Non-violence

Having given up violence
Towards beings both timid and strong,
Whoever neither kills nor causes others to kill,
I call a brahmin.

Dhammapada v. 405, translated by Gil Fronsdal

In this verse, the Buddha directs our attention to the ACTIONS of a brahmin (superior person). As in many systems, the first rule is to do no harm. If we aspire to being better people (than we are now), we must keep this goal in mind.

Interestingly, we are advised to give up violence against both the timid and the strong. Obviously, no one should bully people who are less powerful than themselves, although we can witness this phenomenon in many social situations, starting with the schoolyard. But the strong? What can that mean? Does it direct us to forego supporting violence even against President Assad of Syria, who has been responsible for the deaths of over 15,000 of his own people? This is a subject for deep consideration.

Personally, the thought has crossed my mind that certain US supreme court justices could be useful targets for assassination (not by me, of course). This thought is a form of violence, mental violence, and I need to examine this thought until I see the harm in it clearly enough to abandon it completely.

If we are purposely or carelessly mean to others, this is also a form of violence. I’m reminded of Kurt Vonnegut’s book, God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, wherein the following quote was planned as part of a baptismal wish: “There’s only one rule that I know of, babies — God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”

How does violence creep into our thoughts? Can we notice when it does — notice how it makes us feel and why any results coming from these thoughts are detrimental to ourselves and others?

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