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The Age of Suffering: Buddhist Discourses on Non-violence in Theory and Practice

  • Peter Lehr
Chapter

Abstract

This chapter offers an in-depth exploration of Theravāda Buddhist discourses on violence and non-violence from a political science perspective. We will see that despite the concept of ahimsa (usually translated as ‘non-violence’), there are some ambiguities regarding the use of (limited) violence for defensive purposes. These ambiguities will be discussed in the context of Satha-Anand’s ‘Three Moments in Buddhist History,’ that includes the life of the Buddha, the traditional Theravāda Buddhist realms from Emperor Ashoka Maurya onwards, and the modern societies from the end of the nineteenth century until now. Several sets of actors will be scrutinized in that regard: the monkhood, the general population (‘householders’), soldiers, and kings. The chapter will be concluded with a reflection of prima facie duties, absolute values, and ‘Just War’ elements detectable (or not) in Theravāda Buddhism.

Keywords

Ahimsa Dukkha Four Noble Truths Noble Eightfold Path Absolute values Prima facie duties Just War 

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter Lehr
    • 1
  1. 1.School of International RelationsUniversity of St AndrewsSt AndrewsUK

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