SuttaCentral

The State as Violating Nonviolence


#21

I understand that you are unhappy about it and want to change it.


#22

Not quite. I cannot be happy about it; I do think it will change, which might reduce some types of suffering for some, while not necessarily freeing anyone from suffering entirely. One example, for exploration of Dhamma.
Mostly, as the moment, I hope you move towards compassion. As far as I know, is intrinsic in moving forward towards liberation.


#23

Rajjasutta

The Buddha wonders whether it is possible to rule justly, without violence.

“Is it possible to exercise rulership righteously: without killing and without instigating others to kill, without confiscating and without instigating others to confiscate, without sorrowing and without causing sorrow?”

Māra appears and encourages the Buddha to purse such a path. The Buddha deny it…

Having known acquisition as a tie in the world,
A person should train for its removal.


#24

I feel like I have to add one thing to this: from any perspective, the state violates the principle of nonviolence. Any state, any time, anywhere is based on violence from the ground up.


#25

I don’t think this is true. This line of reasoning is faulty as it implies that in any given situation there is always a way of action that will lead to no kammic punishment and no suffering for everyone involved. It is obviously false. You can come up with plenty of situations where violence is justified. Imagine someone abusing another person right in front of your eyes, so if you don’t interfere they will suffer great damage or death, and it is pretty obvious that all options of defending that person by non-violence means are off the table. Imagine police storming a house where a known spree killer on drugs has barricaded themselves with a gun, and this offender starts shooting your fellow police officers. Imagine a rabid dog about to attack someone you see on the road while driving by in your car. All of these things are pretty good justifications for violence in my eyes.

However, violence is never a good thing. It will always cause suffering to the being you direct it against, and you will always suffer kammic punishment for violence (as well as kammic reward for your good intentions) because kamma is impersonal, it’s just a law of nature like gravity.

Life is a female canine, so every single one of us will find themselves in a situation where there is no good, kammically impeccable course of action to take. There will always be situations where we’ll have to choose between committing two kinds of kammic offenses, and sometimes applying violence will definitely be the better choice.

Takng into account all of the above, you can argue that a more or less democratic state with a half-way functioning system of checks and balances having the monopoly on violence is a better thing than giving other people the right to commit violence most of the time. It is never a good thing, it will always lead to death, pain and suffering, there will be racism, unjust killings and other crimes committed by people representing this state, but all in all it will be a better thing than not having this system at all.

We should combat the violence in any form it exists in, but we should also be realistic in that it will always exist in samsara, and in some situations it will be unavoidable.


#26

The notion “violence is never justified” can be true if taken as a guiding principle. However, the notion itself begets justification for it to be persuasive.

The issue of justification comes into play when the actor an the action are assumed to be two different things, which is essential to having free will. Free will is the ability to reflect on the consequences of either action or inaction. From that perspective, kamma is not only what we do, but also what we do not do.

The problem with following the line of justifications is that its a closed system, as for any justification of existence would be through reference to worldly attachments, which is in itself a reinforcement of the same miserable existence, and this goes on and on ad infinitum.


#27

I think Buddhists in today may have to learn to be both carefully and critically to protect themselves. Traditional Buddhists may help people to see their true enemies are internal, mental issues. But Buddhist communities possibly need to know not only internal enemies but also external enemies. They may have to be well aware of external-extremist threats as real not something far away from them. Remember and consider why Indian Buddhism in history entirely declined in India.