The Urban Dharma Newsletter - June 2, 2006
In This Issue: Buddhism, War and Peace
1. New Feature Film "10 QUESTIONS FOR THE DALAI LAMA"
2. Al Gore’s new movie “An Inconvenient Truth”
3. WORLD RELIGIONS: WAR AND PEACE
4. Buddhism and War / The Six Realms and What Bodhisattvas Do in Each One
5. Buddhism & The Soldier - by Major General Ananda Weerasekera
6. Movies on Peace and War Issues Recommended by Quakers
1. New Feature Film "10 QUESTIONS FOR THE DALAI LAMA" Premieres in Hollywood on June 10th
View the Film and Meet the Filmmaker
A new documentary film called "10 Questions For The Dalai Lama" will be making it's world premiere at the Moondance film festival on Saturday June 10 at 6pm at the Raleigh Studios on Melrose in Hollywood. The film centers around an interview granted to filmmaker Rick Ray, in which he was given the opportunity to ask ten questions of His Holiness the Dalai Lama at his monastery in Dharamsala, India. More than just a question and answer session, the film also focuses on capturing the spirit of the Dalai Lama - his humor as well as his wisdom, intellect, and compassion. The film provides a historical context featuring rare archival footage as well as footage supplied by individuals who filmed with hidden cameras inside Tibet.
Test screenings for the film have had **fantastic turn-out**, and we’re excited to have been an official selection of the Moondance Film Festival to give Los Angeles viewers the opportunity to come see this film. Filmmakers Rick and Sharon Ray will be on hand after the screening for Q & A.
Beyond the Moondance Film Festival, the film has just been made an official selection of the Australian International Film Festival and the Globians Film Festival in Germany (and 10 Questions was also chosen to be the opening night selection for both these festivals). The film's original music score, written by two-time grammy nominee Peter Kater, will be distributed by Silverwave Records on October 1.
Showtime: "10 QUESTIONS FOR THE DALAI LAMA" at the Moondance Film Festival in Hollywood
When: Saturday, June 10, 6pm
Where: Raleigh Studios - Chaplin Theater. Raleigh Studios is located in Hollywood at Van Ness and Melrose Avenues, adjacent to the Paramount Studios (www.raleighstudios.com).
Tickets: tickets available through the Moondance Film Festival web site at:
Please note!!! The Chaplin Theater only has 160 seats - please order your tickets early to guarantee a seat. Many pre-screenings of the film have had more than 300 attendees and some have been sold-out.
— — —
Why do the poor often seem happier than the rich? Must a society lose its traditions in order to move into the future? How do you reconcile a commitment to non-violence when faced with violence?
These are some of the questions posed to His Holiness the Dalai Lama by filmmaker and explorer Rick Ray. In his brand new film "10 QUESTIONS FOR THE DALAI LAMA", Ray examines some of the fundamental questions of our time by weaving together observations from his own journeys throughout India and the Middle East, and the wisdom of an extraordinary spiritual leader.
Web site at: http://www.10questionsforthedalailama.com
2. Al Gore’s new movie “An Inconvenient Truth” - Visit us at: www.kyotousa.org - KyotoUSA
800 Hearst Avenue Berkeley, CA 94710
Al Gore’s new movie “An Inconvenient Truth” is generating a lot of buzz about global warming. It’s also providing us with an opportunity to talk to people about how they can get involved in reducing their own carbon footprint and encouraging their cities, workplaces, religious institutions, and schools to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. According to the movie's website (www.climatecrisis.net) it will be shown in at least 400 theaters in the coming weeks. Take a moment to review the website – it provides some useful information and tips on how to reduce your GHGs and others ways to get involved. Paramount Classics is also donating 5% of ticket sales (guaranteed $500,000) to the Alliance for Climate Protection (allianceforclimateprotection.org/), a newly formed national non-profit that has some big names associated with it.
Please try to get out and see the film. I found it to be well researched and presented. Gore makes a solid, science-based argument for why it is imperative that we all become more deeply committed to reducing our reliance on fossil fuel energy.
Our friends at the Climate Crisis Coalition (www.climatecrisiscoalition.org/) and the U.S. Climate Emergency Council have sent along some materials that can be used at the theater for organizing within your community. These organizations are urging theaters to show the film and are asking theater owners if they can make a brief statement before the film in an effort to get theater-goers involved. Please contact me for the materials and to discuss how you might adapt them for use in your hometown. The materials can be used to begin petitioning your city, county or state government to enact policies that would result in energy conservation and the development of more renewable energy sources.
On another note – most of Alameda County’s cities (and the County itself) are moving ahead with a program that will help them quantify their greenhouse gas emissions and make plans for their reductions. Even though the majority of the costs for this program were provided by StopWaste.org, the County’s waste management agency, not every city in the County signed on. Their failure to do so is pretty good evidence that citizen interest in local action is essential to motivating our elected officials. Once the final tally of cities is complete, I’ll provide a contact list for the cities that deserve a big THANK YOU and for those that need EVEN MORE encouragement. Visit us at: www.kyotousa.org
800 Hearst Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94710
3. WORLD RELIGIONS: WAR AND PEACE
Many wars have been fought with religion as their stated cause, and with peace as their hoped-for end.
What follows is a very brief summary of what the world’s major religions say about war - and peace. Of course, religious beliefs are often complicated; individuals and groups within each religion often have different views; and religious affiliation is often closely associatedwith partisan emotions.
A summary can only give a very limited picture. But it can open a door to understanding the links between religion and war.
1. War: wrong, just or holy?
Put simply, there are three possible views of war that a religion might adopt.
The pacifist view: all violence and killing is wrong.
Belief in 'a Just War': some wars, at least, are right because they are perceived to be in the interests of justice - and should therefore be fought according to just rules.
Belief in 'Holy War': the God of a religion is perceived to ask, or command, its followers to make war on those who do not believe in that religion and who pose a threat to those who do.
2. Supporting non-violence
Three major world religons have their roots in India: Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism. Buddhism and Sikhism both grew from Hinduism. All three share the idea of non-violence (ahimsa).
The term 'non-violence' was actually coined in English (about 1920) by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (1869-1948) as a direct translation of ‘ahimsa’, 'avoiding harm to others'. The idea of non-violence was very important to Mahatma Gandhi’s thinking and actions as a Hindu leader during India's approach to independence in 1947. He wrote:
‘I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.’
Hinduism is perhaps the oldest world religion; in some of its writings ahimsa has been considered the highest duty from the beginning of time. Jainism also grew out of Hinduism; Jainists believe that people should strive to become detached from the distractions of worldly existence; and that the practice of ahimsa is an essential step on the way to personal salvation.
In Hinduism, however, there is another tradition. The Hindu scripture called the 'Bhagavad Gita' tells the story of Arjuna, who learns it is his duty to fight as a member of the soldier caste. Arjuna is told by his chariot driver Krishna, who is really the god Vishnu in human form, that:
‘Even without you, all the soldiers standing armed for battle will not stay alive. Their death is foreordained.’ Bhagavad Gita 11:32-3
In the story Arjuna overcomes his doubts and fights, even though he knows it means killing some of his own family. Strict rules, however, are laid down for war: cavalry may only go into action against cavalry, infantry against infantry and so on. The wounded, runaways, and all civilians are to be respected. The idea of a Just War is represented here.
How did Gandhi deal with this story in a scripture he loved? He thought of it as an allegory, and interpreted it as meaning that one should certainly engage in struggle, but only by means of non-violence. Certainly one should not kill anyone. However, not all Hindus interpret the story in Gandhi’s way.
‘Hatred is never appeased by hatred in this world; it is appeased by love.’ (Dhammapada I 5)
Buddhism developed from the teaching of Siddhartha Gautama, called the Buddha (c.563 - 483 BC), who believed that human suffering could be overcome by following a particular way of life. The first precept of Buddhism is 'non-harming' (ahimsa): Buddhists reject violence. Buddhism is clearly pacifist in its teaching, and many Buddhists say quite bluntly that it is ‘better to be killed than to kill’. Some Buddhists have been very active in promoting peace, particularly during the Vietnam War (1961- 1975), when they offered a 'Third Way' of reconciliation between the American and Communist armies. Some Buddhist monks burned themselves to death in self-sacrificing protest against the war.
Buddhism perhaps has the best record of all religions for non-violence. However, Buddhists in Sri Lanka have been criticised for oppressing the Tamil minority there (Tamils are a mostly Hindu people whose origins are in southern India)
Buddhism, like all religions, seeks to be ethical. Confucianism and Taoism, which both developed in China, also share similar principles with Buddhism. For example, they seek to adjust human life to the inner harmony of nature (Confucianism) and emphasise mediation and non-violence as means to the higher life (Taoism). The founders of these religions, Confucius and Lao-Tsze, lived in the same period as Buddha, the 6th century BC.
Guru Nanak (1469-1534), the first Sikh Guru (a guru is a spiritual teacher, a revered instructor) wrote this hymn:
‘No one is my enemy
No one is a foreigner
With all I am at peace
God within us renders us
Incapable of hate and prejudice.’
He too emphasised the importance of non-violence and the equality of all humans whatever their religion (he was particularly concerned to reconcile Hinduism and Islam). But this pacifist emphasis changed as persecution against the Sikhs developed. The sixth Guru said:
In the Guru’s house, religion and worldly enjoyment should be combined - the cooking pot to feed the poor and needy and the sword to hit oppressors.
The tenth and last Guru, Guru Gobind Singh (1666-1708) was a general as well as a Guru. In order to strengthen the courage and military discipline of the Sikhs at a time of great persecution, he organised the Khalsa - the Sikh brotherhood. Guru Gobind Singh expressed the idea of 'Just War' as follows:
‘When all efforts to restore peace prove
useless and no words avail,
Lawful is the flash of steel,
It is right to draw the sword.’
But the idea of 'Holy War' is not found in Sikhism. A central teaching of Sikhism is respect for people of all faiths.
3. Holy Warriors
Three world religions with their roots in the Middle East adopted, at some stages of their history, the idea of a 'Holy War', as well as that of a 'Just War'.
They shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall theylearn war any more’. (The Old Testament: Isaiah 2:4)
Peace is the central teaching of rabbinical Judaism (teachings based on the writings of early Jewish scholars). However, Judaism is not a pacifist religion. The idea of Holy War occurs in the Hebrew Bible, but it was not about making others Jewish, but about survival.
The idea of 'Just War' is clearly expressed both in the Old Testament (see Deuteronomy 20:10-15,19-20) and in the later rabbinical tradition. So while revenge and unprovoked aggression are condemned, self defence is justified. Jews have been victims of dreadful persecution, usually at the hands of Christians, for nearly two thousand years, culminating in the Holocaust during the Second World War (1939-1945). On the other hand, defending modern Israel and dealing justly with the Palestinians places thoughtful Jews in difficult dilemmas.
Christianity, during its 2,000 year history, has taken up all three positions on war: Pacifism, Just War and Crusade or Holy War. Jesus’ teachings in the Sermon on the Mount (The New Testament: Matthew 5 - 7) are very clearly non-violent: for example, ‘blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God’ (Matthew 5:9) and ‘love your enemies’ (Matthew 5:44).
Pacifism was the teaching and practice of the Christian Church until the Roman Emperor Constantine (274-337) made Christianity the official religion of the Empire. Pacifism then largely gave way to the development of the 'Just War' doctrine. Politics and religion were able to endorse each other in going to war.
In the Middle Ages the Crusades were fought mainly to recover the Holy Land (the area between the Mediterranean and the river Jordan) from Muslim rule. Today most Christians would be ashamed of the terrible cruelty and injustice to which the Crusades gave rise. Most Christians would also be ashamed of the later persecution of heretics (people who did not accept the official teachings of the Christian church) and non-Christians (such as Jews).
The majority of present-day Christians support the idea that war is regrettable but unavoidable and should be fought according to 'Just War' rules. Pacifism is a minority position held by some Christians in the larger denominations (Roman Catholic, Church of England, Methodist, etc.). The Quakers, Mennonites, Amish and Hutterites together make up the historical 'peace churches', with a long tradition of pacifist belief and action.
The question remains: which position on war is the most faithful to the teaching of Jesus, who advised his followers to ‘turn the other cheek’ and who, when arrested, forbade a disciple to use a sword?
'Islam' means 'submission' or 'surrender' to the will of God (Allah). Its founder was the prophet Mohammed (c.570-632), who recorded his understanding of the word of Allah in the Islamic sacred book, the Qur'an.
Islamic teaching is often misunderstood in the West, particularly on the matter ofJihad. What does Jihad mean? One scholar wrote: 'Jihad means to ‘strive’ or ‘struggle’ in the way of God.' Jihad has two further meanings:
- the duty of all Muslims, as individuals and as a community, to exert themselves to realise God’s will, to lead good lives, and to extend the Islamic community through such things as preaching and education,
- 'Holy War' for, or in defence of, Islam.
In the West Jihad has retained only the meaning of 'Holy War'.
However, it is more correct to say that there are four different kinds of Jihad::
- personal spiritual and moral struggle in order to overcome self-centredness and follow the teachings of the Qur’an;
- calm preaching and
- righteous behaviour that witness to the unbeliever about the
way of Islam; and
- war against those who oppress or persecute believers.
All faithful Muslims are thus involved in a continuous 'greater jihad' which is largely non-violent. 'The lesser jihad', war, is commanded by Allah but must be carried out acording to strict rules.
There is a sense in which the lesser jihad is both 'Holy War' and 'Just War'. But it is not about making others Muslim, although some Muslims believe it is. The Qur’an says: ‘There shall be no compulsion in religion’.
One Muslim became widely known for his practice of non-violence. Abdul Gaffar Khan, a member of the often warlike Pathans on the north-west frontier of India, adopted Gandhi’s ideas in leading his people to independence with the establishment of Pakistan. He became known as ‘the Frontier Gandhi’. Like Gandhi, he was often imprisoned.
4. The Humanist View
In recent times religion has played a decreasing role in many societies, particularly in the West. Many people have consciously rejected the notion of a spiritual and sacred religion or god. This does not necessarily mean the rejection of ethical principles. Some people have developed a philosophy of ‘humanism’. This is based on humanitarian ideals, such as individual responsibility for one’s actions, respect for others, co-operating for the common good, and sharing resources.
Some humanists would accept the ‘Golden Rule’, a term first used by Confucius: 'Do as you would be done by', or 'Treat others as you would wish them to treat you’. Some see the natural or logical conclusion of such a principle to be the rejection of all war and violence. Others, who have reservations about pacifism, argue for 'Just War' rules similar to those based on religious law.
The Peace Pledge Union campaigns against war and promotes peace.We challenge the values and attitudes which are a serious obstacle to action for peace. As a non-sectarian organisation we welcome co-operation with a variety of other groups, religious or non-religious, who share our aims.
‘I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.’
Was Gandhi right?
4. Buddhism and War / The Six Realms and What Bodhisattvas Do in Each One - Lecture by Sojun Roshi / This lecture is reprinted from the January 2003 Berkeley Zen Center Newsletter
In the last few days, there's been a big change. The war has already begun. How does that affect everyone's attitude? That's a good question. Before the war there was a lot of protest. I don't think anyone ever thought that protest would change the fact that there was going to be war. It would have been very naive to think that would happen. Some people might think, “What’s the use of protesting, if it's not going to change anything, or if it’s not going to change the fact that there will be a war?” But that's not the only reason that people protest. This war is just the present focus, one little dot on the big map. The desire to bring peace to the world and maintain peace in the world is an on-going, endless effort. When the specter of war and aggression arises, then the people who want peace show their faces. It looks like there's an effort to do something to stop this particular incident. That's not untrue, but that’s not all that it’s about. It's about continuously making an effort to bring peace into the world. It doesn't change with circumstances. I think that’s something that is very important to remember.
Since this war has started, the emphasis has changed. There needs to be some adjustment in how people approach this. So I thought I would talk about our current situation from the point of view of a Buddhist, or simply from the view of a person of conscience. How do we actually save the world? How do we save society? Our four vows as Buddhists are to save society and everyone in the world from suffering and confusion. There is a lot of suffering and a lot of confusion. If we keep that in mind it allows us to take the emphasis off of blaming people. There is blame enough to go around everywhere. But that isn’t where we should focus. Instead, we should ask, how do we preserve our integrity? How do we actually bring peace and non-violence into a situation? It’s easy to remain focused on the faults of others. But how do we see ourselves? What are we doing and how can we actually bring something positive into the world? The more attention we give to that, the more we see that there are others all around the world who are doing the same. Right now there's a huge groundswell of dissent.
I want to talk about this, using the Buddhist Wheel of Life. If you're familiar with the Buddhist Wheel of Life, you will recall that it’s a circle with the twelve-fold chain of causation around the perimeter. The inside of the wheel is divided into the six worlds: the heavenly realm, the fighting demon realm, the animal realm, the hell realm, the hungry ghost realm, and the human realm. And inside the center is the hub, and the whole thing turns on this hub. The three bearings of the hub are the pig, the serpent, and the rooster, which stand for greed, ill will and delusion. The whole business, the whole wheel, revolves around greed, ill will and delusion. How do we introduce something different? How do we introduce a different hub so that the wheel turns on generosity, goodwill, and enlightenment?
What we need is a regime change. [Laughter.] In the six worlds, at the top is the heavenly realm and at the bottom, the hell realm. In between, there’s the fighting demon realm, the animal realm, the human realm, and the hungry ghost realm—the pretas. The heavenly realm is usually called the realm of the Gods where one enjoys a wonderful life of extraordinary comfort. In human terms, it's the realm where people have everything they want. Or, everything that they think they want. They don't have to worry, they don't have to work, they don't have to mingle with poor people or even pay attention to the fact that there’s misery in the world. This is like where Shakyamuni was when he was growing up. His father wanted to keep him from having any contact with the suffering of the world. So he created a kind of heavenly realm where Siddhartha could play all day long. Siddhartha had everything that his father wanted him to have, but he eventually became dissatisfied with it and began his pilgrimage. He entered a long period of practice which came to fruition in his enlightenment. In any case, if you are in the heavenly realm, you want to stay there forever, but it doesn't last. Your karma might bring you there, but invariably when your karmic effect runs out of steam, you migrate into another realm.
Another realm is the fighting demon realm, also known as the realm of the Asuras. The Asuras take satisfaction in creating disturbance, chaos and war. They are the warrior types. In the present situation, it is the warriors who are impatient to roll. War clouds have gathered and they are bringing forth a reign of terror.
I will speak more about the other realms later. Now though I want to point out that in each one of these six realms is a Bodhisattva. What is the place of the Bodhisattva in each one of these realms? The place of the Bodhisattva in each one of these realms is to educate people, to enlighten people, to make them aware of nirvana, of cooling it, of cooling off, and teaching that satisfaction can be found in peaceful harmonious co-existence. That is the role of the Bodhisattva in each one of these worlds. And as a Bodhisattva, as a Zen student, we find ourselves in these worlds. How can you find your place as a Bodhisattva in the heavenly realm, or the fighting demon realm, which is where our attention is at the moment? In the heavenly realm, the Bodhisattva teaches meditation which seems to be the easiest way for the people in the heavenly realm to find their Buddha nature. In the fighting demon realm, it’s morality, or the precepts. The Bodhisattva teaches precepts. Don't willfully take life. Don't take what's not given, don’t be untruthful, don’t harbor ill will, and so forth.
I was listening to an interview on TV yesterday. Of course, every TV station has the war on. In this case, the interviewer was interviewing some pilots. The interviewer was asking, “What do you think about when you're up there dropping bombs on people?” The interviewer didn't say this exactly but that's what he meant. “What was it like up there in this fantastic firestorm. How did you feel about it?” And the pilot said, “It was a great experience, I’ll never forget this experience.” Then interviewer said, “But what do you feel about it?” And the pilot kept avoiding actually examining his feelings about it. The interviewer again said, “Well, what do you really feel about it?” And finally, the pilot paused for a moment, as if he got it, and then composing himself, went on, “Well it was a experience I’ll never forget”. But it's like a video game for the pilots. To actually allow yourself to think that there are people down there that you’re killing is very difficult to do. There was another pilot they interviewed. And that's kind of what he said. He said, “Well, you know, it's so quiet and you drop the bomb and everything is so smooth and you're away before even the bomb drops so you don't even see the effect of what you did.” The interviewer said, “Well, what do you feel about dropping that bomb?” And the pilot responded, “Well, well I…” He couldn't answer. If you are in that position, and you think about what you're really doing, what the effect of what you're doing, it could cause doubt which could be a problem. These wonderful young men are the cream of the crop. But I believe they're programmed to not think about what they are actually doing.
I heard Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and the President say how sorry they were for the Marines that have been killed, how they would write letters to all the marines’ families. But I thought, “Why not write a letter to each one of the Iraqi families, apologizing for killing their relatives?” That would be a great act of nobility. A great act of morality and evenhandedness. War is an immoral act, in itself. And there is actually some question and debate in the world about whether or not war should just be outlawed. Short of that there is the question of the legitimacy of “preemptive” war. When one nation is so powerful and imposes its will, it creates disharmony and suffering for the whole world, for the whole body. The world is one body and must learn to control and harmonize all its parts. Each nation must learn how to submit itself to the whole.
Those caught up in the fighting demons realm can transform their behavior by paying attention to precepts and morality. This is what the bodhisattva teaches in this world. Don’t steal. Don't take something that's not given. Don't lie. I mean, don’t lie? Lying seems to be at the basis of the whole thing. They said, “Going to war is the last thing we want to do.” That seems like the biggest lie of all.
The animal realm is where our animal instincts prevail. We just pay attention to satisfying our bodily needs. Instead of applying our capacity for critical thinking, we run with the herd, exploit the land, our resources, and stay completely engrossed in material satisfaction. The Bodhisattva in the animal realm teaches people Prajna Paramita. The perfection of wisdom. This is what people lack. In this realm, the Bodhisattva teaches that form is emptiness and emptiness is form.
The hell realm, of course, is a realm of our own making. Heaven and hell are the two opposites. In the hell realm, we’re punished for our transgressions. We suffer the consequences of our own karma from beginningless greed, ill will, and delusion. We can make this a world of hell, or whatever we want it to be. Heaven and hell are earthly realms created by our very own actions and thoughts. Right now were making it hell for a lot of people. In this realm, the Bodhisattva teaches patience.
Then there's the hungry ghost realm. This is the realm of greed, where we can never have enough. The folks here have huge stomachs and narrow necks and are always hungry and can never get enough. I feel sorry for our industrialists, and our administration, because they are mired in poverty. The wealthiest people are mired in poverty because they can never have enough. This is true poverty. You just don't have enough. The wealthiest person I know has a robe and a bowl and is perfectly content. Those who can never have enough are the poor people. In a way I feel sorry for them. But since they are driven by avarice, they don't realize how they are hooked. The craving for wealth, the craving for power, the craving for recognition, all of these cravings are captivating. They become habits that are hard to break. Especially the craving for power. It is the most captivating and hardest to let go of.
So the Bodhisattva in this realm has to teach letting go and generosity. One of the qualities of an enlightened person, is how to be easily satisfied. This is hard in our culture where we keep pushing the envelope so that whenever we make some advancement in the so-called standard of living, we have to keep upping the ante. Then we have to keep stealing more and more from the rest of the world. We have the poorest standard of living in the world but we think it's the highest. The reason it's the poorest is because it needs to feed itself by draining the rest of the world. This keeps driving the desire for more, which keeps driving the wheel of domination, which drives the wheel of war. We have to look at ourselves, “How much do I need?” That's the bottom line. We’re all hungry ghosts, big tummies with a great demand for more. But we have narrow tiny throats--we can’t get enough. As the world becomes more complex, we need to have more information, we need to have more conveniences, we need to have bigger cars, we need to have all this equipment.
I was making a sandwich the other day and I realized that in order to make a sandwich, I had to go to this big box that keeps things cold, take out the bread which is wrapped up in a bag which has a tie on it, then take some mustard out of the refrigerator, then take something out of the freezer…then get an onion and then get a tomato and then get some lettuce and on and on and on and on, just to make this little thing that I’m going to put on a plate and eat. I think about how much energy went into creating those things and bringing those things to this place so I could have a little sandwich. That's just one example. If you go into your garage, if you have one, what's in there? [Laughter] Think about it. It just keeps coming and coming. There’s a never-ending stream of stuff we think we need that maybe we don’t. But this drives the engine. Drives the economy. The economy has evolved in such a way that if the stream is not happening, the whole thing starts coming apart. As Bodhisattvas, how do we deal with just our own greed much less deal with the greed of the world around us? It has to start here. We must try to let go of our greed and our “necessities.”
Then there's the world of human beings. The human realm is humanity caught up in greed, hate and delusion; all of these worlds coalesce in the human being. They are the human world. The human world is also the world of salvation. It's the highest. So people say, “Well, what does it mean to be a Buddha? What is the end or goal of practice?” The goal of practice is just to be a real human being. A true human being, able to deal with greed, able to deal with ill will, able to deal with delusion. I don’t want to say, “free of.” Few human beings are free of it. Greed is something that we will always be dealing with. We might say, “Well, at some point when I'm enlightened, I will no longer feel greed. Or I’ll no longer feel ill will, or I’ll no longer feel delusion.” But that's not it. When you’re enlightened, you realize that you are greedy. You understand your greed and understand what causes it. You understand how to relate to it. You are always aware. When you’re enlightened, you understand your own ill will. It's not that you don't have it, but you make some effort to deal with it and not let it get out of hand. You make an effort to disarm it so that it's not harmful. Same with delusion. When you’re enlightened, you realize how deluded you are. To be enlightened means to understand and realize your own delusion. It’s not, “I will never be deluded because I'm enlightened.” It’s, “Because I am enlightened, I understand that I will always be deluded. If you think, “I have no delusion,” then you're not enlightened. That's really being sunk deeply in delusion.
How do we work with greed, ill will, and delusion? That's the point. When we work on our own greed, ill will and delusion, it can have an effect on other people, it can help the people around us because it influences other people to do the same. Bringing peace to the world is not an easy thing, it means always working on yourself. That’s our practice. How do I save all sentient beings? Start with this one. That's primary. To actually work on the sentient beings of your own mind is to save all sentient beings. The Bodhisattva in the human realm encourages people to exert effort in seeking the Ring of the way.
These are the six worlds between which we constantly transmigrate. Sometimes we’re a fighting demon, sometimes we’re a hungry ghost, sometimes we’re in the hell realm, sometimes we’re in the heavenly realm. And this goes on day in and day out. And to know, “Oh, now I'm in the hungry ghost realm. Or, now I'm in the fighting demon realm.” How do I just become a human being, a normal human being? Normal is something we don’t experience very often. We think normal is just what I’m always doing. Buddha is reported to have said, “All I teach is the norm. That's my whole teaching, just the norm.” But the norm is elusive.
In my opinion, the human race is evolving. There are people who are very evolved as humans and there are people who are not very evolved as humans. And then there’s the whole range in between. So I think we must realize this and be understanding and patient with people. We shouldn’t just think, “I'm highly evolved and they're not.” There has to be some education. We should be careful to help people to come up to where we are and then reach up to those who can help us to go beyond who we are. We have to have lots of patience. Even though it looks like the world is coming apart at the seams, to have patience is the greatest virtue. We should take care of what we can deal with the best we can and have patience with that which we can’t do much about.
March 22, 2003 / Last revised 4/4/03. / Copyright 2000 Berkeley Zen Center.
5. Buddhism & The Soldier - by Major General Ananda Weerasekera
Different people have understood Buddhism differently. It is often debated whether Buddhism is a religion, philosophy or a way of life or not. Since Buddhism contains all these aspects one is justified in drawing any conclusion so long as one does not give an exclusive and rigid title. The Buddha-dhamma (Doctrine), as most of the scholars say , is a moral and philosophical system which expounds a unique path of enlightenment, and is not a subject to be studied from a mere academic standpoint. It is certainly to be studied, more to be practiced , and above all to be realized by oneself.
All the teachings of the Buddha deal, in one way or another with the path, known as The Noble Eightfold Path. It was the path realised and introduced by Buddha and it is as follows.
o Right views
o Right thought
o Right speech
o Right action
o Right livelihood
o Right effort
o Right mindfulness
o Right concentration
This is also known as the 'Middle Path', since in actual practice it avoids extremes. This Noble Eightfold Path is discussed in detail in the Buddhist Texts. It is sufficient to
state that it is a code of conduct clearly laid down by Buddha to all four sections of the Buddhist Society. That is Bikkhu (monks), Bikkhuni (nuns), Upasaka (laymen), Upasika (laywomen).
The deciples of the Buddha whether men or women belong to many walks of life from a King to a Servant. Whatever their civil status may be a code of conduct and moral obligations for each one has been clearly laid down by the Buddha. This code of conduct is collectively referred to as Virtue (seela) which encompasses disciplined speech, disciplined thought and controlled senses. A layman or a laywomen is advised to observe the five basic precepts as the minimum limit of their 'discipline' in the society. The limits of 'seela' are different for those who have renounced the lay life in search of liberation, The Nirvana.
However the five precepts are not commandments but aspirations voluntarily undertaken by each one. The first precept is to abstain from taking life. "The life", according to Buddhism covers the entire spectrum of living beings and are covered in 'Karaneeya Mettha Sutta' as follows.
o Tasa-Tava:- moving, unmoving
o Diga-long, Mahantha-large,
o Rassaka- short,
o Anuka-minute, Thula- fat
o Ditta-that can be seen,
o Additta-that cannot be seen,
o Dure-which live far,
o Avidure-which live near
o Sambavesi- seeking birth
Buddha's teachings are quite clear in regard to the extent to which 'love & compassion' should expand,. 'Sabbe satta bhavanthu sukhitatta', ie. 'May all beings be happy' Buddha not only condemned the destruction of living beings as higher seela, he also condemned the destruction of the plant life. Buddhism being a 'way of life' where plant animal and human lives are protected ,how does one explain the 'destruction and suffering caused by war.'
War is violence, killing, destruction, blood and pain. Has Buddha accepted these? According to Buddha, the causes of war being greed, aversion and delusion are deep rooted in human mind. The milestones of the path being seela, samadhi and panna make the human being realize the causes that contribute to warfare and for the need for the eradication of same.
The Buddha said,
All tremble at violence, All fear death,
Comparing oneself with others
One Should neither kill nor cause others to Kill' (Dammapada)
Hence any form of violence is not acceptable . He further says,
' Victory breeds hatred
The defeated live in pain,
Happily the peaceful live,
Giving up victory and defeat (Dammapada)
Victory and Defeat are two sides of the coin of War. It is clear in Buddhism, what breeds in war whether it is victory or defeat.
Let us now deal with those having a direct involvement with War, The King or in today's context the Government and the soldier. Does Buddhism permit the State to build and foster an Army?. Can a good Buddhist be a soldier? and can he kill for the sake of the country? What about the 'Defence' of a country.? When a ruthless army invades a country, does Buddhism prohibit a Buddhist King to defend his country and his people? If Buddhism is a 'way of life,' is there any other way for a righteous king to battle against an invasion of an army.?
The Damma is a way of life based on Right Thought, Right Livelihood, Right Action etc. culminating in the supreme goal of Nibbana . However it is a gradual process of training and progressing on the path through one's long samsaric journey until one has fulfilled the necessery conditions and is ready to let go the cycle of birth decay and death. Hence, until then the King has to rule, the farmer has to farm, teacher has to teach, the trader has to trade and so on. But they are expected to do it the Buddhist way in order to help them progress on the path.
In 'chakkavatti- sihanada sutta' (The Lion's Roar on the Turning of Wheel) of the long discourses of the Buddha, Buddha justified the requirement of the king having an Army to provide guard, protection and security for different classes of people in the kingdom from internal and external threats. It refers to a Wheel Turning monarch named Dalhanemi, a righteous monarch of the law, conqueror of the four quarters who had established the security of his realm and was possessed of the seven treasures. He had more than 1000 sons who were heroes, of heroic stature, conquerors of the hostile army. Explaining the noble duties of a righteous king, Buddha also pointed out the advice given to the king in regard to his obligation to provide security for its people. The advisor tells the king " my son, yourself depending on the Dhamma, revering it, doing homage to it, and venerating it having the Dhamma as your badge and banner, acknowledging the Dhamma as your master, you should establish guard, ward and protection according to Dhamma for your own household, your troops in the Army, your nobles and vassals, for Brahmins and householders, town and countryfolk, ascetics and Brahmins, for beasts and birds. Let no crime prevail in your kingdom"
Explaining further the duties of a righteous king, Buddha states, "…Son, the people of your kingdom should from time to time come to you and consult you as to what is to be followed and what is not to be followed, what is wholesome and what not wholesome, and what action will in the long run lead to harm and sorrow, welfare and happiness. You should listen and tell them to avoid evil and to do what is good for the country. This sutta clearly indicates that Buddhism permits a king to have an army since a righteous king, who is also the commander of the army, knows, the righteous way to engage the army and to protect his people.
'Seeha Senapathi Sutta' of Anguttara Nikaya-5 shows how, one of the army commanders named 'Seeha' went to Buddha to clarify certain doubts on the Dhamma and how the Buddha advised him without requesting him to resign from the Army or to disband the army. Having clarified his doubts on the Dhamma, Commander Seeha requested Buddha to accept him as a deciple of the Buddha. But Buddha instead of advising him to resign from the army advised thus
'Seeha, it is proper for a popular person of your status to always think and examine when attending to affairs and making decisions ' Seeha, the commander became a sotapanna (stream enterer = first fruit of the Path) having listened to the Dhamma, but remained in the army as a commander.
In this instance too one could see that Buddha did not advise Seeha against the Army or being a commander of an Army, but only advised to discharge his duties the proper way.
King Ajasattu, had a unsatiable desire to conquer other kingdoms. He even murdered his father for the throne and aided Devadatta who was plotting to kill the Buddha. Once Ajasattu having decided to conquer the kingdom of Vajjians sent his chief minister Vassakara to Buddha to find out Buddha's views about his decision to conquer the Vajjians. Ajasttu wanted to know whether he will gain victory, cunningly using Buddha's ability to predict the future with accuracy.
Once the usual complimentary greetings were exchanged, between the Buddha and Vassakara and the purpose of his visit was made known, Buddha turned to his chief attendant Venerable Ananda with praise of the Vajjians and their noble democratic confederacy. Buddha further inquired from Venerable Ananda whether the Vajjians are strictly following the conditions of Dhamma NOT leading to decline as taught to the Vajjians by Buddha to which Ven. Ananda replied 'yes'.
Then Buddha turned to venerable Ananda and declared thus, "As long as they would continue on these lines, taught them by Buddha earlier at Vasali, they cannot be defeated and not expected to decline but to prosper." The shrewd minister drew his own conclusion that the Licchavis of vajji state could not be conquered in battle at that moment, but if their unity and alliance is broken they could be defeated and ran back to his king with this news. In fact Ajasattu defeated vajjians not even three years after the Buddha's death purely by shrewdly creating disunity amongst the rulers of the Vajjians
Numerous conclusions could be drawn from this story too. Buddha knew that both States did have strong armies and that they are needed for the protection of their people. Buddha did not advice minister Vassakara that the concept on 'Army' is against Buddhism and that he should advice the king not to declare war against Vajjis but to desolve the army. Buddha at this instance also brought up important lessons in 'state craft.' It helped the crafty minister to adopt a different strategy to invade Vajji State, by using psychological approach first and then the physical assault next. Further, by having a conversation with Venerable Ananda Buddha indicated to minister Vassakara that even though king Ajasasattu has a mighty strong army, and have conquered several states he will not be able to defeat Licchavis so long as they adhere to the said noble policies. It is also an indirect advice to king Ajatasattu that it is in order having an army but that army will not be able to conquer people with virtuous qualities. It was also an indication to Ajasattu that he too should be a righteous king with an army where no other king could defeat him, by adhering to the said policies which will not lead a society to decline. These policies are referred to as 'saptha aparihani dhamma' and they are as follows:
* Having meetings and assemblies frequently.
* Rulers assembling in harmony, conducting their affairs in harmony and dispersing in harmony.
* Adhering to the accepted ancient noble traditions and not extirpating the accepted established norms and traditions by introducing new laws.
* Respecting the elders, worshiping them, consulting them, and believing that they must be listened to.
* Respecting and protecting the women folk and not living with them forcibly or molesting them.
* Paying respect to all internal and external places of worship, paying homage to those worthy of veneration and continue to make spiritual offerings traditionally done.
Soldiering was accepted by the Buddha as a noble profession.The soldier was known as " Rajabhata." Buddha did not permit rajabata to become monks whilst in service as a soldier.
Once Sidhartha Gauthama's father, king Suddhodana came to Buddha and complained,
"Gauthama Buddha, my son, when you were the most suitable for the throne of a Sakvithi King, you left all of us and became a monk. Then you insulted me by begging for meals, walking house to house along the streets in my own town. The relatives laughed at me and they insulted me. Now you are trying to destroy my Army."
" Why " the Buddha asked. " What has happened to your great Army, my father."
Then the king answered," Can't you see, my soldiers are deserting the army one by one and joining your group as monks."
" why are they becoming monks, great king and why are they leaving the Army." Asked Buddha.
" Can't you see " the king answered. " They know that when they become monks they get free food, free clothes, free accommodation and respected by all."
Buddha smiled and requested the king to go back to the Palace and said that he will settle the issue. Buddha then promulgated a law ( Vinaya ) for the monks to the effect that, No soldier could become a monk whilst in military service. This law is still valid to date. Accordingly even today unless a soldier is legally discharged from the army or unless a soldier retires legitimately, he is NOT ordained as a monk and will not be accepted into the order of monks. This ensures that soldiers do not desert the army even to join the Buddhist order.
Further in terms of the Vinaya ( the code of conduct for monks) monks permitted to visit the battle field but they were ordered to return before the sunset. Permission was also given to visit the injured relatives in the battlefield.
Further whilst the expressly referred to five occupations as unrighteous Soldiering is not included amongst those.
The Buddha once describing the qualities of a good monk, compared those to the essential qualities of a good king to be as follows:
* Pure decent
* Great wealth
* Strong army
* Wise ministers
Once at the city of Savatti, Buddha describing five types of monks in comparison to the five types of soldiers in the world, (A.iii, duthiya yodhajeevupama sutta ) classified the soldiers as follows:-
* A soldier who enters the battle field armed with sword and shield, bow and arrows and who gets himself killed by the enemy during battle. This is the first type of soldier.
* A soldier who enters the battle field bravely armed with sword and shield, bow and arrows but gets injured during battle and taken to his close relatives. But he dies on the way before he reaches his relatives. This is the second type of soldier.
* Soldier who enters the battlefield bravely armed with sword and shield, bow and arrows, gets injured and having taken to his close relatives, receives medical treatment with care. But he dies with the same ailment although he was surrounded by relatives. This is the third type of soldier.
* Soldier who enters the battlefield bravely armed with sword and shield, bow and arrows, gets injured and having taken to his close relatives, receives medical treatment with care. He recovers from the injury. This is the fourth type of soldier.
* Soldier who enters the battlefield bravely armed with armourments destroys and defeats the enemy. Having won the battle he remains in the battlefront victoriously. This is the fifth type of soldier.
Similarly in ' patama yodhajeevacupama sutta' Buddha explains five types of soldiers or warriors.
* Type -1- Tremble with fear, unsteady, afraid to get into the battlefield by seeing the dust and clouds created by fighting men, animals and vehicles.
* Type - 2 - Could withstand the dust and clouds. But tremble with fear, unsteady, afraid to get into the battlefield by seeing the Standards and Banners of the enemy.
* Type-3- Could withstand dust and clouds, the sight of the enemy Standards and Banners But tremble with fear, unsteady, afraid to get into the battlefield by hearing the frightening noises and the battle cries in the field.
* Type- 4 - could withstand dust and clouds, Standards and Banners of the enemy, the noises and the battle cries But Tremble with fear, unsteady, afraid to get into the battlefield by a small attack by the enemy.
* Type -5- could withstand dust and clouds, Standards and Banners of the enemy, the noises and the battle cries. He fights back and wins his battle. Having won, he victoriously enjoys the fruits seven days staying in the middle of the battlefield.
When the Buddha recognized a strong army as an essential requirement of the king he was also aware that the Commander in Chief of the Army was also the king of the country and that a strong Army four main divisions, then known as 'the caturangani sena', consisting of Cavalry (horses), Elephant force, Armed vehicles and the Infantry, each having its own functions in battle.
His knowledge of the battlefield is so evident for the similis frequently quoted by him from the battlefield. In Akkhama sutta of Anguttara Nikaya Buddha compares five weak qualities of elephants selected to go into battle with that of 5 weak qualities of monks proceeding through the battle of 'Liberation.'
In the Sutta the Buddha says, An elephant belonging to the 'caturangani sena' [four divisions of the Army of the ruler] will not be suitable if , it get frightened, trembles, unable to control and withdraws,
* merely by the sight of other elephants, horses, military vehicles and soldiers in the battle field,
* merely by hearing noises and sounds of the battle cries of elephants, horses, infantry and worrier drums in the field,
* merely by the body smell and the smell of urine etc of other majestic elephants in the battle field,
* merely for not getting its food and water for one day or few days in the battle field.
From the above it is clear that contrary to the popular belief the Buddha has not rejected or prohibited soldiering as a profession or occupation and the right of a king or a government to have an army and to defend one's country and its people. In the contrary the Buddha has expressly recognized the necessity for a king to have an army and providing protection to the subjects of a country has been recognized as a prime duty of the king .
The Buddha in his wisdom did not expect a nation or the rulers to be lame ducks in the wake of an enemy invasion. However Buddha's expectations from one who is training to be an Arhant whether monk or layman are different and it should not be mistaken with the Buddha's expectations from the laity burdened with numerous worldly responsibilities. It is also because the Buddha in his wisdom did not expect every 'Buddhist' to opt for Arahantship nor to become an ascetic renouncing the worldly affairs. To the majority Buddhism is a way of life rather than a faith, philosophy, or a religion.
However it should be stressed that a soldier like all others is subject to the law of Kamma and will not escape the Kammic fruits of "taking the Life"of a sentient being (panatipatha) even though he may have had the overall noble intention of protecting his country and his people.
While killing may be inevitable in a long and successful army career opportunities for merit too is unlimited for a disciplined and conscientious soldier.
A disciplined soldier fights his enemy in accordance with the best of traditions and norms maintained by an army. He doesn't kill a defenseless person. A good soldier provides medical treatment to the injured enemy captured. He doesn't kill prisoners of war, children, women or the aged. A disciplined soldier destroys his enemy only when his or the lives of his comrades are in danger.
Soldier is one who thrives for peace within because he is one who realizes the pain of his own wounds. He is one who sees the bloody destruction of war, the dead, the suffering etc. Hence his desire to bring peace to himself as well as to the others by ending the war as soon as possible. He not only suffers during the war but even after the war. The painful memories of the battles he fought linger in him making his aspire for true and lasting peace within and without. Hence the common phenomenon of transformation of brutal kings having an insatiable desire to conquer to incomparable and exemplary righteous kings such as Drarmasoka king of Mourian dynasty of India.
6. Movies on Peace and War Issues Recommended by Quakers
DISCLAIMER - These pages contain a collection of responses and suggestions by subscribers to the Quaker-L e-mail list. It is not intended to represent any official position by the Religious Society of Friends [Quakers] or any Friends meetings, churches, schools, or service organizations. Comments by different Friends on the same film are separated by a space.
These pages are provided and maintained by Tom & Sandy Farley of The Palo Alto Friends Meeting. Friends who wish to suggest additions or changes to these pages may send them to email@example.com
THE LIST [alphabetically]
All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Remarque would be an excellent choice. It is also about WWI. It is a very powerful story. Hitler banned it in the 1930's because he feared that it would not allow him to build up his armies. It is based on German soldiers, who were at that time the "enemy" of us Americans.
May be the classic WWI anti-war movie. You might want to watch it first to determine if it is age appropriate, because it has war related violence in it, if I recall correctly, it's an old film, so not too graphic, but a very powerful film. It's a hard core lesson, but definitely anti-war.
The movie may be old but it has lost none of its power. Hopefully your sons won't be turned off by the black- and-white picture. The book is not too difficult, either, and perhaps your 12-year-old could understand it if you read it with him.
It's been many years since I have seen it, but it is based on a German novel, and is a classic antiwar movie.
It’s the classic German novel and film about the futility of WWI. There is an extensive English literature on the subject: many came back from the war totally disillusioned.
Angel & the Badman features John Wayne learning from a Quaker sweetheart to give up his gun!
Not about war per se: but good re non-violent action and change.
Born on the 4th of July & wasn't there another about Vietnam? The boys might identify more with a Vietnam era story.
The Burmese Harp is a wonderful film about one person's turn from war to a life of reparation and service. Whether children would appreciate it, I can't say: it's old, black and white, and subtitled, and the context is Asian/Buddhist. I found it to be very powerful.
Cadillac Man in which Robin Williams is a used-car salesman who gradually calms down and eventually disarms a violent hostage-taking Tim Robbins. (may be some swearing in this)
Not about war per se: but good re non-violent action and change
The Diary of Anne Frank
Europa Europa Another good movie about war (in this case WWII) I forget who it is by, but the same director did Olivier Olivier (something about those double titles). It has been a while since I saw the film and I cannot remember whether it would be suitable for children or not. It is about a child however, a boy whose Polish, Jewish family sends him east into Russia as the Germans are approaching. For a while he joins a unit of Russian soldiers, but then, when the Germans arrive in Russia (and are obviously going to defeat the unit) he crosses over to the German side with a story about he has been held captive by these Russian soldiers (if memory serves, he claims to be German; he certainly speaks to them in German. I do not remember whether the film is all in foreign languages or not but some of it certainly is (with subtitles)). Of course he does *not* tell them that he is Jewish. He is taken back to Germany and adopted by a German military officer's family, I think, and sent to an elite private Nazi school where he lives in fear that someone will "find him out." This is further complicated when he falls in love with a German girl and wants to consummate the relationship -- but cannot, because he cannot risk having her learn that he is circumcised. Her mother guesses his situation but does not reveal him.
It is good movie about identity, anger and forgiveness (between the brothers, among others), and what people do in violent times in order to stay alive. I would recommend it. Oh, also, (and not unimportantly) it is a true story.
For the Boys with Bette Midler may be a little too adult for pre-teens (it's been a while since I saw the movie, and I really have no experience in evaluating suitability for children).
For Whom the Bell Tolls from Hemmingway's novel
That film teaches more about our Quaker PeaceTestimony in a 'real life setting' than any film or book I know. Though set in the Civil War era, it spoke to conditions today for the many who live in war zones as well as those of us whose war zones are our own lives.
Since this movie has been mentioned twice I would like to note that I, for one, agree with the criticism that was made of this movie as demonstrating Quaker ideals of peace. (It still might be a good movie from some people's points of view, or a good movie for children, depending on one's ideas about these things.) I disliked the way Quaker ideals were portrayed in the movie from the first time I saw it; I thought it was a travesty. Later I was very pleased to see an excellent (IMO) discussion of this in, I think, Friends Journal. Later Chuck Fager, whose ideas and writings I respect a lot, wrote (probably in his newsletter) that he sort of agreed but found the arguments less than compelling. But to me they ARE compelling. It is a long time since I thought about this, but as I remember, EVERY character is shown reneging on his ideals of pacifism; now I am willing to accept the idea that it is certainly realistic that in any particular chosen time period or in a particular family or small section of society that this might indeed happen and probably has; but this is NOT shown in a way to say how difficult the keeping of pacifist view is; it is shown, in the case of the mother, as somewhat comic--(a sexist view also; the mother is taken less seriously than the men); every time a POTENTIALLY serious conflict arises, it is deflected in one way or another. The really crucial scene, in which the father has the chance to shoot the young man who is on the other side of the war and has been caught nearby, and doesn't--which is treated as the crucial scene, with slow pauses, long shots of agonized faces and decision-making, etc.--is completely vitiated by the fact that the young man IS UNARMED and the QUAKER HAS THE GUN. True, it is nice he chooses not to use it, but there have been many examples (at least I believe there has) in which an person NOT religiously devoted to pacifism has refused to shoot his enemy, some even in situations in which that person is in real danger, as the Quaker in the movie is not. If this is all that pacifism means, well, that is still better than non-pacifism, but it trivializes the more serious philosophical questions, and makes Quakers look especially marginal, though charming.
Gallipoli that shows the disastrous British attempt to take the Turkish port of Gallipoli during WW I, from the viewpoint of two Australian soldiers.
Glory An excellent recent movie with Denzel Washington and Matthew Broderick about the first black unit in the Civil War. My son, then 11, was moved to tears and then he asked me to rewind it and play it again.
The Gods Must Be Crazy about a delightful, tiny African bushman who among other things faces down a lion and later sedates and disarms a group of terrorists. Not about war per se: but good re non-violent action and change:
A family favorite, but I think my school-age boys like it more for the slapstick comedy than the message. We talk about the message so I hope they may get it some day.
The Great War. PBS is having an excellent series on WWI. Here in the east it starts at pm and runs till 11. It is a 7 or 8 part series, and it has been running since Sunday, so a lot of it is over, especially the horror of Verdun and the Somme battles. I do believe it is out in video also.
Henry V by Kenneth Branaugh is also an anti-war interpretation of Shakespeare's play.
The Hiding Place A WWII movie about Corrie Ten Boom, a Dutch Christian woman who with her sister and aged father hid many Jewish people in their home. Both women were single and in their fifties when a neighbor betrayed them to the occupying Nazis and they were taken to the death camps. Corrie's sister Betsy died in Ravensbrook, one of the Dachau camps. Addresses the ethical dilemmas of lying to protect vulnerable people, and hatred vs. survival vs. forgiveness as ways to deal with great evil. Stars Anne Bancroft as Corrie.
In Country is a powerful movie about the Vietnam war, seen through the eyes of an eighteen year-old girl, adapted from the book of the same name by Bobby Ann Mason. To find her own identity, she discovers she must come to know, and to come to grips with the loss of the father she never saw, killed in Vietnam shortly after she was born. Recreated in her own mind by reading his war letters and war diary is the essence of the combat experience--all the terror, discomfort, exhaustion, and slow deadening of the soul which takes place in the killing zone--presently almost surrealistically. (One especially powerful scene comes when she spends the night in a swamp to try to recreate what her father felt the night he fell.) As she works through her loss, so does her veteran uncle battle his own war demons. Catharsis will finally come in their pilgrimage to the Vietnam memorial.
This movie lacks the violence in Full Metal Jacket, Hamburger Hill, and Platoon, but the horror that is war comes through to her in such a way that neither romanticizes nor condemns the men and women who fought. In Country was intended to be a kind of reconciliation between those who fought and those who protested. I am always left with a feeling of "never let this happen again" each time I see it. In Country and Friendly Persuasion are two of the only war movies my 12 and 8 year old daughters have seen and liked.
Johnny Got His Gun which was I believe the first movie Dalton Trumbo did the screenplay for without a "front" after his blacklisting. The movie was from his excellent book by the same name.
This is the story of a soldier who was wounded so badly that he has no way to communicate with others. Yet modern medicine is able to save his life and to keep him alive in a hospital. The power of the movie is in its ability to show how far from what we conceive of as human life is the results of war--through the details of a soldier who, to the world, is almost dead and yet who maintains his mind's powers undiminished.
I was amazed when a very conservative person with a disability recommended this movie to me as one to promote disability rights--because its message about war is so unconditional, and my friend's husband works for the war machine at a Raytheon missile factory. When I pointed this out to her, its truth had a strong effect on her attitude toward things military.
The most powerful anti-war book and movie I've read/seen.
Johnny Shiloh A Disney made movie about a drummer boy in the civil war. Dated, but still good. After he is captured and escapes, one of the soldiers asks him what the enemy is like. "Well, they're pretty much like us," says Johnny. "That's what I figgered," says the soldier.
The Killing Fields The story of a Cambodian during Pol Pot's 'Year One'. However, it is very intense and very violent, but it shows the utter devastation of the people caught in the Cambodian war and it's aftermath. For older teens and adults.
Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed -- About the way the entire town of Le Chambon in France cooperated to hide Jews during WWII.
Little Big Man A movie about the American Indians, with Dustin Hoffman. Custer never looked so bad...and much of the movie is historically accurate.
Mash movie, play, and TV series. One of the best anti-war productions ever made. Get them to watch ANY reruns.
A Midnight Clear. If you can find it, it's some film, set during WWI, about a platoon of American soldiers who encounter a platoon of German soldiers while stationed in a remote castle somewhere in the Ardennes forest in France, if I recall correctly. All of the ones that I can think of have war-related violence in them because, well, that's the theme.
I'm not as familiar with this one, and not sure about availability, but it includes material about German and American soldiers in a remote outpost behaving peacefully with one another.
The Milagro Beanfield War about how one man resists corporate takeover, and his neighbors come to support him.
Not about war per se: but good re non-violent action and change
Paths of Glory starring Kirk Douglas, where he is a French general during WW I who realizes how stupid a war can be. Or as I found in the Internet: "A great anti-war movie! Kirk Douglas plays the compassionate French officer in World War I who must lead his men against insurmountable enemy positions, and then must defend three of his men against charges of cowardice when the battle is lost."
I believe both movies show war as it really is: decisions that affect thousands of people's lives taken inside generals' offices, who don't really care about finding the best solutions or solving differences.
Red Badge of Courage - old (B&W) and possibly too old, but still good
The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming -- a very funny, older movie about the furor in an island off New England when a Russian sub accidentally goes aground there. An absolutely fabulous finale that brings everybody together in a creative way. Makes the cold war look utterly ridiculous.
Sargent York that deals with the reactions of a pacifist drafted into WW1. The reason I would recommend it isn't because he consistently sticks to his pacifism, but how he deals with it when he doesn't. I believe it starred Gary Cooper.
The Search with Montgomery Clift, or Little Boy Lost with Bing Crosby. Movies about World War II - not only about fighting, but about people living at the time and how the war affected them. Both suitable for kids... although, again, they are dated. But they are about children.
The Summer of My German Soldier - if you can't find the movie, try reading the book together. This book is used at the Friends School in Baltimore and the movie was suggested for your consideration by my daughter.
To Kill A Mockingbird - in which the young daughter of attorney Gregory Peck diffuses the aggressiveness of a lynch mob at the steps of a jail in the rural South.
Not about war per se: but good re non-violent action and change
The War Prayer A TV short movie made from Mark Twain's story If anyone has NOT read that, I highly recommend it. Very intense stuff.
The War. Although it had a big name in it (Kevin Costner) it went by almost unnoticed. It was recommended to me for showing to a group of pre-teen Quaker boys. I would check it out first to see that it suits your own needs as well as your boys' interests and level of maturity; but it is worth a look. It is about a man from the southern US who was horribly damaged psychologically by the Viet Nam war and who is trying to teach his children the way of peace. There are some interesting contradictions in this film which make it good fuel for discussion. On a different level, parts of it are really a lot of fun. Overall, it is a sad but hopeful movie.
Page last updated on 4/15/06 by Tom Farley of Spontaneous Combustion
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