Gun culture fails to pass Buddhist muster
Posted on February 11th, 2013

By: Shelton Gunaratne, Grand Forks Herald

With the rapid spread of Buddhism in the western United States, boosted by increased immigration from Asia, Americans have begun to apply Buddhist principles to solve their everyday problems.

MOORHEAD “”‚ With the rapid spread of Buddhism in the western United States, boosted by increased immigration from Asia, Americans have begun to apply Buddhist principles to solve their everyday problems.

Although Buddhism has two major sects “”‚ Theravada and Mahayana “”‚ both agree on the crux of Buddhist philosophy based on the Four Noble Truths, the Noble Eightfold Path and the associated 12-factor formula of “conditioned genesis.”

This essay asserts that the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution would not have passed muster if our founding fathers had recognized the Four Noble Truths as the undisputable truth.

The Noble Eightfold Path does not endorse weapons for individual protection or use of guns for pleasure hunting.

Buddhism is more a philosophy than a religion. Buddha was not a god but an enlightened human being who re-discovered the path to nirvana “”‚ the state of non-existence “”‚ based on experiential truths.

Now, let me illustrate how the Four Noble Truths and the current interpretation of the Second Amendment are worlds apart.

First truth: Existence is dukkha, meaning mental and physical suffering, stress or unsatisfactoriness.

Second truth: The cause of dukkha is tanha or trsna (“thirst” or greed), conditioned by avijja (“ignorance” of the reality of self), upadana (clinging) and a cluster of other mental, biological and physical factors.

Third truth: Nirodha (cessation) of dukkha is possible by following the path to nirvana.

Fourth truth: Magga (the path) or the Noble Eightfold Path provides the way to Enlightenment and nirvana.

Now, let’s turn back to the Second Amendment.

As passed by the Congress in December 1791, the Second Amendment says:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

The right to bear arms was considered a natural right in England, where it was codified into the famous Bill of Rights of 1688. Our founding fathers borrowed this concept from the English Bill of Rights but failed to mention that it was also intended to preserve the hunting rights of the landed aristocracy.

In 2008 and 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to possess a firearm, unconnected to service in a militia.

This interpretation clearly contradicts the Buddhist layperson’s commitment to abstain from intentional killing and harming of other sentient beings. This is a precept extracted from the moral “code of conduct” portion of the Noble Eightfold Path. That portion encompasses three elements: Right Speech, Right Action and Right Livelihood.

In the Buddhist sense, this excludes five types of businesses “”‚ namely, those involving:

n Weapons and other instruments for killing.

n Human beings, such as slave trading, prostitution and trade in children or adults.

n Breeding of animals for slaughter and trade in meat after slaughter.

n Production and trade in intoxicants or addictive drugs.

n Production and trade in any kind of poison or toxic product designed to kill.

The Noble Eightfold Path’s other elements include Right Understanding (of the crux of Buddhism), Right Thought, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration.

As Herald readers can see, Buddhism puts heavy emphasis on purifying the mind, and this requires the cultivation of compassion “”‚ namely, love, charity, kindness, tolerance and other noble qualities.

It should now be clear that the gun culture embedded in the Second Amendment has no place in Buddhist philosophy. Gun culture is a remnant of the Hobbesian state of nature. If we still need guns to protect ourselves as a natural right, something is terribly wrong with our technologically advanced society.

If so, we the people should purify our minds by practicing Mental Discipline.

The absolute truth, according to Buddhism, is that there is no entity called an individual endowed with the natural right to own guns, in spite of the rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Lastly, I want to point out that the three Abrahamic religions “”‚ Christianity, Islam and Judaism “”‚ which repose faith in the Ten Commandments, also require their adherents not “to kill.” The purpose of keeping a weapon is to kill or harm living beings. Gun toting is a sure indication of uncontrolled dukkha.

Gunaratne is professor of mass communication emeritus at Minnesota State University Moorhead. He conducts a Buddhist discussion group in Moorhead once a month.

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One Response to “Gun culture fails to pass Buddhist muster”

  1. NAK Says:

    What Buddhism for these trigger happy baberian mas weddhas. One day they will be obliterated from the face of this earth by their own nuclear arsenel.

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