Buddhists Packing Heat


Bloomberg.com published a surprisingly well written article on the changing demographics of gun owner ship in America. It is well worth reading …

Natanel is a Buddhist, a self-avowed “spiritual person,” a 53-year-old divorcee who lives alone in a liberal-leaning suburb near Boston. She is 5-foot-1 (155 centimeters) and has blonde hair, dark eyes, a ready smile and a soothing voice, with a hint of Boston brogue. She’s a Tai Chi instructor who in classes invokes the benefits of meditation. And at least twice a month, she takes her German-made Walther PK380 to a shooting range and blazes away.

Two years ago, an ex-boyfriend broke into her house when she wasn’t home. The police advised a restraining order. Instead, she bought pepper spray and programmed the local police number on her cell phone’s speed dial. “I was constantly terrified for my safety,” she says.

The surge has been propelled by shifting politics and demographics that have made it easier and more acceptable than at any time in 75 years for Americans to buy and carry pistols. Post-9/11 fears also seem to be a factor, as has been the relentless pro-gun politicking of the National Rifle Association and marketing, particularly to women, by handgun manufacturers. Events like yesterday’s fatal shootings on the Virginia Tech University campus reinforce a feeling that the world is an unsafe place, even as violent U.S. crime rates fall.

There is a misconception in the relatively safe West that all Buddhist sects disavow the use of firearms. Throughout history Buddhists have taken up arms in self-defense when their lives and society has been threatened. To quote a Buddhist monk from the Khok Pho district of the southern Thai state of Pattani …

“Guns reassure your safety. If you are attacked but not dead right away, guns can halt the second shot. They can save peoples’ lives from many attacks…civilian forces are helpful if they work hard because we can’t rely on police or soldiers. At night, police or soldiers are always informed that there is an incident here and there. But when they arrive at the place, they are bombed or attacked. In this sense, villagers have to be vigilant and get strengthened…”.

Earlier this year Michael Jerryson published a very interesting book, Buddhist Fury: Religion and Violence in Southern Thailand, that examines role of military monks in Thailand who are armed and paid by the state to carry arms and defend their wat (monastery) from insurgents. It is a fascinating look into a pacifist society trying to come to terms with a violent reality.

Related

Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


Advertisement

  • http://therimfirepodcast.com/ Ken

    I’d consider myself a Buddhist. I carry and I joined the US Army.

    • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/blog/ Steve (The Firearm Blog)

      :)

  • Lance

    Now we need to get the Hindus to pack heat! LOL.

    • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/blog/ Steve (The Firearm Blog)

      I don’t think Hinduism prohibits firearms.

    • Lance

      I know but I ran out of religions that don’t pack weapons.

    • Komrad

      Gurkhas are some of the most respected and brutal warriors out there and a large majority of them are Hindu.

      The only religion I can think of off the top of my head that probably wouldn’t use guns in defense at all would be the Jains. They are so non-violent, they wont eat root vegetables because they contain micro-organisms that are killed when the root is eaten. Some don’t eat pumpkins because there are too many seeds in them and they don’t want to damage life.

      From Wikipedia: Human life is valued as a unique, rare opportunity to reach enlightenment; to kill any person, no matter what crime he may have committed, is considered unimaginably abhorrent.

      They probably wouldn’t have any trouble using pepper spray or Tasers, but use of firearms against others wouldn’t go over well with them. I see nothing in their Wikipedia page that would stop them from using firearms for recreational shooting though.

    • J Purdy

      “in over night news, convenient store robberies have dropped 100%”

  • Bill

    “If someone has a gun and is trying to kill you, it would be reasonable to shoot back with your own gun.” -Dalai Lama XIV

    • Squidpuppy

      He said it would be “reasonable”; he didn’t say it would be Buddhist. Did anyone ask him if he would? I think it’s reasonable too; in fact, I consider it nearly a duty, but then, this is one reason why I’m not a Buddhist.

  • Komrad

    Now, can we all stop assuming liberal = anti-gun. I hear this all the time and it becomes tiresome to hear about how the “libs gonna take our guns” at gunstores and ranges.

    • Burst

      Just because people CAN stop, doesn’t mean they will.

      For that matter, why assume Buddhist=Liberal?

    • W

      you are correct komrad. stereotypes and generalizations are usually wrong. Politically, i am liberal on some issues and conservative in others. On the political scale, i am classified as a “Classical/Jeffersonian Liberal”, which today is a hair to the left side.

      There are plenty of conservatives that favor restrictions on private firearms ownership. I find it abhorrently hypocritical that many cherry pick the bill of rights: for example, they are staunch supporters of the 1st amendment but are opposed to the freedom of the 2nd amendment, and vice versa .

  • SpudGun

    Not sure how to feel about his article – are we celebrating the fact that normally peaceful people (of whatever religion) are being forced to carry weapons because society has become so evil and violent?

    Aknowledging the situation and making a practical choice to defend yourself is certainly both pragmatic and sensible, but it doesn’t exactly fill me with joy-joy feelings.

    • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/blog/ Steve (The Firearm Blog)

      I celebrate that they have taken a step to escape being victims, in spite of the poor advice of their peers.

      • Seamus

        I’m not sure its bad advice as much as it is a way of living. Some people chose to live life without doing harm to anyone else. There is nothing wrong with that as long as they don’t tell you how to live. And it’s not like you see Buddhist monks campaigning against the second amendment.

    • W

      don’t fret spudgun. these feelings are not a 21st century phenomena. People of supposedly “non-violent” religions and philosophies have practiced the art of self defense and wielding of weaponry with a consistency that has preceded western civilization.

      • SpudGun

        @W – To be fair, I don’t think religion had much to do with the story. The article went out of it’s way to describe the changing face of American gun culture, highlighting a typical left leaning, spiritual, hippy chick type going against the expected norm and purchasing a firearm – the Buddism aspect was icing on the cake rather then the main thrust of the piece.

      • W

        “To be fair, I don’t think religion had much to do with the story….”

        I think you need to work on reading comprehension. From the article,

        “There is a misconception in the relatively safe West that all Buddhist sects disavow the use of firearms. Throughout history Buddhists have taken up arms in self-defense when their lives and society has been threatened. To quote a Buddhist monk from the Khok Pho district of the southern Thai state of Pattani …”

        “Earlier this year Michael Jerryson published a very interesting book, Buddhist Fury: Religion and Violence in Southern Thailand, that examines role of military monks in Thailand who are armed and paid by the state to carry arms and defend their wat (monastery) from insurgents. It is a fascinating look into a pacifist society trying to come to terms with a violent reality.”

        The article is about the changing demographics of gun ownership in america, which include previously believed pacifists and non-violent religions/societies, explicitly Buddhists. It is reinforced by evidence of Buddhists being armed in different parts of the world.

    • SpudGun

      @W – ‘I think you need to work on reading comprehension’.

      I think you need to work on your overall comprehension and re-read the same article as me, the one from Bloomberg, that is featured in the first link of this story. Because that is obviously what I am alluding too.

      It was Steve who picked up on the Buddhist aspect, which I pointed out was only a tiny percentage of the Bloomberg article. I think you both missed the point of what the original story was trying to articulate.

      But hey, stuff happens.

      • W

        “The article is about the changing demographics of gun ownership in america, which include previously believed pacifists and non-violent religions/societies, explicitly Buddhists. It is reinforced by evidence of Buddhists being armed in different parts of the world.”

        What I said in the previous post. That is my main point. The Bloomberg article also mentions the organization “The Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership”. It is obvious my reading comprehension isn’t questionable here.

  • http://about.me/andrewkwise Andy

    A majority of Samurai were Buddhist so obviously it is very possible to have a warrior culture that follows Buddhism.

    While I can’t think of a Buddhist that would look to take the life of someone out of anger, most I know of wouldn’t hesitate to put themselves between and innocent and harm, and if you are talking about an individual that is purposely trying to harm someone I can see them being fine with the use of a firearm in the defense of that innocent if that is the only option.

    • W

      Samurai were in fact followers of Bushido: a philsophy and code of conduct that borrowed neo-confucian elements from buddhism and shinto.

      Bushido formed the fiercely loyal and fanatical belief system for imperial japan at the turn of the 20th century into World War II. Japanese soldiers were terrifying adversaries primarily because of their concreted philosophical and religious indoctrination.

      I consider shinto a different branch that buddhism, though it retains the buddhist concepts of death and afterlife (funerals are held in a buddhist tradition).

      There are different sects of buddhism like there are islam, judaeism and christianity. it is a disingenuous stereotype that buddhists are pacifists opposed to implementing violence in self defense. As history proves, Buddhists too take up arms.

      • http://about.me/andrewkwise Andy

        Bushido wasn’t a religion it was a code of conduct like the western “Code of Chivalry”, many samurai were either Shinto or Buddhist (and even some Christians in the late 1500s and early 1600s). Bushido (translated “The Way of the Warrior or Swordsman) was developed by the Tokugawa Shogunate to help control the Samurai and did indeed combine elements of Confucian/Buddhist/Shinto philosophy but was mostly based on an older code called Kyuba no michi (the Way of the Horse and Bow) that was a looser set of rules that had been evolving ever since the original Shogun Minamoto Yoritomo.

        Shinto was the indigenous religion until Buddhism was introduced around 500ad and then they co-existed from then on out but are two different religions (although different aspects of Shinto were absorbed into Buddhism to make it more familiar to native Japanese). There is a saying in Japan that you are “Born Shinto, Marry Christian, and Die Buddhist” which really expresses the way that Japan interacts with religion. You can see a lot of Buddhism’s interactions with the Samurai in the works of Takuan Sōhō “The Unfettered Mind”, Yamamoto Tsunetomo “Hagakure”, and Yagyu Munenori “Katsujin-Ken (The Life Giving Sword)”.

        Sorry for the wordiness, I study Japanese history as a hobby so I just wanted to clear up some points. :)

      • W

        no need to apologize and thank you. I was a political science and economics major, and still study for leisure, placing japanese history on the lower down the list of priorities; i nevertheless have been fascinated and intrigued by the mythical land that is japan, medieval japanese folklore is absolutely amazing. I appreciate your post andy, and ill give you a big “touche” ;)

  • H.L. Fahnestock

    Now, if we can just rustle up some pistol packin’ Amish… then we’d have something!

  • Matthew

    Many of the Amish are familiar with firearms. They use them for hunting purposes, but you won’t see them carrying for self defense.

  • JT

    People also are generally unaware that back in Feudal Japan and even into WWII there existed Zen Buddhist warrior-monks (or monks turned soldiers in the case of WWII).

  • http://rootman.dyndns.info/ only1911

    mmm you can find “Buddhists” doing or saying almost anything…

    In general the Buddha did teach that you are better of being killed than killing somebody.

    It is all about intention and state of mind.

    The whole teaching is about going beyond greed, anger and delusion..

    … and taking responsibility for your actions..

    So sure kill some folks “defend” your “self” (that is a whole other subject..)..just be willing to take the consequences..

    Me, I am not a buddha yet so I will keep some arms around so I have the choice…

  • Alfred

    Nobody mentioned this?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shaolin_Monastery

    Yes it is possible to practice that form of martial arts without becoming a monk, but then not everyone is cut out for it.

  • Squidpuppy

    It’s only natural people will want to protect themselves from harm, so no argument there. They will also want to protect their family, extended family, and identity group from harm.

    Japan’s feudal era warrior monks and China’s Shaolin monks resorted to force-on-force self-protection due to politics, not philosophy, and because they were people. This is natural, and who’s going to argue with it? Not me; it’s history, psychology, reality. But it doesn’t mean they were being faithful to the core of their creed.

    I’m not a Buddhist, but I grew up in Japan and know a lot of truly committed Buddhists; there is no room for violence in Buddhism if you’re gonna really follow the Buddha’s example. When a Buddhist resorts to violence, or advocates it, they’ve strayed; doesn’t matter if it’s the Dalai Lama himself saying so.

    There’s a big difference between subscribing to a religion and proclaiming oneself an adherent, and actually following the creed. Just look at the Templars.

    That said, welcome to the real world where sometimes “turning the other cheek” ain’t gonna get you anything more than another black eye… When faced with a baddie, I don’t have a single problem with the old wrath of god stuff; good on ya.

  • AZRon

    Who would have ever guessed that kharma wasn’t the most efficient form of self-defense?

  • Netforce

    I think regardless of religion, people don’t want to be a victim to any crime whatsoever. People who buy guns don’t mean they’re gun-crazy people. They are merely protecting themselves from any threat. It’s more like “adapt and survive” strategy.

  • http://www.thisisjeffwong.com Jeff Wong

    The thing about Buddhism and violence is that killing should be avoided. Especially of beings that do not deserve to be killed. For some people, this means animals. There’s nothing that says that you can’t be a Buddhist and not eat meat. If the Tibetans didn’t eat meat, they wouldn’t eat at all. Also, you can acknowledge that a practice is wrong but do it anyways, as long as you don’t live in denial. (Like being a consumer but being a “green” consumer.)

    Doctrinally speaking, there’s nothing in Buddhism that says you aren’t a Buddhist if you have weapons or even kill someone or something.

    What *is* against doctrine is that “you are (something)”. There is no you. It’s just a bunch of stuff that happens. Killing may be harmful to you, but that’s up to you to decide. There is no cosmic judge. Some things that are more wrong than having the potential to kill are multitasking, reading while eating, reading while pooing, being impatient, letting obsessiveness get the better of you and buying more guns without thinking about it. Also, I think Buddhists would be more willing to avoid category theory, like how guns are weapons but other things are not.

    That said, Buddhism itself can be weaponized. See Mack Marchowicz from Future Weapons talk about Zen.

    Also recently Buddhism has been perverted to support oppression and genocide, in Burma and Sri Lanka.

  • John Doe

    Some people follow Buddhism more than others. My 5’2″ 98lb Asian mother packs a P229 or a Glock 19.

  • tincan

    I’m all for more resposible people – esp buddhists! – carrying, but think its funny that a bunch of westerners like us haven’t pointed out that the most pacific religion of all is Christianity. If you are a Christian, then you really have no use for any violence against people. Mind you, I’ll take my odds when I show up at the pearly gates, but any of us who think we’re christians need to accept that not turning the other cheek won’t put us in a better place. That’s why so many soldiers in history have aimed to miss – killing is eternal.

  • David

    tincan.

    Even in the bible it says we can defend ourselves, the fifth commandment as we know it is “Thou shall not kill” which is what was written when it was translated, but what it really said was “Thou shall not kill with evil intent” which means you can’t murder someone, but you can kill to defend yourself.

    • tincan

      Yeah, sure, but that’s old testament, when yahweh accepted slavery and commanded genocide in canaan. Find a place in the new testament when someone says “nah, don’t worry about turning the other cheek.” Again, I’ll roll the dice when it comes to self-defence, but I’m not going to pretend jesus would be cool w
      ith it.

      • Twidget at large

        Umm, there is that New Testament passage where he “drove” tax collectors and money lenders from the temple witha knotted rope. You ever been hit with a rope let alone a knotted rope? It ****** hurts, and if those knotes are big enough they’ll cause some damage.

  • http://humanhair465.seesaa.net/article/306606605.html brazilian human hair extensions

    I know this if off topic but I’m looking into starting my own blog and was wondering what all is required to get set up http://www.photoblog.com/gfghrduhf/2012/12/09/20-virgin-indian-hair.html

  • http://dvdklippet.nu/feeds/index.asp?fenlei=brand brand

    carpenters in Milford

  • http://adamkonigsberg.com/flash/index.asp brand

    hello there, i only determined your site by means of aol,.and i have to tell that you exactly prepare exceptionally slap up by applying your internet site.we are basically squandered with the single valued function that you simply compose ,.along with the message is fantabulous . regardless,.i would in add on like to recognize disregardless of whether you would like to swap back links jointly my.personal network hepatic portal vein ? ill be towards great extent than willing to reciprocate and put in your current universal resource locator away.from inside connectedness part . Looking for aces answer , we give the truthful thank you along with gooday! I will are available back again .