The Dalai Lama, a lifelong champion of non-violence candidly stated that terrorism cannot be tackled by applying the principle of ahimsa because the minds of terrorists are closed.
The shocker, at least to the thoroughly programmed leftist mind, was:
The head of the Tibetan government-in-exile left the audience stunned when he said “I love President George W Bush.” He went on to add how he and the US President instantly struck a chord in their first meeting unlike politicians who take a while to develop close ties.
Speaking as a heterodox American Buddhist, here’s what I think the Dalai Lama is implying. Non-violence is an upaya (frequently translated as “skillful means”). That is: it’s a means to an end, rather than an absolute value to be applied irrespective of the utility of its application. “Provisional means” is another translation of upaya, and I think it’s particularly useful in this case. Non-violence is a valuable and subtle strategy provided it actually works to reduce or eliminate harm and injury. And it only works when its designated target is at a sufficiently high developmental level. The Spiral Dynamics model championed by Ken Wilber (though a theory that requires careful handling) has some application here.
Wikipedia helpfully explains a classic example of upaya:
A famous story from the Lotus Sutra, often given as an example of upaya, is that of a man who comes home to find his house on fire and his children inside entertaining themselves with their favorite playthings. He calls out to his children to leave the house, but they do not believe it to be on fire, and they do not stop playing with the toys. Thinking about how he may use expedient means, the man tells his children that he has arranged for them to receive gilded carts and toy oxen to play with, and that these entertainments await just outside the gate of the house. Hearing this, the children then run from the burning house and are saved.
There’s irony galore in this situation and the questions it provokes. How do we find the skillful means for dealing with terrorists? How much damage do we let them do while we stand compassionately by, waiting for their minds to open? How long might we realistically expect that to take? Can a stubborn attachment to non-violence be seen as naive, even childish? And if it is, what means can detach some people from it? And how long might that process take?
The Dalai Lama can sometimes display an infectious childlike wonder. Will this recent request to relinquish childish expectations prove equally acceptable to his admirers?
Especially the guy who just gave that big speech. You know, the one where he talked about setting aside childish things.