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Buddhism in the News


Sunday, November 02, 2008

Non-Violence is the Right Choice--It Works.

New York, USA -- Nonviolent resistance is not only the morally superior choice. It is also twice as effective as the violent variety. That's the startling and reassuring discovery by Maria Stephan and Erica Chenoweth, who analyzed an astonishing 323 resistance campaigns from 1900 to 2006. "Our findings show that major nonviolent campaigns have achieved success 53 percent of the time, compared with 26 percent for violent resistance campaigns," the authors note in the journal International Security. (The study is available as a PDF file at

"First, a campaign's commitment to nonviolent methods enhances its domestic and international legitimacy and encourages more broad-based participation in the resistance, which translates into increased pressure being brought to bear on the target," they state. "Second, whereas governments easily justify violent counterattacks against armed insurgents, regime violence against nonviolent movements is more likely to backfire against the regime."

James: I think that one of the reasons that Buddhism and Buddhists are so peaceful, nonviolent (with some exceptions of course) and less likely to engage in violence and aggressive intimidating divisive talk that often breeds tension and conflict between religions is because of Buddhisms lack of a belief in a god. This helps neuter the defensiveness and aggression that often comes with religions that claim to be the sole religious truth and the fight that often ensues of "my god is superior to your god." It divides people to the point of seeing those who don't believe in your god and absolute truth as inferior and evil, which can divide families as well as turn brothers, friends and fellow human beings into enemies and set them against each other.

It can and often does very breeds intolerance rather than acceptance. It often leads to an attitude of superiority, which can also easily escalate to violent conflicts such as in the crusades, the inquisitions, the purge of pagans and Islamic jihadism/terrorism. This is not to say that all members of these certain religions act in such ways and agree with such aggressiveness.

As for nonviolence in general I think that it is more effective because it appeals to everyone's internal desire to avoid suffering and most people (except perhaps the most deranged) suffer greatly when they employ violent behavior, thought and speech. This can be seen throughout history when eventually the rank and file members of a violent organization/military either desert or turn on the leaders to end the bloodshed, oppression and overall suffering.

Nonviolence comes from a place of strength and violence a place of weakness therefore nonviolence can usually be sustained for a longer period of time. It is not unlike a strong oak tree that bends in the strongest wind but doesn't break for its roots are deep in the soil of interdependence. This a weird analogy but the word fascism is derived from the Italian word fascio, which means "bundle" or "union", and from the Latin word fasces. [12] The fasces, which consisted of a bundle of rods often tied around an axe.

The idea being that one twig on its own is weak and can easily be broken by force but when many weak twigs are tied together in a thick bundle not even the strongest hands can tear them apart. When a population unites together in a literal manifestation of interconnection their numbers and willpower will overwhelm and outlast the strongest, largest army. The general population of a country is almost always greater than the numbers of a military and unlike a military every citizen can participate in a nonviolent movement including the old, sick and young. Especially when the global population adds to the numbers. I'll end this post with one of my favorite quotes from Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who explains why a seemingly weak strategy of nonviolence is so powerful:

Nonviolence is a powerful weapon and just weapon, which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it. It is a sword that heals.-Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

~Peace to all beings~

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Uku said...

Great post, James!


h. said...

Well said.

When the doors of perception are cleansed, man will view things as they truly are- infinate. ~William Blake

I would love to be born into a world with such peace.

Modern Girl said...

That was interesting. It speaks to what Barack Obama said about promoting diplomacy. He stated that he would choose to attempt a diplomatic negotiation with Iran. This statemtn received a lot of criticism, because a lot of people feel that would be a failed attempt. But I think the point Barack was trying to make was that we should always attempt to use non-violent strategies before we choose to rely on violent strategies. I don't think a lot of people got that, but I think it's really important.

They call him James Ure said...


Thank-you (bowing).


That is a great quote and so true. I think we'll have a much greater chance at peace if Obama is elected tonight. :)

Modern Girl:

I absolutely agree with Obama's diplomacy plans. Diplomacy has been proven to be extremely effective since early civilization.

Even Ronald Reagan after calling the USSR the "Evil Empire" engaged in diplomacy with them rather than engage in violence.

Dhamma81 said...

It's interesting that there is data to support this sort of thing. As a Buddhist I try to stay out of violence and conflict as much as I can. I can say that in school I never got into any fights even though I was provoked on more then one occasion and had a black belt that could have probably serve me well. I chose not to use it because I really saw it as being kind of pointless to end of fighting.

My uncle died in prison for murder, for using violence. That stays with me to this day to know that there was a blood relative that let rage get that out of control.

I think you are right James, it appeals to folks because they want to avoid suffering. You also mentioned deraranged people, and when dealing with them it is not always easy. At heart I don't believe in personally using violence, but when confronted with a Hitler or a Pol Pot I don't see it being in a nations best interest to not use military force even though the consequences are grave. That is why I think Obama's hope for diplomacy with countries like Iran will ultimately fail. There really are people in the 21st century that do not want peace and will use people the way Hitler used Neville Chamberlain to achieve their twisted ends.

I find it a personal struggle since as a Buddhist there is a clear precept against killing yet for a nation a policy of appeasement and diplomacy with total noviolence is a sure way to bring more then anyone bargains for. Life is quite difficult isn't it, especially for us practicing Buddhists. I know you are on the other side of the fence in this election then I am, but despite that I think you're a good guy and I wish you well.

They call him James Ure said...


I agree with you that there are instances when military force is needed such as WW2. However, only after all diplomacy as been exhausted.

It is a personal struggle though as you said for me too. I hate to ever support violence but sometimes I guess it's is necessary to keep the world from descending into even further, more horrific violence on a much wider scale.

Anonymous said...

Safe from violence
All beings deserve to live
yet I slap at flies

- Haikool

They call him James Ure said...


(I love that name). Great haiku and a profound statement about the dilemma of how we deal with ALL life forms.

Harris said...

James, I agree with your stand on nonviolence. I believe that nonviolence appeals to a lot more people because with nonviolence they can avoid harm from violent acts. Nonviolence takes a lot more strength then retaliating back with violence. Showing violence is a form of weakness in my opinion. This nonviolent way of action was also a very effective strategy used during the civil rights movement to help end segregation for African Americas in America. I believe with nonviolent action people are forced to learn a way to live together in a world with many different types of people, religions, genders, and races in peace.
I also agree with you that they may be a time for violence, but only in the harshest of conditions and as long as there is good reasoning behind that violence

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