In other words, avoiding the extremes of indulgence in everything from eating too much food to being cavalier about violence and death. Then there is the opposite extreme of avoidance of all pleasures in life. As well as, living in denial that we live in a violent world that sometimes requires a rigorous but measured defense against those who would enslave and murder thousands of innocent lives. Imagine if everyone in the world said during World War II that violence is never justified and Hitler was allowed to continue his brutal invasions of country after country. And, that, he would continue and expand his operations to murder millions of innocent Jews in gas chambers and by execution squads. In that instance, it seems crystal clear that to just sit in meditation and avoid an exploding world while hellish forces seek to enslave the globe, kill anyone not like them in mass numbers and cause untold amounts of suffering to men, women, children and old people is an extreme position to hold.
We can not sit in far-removed cloisters and monasteries and look down upon that kind of suffering with a detached view to avoid violence at all costs. How is it compassionate to allow the entire world to be plunged into a hellish realm of global warfare and extreme suffering out of an absolutist attitude against violence? Is that the approach we should take if we come along an adult raping a child or attempting to violently hurt them? Is it really compassionate to just look the other way and ignore that kind of suffering? That seems completely nihilistic to me. There is a famous poem about avoidance in the face of unrelenting violence and absolute suffering. It was written by Pastor Martin Niemöller who sought to describe the dangers of inactivity by German intellectuals during the rise and reign of terror by the Nazis:
First they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.James: I believe that being interconnected means being responsible for the suffering of others. This isn't simply about not hurting others but includes helping those in need when they are suffering at the hand of others. And, ending the suffering of those being murdered in their beds at night by terrorism or mass murdered in gas chambers by Nazis falls within that field of being responsible for their suffering. If we are called upon to help end suffering of others than we can't absolutely, categorically avoid violence.
Then they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.
We are to respect life but not cling to it at all costs. The same for death, thus, the importance of the middle-path. I believe it is one of the most important, helpful and practical teachings the Buddha taught to assist us in living in a complicated world. Still, as I said, violence should only be used when all other means of solving violence are extinguished. And, it should never be done with hatred in your heart. It should only be used to protect the greater populations of innocent beings. And, I believe that one's intention behind the violence is vital. If it is out of protection of innocents then I believe that it causes less heavy karma than doing so out of glee or hatred. Also, when violence is necessary, it should be done with as much compassion as possible. That may sound strange but let me explain; when having to kill, one shouldn't maim or torture in the process.
It's not something to rejoice in, or celebrate though I must admit I felt a twinge of joy when I heard Osama was dead. I'm not perfect and I have since tried to temper my emotions in regards to his death. It's a horrible thing to have to kill another being but this world isn't as clear cut as "good or evil." The teaching of the middle path shows that life requires a more nuanced approach to events that often requires actions we may dislike.
Perhaps some might see this as odd considering I'm a vegetarian but animals do nothing to harm us or cause us suffering. Whereas, mass murderers, terrorists and armies bent on world domination threaten all of us. If we truly believe in interconnection then a threat to one person is a threat to us all. I know some purists will disagree with me but I do think rare violence is justified if it avoids the suffering of masses of innocent lives. Something else to consider, even the most Buddhist countries on Earth like Thailand and Korea have a military. Unfortunately, we can't pretend to live in a world that is rainbows and unicorns. There are violent people out to destroy millions of lives and to allow them to do so would be extremely nihilistic.
Still, violence should be avoided in 99.9% of circumstances. I don't support war just to go to war such as the Iraq war but there are times, I believe, that we must act in order to avoid the greatest amount of suffering (World War II). I know some of you might think this doesn't make me a very good Buddhist but I think it's being realistic. I feel it's walking the middle path of balance and reason to deal with a very complicated world that requires avoiding absolutism. I know this is a sensitive topic and I don't mind if you disagree with me. However, I would hope that my readers are mature enough to discuss this matter without resorting to insults. Please, be as respectful as you would want people to be toward you.