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In the talk by the Dalai Lama here in Austin the other day his answer to a question about the Iraq war took me by suprise.
He was asked a question about the Iraq war. I assumed, given he’s a pacifist, that he’d immediately talk about the people being killed, how this is bad, etc. But, his answer basically boiled down to it being too early to tell if any good would come of the situation. He even cited how some good even came of the Korean war since South Korea is a nice place today.
The really interesting part was his observation that violence, while it can on occaision produce “good” results, is extremely unpredictable. Even with good intentions, using violence can never be expected to give good results. His (simplified) example was to contrast the Korean and Vietnam wars. He said the Korean war had some good results but Vietnam didn’t, although the US had basically the same intentions.
His acceptance that war, and killing people, can potentially produce “good” results was very suprising to me at first, but I think I’m understanding why. Buddhism seems very aligned towards self-improvement as a means to improve the rest of the world. To this end you have to accept that other people will do bad things (ie: killing people), trust that the proper Karma will be distributed, and then move on. This gives the freedom to accept the results on the actions as they are, not just in the light of what caused them.
Now, I’m certain the Dalai Lama is overall very anti-war. The point here is just more about accepting the past.