Buddhism, Anger & 9/11

“Hatred is not overcome by hate. Hatred is overcome by love.” This is an ancient Buddhist teaching.

September 11, 2001, one year ago. Shattered is our sense of security. We feel vulnerable and angry. Many of us who practice the Buddhadharma are torn. We know we must respond to this attack. The question is, ”How do we respond?”

Within the American Buddhist community a wide range of opinions existed. Some called for no military action, a completely pacifist approach. Most, however, recognized the need to find those responsible and hold them accountable. What is more important, we must not base our long range actions on hate, but rather on compassion. The karmic cycle of violence must end.

Buddhism does not have a Supreme Being, a God. Gautama Buddha was a man not a deity. Therefore, Buddhists do not act based upon, “God is on my side.” One of the core teachings is the law of cause and effect known as Karma. Simply stated, the basis of every action or thought is things that have gone before. Equally, every thought or action affects things to come. Actions taken from anger have one goal, the avenging of the “injustice” committed against us. This urgency does not give us time to examine the long range effect of our actions.

A story is told of a student coming to his teacher shortly after the death of the Buddha. The student asked, “Did the Buddha ever get angry?” The teacher replied, “Of course he did, he was human. But he forgot it immediately.” This story recognizes that as humans we will all experience anger. An enlightened person moves beyond anger and looks at the cause of the anger from a viewpoint not based on their ego. I am far from being an enlightened person and, as those who know me can tell you, I do get angry. Far too often and far too quickly. Yet this story has had an impact on my life. Now, when I realize I am angry, I try to overcome the anger. I admit, sometimes are harder than others. I try to examine why I became angry and how to prevent a reoccurrence. How does this story apply on a global level?

We should be grateful that we live in the richest, most powerful country in the world. However, this wealth and power bring with it responsibilities. Our actions must reflect a sense of compassion, not domination. Last year I wrote of the Dalai Lama who said, “It is the desire of all living things to be happy.” When people see no hope for happiness in this life their only hope is for happiness in the next. These desperate people fall prey to fanatics seeking the destruction of the oppressors or nonbelievers. People of all faiths must work to bring real hope to the desperate or resign ourselves to this never ending cycle of violence.

For more information on Buddhism contact me at BASEWI@aol.com.