2023-10-24-Gil-Non-Violence (2 of 5) Avoiding the Cost of Violence
12:07AM Nov 2, 2023
So, this week the topic for our discussion or consideration is non violence. And it's, I think the, one of the fundamental ethical principles of Buddhism is not to harm. And it's represented by the very first precept, which is usually said, to not to kill. But it's a little bit more comprehensive. It's not to harm any physically harm any living being. And and this is such an important thing in this world that we live in. And I believe that as we meditate, this becomes more and more novel Navitas are more and more the orientation we have, is do not want to cause harm. And there's a two reasons I can think many reasons for this. One reason is that as we meditate, we become, we develop a heightened sensitivity, for what the cost is to ourselves, when we harm others intentionally, deliberately. That it's very stressful for the our own system, it's also it involves a diminishment a narrowing of our scope, it involves being involved in anger and greed, and ill will, delusion even involves speaking up stress. And so you can feel that they want to start meditating start feeling that the effect that or unwholesome behavior, harmful behavior has on ourselves. And so, part of the motivation not to be violent not to cause harm to others, is that cost because we see the cost is too high for ourselves. And another reason is, we see the cost is too high for others. And we start feeling a kinship with others, there's something about sitting quietly, and having the thinking mind become quiet, the mind that objectifies the mind that is caught up in thoughts and ideas about people and projections into the future and all kinds of ideas of conceit, that interfere with our body and hearts capacity, for sympathy for empathy for understanding what it's like to be, you know, you know, we put ourselves in other people's shoes or, and we get a sense of, you know, what their suffering is, and how terrible it is for people to be harmed and, and devastating for some people when there's violence committed towards them. And, and at some point, it's so it's almost feels like a violence to oneself, the knowledge and the perception of seeing harm being done to others, especially being done from our by ourselves. And so there's a kind of shift that begins happening when people spend a lot of time meditating, doing mindfulness is there tends to be a movement towards wanting to live a life of non harming. And one of the definitions in the teachings of the Buddha, for what it means to be an fully enlightened person, that person will not deliberately harm any living being, and will not kill any living being someone is fully enlightened is incapable of killing. And if that's what you know, so some of you might want to become enlightened. But if that's what enlightenment is, do you want it? Is this still attractive to you? Or do you have some other idealistic idea that you have, but what enlightenment is or do you feel like enlightenment is only you kind of a freedom from your own suffering so you don't suffer? But you never thought about it as something about it changes your relationship to other people. And then if you take this path of dharma, the dharma path, what will happen is that it's an ethical path. You'll grow in your ethical sensitivity and you They're increasingly become someone who lives more and more ethically, even in subtle ways. And one of the manifestations of this is not only not wanting to harm anybody, but not capable of deliberately doing so. So someone who is a well developed longest path would not be capable of being a soldier, for example, if that meant needing to kill others or go into fighting, if it means being a, you know, being a medic, driving an ambulance, maybe that's very different, maybe that's something is, you know, soldier could do. And so, so the rationale, the reason for non violence, at in that kind of the most personal way that it the reason for it is not logical, it becomes from this deeper sensitivity we have, that you would have, for example, you know, if you have a young baby, that, of course, you don't want to harm the baby, you'll do everything you can, you know, if you ever received in your arms, a newborn baby, and the care and the tenderness, I think most people hold that baby, not wanting to harm it in any kind of way. Being very gentle is phenomenal. And that's just kind of built into our system, that that's what we do for many of us. And that sensitivity there can be spread and developed towards all beings everywhere. Now, then, the question becomes, what about when there are terrible things happening? Someone attacks, you texts, your family, violently even coming to kill them? Shouldn't you be able to kill them back? Shouldn't you be able to defend yourself? And and there's a little problem I have with this kind of rationale, this pushing back around the value of non violence, because it's it suggests that the about the the choice is between being violent or nonviolent. But there's another possibility is choices between being violent, and learning, developing oneself to be skillfully non violent, to taking the time to train ourselves in non violent forms of communication, nonviolent forms of behavior, that so that we can defend ourselves without having to resort to violence. Many years ago, someone came to me a woman came to me in Palo Alto, and lives in Palo Alto, which is a relatively, you know, comfortable town safe, tiny town even back then, there was some dangers. And she asked me if she told me she was thinking of getting a gun to make herself safe. And I didn't feel like I was, I didn't want to be in a position to decide whether you should or shouldn't be getting a gun. But I did tell her that I thought it was very sad. To get a gun first and foremost, that first there's a lot of trainings a person can do in self defense that doesn't require a gun. And, and maybe those forms of self defense, don't work 100% of the time, but neither does a gun work 100% of the time. But to be well trained in non violent forms of self defense, or maybe self defense that does strike out in order to weaken escape from someone. So we don't have to resort to guns, that takes time and effort for a country to avoid war. To in defending itself takes a lot of preparation to make the war to set up nonviolent forms of defense and sophisticated forms. To live in a world where we don't have we don't have to resort to violence takes decades of planning. That, you know, the first time I gave a talk on the Buddhist teachings on non violence and all this was in the early 1990s In the first Gulf War. And then periodically, there's been you know, it happens again and again war and war and war. War has been part of my life. My whole life, I've never had never really been in a war zone. Little bit of a distance, it could see the country that score kind of for something distance once I saw a mortar explode. But it's been part of my life.
My parents experienced violence during World War Two My brother did in World War Two. My parents in law were Jews in the concentration camps in Germany and barely survived. And they lost their parents in the camps. The Vietnam War was huge, growing up in the early 60s, and having to do these ridiculous duck drills in school when second grade first grade, because we were supposed to protect us from the nuclear holocaust. That was supposed to happen when the Russian Americans went into nuclear warfare with each other. And the Vietnam War, and, you know, and it goes on and on the violence that, you know, huge impact on me personally, that shaped me, was Israel Israeli bombing of the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon in about 1982. And I read about that, and saw pictures of it, when I was a deep in meditation practice deep and our retreats and doing certain retreats. And that changed me where I just that really kind of one of the reasons why I wanted to become a Buddhist teacher, and in order to respond to the world, with non violence, to try to make a better, better world for all of us to respond to the suffering we have. So there can be alternatives. But to expect alternatives, you know, you can't, to close the gate of the corral, once the horse has gotten free, doesn't help to begin thinking about non violence when the violence is already in full blown, is doesn't work. But there has to be planning ahead of time, lots of it, preparations for it. And non violence takes time preparation and struggle, even. One of the things that I've seen is that sometimes violence and violent speech can have an immediate effect, sometimes the effect the person wants, it stops what's happening. We get what we want, maybe. But the repercussions and the consequences we have to deal with for years afterwards, are not taken into account and are very expensive, very difficult. non violence, the difficulty is ahead of time, before the problem. And then if you find a non violent way of dealing with a problem, then there, there aren't the same repercussions. And there's not the after effect of having to clean up and deal with it afterwards. You know, there's for generations generations, people suffer, when there is war, the children who experience it, and their children experience it. You know, my you know, that, that my children knew their grandparents who survived the Nazi concentration camps is a big impact on them. And you know, that they were born many, many years after World War Two, but it still has an effect on them has effect on me. And, and people are still dealing United States with the repercussions of the Civil War and Peace, people are still dealing with the repercussions of World War One event and all these things that go on and on. And so, violence is an easy solution. The obvious solution for immediate survival. non violence is a fantastic solution, provided it's done in a sophisticated way in a caring way. Where we do the work upfront, not the cleanup cost afterwards. And so, if you go back and look at the Buddhist teachings, you see that over and over and over again, he emphasizes non harming. This is a central feature of what he's teaching and what he's getting across. So I'll read a couple of things before we end. One who neither kills, nor gets others to kill neither conquers nor gets others to conquer, with Goodwill for all beings, has no hostility for anyone at all. Has no hast sterility for anyone at all. Somewhere else he says in the Dhammapada there's the verse victory gives birth to hate, the defeated sleep tormented giving up both victory and defeat, the peaceful sleep delighted. All tremble at violence, all fear death, have been likened others to yourself, don't kill, or cause others to kill, all tremble at violence. Life is dear to all, having likened others to yourself, don't kill or cause others to kill, just as you want to live, just as you don't want to be harmed. So others don't want to be killed don't want to be harmed, care for them instead. So so we ourselves are an instrument who can discern and feel both the negative costs of violent and harmful action and we can feel the tremendous benefit from action which is not harming it's beneficial and caring for others. May we choose the latter. Thank you.