This is the continuation of yesterday’s article, published in the Upaya Newsletter November 16, 2009 and reproduced here in three parts (with some grammatical editing of the original):
Buddhist Chaplaincy and the Support of War – an ancient koan revisited
In my readings of all these commentaries and the three very thoughtful ones on the Upaya newsletter, I am struck by three things:
– a subtle duality in the arguments of the appropriateness of being a Buddhist and Buddhist chaplain in an organization
– assumptions about the purpose of military members, and
– assumptions about the flexibility of the First Precept against killing
First, there is a subtly divisive message in the writings about whether Buddhist Chaplains should serve in the military. [see previous post]
Second, there is a sad misunderstanding about the function of the women and men who serve in the military. We leap to the assumption that because of the uniform and the highly rigid structure, these people have been trained as killing machines. We assume that the purpose of a military is to create war and therefore those who serve are of a questionable mentality. There is a long and complex discussion about the role of modern militaries which are beyond the scope of this commentary. However, it is important to know that the military today (at least in the West) functions not for war-mongering but carries the intention to protect and facilitate peace. This does not ignore the reality that the political agenda of governments do agitate for war to serve economic purposes.
Canadian Prime Minister Lester Pearson was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1957 for the proposal of sending peacekeeping units to the Suez in 1956. We have been present in Rwanda, Haiti, and Bosnia through their tumultuous years. In assessing the military as an organization, we can no longer disregard that its current purpose is to assist where required. And thus, the military members who serve play a significant role in peacekeeping. We can argue that one should not require guns to keep or create peace. I would suggest that view, although one to be dearly wished, comes from our unquestioned belief that the rest of the world shares our communities of safety and freedoms. Sometimes we have to be where the community is psychologically; that may mean showing a level of force that flies in the face of our ethics but which carries a message in the language common to the protected community that the outcome to peace is non-negotiable.
Tomorrow: No excuses – the reality of being in service