Court Cases (UK): The Peace Tax Seven

Buddhism and Conscientious Objection to War

Buddhist Brief to the European Court of Human Rights in Support of the Peace Tax Seven

[pdf version]

The Buddhist stance on violence, peace and war

The first upasika precept


Bodhisattva vows

“A disciple of the Buddha shall not himself kill, encourage others to kill, kill by expedient means, praise killing, rejoice at witnessing killing, or kill through incantation or deviant mantras. He must not create the causes, conditions, methods, or karma of killing (italics added), and shall not intentionally kill any living creature.”[1]

Tantric vows

Conscientious objection

“Conquer anger by love, conquer evil by good, conquer the stingy by giving, conquer the liar by truth” (v.223).

“Though he should conquer a thousand thousand men in the battlefield, yet he, indeed, is the nobler victor who should conquer himself” (v.103).

Non-violent reflections on a violent world

“That lay people should never initiate violence where there is harmony or use it against the innocent is very clear. That they should not attempt to protect those under their care if the only way of doing so is to use defensive violence is not so clear... The person who feels violence is justified to protect the lives of others has indeed to take the consequences into account. He has to remember that he is risking grave [karmic] consequences for himself in that his action will inevitably bear fruit... Such a person needs to evaluate motives... Yet that person might still judge that the risks are worth facing to prevent a greater evil”.[3]

The Dalai Lama and Tibetans' peaceful opposition to Chinese occupation

“It is our collective and individual responsibility to protect and nurture the global family, to support its weakest members and to preserve and tend to the natural environment in which we all live”.[8]

“It lies with each of us individually. Peace, for example, starts within each one of us. When we have inner peace, we can be at peace with those around us. When our community is in a state of peace, it can share that peace with neighbouring communities, and so on” (Nobel Peace Prize Lecture[9]).

“Peace can only last where human rights are respected, where the people are fed, and where individuals and nations are free” (Nobel Peace Prize Lecture[10]).

Modern warfare and its financial support

“Modern military power must be regarded as very different from the self-defense forces with which man has been familiar throughout the ages. I see no grounds for justifying military power in the world today... I am convinced that examples of warfare conducted for the sake of veritable self-defense are rare”.[11]

“Suppose we were to appoint a certain being who would show anger where anger was due, censure those who deserved it, and banish those who deserved banishment! And in return, we would grant him a share of the rice”.[12]

“The Iraq issue is becoming very critical now. War, or the kind of organized fighting is something that came with the development of human civilization. It seems to have become part and parcel of human history or human temperament. At the same time, the world is changing dramatically. We have seen that we cannot solve human problems by fighting. Problems resulting from differences in opinion must be resolved through the gradual process of dialogue. Undoubtedly, wars produce victors and losers; but only temporarily. Victory or defeat resulting from wars cannot be long-lasting. Secondly, our world has become so interdependent that the defeat of one country must impact the rest of the word, or cause all of us to suffer losses either directly or indirectly.

But what can we do? What can we do when big powers have already made up their minds? All we can do is to pray for a gradual end to the tradition of wars. Of course, the militaristic tradition may not end easily. But, let us think of this. If there were bloodshed, people in positions of power, or those who are responsible, will find safe places; they will escape the consequent hardship. They will find safety for themselves, one way or the other. But what about the poor people, the defenseless people, the children, the old and infirm. They are the ones who will have to bear the brunt of devastation. When weapons are fired, the result will be death and destruction. Weapons will not discriminate between the innocent and guilty. A missile, once fired, will show no respect to the innocent, poor, defenseless, or those worthy of compassion. Therefore, the real losers will be the poor and defenseless, ones who are completely innocent, and those who lead a hand-to-mouth existence.”

[1] TheBrahma Net Sutra: Translated by the Buddhist Text Translation Society in USA: Buddhist Text Translation Society:

[2] Upadhyaya, K.N., 1971, Early Buddhism and the Bhagavad Gita, Delhi, Motilal Banarsidass, page 537.

[3] Harris, E.J., 1994, Violence and Disruption in Society: A Study of the Early Buddhist Texts, Wheel booklet no. 392/393, Kandy, Buddhist Publication Society, pages 47-8.

[4] Bell, C., 1924, Tibet Past and Present, reprinted 1992, Delhi, Asian Educational Services, pages 121, 140.

[5] Quoted on Cabezón, J.I., 1996, ‘Buddhist Priciples in the Tibetan Liberation Movement’, in Queen, C.S. & King, S.B. (eds.), 1996, Engaged Buddhism: Buddhist Liberation Movements in Asia, Albany, State University of New York Press, pages 295-320, page 304.

[6] Piburn, S., ed. 1990, The Dalai Lama; A Policy of Kindness: An Anthology of Writings By and About the Dalai Lama, Ithaca, New York, Snow Lion, page 16.

[7] Ibid page 17.

[8] Ibid page 114.

[9] Ibid page 19

[10] Ibid page 18.

[11] Toynbee, A. and Ikeda, D., 1989, Choose Life: A Dialogue, Oxford University Press, page 208.

[12] Digha Nikaya III. 92: translator: Walshe, M., 1987, Thus have I Heard: The Long Discourses of the Buddha, London: Wisdom, page 413.

[13] Shih, Heng-ching , translator 1994, The Sutra on Upasaka Precepts, Berkeley, Numata Center for Buddhist Translation and Research, Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai, page 82.

[14] Anguttara Nikaya IV. 281-5.