Difficult ethical question regarding killing

I think you are not quite right. Take this guy I talked to for example. He is a very nice person and most certainly not a terrorist. Then, he tells me: ‘Gandhi’s method of non-violent resistance didn’t work. It was the people who took to the arms who freed India.’ In other words, in his mind fighting against oppression can justify violence. The only thing you have to do to make terrorism out of it is to give a very loose definition of oppression in the Marxist vein: oppression is everything that is contrary to our own ideology. Make fighting against oppression to the sacred duty of every true kshatriya who, if killed, will go to heaven, and just wait for the terrorist attacks to happen. In fact, Hindu terrorism does exist and is a reason for growing concern among many Indian intellectuals. I have very many Hindu neighbours and all of them said the Hindu nationalism (based on different Hindu sources, but Bhagavad Gita is among them) is on the rise and will be a source of more trouble in the future.

You are correct in saying Islamic fundamentalists are ultimately interested in spreading Islam. However, they use different rhetorics (and I had listen to quite a bunch of them for my future master thesis) when they recruit new members and plan terrorist attacks. I think you can already guess what these rhetorics are: fighting against injustice and oppression! This lorry killer in Nice did it not because he wanted to spread Islam to France, he most probably did it because France supports the war against ISIS, i.e. the war against the ‘only true Muslim country’, and all the French people who pay their taxes are supporting oppression and are therefore oppressors. You can’t spread Islam in a non-Muslim country by killing non-Muslims, it is only possible after a fully fledged military conquest. The Islamic terrorists (not the Islamist military formations like Taliban’s standing army in Pakistan and Afghanistan) are instead fighting against the alleged oppression of the Muslims.

in this representation of hypothetical situation in order to arrive at an ideology of justifiable violence based on Bhagavad Gita you make two additional steps not inherent to the original teaching, i’ve marked them with letters

which only exemplifies my earlier statement

it is a case where a teaching isn’t to be blamed for people’s interpretation of it

so in fact what you condemn is not so much the original philosophy of Krishna but one perverted hypothetical version of it, while shifting the blame for it on the unwitting literary source

and that’s the logic Russian authorities were guided by in banning Godhika sutta commentary

as far as nationalism is concerned it’s something people do of their own accord and not what religious texts incite them to, if they need support from authoritative religious text they will make sure to construe one

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That is true. Confirming the Godwin’s law, I should notice that Hitler never mentioned Holocaust directly in Mein Kampf, but it is hardly possible to defend the book on the basis that you have to take additional steps to arrive at the idea of a ‘Final Solution’. Try to do it with the Gospel’s message and ideas of the Nikayas, good luck with that. Any Christian and Buddhist radicalists do not in fact base their ideology on these foundational texts but refer instead to ‘our long history, our sacred tradition’ and later pseudo-historical texts.

Any religion, be it Communism, Buddhism or Krischnaite Hinduism has its bad people who will exploit it to pursue thei evil goals. However, some of them can contain ideas that are more controversial for people of other beliefs, like Godhika Sutta or these verses in Bhagavad Gita. I can easily see how Godhika Sutta may be misused and that is exactly why it needs a commentary that would explicitly condemn a suicide attempt as a stupid and unnecessary, maybe even bad thing to do. In fact, it was indirectly condemned by the Buddha himself who said Ven. Godhika ‘died blamelessly’ because he became an arahant. In otherwords, hadn’t he become one, he would have had to face negative kammic consequences of his act. You, me or any Bhikkhu or Buddhist layperson can easily write this comment any time. Similarly, we can criticize Suttas denigrating women. There will hardly be any Hindu who will condemn Krishna’s words as leading to suffering, so it is our duty to do so. We should not say Bhagavad Gita, Quran, Godhika Sutta, Mein Kampf, Old Testament or any other religious scripture should be banned, we should confuse not people professing these religions with the ideas expressed in these scriptures, but we should honestly evaluate whether these idead can be misused by religious fanatics. ‘Krishna’s’ words can.

Kamma has nothing to do with ethics. It is like the law of gravity. That is why there exist cases where ethical actions lead to terrible kammic results. For example working as a butcher is something perfectly ethical, a normal job just like any other one. The butcher might be a good person trying to find a job, to provide for his family etc. Yet it brings tons of negative kamma.

This is because kamma has nothing to do with ethics. It has to do with tendencies developed. If a person kills animals every day, he develops a certain tendency. He might became a little more cold bloded and not have that little thing that stops one from mutilating other people when conditions for such a thing will arise.

We can easily see how tendencies developed affect us in real life. If one cultivates a tendency for drinking alcohol for a couple of years, his mind will pull in that direction. When conditions will arise (such as a day off from work or a football match) the person will be quick to find an excuse to drink despite wanting to quit.

It is said that it’s not good to speculate about precise workings of kamma. But I think a good way to describe kamma influence in rebirth would be with that certain state one has after been woken up from sleep and trying to sleep again. There is a state that happens rarely, maybe a couple of times a year - when we are waken up from sleep like 2 hours before we should and then try to sleep again. And we neither fall asleep neither are awake, it’s like something in between. And in this state the person will think non-stop about the attachment that has developed in the previous day. If was angry at something the previous day, he will think those hours about that thing. His mind always pulls into the attachment developed in the previous day.

We know that in theravada there is a bardo state that was de-emphasises in the tradition in the struggles of theravada against other schools that believed in a self. This bardo state could have been interpreted to mean a self that gets reborn or the same consciousness that gets reborn. But nevertheless, we do have this bardo state well established in the suttas. So I suppose this bardo state is similar to the half-dreaming/half-awake state described above. The being will be less consciousness than normally, more driven by instincts and past conditioning like an animal and will go in a place dependent on the attachment that it has developed. Maybe this is why it is said that the state of mind at the moment of death is important, but also the whole life and also even kamma from before that could overwrite this newly formed kamma. Probably if we get into that half-sleep/haf-awake state that I described, 1 out of 10 times our mind will be pulled towards something other than what we did in the previous day.

As for kamma of killing ISIS fighters - it is mixed kamma. The intention might be good but still develop bad tendencies. In our life, we are forced to sometimes produce mixed kamma. We can not always produce only good kamma. So what a person should do is try to get in life conditions that do not require him to do too much questionable kamma. But if he is in such a situation, then he should be pragmatic and make the best out of it not produce bad kamma by inaction out of rigidly klinging to rules and vows. Every situation is different and it really depends on the situation, there are no general rules about it other than been pragmatic. In the suttas, there was even a general who was a stream enterer and he continued to be a general.

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Killing bacteria?

The Buddha teaching is Majjahima patipada or middle path. It does not go to such extreme as not killing a living being as small as a bateria that the bare eyes can’t see.

When a monk is ordained he should not intentionally deprive a living
thing of life, even if it is only an ant." (https://suttacentral.net/en/pi-tv-kd1)

The key word here is “ant” and “intentionally”.

As for question 2,3,4, use the Buddha teaching “simile of the saw” should help.

"Monks, even if bandits were to savagely sever you, limb by limb, with a double-handled saw, even then, whoever of you harbors ill will at heart would not be upholding my Teaching. Monks, even in such a situation you should train yourselves thus: ‘Neither shall our minds be affected by this, nor for this matter shall we give vent to evil words, but we shall remain full of concern and pity, with a mind of love, and we shall not give in to hatred. On the contrary, we shall live projecting thoughts of universal love to those very persons, making them as well as the whole world the object of our thoughts of universal love — thoughts that have grown great, exalted and measureless. We shall dwell radiating these thoughts which are void of hostility and ill will.’ It is in this way, monks, that you should train yourselves."

MN 21
MN 28

This is an interesting thread with interesting questions and it seems some amazing thinkers answering. My feeling is this, do what is compassionate, do what is loving and do what is good. The question of what is good, has been around for a very very long time.

In this case we are being asked if it is Ok to kill that which is causing great pain, devestation and anguish - is it Ok if this is the lesser of two evils, is it OK if it is apparently our duty as a warrior fighting for what is apparently good. The answers so far are wonderful but I can’t really see anyone questioning the very root assumptions of worldly experience. It seems everyone is agreed that in a secular sense this can all be discussed philosophically but in the practical world an action must be taken and unfortunatley it may be the action of lesser evil. I question that. I believe the reality we experience is a mixture of our beliefs, and our greater truth. If we find ourselves in an arena of war it is because of our inner conflict. So if we find ourselves in war we need to understand what it is in our beliefs that put us there. Our beliefs create our experience to a great extent.

If we find ourselves in war it will be because we no longer know that all are valid equally and do not have to compete for their validity in existance. If we find ourselves in battle it may be due to a dualistic belief system, a prejudicial belief system, a fear based belief system and a belief that potential is in some way limited in this life. Whether we say it is our karma that this is our circumstance, " the moment point" (as Jane Roberts would write) is where we can see our limiting beliefs and change them to harmonise with the unlimited truth of our being, with the truth that we are all a part of each other. Now if we are about to have a spear thrown into our chest we need to act, or if a partner is threatened we must act. Rather than letting it get to that point we need to understand our power to change our circumstance by changing our beliefs. Discussions as this or ancient texts such as the bhagavad gita should help us to start doing this. We are responsible for the situation we are in. Whoever we meet we have scripted in to the play of our experience through our beliefs. If we meet conflict it is due to our inner conflict and our belief we are not able to live as we area in harmony with all that is.

If we kill (though there is no death, there is no slayer and there is no slain) this is our responsibility and if we allow ourselves to be killed this is our responsibility. As there is no death this means really that we intend to slay with such conviction that we immediately reap the pain of that highly developed (or “manifested”) intent. What we do to another we do immediately to ourselves. If we think we have therefor smite the enemy and they are not there anymore all we have done is blinded ourselves to their existance and blinded ourselves to their beauty. We have not actually rid ourselves of the problem, indeed we have created more hardship and pain.

We are able to live in harmony and be well. It is killing to purposefully take antibiotics with the intent to kill bacteria. Bacteria like all that is, is conscious and sentient. If we think we cannot be whole or safe unless we kill we at war constantly. Instead the thing to do would be to find out why we are unwell and heal the spiritual aspect, and the disharmonious belief that has brought the illness. Ilness is just an expression of inner conflict. We do not need to concentrate on killing as this will not heal us nor will it be benefitial anywhere. We need to concentrate on wellness, harmony, love, peace and creative expression of the beauty of our being.

There is no difference between trying to kill bacteria and trying to kill on a battlefield. There is no difference between taking weeds out of your backyard in prejudice to their existance and targeting a group of other humans who you feel to be evil and fighting them. There will not be fullfillment nor answers in this. Most of all it tears at our heart, blanks out our natural compassion and leaves us in a circle of pain and suffering.

No matter what the answer as to whether it is right to kill, it will not be found in whether you get bad karma or not. The answer will be found in realising your love and your loving truth. The loving truth is that all is beauty and all is self, (or God, or whatever name you give it). The only answers come when you are in love with what is felt to be “the other” (even when in truth there is no other than self). It is fully practical to work on beliefs to change your reality so as not to find yourself in war and not to need to then defend yourself or another in a way which is violent in turn.