense that there is this underlying law, moral law of the universe. But then think, what would you do? What would I do? After I'm on October 8, after 1400 or 1200 of our own people were massacred in the most vicious, sadistic, horrible way. What would we do? Well, luckily, we don't make those decisions. We're not in charge. But there has to be a better way than wreaking mass destruction on a people only a percentage of whom? A small tiny percentage of whom actually cause the violence. Oh, then you can get into? Yes, but don't Palestinians support Hamas? I don't know. I don't know. What do we have to go by? How many of the citizens of Gaza are really support Hamas? Well, I've read that, since all of this vengeful destruction by the Israeli Defense Forces a lot. A lot of a lot more people a lot more Palestinians now support Hamas. How's that working out? Israel?
You can't you can't help but compare this to what happened with the Trade Center towers on 911. We were we were traumatized as a people. We were in shock. We wanted blood revenge. Okay. That's human nature. But it's our responsibility as people who give some credence to this law of karma that we find some other way. I know it's easy to to find fault when you're not in the middle of all that. That's what makes this so hard. But it doesn't mean it's less true. There is this law that will work and what what how can we how can the Israelis How can the How can Hamas How can Hezbollah somehow incorporate that understanding? Instead of an eye for an eye
can eat. People can be forgiven for seeing what the Israeli government is doing as, as their final solution to the Hamas problem. Except we're going to wipe out we're going to eradicate Hamas once and for all.
Since we're not in the Middle East, know, whatever we might want to do, in terms of engaged Buddhist action, we do have this matter of our own practice. Because war, war does originate in the human heart, our responsibility each one of us is to is to purify Our minds our hearts in that it's no small contribution to this terrible suffering that we see through war and other conflict
heard experts say that if Israel tries to remain in Gaza for an extended time it will face endless attacks from Hamas and other terrorist organizations it's it's it's easy to believe those who say Hamas is not going to be crushed ever it's still enjoys a lot now. out of sympathy if nothing else is still in boy enjoys a lot of support of the Palestinian people as they're being crowded into a corner of their small country. And Israel will face enormous challenges in maintaining law and order on and on and on years decades. It's it's just such a terrible overreaction and so unfair to the children most of these casualties in Gaza among Palestinians are women and children 70% According to one reckoning This is no way to find any kind of lasting peace nevermind what's right or wrong or justice to hold Hamas accountable this can only come back to cause suffering among Israelis themselves. And this Hamas of course saying same same same