Two black men killed by police officers within 24 hours. Five police officers killed in Dallas and seven wounded shortly thereafter in apparent retaliation. The problem of “us and them;” the dehumanization of others who we view as less than us or our enemies. They disrespect, disregard or devalue our lives so we will do the same. There is another way.
“It is enough,” said Shakyamuni (also known as Siddhartha Gautama–the historical Buddha), “to kill the will to kill.”
His words came as a response to this question: “We are told that life is precious. And yet all people live by killing and eating other living beings. Which living beings may we kill and which living beings must we not kill?”
In his 1991 lecture on The Age of “Soft Power” and Inner-Motivated Philosophy, delivered at Harvard University, SGI leader Daisaku Ikeda said this about Shakyamuni’s words:
Shakyamuni’s response is neither evasion nor deception. . . . He is telling us that, in seeking the kind of harmonious relationship expressed in the idea of respect for the sanctity of life, we must not limit ourselves to the phenomenal level where conflict and hostility undeniably exist–the conflict, in this case, of which living beings it is acceptable to kill and which not. We must seek it on a deeper level–a level where it is truly possible to “kill the will to kill.” Read more here.
Ironically, it was just six months before Ikeda’s lecture that Rodney King was severely beaten by Los Angeles Police (who were later acquitted on state charges of assault with a deadly weapon and use of excessive force but two of whom were found guilty of federal civil rights violations). The acquittal of the officers of state charges led to riots in Los Angeles in which 55 people died and 2,000 were injured. During the riots, King said, “can’t we just get along.”
Dehumanization and the Us vs. Them dichotomy inevitably leads to the arguments and counterarguments between Black Lives Matter proponents and law and order proponents who deny that there’s a problem or the scope of it. Few, if any, are in possession of 100% truth nor are few 100% wrong. They just have an understandable but often less than helpful perspective. Here’s another excerpt from Ikeda’s Harvard Lecture, the second paragraph excerpted is the lead-in to the quote above explaining Shakyamuni’s response:
One of the most important Buddhist concepts, dependent origination holds that all beings and phenomena exist or occur in relation to other beings or phenomena. Everything is linked in an intricate web of causation and connection and nothing–whether in the realm of human affairs or of natural phenomena–can exist or occur solely of its own accord.
. . . .
As I mentioned in discussing encounters between different cultures, not all relationships are amicable. The reality of opposing interests and even hostility must be acknowledged. What can be done to encourage and promote harmonious relations?
In Ikeda’s first quote above, I intentionally left out his second sentence, in which he observes that Shakyamuni’s response is based on the concept of dependent origination. We are all, like it or not, interconnected. We are all human, living on this earth at the same time. When we interact we can choose to find hate in others or blame them for our misfortune. Or we can choose a different view. In over 35 years of marriage between myself, a white male, and a black female, we have traveled through most of the 50 states in America, to Canada and to Japan. We can count on the fingers of one hand the times that we have perceived any overt or perceptible discrimination against us by people of any other race. Why? Because we don’t regard others that way AND because we overcame opposition to our marriage from her father.
So, it is enough to kill the will to kill. But it is even better not to hate at all.