Isn't joining military or any government service which can force us to inflict pain on other human beings wrong?

I also think compulsory military service in many countries isn’t compatible with Buddhsim principles


Any military service under unrighteous leaders is considered an addendum to killing. What kind of ants are you building the anthill for, anyway? Let’s be Buddhists and if any necessity of inflicting defending a nation needs to occur, it is determined that the nation must be sovereign to be successful in protecting itself. Otherwise another nation under righteous leadership must step in to ease tensions. Peace is the number one priority.

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Remember the Buddha taught a doctrine of conditionality rather than the absolute or permanent in regards to things/phenomena. This applies to judgements such as arbitrary right and wrong. Instead we see a doctrine of cause and effect - certain actions by body, speech and mind lead to beneficial outcomes for oneself (and impact on others as conditions) both in the present and in the future, and certain actions lead to unbeneficial outcomes. All Beings are the inheritors of their own kamma.
It is not a simple thing to determine, as the conditions and intentions etc all play a part. There can be a single action - that could either lead to beneficial or unbeneficial or a mix of the two.

Right View is gradually developed over the course of practice, going from an absolutist and permanent view of things/phenomena to one of conditionality.

May all Beings be at peace :slight_smile: :pray: :sunflower: :butterfly: :sparkling_heart:


Does a righteous person have a right to order killing of others whom he considers unrighteous?
So, according to you the First Buddhist precept " Panatipata veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami is conditional?


Tell me whether this is absolutist view or not

"Monks, even if bandits were to carve you up savagely, limb by limb, with a two-handled saw, he among you who let his heart get angered even at that would not be doing my bidding. Even then you should train yourselves: ‘Our minds will be unaffected and we will say no evil words. We will remain sympathetic, with a mind of good will, and with no inner hate. We will keep pervading these people with an awareness imbued with good will and, beginning with them, we will keep pervading the all-encompassing world with an awareness imbued with good will — abundant, expansive, immeasurable, free from hostility, free from ill will.’ That’s how you should train yourselves.— MN 21


As the Buddha said, fighting in a war is against the Dharma, killing only leads to more killing, and joining military action, no matter how “righteous” or defensive - is against the Dharma.

As the war in Ukraine broke out, I’ve seen a lot of opinions being bandied about regarding Buddhism and war on various Buddhist spaces. Some people are reacting and upset that Buddhism does not support their idea of just war.

But the Buddha was pretty clear about what he thought about war, ‘righteous’ or not, defensive or not.

Victory and defeat are equally bad:

“Victory breeds enmity; the defeated sleep badly. The peaceful sleep at ease, having left victory and defeat behind.” SN 3.14

Killing just leads to more killing:

“A man goes on plundering as long as it serves his ends. But as soon as others plunder him, the plunderer is plundered.

For the fool thinks they’ve got away with it so long as their wickedness has not ripened. But as soon as that wickedness ripens, they fall into suffering.

A killer creates a killer; a conqueror creates a conqueror; an abuser creates abuse, and a bully creates a bully. And so as deeds unfold the plunderer is plundered.” - SN 3.15

Warriors all go to hell and remember, in hell, you will not be able to help anyone:

When a warrior strives and struggles in battle, their mind is already low, degraded, and misdirected as they think: ‘May these sentient beings be killed, slaughtered, slain, destroyed, or annihilated!’ His foes kill him and finish him off, and when his body breaks up, after death, he’s reborn in the hell called ‘The Fallen’. SN 42.3

Hatred and violence are never the answer to being abused:

“They abused me, they hit me! They beat me, they robbed me!” For those who bear such a grudge, hatred never ends.

“They abused me, they hit me! They beat me, they robbed me!” For those who bear no such grudge, hatred has an end.

For never is hatred settled by hate, it’s only settled by love: this is an ancient law.

Others don’t understand that here we need to be restrained. But those who do understand this, being clever, settle their conflicts. - Dhammapada

The Buddha pleads with us not to kill:

All tremble at the rod, all fear death. Treating others like oneself, neither kill nor incite to kill.

All tremble at the rod, all love life. Treating others like oneself, neither kill nor incite to kill.

Creatures love happiness, so if you harm them with a stick in search of your own happiness, after death you won’t find happiness.

Creatures love happiness, so if you don’t hurt them with a stick in search of your own happiness, after death you will find happiness. - Dhammapada

The best victory is one over oneself:

The supreme conqueror is not he who conquers a million men in battle, but he who conquers a single man: himself.

It is surely better to conquer oneself than all those other folk. When a person has tamed themselves, always living restrained, no god nor fairy, nor Māra nor Brahmā, can undo the victory of such a one. - Dhammapada

Furthermore, all beings have been our parents, and so we should never kill them:

It’s not easy to find a sentient being who in all this long time has not previously been your mother… or father … or brother … or sister … It’s not easy to find a sentient being who in all this long time has not previously been your son or daughter. Why is that? Transmigration has no known beginning. No first point is found of sentient beings roaming and transmigrating, hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving. For such a long time you have undergone suffering, agony, and disaster, swelling the cemeteries. This is quite enough for you to become disillusioned, dispassionate, and freed regarding all conditions.” - SN 15.14-19

Even if you are being sliced into pieces, violence is never the answer, metta and compassion is the answer:

Even if low-down bandits were to sever you limb from limb, anyone who had a malevolent thought on that account would not be following my instructions. If that happens, you should train like this: ‘Our minds will remain unaffected. We will blurt out no bad words. We will remain full of compassion, with a heart of love and no secret hate. We will meditate spreading a heart of love to that person. And with them as a basis, we will meditate spreading a heart full of love to everyone in the world—abundant, expansive, limitless, free of enmity and ill will.’ That’s how you should train. - MN 21

IMO, A Buddhist in a war zone has many options for direct action, helping the wounded, rescue jobs, firefighting, other humanitarian work, taking people to safety, distributing food, and so on. I am not saying that Buddhist should just stand by and do nothing. But according to the Buddhadharma, killing other sentient beings in a war is never an option and it is directly against the teachings of the Buddha.

If we don’t stand for our principles now, then they never really meant anything.


Yes I agree. What is the point in having principles and a moral code if they are dropped in the most difficult of circumstances? The first precept is not to kill. It’s not not to kill unless x, y or z.


It is not an absolutist view. To think of it as an absolutist view is to praise the Tathāgata through trivia:

"It is, bhikkhus, only to trifling and insignificant matters, to the minor details of mere moral virtue, that a worldling would refer when speaking in praise of the Tathāgata. And what are those trifling and insignificant matters, those minor details of mere moral virtue, to which he would refer?

"‘Having abandoned the destruction of life, the recluse Gotama abstains from the destruction of life. He has laid aside the rod and the sword, and dwells conscientious, full of kindness, compassionate for the welfare of all living beings.’ It is in this way, bhikkhus, that the worldling would speak when speaking in praise of the Tathāgata.

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I agree with everything. Best answer so far.


Totally agree . I am so grateful that even in this day and age there are wise people like you who understand truly what Buddha meant.


You might be interested in this discussion here, about King Bimbasara’s participation in war.

There are these people who decide to abuse women and children in horrific ways. If you do not take up arms to protect the Dhamma and Sangha and Buddha in such a scenario, you would be considered a coward in the eyes of the Buddha mind which came to save the innocents. Martial Arts is especially created for this reason to stop wars and train skilled fighters. Namaste.

“If someone has a gun and is trying to kill you, it would be reasonable to shoot back with your own gun. Not at the head, where a fatal wound might result. But at some other body part, such as a leg.”


― Dalai Lama XIV

The purpose of training skilled fighters and non lethal force during combat both in military and non war zones is to prevent the act of killing. But letting those who decide to use brutal violence against innocents is the most abominable conclusion. There are many alternatives to lethal force, some secret military and civilian police equipment can often be used. This is a pathway most strived for for sovereign countries.

There is an excellent and thoughtful discussion on the topic as applied to the war in Myanmar. Bhikkhu Bodhi presents a compassionate and nuanced exploration of the realities of living in violent conditions such as war, and how to understand the Buddhas teachings in those circumstances.

With much metta :sparkling_heart:


This is the kind of stuff I was talking about…


Buddha would have never said this. This is wrong on so many levels.

Indeed, one must remember that he and many of the bhiksus probably had some knowledge of battle, and when the Sakyans were invaded, he could have led them to disrobe and take up arms if he wished.

He did not

He let his country be conquered and did not take up arms to violently stop it, even though he was the leader of a large group of able bodied men.

This is a lesson

The Dharma goes against the stream, against the opinion of the world. If you uphold the Dharma, expect to be seen as irrational and unreasonable in certain situations. This is one of these.

All the same, Buddhists should not be passive in these situations.

And no, I don’t care what the Dalai Lama or Bhikkhu Bodhi says, I care about what the Buddha says. Much respect for these figures, but I respect the Buddha more.


I do not judge people who take up arms in self defense, nor do I judge people who refuse to do so out of pacifist principles. I find much compassion in this non-judgement. and that’s good enough for me :pray: :heart:

In this article Bhikkhu Bodhi reflected how a Buddhist should do to face the moral dilemma of joining military service in war time:

The moral tensions we encounter in real life should caution us against interpreting Buddhist ethical prescriptions as unqualified absolutes. And yet the texts of early Buddhism themselves never recognize circumstances that might soften the universality of a basic precept or moral value. To resolve the dissonance between the moral idealism of the texts and the pragmatic demands of everyday life, I would posit two frameworks for shaping moral decisions. I will call one the liberative framework, the other the pragmatic karmic framework.

The liberative framework applies to those who seek to advance undeterred as rapidly as possible toward the final goal of the Dharma, the extinction of suffering. Within this framework—which proceeds through the threefold training of moral conduct, concentration, and wisdom—refraining from intentionally inflicting harm on living beings (especially human beings) is a strict obligation not to be transgressed through any “door of action,” body, speech or mind. A strict regimen of nonharming is inviolable. If one is subject to conscription, one must become a conscientious objector or even go to prison when there is no alternative. If one is confronted with the choice between sacrificing one’s own life and taking the life of another, one must be willing to sacrifice one’s own life, confident this act of renunciation will expedite one’s progress.

The pragmatic karmic framework serves as a matrix of moral reflection for those committed to Buddhist ethical values who seek to advance toward final liberation gradually, over a series of lives, rather than directly. Its emphasis is on cultivating wholesome qualities to further one’s progress within the cycle of rebirths while allowing one to pursue one’s worldly vocation. In this framework the moral prescriptions of the teaching have presumptive rather than peremptory validity. One who adopts this framework would recognize that the duties of daily life occasionally call for compromises with the strict obligations of the Buddhist moral code. While still esteeming the highest moral standards as an ideal, such a practitioner would be ready to make occasional concessions as a practical necessity. The test of integrity here is not unwavering obedience to moral rules but a refusal to subordinate them to narrow self-interest.

In time of war, I would argue, the karmic framework can justify enlisting in the military and serving as a combatant, providing one sincerely believes the reason for fighting is to disable a dangerous aggressor and protect one’s country and its citizens. Any acts of killing that such a choice might require would certainly be regrettable as a violation of the First Precept. But a mitigating factor would be the Buddha’s psychological understanding of karma as intention, whereby the moral quality of the motive determines the ethical value of the action. Since a nation’s purposes in resorting to arms may vary widely—just like a person’s motives for participating in war—this opens up a spectrum of moral valuations. When the motive is territorial expansion, material wealth or national glory, the resort to war would be morally blameworthy. When the motive is genuine national defense or to prevent a rogue nation from disrupting global peace, moral evaluation would have to reflect these intentions.

Nevertheless, if one relies solely on canonical statements, the volition of harming others would always be considered “wrong intention” and all acts of destroying life classed as unwholesome. But what moral judgment are we to make when citizens participate in a defensive war to protect their country and fellow citizens, or other peaceful nations, from attack by a vicious aggressor? Suppose we are living in the 1940s when Hitler is pursuing his quest for global domination. If I join a combat unit, is my participation in this war to be considered morally reprehensible though my purpose is to block the murderous campaign of a ruthless tyrant? Can we say that fidelity to the Dharma obliges us to remain passive in the face of brute aggression, or to pursue negotiations when it’s plain these will not work? Wouldn’t we maintain that in this situation military action to stop the aggressor is laudable, even obligatory, and that a soldier’s actions can be judged morally commendable? By the same token, if a policeman, in pursuit of his duty, is compelled to shoot a killer to spare the lives of innocent people, would we not consider his action commendable rather than blameworthy?
Hesitantly, I would have to adopt this latter position. In doing so, I must add that I am not seeking to condone any of the wars in which the U.S. is currently involved under the pretext of “defending our freedom,” or to excuse the often brutal behavior of our hypermilitarized police force. Taking life is always the last choice, and a most regrettable one. But it seems to me that in a morally complex world, our choices and judgments must reflect the morally knotty texture of the situations that confront us.

I admit that I can’t justify my standpoint by appeal to Buddhist texts, whether canonical or commentarial. It thus seems to me that the ethics of early Buddhism simply do not cover all the predicaments of the human situation. Perhaps that was never their intention. Perhaps their intention is to serve as guidelines rather than as moral absolutes, to posit ideals even for those who cannot perfectly fulfill them. Nevertheless, the complexity of the human condition inevitably presents us with circumstances where moral obligations run at crosscurrents. In such cases, I believe, we must simply do our best to navigate between them, rigorously examining our own motives and aspiring to reduce harm and suffering for the greatest number of those at risk.

Same with me. Couldn’t agree more with you

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