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Whether we like it or not there will always be wars.

By Charles.S.Perera

As long as there is attachment in its wider sense, aversion , and delusion within human beings there will be wars. Wars are not only fought with weapons, but also with actions of various sorts, and words. Whenever there is a war going on, those who say they are against wars and make it difficult for the party which is the victim of the aggression is indirectly making war for the benefit of the aggressor. But are human beings born to be aggressive ? Are wars avoidable ?

No, human beings are not born to be aggressive, and some wars are avoidable. They have also the capacity to be kind and compassionate towards all beings. But each one of us born according to our own accumulated wholesome and unwholesome kamma react according to those kammic forces and therefore our capacity of love and compassion varies from one individual to another.

As both wholesome and unwholesome kamma which are mental defilements remaining as dormant latent tendencies within the mental make up of an individual, he is neither wholly without the qualities of love and compassion, nor wholly with them even though they act with one or the other characteristic. Therefore, people who are cruel, aggressive and intolerant may also turn out to be kind, patient, and tolerant.

That is why it is necessary to cultivate qualities of goodness, such as generosity, compassion and loving kindness, so that the unwholesome kamma remaining within us as latent tendencies do not come to the surface. It also means that being intolerant, cruel, unkind , and hurtful, we render the good qualities within us ineffective, burying them under layers of unwholesome tendencies, making us wholly unkind and cruel.

Occasional introspections, by way of understanding the quality of the mind at any given moment could help us stop reacting to bad thoughts, taking time to reflect, and change the cause of events that would have arisen, had we reacted without reflection. Thus helping ourselves to perform wholesome acts, our inane human qualities of goodness will prevail in our relations with others in our daily existence.

We could extend our goodness to its extreme if we can cultivate loving kindness and compassion, by cultivating our minds in a correct way. The Buddha in the Kakacupama Sutta tells his disciples " Monks, even if bandits were to savagely sever you, limb by limb, with a double-handled saw, even then, whoever of you harbours ill will at heart would not be upholding my Teaching. Monks, even in such a situation you should train yourselves thus: 'Neither shall our minds be affected by this, nor for this matter shall we give vent to evil words, but we shall remain full of concern and pity, with a mind of love, and we shall not give in to hatred. On the contrary, we shall live projecting thoughts of universal love to those very persons, making them as well as the whole world the object of our thoughts of universal love — thoughts that have grown great, exalted and measureless. We shall dwell radiating these thoughts which are void of hostility and ill will.' It is in this way, monks, that you should train yourselves."

There are two ways of existence for a human being leading a wholesome life. One is by way of leading a worldly life, training for a supermundane existence hereafter, and the other leading a worldly life for a happy existence here and now. In either case for an ordinary person with responsibilities of a family, one may rightly argue that it is almost impossible to extend kindness and compassion to the extent the Buddha had asked of his disciples in the Kakapucama Sutta.

Ordinary householders with their family responsibilities have many battles that distance him from a rigorous life of love and compassion. They may have to face situation that that may force them to act against their set norms of love and compassion, for instance in order to save his own life or that of another.

This situation of an individual's comportment could also be applied to a Sovereign State of a country in which the people follow a philosophy of compassion. It is the duty of a government to protect its people and its territories. In that effort it may have to deal with enemies who may take arms and claim a right to parts of its territories. A government, where followers of Buddhism are in a majority, may try to establish a dialogue with the enemy to come to a negotiated a settlement without resorting to retaliatory action. If the enemy refuses to do so, or agree placing impossible conditions, the government cannot fold its arms and give into the demands of the enemy, respecting its religious philosophy. Because, doing so would be to fail in its duty towards the country and its people. What can a government do under such circumstances ?

A war is the last thing a country should resort to. It is a dangerous adventure sacrificing men and material, and putting the civil population in to danger, without knowing even the out come of such a disastrous war. But what alternative has a government in the face of an enemy that is making unreasonable demands. The Government may request a third party to intervene. But it has to be a party on whom the government could place its complete confidence.

The third party should not take what seems to it is an objective decision, without considering the historical, cultural, philosophical, and religious values of the people of the country. The third party should not take a decision that would result in the division of the country and the separation of the people. Because that would be destroying the ancient values, distorting the history, putting in danger its culture, destroying the forces which bind the people together as a Nation.

There are different types of wars. There are the wars of conquest, the religious wars, the clan wars, world wars, and the terrorist wars. Some wars could be avoided such as the Clan wars, by posing questions to the warring parties, so that they will realise the absurdity of taking up arms against each other. That is what the Compassionate Buddha did when the Sakayas and the Koliyas were preparing to fight over sharing the waters of the river Rohini.

Even the world wars could be settled by one party surrendering to the other signing an armistice. But some wars are not avoidable, such as the wars of invasions. Religious wars also end after parties come to an agreed settlement. Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are special kind of wars, created by the intervention of a third party. Will those wars end when the third parties withdraw ? It is yet to be seen. The war between Israel and Palestine, are wars for territory. That war may end when they decide to learn to live together.

Then there are the terrorist wars, or rather armed terrorism They fall into a different category. If the terrorist leaders are intelligent enough to understand that their terrorism is in vain ,and further fighting will be an unnecessary sacrifice of life, and accept a call for negotiations showing their integrity by laying down their arms, terrorism could be ended. But if they continue to fight their terrorist war, no self respecting government could fold its arms and let them continue their terrorism., and even if the retaliatory attacks were to cause death of large numbers of the terrorist , as well as civilians a government has to go to war to subjugate the terrorists. .

One who kills whether in war, or in civil life does so with hatred towards the one that is being killed. The result of killing is accumulation of unwholesome kamma. Therefore, killing in defence of one self or the country does not absolve one from suffering for those acts in this life or another. But he who kills in defence of himself, another, or as a soldier in defence of the country is doing so as a duty towards his people and his country, despite the risk of accumulation of unwholesome kamma. But after suffering resultant unwholesome kamma, his wholesome kamma may surface in a later life, for the sacrifice he had made for a good cause.

Therefore, whether we like it or not there will always be wars causing deaths and devastation, and there will always be suffering. That is the way with Samsara.


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