Killing without anger in EBT

Indeed that is strange :pray: if you live a secluded life with no responsibility, then indeed killing any living being doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.
But those who live an active life in the real word, even a Buddhist king like Ashoka or a Buddhist monk-politician like His Holiness the Dalai Lama, in some case consider killing necessary (see OP)

Well, Ven @sujato seems to have collected a resource to help out Buddhists facing the dilemma of military service! I haven’t been able to go through it yet, but here it is. Perhaps it can provide some food for thought!

resource-package-related-to-buddhist-chaplaincy.pdf (704.2 KB)


Interesting compilation, thanks for sharing!

thanks :pray: I am going to read it.
I was thinking about today’s geopolitical questions, and whether Buddhism can help in seeing what is right or wrong.
Things like the terrorist attacks we have in Europe at the moment, the strange things happening in the US election where there’s a big risk of people being inflamed by one of the candidates to commit acts of violence, of the risk of a US -China war in the coming years.
What does Buddhism teach in those real cases? Should one abstain from all violence in all cases? What does that even mean in practice when facing a terrorist like the ones in France and Austria in recent weeks?

Following the precepts is something one voluntarily takes on, they are not commandments. At the same time, there are consequences for our actions… bright, dark and in between kamma…the trick is to find a skilful path, in keeping with our ultimate goal.
The Buddha said that each person should endeavour to do their duty and fulfil their responsibilities as best as they can. Not everyone chooses to be a monk or to seek Nibbana after all… :wink:


The EBTs are our source of what the Buddha taught. Attaining some kind of inner peace will take place as one follows the Buddha’s teachings, but that isn’t the ultimate aim. As @sujato said in another discussion:

As for dealing with the real world, this quote from the Chinese parallel to AN 4.95 can guide us in many life situations::

There are four types of persons: one person aids himself without aiding others, one person aids others without aiding himself, one person neither aids himself nor aids others, and one person aids himself and also aids others.

The person who neither aids himself nor aids others is the most inferior person. [If] a person aids others without aiding himself, he is superior [to that]. If a person aids himself without aiding others, he is superior [to that]. If a person aids himself and also aids others, he is the highest; a person like this is supreme.


“The individual who practices for his/her own benefit and for that of others is, of these four, the foremost,”—AN 4.95

Practicing for the benefit of others means developing the practice so as to be in a position to better help others through wisdom, or perhaps teaching.
The following statement is frequently made at the closing of discourses:

“So, monks, I have opened up the safe, restful path, closed off the false path, … Whatever a teacher should do — seeking the welfare of his disciples, out of sympathy for them — that have I done for you.”—MN 19


[Edited to add: Irene, you asked

The citation you gave for the stories of Ashoka’s post-conversion violence sums up with this disclaimer

For several reasons, scholars say, these stories of persecutions of rival sects by Ashoka appear to be clear fabrications arising out of sectarian propaganda.


That has in fact been done. There is this French writer Éric-Emmanuel Schmidt who wrote a novel called “The Alternative Hypothesis” in English. He tells two life stories of Adolf Hitler next to each other, and develops the “alternative” life into a very moving story of a person who, due to a combination of various circumstances, manages to face the challenges posed by his fears and lack of self-esteem and who is able to go through an amazing development. A worthwhile read!

This is one of the reasons why in my earlier post I said that there is no way for us to know with certainty what course a person’s life will take.


The Buddha in the early texts is very clear that intentionally killing a living being is unwholesome.

I personally find the suttas to be very helpful when dealing with the so-called “real world” because they orient us in the direction we’d like to face. So the Buddha says killing is unwholesome. Ok. Got it.

Now the more important question is, why do people want the texts to support killing? Why can’t beings take responsibility for their actions, whether they’re wholesome, unwholesome, or mixed? If you go back in time and kill Hitler, why can’t you accept that that was unwholesome?


To say that EBTs are for personal development and to attain some inner peace is IMHO an understatement. The inner peace that EBTs talk about is a permanent peace, an escape from Samsaric suffering.
AFAIK there is no real world according to EBTs. By a real world if you mean the earth filled with all kinds of problems , yes there is such a world and it is one created by the mind. The permanent inner peace that EBTs provide is the escape from that mentally created world.
With Metta


This is quite deep. It reminds me of an essay in a recently published book written by a Korean Seon(Zen) Monk. It is a story about ants in a tea room in his monastery. Monks had used dustpans, again and again, to get rid of them without killing, only to face a growing number of ants entered back in the tearoom. One day in such a mess, someone left insecticide spray and ant baits in the tearoom, without using it; apparently, the anonymous could not take the situation but didn’t dare to kill the ants. It seemed that he was not alone. Someone even explicitly said, “Why would I bear karma of killing ants?”

In the end, the author used the tools to block possible entrances into the room, possibly killed the ants, and finally got rid of them. He said, in the earlier days as a monk, he had firmly believed and seen karma, fruit of the karma, and the receiver of the fruit. However as his journey goes, he is no longer sure of such conceptions, but is only sure of the fact that monks cannot share a tearoom with ants.

1 Like

There’s 10 duties of kings (protecting people, eliminating poverty, crime etc). See more in DN27. Then there’s 10 qualities an ideal king should have (generosity, slow to anger etc). If we have a moral ruler, we have a moral country as people take inspiration and examples of morality from the ruler. If we allow killing of tyrants as a way to remove rulers, we allow for chaos in the world. The good people dares not take office for fear of being killed, the bad people end up getting into it more.

In general, I see superhero morality as a good comparison. Buddhist morality is in general superior to superhero morality. However, if even in superhero morality, there’s superheroes who wouldn’t break certain rules, how could Buddhists stoop lower than that? Batman (at least the version I grew up with, eg. Batman begins trilogy) wouldn’t kill the Joker, even after the Joker apparently killed Jason Todd (the second robin), paralysed Barbara Gordon (Batgirl).

There’s personal kamma of killing, which is bad in the long run of samsara, there’s also the societal-political kamma (causation) which can tolerate or intolerant towards certain classes of actions. Many superheroes kills (including the Jedi from Star Wars), that created some expectation of superhero morality works, however, we can always compare superheroes to Buddha.

The Buddha didn’t kill the king who took revenge on the Sakyan race who insulted him. The Buddha tried multiple times to block the road when the prince was leading his army toward, out of respect, for many times, the king turned back the army, but eventually this strategy failed. The Buddha with his psychic powers could easily be like superman to one person by force or violence stop the army. Why didn’t he resort to that? He’s enlightened, there’s no way for him to create bad kamma from that.

He had stronger compassion towards the later generations, compared to his kinfolks. Buddhism as a religion wouldn’t take off if there’s such a taint on the purity of conduct by the Buddha. He is giving an example for later generations to follow, as he knew personally of the many evil consequences of the kamma of killing in one’s personal journey in samsara.

How the general morality of the world behaves depends on how each leaders of countries behave. We believe in being more civilised than war times and the past, with this period of rare long peace in the world (76 years after world war 2). It could take an assassination to trigger a world war (world war 1).

1 Like

This is a relevant thread with respect to the current situation in Myanmar. I’ve been reading and responding to some threads analyzing the ability of the citizens and ethnic peoples of Burma to mount a campaign to defend themselves from the Tatmadaw, as well as to prepare for civil war to allow for the resumption of elected democratic rule in the country.

On one hand, advocating civil war and the integration of the various ethnic armies into a combined army that could take on the Russian-armed Tatmadaw is a massive task, and any civil war will exact many thousands of deaths of young men and women volunteers in these ethnic armies, as well as the torture and deaths of the resistance in the cities. Further, many war analysts see the task of defeating the Tatmadaw as unwinnable, as the Burmese military has advanced weaponry (Russian-made bombers and jets) that the ethnic armies do not have.

Yet, the resistance is strong, and the good people of Burma want to be free and the ethnic peoples want to end decades of war with the Tatmadaw, the Tatmadaw having bombed and burned the ethnic villages for decades, and driven families across the border into refugee camps in Thailand (such as Koung Jor, where I have visited and supported in past years).

The question of support for the civilians in Burma is one of helping to avoid unnecessary deaths, and in a different case, supporting the will of the resistance to fight the Tatmadaw who are by any measure sociopathic in their violence toward the citizens of Myanmar. Helping the small ethnic armies fight the Tatmadaw earns some dark kamma, balanced, in my mind, with the bright kamma of trying to mitigate and end the campaign of terror, torture, and violence wrought by the Tatmadaw for so many years against its own people.


This is a classic dilemma, isn’t it: extremely classic.


To understand what the Dalai Lama said and how this is different from the EBT, it is crucial to comprehend the concept of the bodhisattva in Tibetan Tradition. The bodhisattva makes a promise to come back to each life till all humans and creatures are liberated from Saṃsāra The bodhisattva practically postpones his total liberation to serve, help and compassionately serve others.
In the case of Hitler, the Dalai Lama’s reasoning is not done from the primary teaching of the Buddha but follows the rationale of what I call the path of the bodhisattva, which is very different than in the context of EBT.
In this rationale, the bodhisattva kills Hitler accepting the derived Kamma as an act of compassion towards the millions of humans .
The Buddha does not force people not to kill others, it always tells you the consequence of such actions, as tells you the effects of a heart full of love and kindness, compassion and equanimity.

The issue of such an approach to the idea of the bodhisattva is that people may decide what is good for others based on their deluded views since a bodhisattva is not automatically an enlightened being. Yet an enlightened being will never take voluntary the life of another creature.

EBT focuses always on individuals, not populations or group. Kamma is our own. When you are born you have the general Kamma of bringing human and your own. Yet there is no collective karma. From this point of view, you understand that killing Hitler will only aggravate your Kamma (with a painful, unfortunate, rebirth in the lower planes of existence) but your action will not save the people you think you are saving. Why? Because only the end of the path and total liberation is the end of dukkha.
Instead of killing Hitler, one will probably help more by assisting his victims. In doing so you do something compassionate and at the same time wholesome action.

With metta :pray:


True, a dillema, a problem where mankind never want to solve.
Everytime, man pour fuel to the hot-coal, they know the solution yet their mind never want to solve it.

Have you watched Battle of Algiers (1966 film)? It seems quite relevant for the situation there. My take away is that it’s a high price, and the better battle is to change the minds of the international people to care and denounce the junta rather than to establish a guerrilla terrorist group.


I am hoping that the work that ASEAN is doing will bear some results. So much of what ASEAN does is “back channel” diplomacy, and the fact that the Tatmadaw is attending is, despite the outrage from some, a possible positive. Some ASEAN leaders might be able to persuade the Tatmadaw to stop the terrorism and violence in exchange for some level of formal recognition and a (BS) promise for future elections. It’s a weak and ugly compromise, but as I have told others, anything that will stop the killing of people in the streets and massive refugee suffering is worth the price of concessions.


If we try to investigate OP’s question from the very anecdote of the Dalai Lama, this might be a crucial starting point, although it seems that one should consider nonequivalence between the bodhisattva ideal itself and its Mahayana adaptation. Here, I drop a link to a relevant paper on the theory of compassionate violence and killing in the Mahayana ethics, from Asaṅga to Candrakīrti.

On the auspiciousness of compassionate violence (

1 Like