kmath wrote:There's a number of "Just War" theories out there and I wonder if people subscribe to any of them. Or if by undertaking the fifth precept, are you a strict pacifist? I'm curious to hear anyone's thoughts on the matter.
No, I wouldn't consider myself a strict pacifist, although I do hold to a predominately non-violent philosophy.
It's often assumed that Buddhists must be strict pacifists. But the Buddha never forbade kings or soldiers, even those actively engaged in warfare, from becoming lay-followers, so it certainly wasn't a requirement (although he certainly didn't approve of their actions, either). He also didn't say that one shouldn't defend oneself when necessary. Buddhism is nothing if not pragmatic, and it's understood that we're potentially going to be confronted with situations where we may feel the need to, or automatically react with, some level of violence and force. That's one reason there's no offense for a monk who, "trapped in a difficult situation, gives a blow 'desiring freedom'" (Pc74
Nevertheless, pacifism as a baseline for conduct
is definitely inline with the first precept and the principle of harmlessness. In fact, I think Thanissaro Bhikkhu makes a pretty good case for this aspect in his essay "Getting the Message
." Matthew Kosuta also makes a relatively good case for this in his paper, "The Buddha and the Four-Limbed Army: The Military in the Pali Canon
All in all, I think non-violent solutions to any conflict should be exercised until it's no longer tenable, and then I think the least amount of force/violence should be used when all else fails.