Friday, February 25, 2011

Self defence

Question :(Unedited)
If you are in a confrontation and have tried your best to sort out a solution in a non violent way and the person is still insisting on a physical fight, is it okay to defend yourself? If it is not okay is there any way to atone for the action?

Hi M,

Welcome back.

Your question had been asked a million times, but there is no clear-cut satisfactory answer.  If it is so easy to provide a solution, then there will not be any war right now!  Some say it's just a hypothesis.  Some say it's ok, while others not.  Actually, in a real scenario, one would not have the time to think that rationally.  Most probably the urgency will give way to immediate instinct of self-preservation.  To be "politically" correct, the answer may be "depend on the situation".

In the Buddhist context, it boils down to "wholesome" and "unwholesome" action.  To inflict harm on others is "unwholesome" action, and there is no mitigation appeal.  However, the level of severity may differ.  Downright murder is very serious compared with killing in self-defence.  We are faced with such uncertainties in life simply because it is the very nature of this existence.  This is precisely what the Buddha was trying to wake us up to see the danger and uncertainties in life.  Be that as it may, we therefore must strive on with diligence to practise the Golden Rule: "Do not do to others what you do not wish others do to you."  If we conduct our lives wisely, wholesomely, and peacefully, then the natural law will protect us, and we will not have to face with situations as described by you.

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