Skip to main content

Civil War and the Purpose of Buddhist Prayers

Through out history, the only way for someone to forcibly takeover a country was through intrigue and bloodshed.

In fact, some of history's greatest rulers (Alexander the Great, Attila the Hun, Shaka Zulu, etc.) were also it's greatest killers; men who walked on the corpses of their enemies to reach the throne.

If one looks at the United States, they see more of the same.  The genocide of Native Americans, the enslavement of black Africans,  and the mistreatment of women were all done to solidify power in the hands of a chosen few.

Thus, the fact that 46 men have been elected to become president of the United States and none of them had to kill or chase off their predecessor is remarkable.

Regardless of one's political stance, the fact that our country can pick a leader, and then pick a new one in four years in the same way that one might pick a melon in the super market is cause for celebration.  It's proof that we live in a functioning democracy, and that while our country isn't perfect, it's doing some things right.

Unfortunately, not everyone sees it that way.  Now that the election is over, and president-elect Joe Biden is slated to take office, there's a growing contingent of people calling for civil war. They're so incensed that the election didn't go their way, that they'd rather destroy our country than wait four years to run a different candidate for president.

I've been to war.  I served in both Iraq and Afghanistan during my time with the Marine Corps.  I've seen what wars do to people and societies.  Part of me wonders if these people know what war is, the other part wonders if they care.

The most likely answer is, "no".  Buddhism teaches us that desire is the cause of suffering.  When our mind is clouded by greed, anger, and ignorance (the three poisons that are birthed by desire), we don't see the world clearly.  We stop caring about the consequences of our actions, and we focus on getting what we want by any means necessary.

In his wisdom, Buddha planned for times like these.  He was the son of monarch, and he knew the terrible cost of war.  His homeland was invaded several times, and his family, the Sakya clan, was wiped out as a result.

So, Buddha made peacefulness a central part of his teachings.  At a minimum, if a person wants to join the Buddhist sangha, they must take the 5 lay precepts which go as follows:

  • I vow to abstain from killing
  • I vow to abstain from stealing
  • I vow to abstain from abusing sexuality
  • I vow to abstain from lying/ gossiping
  • I vow to abstain from abusing intoxicants

It's hard to imagine someone making war on their neighbors if they abided by these precepts!  However, Buddha's devotion to peace wasn't just an intellectual exercise.  

Over the centuries, his teachings have been codified in a series of rituals; involving chanting, sitting, prayer, and prostrations that work for the benefit of all beings.

Each time we bow to the Buddha on our altar we bow to the Buddha within our neighbor.  Each time we chant the Metta Sutta, praying that all beings be happy, healthy, and safe, we develop deep compassion.  

And as we use the power of prayer to create change in the world, we also create change within ourselves.  Transforming our bodies and minds until they're incapable of harming others.

This is important in today's political climate.  When news outlets and talking heads are calling for civil war, when people are fighting in the streets, that's when we must rely on the Dharma to sustain us.  We must put our faith in rituals that have been passed down for 2,600 years, so we don't succumb to the urge to fight.

As the rest of our country clamors for war, we must sit on our cushions, and pray for peace.

Namu Amida Butsu


 If you enjoyed this essay, you'll love my book!




Civil War and the Purpose of Buddhist Prayers


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Crooked Trees and New Year's Resolutions

There was an old Buddhist priest who ran a small temple at the top of a hillside.  He'd spent several decades chanting, praying, and providing spiritual support to his community, but the time had come for him to retire.  Sadly, the priest did not have any children that he could give the temple too. So, he put together a small wooden sign, and placed it in from of a withered, crooked tree that was growing outside the gates of his temple.  The sign said, "Anyone who can tell me how to fix this tree can have my temple and the land that it resides on." Word spread quickly about the sign, and monks came from all over the country to offer advice.  Some told the priest that he should cut the tree down.  Others suggested the use of wires and ropes to straighten its branches.   The old priest listened patiently to each person, and when they were done he grabbed a frying pan and chased each one from the temple grounds. Many years passed, and it started to seem li

Confessions of a Hungry Ghost

I moved out of my parent's house at the age of 18.  The ensuing years involved a series of highs and lows as I struggled to find my place in the world. I graduated college with a B.A. in philosophy. I served 8 years in the U.S. Marines.  Then I entered the civilian world and discovered veterans with liberal arts degrees aren't employable. So, I got a room mate and an apartment in a bad part of town.  I was lulled to sleep by the sound of gunshots each night, and I worked a crappy call center job that didn't pay my bills.  I ate canned ravioli three times a day, and friends commented on how skinny I looked. I was hungry and ashamed.  I'd done everything that the school counselors told me was required for success.  I wore suits to interviews,  I looked potential employers in the eye when I shook their hands, and I even spent money I didn't have to

Magic Mushrooms and the Buddha Dharma

You meet all kinds of people on the road.  Some of them are clearly running from something; a past trauma or an action they regret. Others are clearly looking for something; a tribe of like-minded people or a safe place to call home. This results in a strange mix of people ending up in strange places and sharing their lives for any where from a few weeks to a few months.   You part ways knowing that you'll never see each other again despite your endless promises to keep in touch.  But you always remember the people you meet on the road, and your life is usually better for having met them. Case in point, I met a guy named "Fred" when I was farming in Indiana who'd lived an insanely cool life.  He did corporate America for a while, and decided it wasn't for him.  So, he high-tailed it to Vietnam and taught English for several years before deciding that he wanted to become a shaman.  After that, he made his way to Brazil where he wandered fo