If you read my last post you probably wondered what in the world Buddhists could possibly believe that would have moved some Buddhist monks to burn themselves alive during the Vietnam war.
I will try to explain what I THINK Buddhists believe, based on my reading.
The Buddhist monks who burned themselves alive might well have explained, if asked, that they were doing it as an act of loving kindness.
Yes, I know. Weird, isn’t it? But it’s true.
They weren’t doing it for the glory of God or to get multiple virgins in the afterlife. Gods to them are not very important, and they believe in reincarnation, not a conscious life after death. And they weren’t, unlike today’s Muslim suicide bombers and American malcontents who commit multiple-murder/suicide, interested in killing other people to make a point or to terrorize. No bystanders were ever hurt by the monks’ actions, as far as I know.
To show loving kindness to all those around you is the central ethical tenet of Buddhism. Far more important to them, and forming the predicate for that kindness, is the awareness some Buddhists achieve that in their essence all things and people in the world are one. This is not meant metaphorically. Their meditation eventually leads them to perceive the true reality of the world, and it is One. All the multiplicity is just an illusion.
The Buddha said that once you have direct perception of this Oneness on the deepest level, you will be free of desire and fear, which normally tie all people to the world and make them subject to repeated internal upheavals as the world constantly changes around them, removing or threatening to remove whatever they love or otherwise feel an attachment to.
Having had this perception, one can’t help having compassion for the rest of mankind, still caught in the midst of an ever-changing illusion that causes constant suffering, like people having bad dreams who can never awaken.
I’m guessing that the thought of those monks who burned themselves was that they might help alleviate the suffering that we’d brought to their country by making the ultimate statement as to how abhorrent that suffering was to them, and at the same time leaving us Americans so appalled when we saw it on our TVs that we would eventually go away and leave their country alone.
And so we did — maybe in part because those amazing, unforgettably horrifying images of self-sacrifice shocked lots of Americans into questioning, and ultimately opposing, the Vietnamese War.
To Any Actual Buddhist Who Reads This Post
I know there is way more to it than this! I did my best. Please tell me about anything in this post that’s wrong, and I’ll correct it.