What Would Buddha Do?

The Enlightened One would advocate restraint, reason, compassion, and understanding.

This article originally appeared on Beliefnet in September 2001.



What would the Buddha do? No one can really say for sure, any more than anyone can say in truth why God sent death to 3,000 innocent people last week at the hands of a terrorist attack. (I personally consider it the handiwork of man, not God, and that we might do well to look amongst and within ourselves for the causes.)

However, I am sure that the Compassionate Buddha would stop for a prolonged moment of mindfulness and total attention--silent, centered, and present--to pray for all those who have suffered and are suffering, feeling their pain and grief as his own. Buddha would stop and pray for the victims and their families, and all worldwide who suffer and have suffered; he would join Jesus in blessing the peacemakers, while also praying for those who have perpetrated such horrendous crimes.

What would Buddha do? Buddha would move among the wounded, grief-stricken, and despairing, with gentle healing hands. Buddha might remind us of the fleeting, ephemeral nature of life in all its forms, and that we might profit by turning toward lasting values and the deeper meaning of life so as to help instill in us a sense of the long-range view and the bigger picture.

We condemn wanton acts of violence and destruction. The criminal perpetrators and their aides and abettors must be brought to justice, and terrorism erased from our world as an acceptable form of political or social action in any country of the world.

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However, I feel quite sure that we should not rush into vengeful retaliatory acts, which will make us into the mirror image of those who have attacked us and could bring more problems rather than provide lasting solutions. The Enlightened One would no doubt advocate restraint, reason, compassion, and understanding in the face of violence and aggression.

What would Buddha do? Buddhism would teach that the enemy and those who harm us can be our best teacher. We can actually benefit now and in the long run by learning to generate sincere feelings of compassion for the perpetrators' negative actions and bad karma. Buddhist wisdom consistently reminds us to recognize how interconnected we all are in this small world, while emphasizing the universal spiritual verity that hatred does not cease through hatred but by through love alone, for lovingkindness and compassion are greater than hatred, greater than death. Twenty-five hundred years ago the Buddha himself said: "Hatred is never appeased by hatred in this world; by love alone is hatred appeased. This is an Eternal Law." (The Dhammapada,Verse 5).

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