Would Buddha kill Hitler?

Via Waylon Lewis
on Mar 17, 2011
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Duh. (See quote at bottom).

Can War or Murder be Moral?

I’ve covered this sort of “tough love” question before. It always comes back to intention: is your action about yourself, or is it service for the benefit of others? Is your action about the letter of the law, or the spirit of kindness?

I’ve made such remarks about activism and veganism being angry, sometimes, too. Their cause may be just, but the means must be peaceful, not just the ends.

Easier said than done for myself, and all of us: that’s why Buddhists call meditation, that fundamental, simple technique for creating peace, “practice.” ~ ed.


Excerpt from Chogyam Trungpa’s Collected Works:

…Sometimes, if he is brave enough, your husband might say to you: “Isn’t there some blame on your side as well? Mightn’t you also have to join in and do something about it?” Or if your wife is brave enough, she will tell you that the situation might have something to do with both of you. If your spouse is somewhat timid and intelligent, he might say, “Both of us are to blame.” But nobody says, “It is you who has to change.” Whenever anybody does say, “It’s your problem, not anybody else’s,” you don’t like it at all. We have a problem with relative bodhichitta here.

The text says: “Drive all blames into one.” The reason you have to do that is because you have been cherishing yourself so much, even at the cost of sacrificing somebody else’s life. You have been cherishing yourself, holding yourself so dearly. Although sometimes you might say that you don’t like yourself, even then in your heart of hearts you know that you like yourself so much that you’re willing to throw everybody else down the drain, down the gutter. You are really willing to do that. You are willing to let somebody sacrifice his life, give himself away for you. And who are you, anyway? So the point is that all blames should be driven into oneself. This slogan is the first slogan connected with viewing your whole life as part of the path of relative bodhichitta.

This slogan does not mean you should not speak up. If you see something that is obviously destructive to everybody, you should speak out. But you can speak out in the form of driving all blames into yourself. The question is how to present it to the authorities. Usually you come at them in an aggressive, traditionally American way. You have been trained to speak for yourself and for others in the democratic style of the “lord of speech.” You come out with placards and complaints: “We don’t like this.” But that only solidifies the authorities even more. There could be a much better way of approaching the whole thing, a more intelligent way. You could say, “Maybe it’s my problem, but personally I find that this water doesn’t taste good.” You and your friends could say, “We don’t feel good about drinking this water.” It could be very simple and straightforward. You don’t have to go through the whole legal trip. You don’t have to use the “lord of speech” approach of making public declarations of all kinds, “Freedom for all mankind!” or anything like that. Maybe you could even bring along your dog or you cat. I think the whole thing could be done very gently.

Obviously, there are social problems, but the way to approach that is not as “I – a rightful political entity,” or as “me – one the important people in society.” Democracy is built on the attitude that I speak out for myself, the invincible me. I speak for democracy. I would like to get my own rights, and I also speak for others’ rights as well. Therefore, we don’t want to have this water. But that approach doesn’t work. The point is that people’s experience of themselves could be gathered together, rather than just having a rally. That is what you do in sitting practice.

In an extreme case, if I happened to find myself in the central headquarters where they push the button that could blow up the planet, I would kill the person who was going to push the button for the bomb right away and without any hesitation. I would take delight in it!



About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now elephantjournal.com & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat." Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword's Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by "Greatist", Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: "the mindful life" beyond the choir & to all those who didn't know they gave a care. elephantjournal.com | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, is now available.


11 Responses to “Would Buddha kill Hitler?”

  1. Antoinette says:

    According to a Jataka tale the Buddha once slit his throat and fed himself to a hungry tigress who he found dying in the woods with her newborn cubs nearby. So on the one hand I think the Buddha could not possibly have ever had the karma to live at a time when there was a hitler, but if he was faced w the choice he would spare suffering by murdering w/great compassion for his victim. Does that seem correct?

  2. Darren G. says:

    perhaps i am wrong. well, since both the persons hitler and buddah are deceased, i guess we will never know. why speculate? how do we, you and me, here and now, handle people like the governor of wisconsin? how do we handle people like the westboro baptist church? how do we deal, here and now, with people who are intent on cutting the poor off at their knees to appease their billionaire backers? how do we deal, right at this moment, with a group of people that bastardize a message of hope and turn it into a message of such vile hatred? it is about us. it is about how we respond.

  3. Padma Kadag says:

    Our tendency is to react as a victim in self survival mode when faced with brutality and or any other negative actions which we experience at the hands of another. Consumed with the self of our own we concern ourselves with protecting this corpse of ours.. When a woman is faced with the brutality of domestic violence in all of it's physical and mental abuse and all of the ramifications…leaving the situation in order to curtail the accumulation of negative karma for the offender would be the best thing to do, the best motivation. It would not be unheard of to do the same, in the form of "liberating" those such as Hitler or Osama Bin Laden, who are unequivocally creating terror for thousands. We should not take Buddhist practice so lightly. We cannot ,of course ,accomplish these actions free from karmic debt if we are not genuinely accomplished.

  4. NotSoSure says:

    Not a Buddhist, but from what I have read/heard about much of the Buddhist community I believe that most Buddhists would say the Buddha would kill Hitler.

    I agree with Darren G above in the fact that the question probably is not relevant. What would Buddha do is as ridiculous and what would Jesus do question? Or in my case what would the FSM do? The people who answer the previous questions are in actuality projecting their thoughts/feeling onto the Buddha/Jesus/FSM.

    A person can memorize all the appropriate texts pertaining to their historical figure of choice but that textual knowledge could never answer these types of hypothetical questions with any guarantee of accuracy. Maybe that is the true point of these questions. Not so much to answer for the historical figure but to illuminate the thought process of the person who provides an answer.

  5. clyde says:

    Didn't some king let himself get sucked dry by mosquitoes after giving away all his things, including his kids and wife? Wouldn't Buddha just zap Hitler with a rainbow smile?

  6. elephantjournal says:

    The title is, obviously, dealing in symbolism. Did you read the post that follows? The question: can war or murder ever be moral or of benefit, is a serious and scary one.

  7. elephantjournal says:

    Uh…that quote's in the article, Benjamin..! It was the whole inspiration for my questioning.

  8. elephantjournal says:

    Love it.

  9. BenRiggs says:

    Oh yeah, I know that. I meant when I saw the title on FB that quote popped into my head. Great article!

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