Karma and the September 11 attacks

A question-and-answer session held at Amitabha Buddhist Centre in Singapore on October 27, 2001.

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  • Responding to the September 11 tragedy (download)

    • How we can respond to the 9/11 tragedy besides making monetary contributions.
    • Staying actively engaged with tangible support, as well as working on a karmic level through our prayers and practices.
    • Doing tonglen and Chenrezig practice to transform ignorance and hatred to love and compassion.
    • Taking refuge to help us see terrorists as human beings.

    Views on the United States invasion of Afghanistan (download)

    • Should the US invade Afghanistan?
    • Is a foreign power invading the country a way to bring about getting food to the people in the midst of a huge famine?
    • None of us really know what will work because you never know the outcome until it’s already happened.
    • Imagine being the politicians having the responsibility to make wise decisions that are going to influence millions and billions of people.
    • We all have our own opinions, but would any of us feel comfortable making such decisions?

    The role of karma (download)

    • Both group karma and personal karma influenced where we were when the tragedy occurred as well as how we experienced it.
    • Nobody deserves to suffer and what happened was not a punishment.
    • Think about what type of karma led certain people to be hijackers and to think that killing people was good.
    • If we don’t want to become a terrorist in a future life we have to make sure we don’t start thinking like terrorists think right now.
    • If we kill, support or rejoice at others killing, we create the causes for a short life in the future.
    • Karma as mental intention; what was the motivation for building such a display of prosperity (The World Trade Center)?
    • How much do we ourselves have the mind of pride, greed and arrogance?
    • Did those types of mind contribute to what happened?
    • We need to take a look at how we contribute to social, economic and other systems that bring harmful results to people in various countries.

    Rebirths of the victims of tragedy (download)

    • Many different conditions determine what our future lives will be including our state of mind when we die.
    • We can’t say where all those who died will be reborn; some may have died in fear but many may have died with compassion.
    • It’s worth asking ourselves if we were suddenly faced with such a situation would we be able to die with a kind heart.
    • When we think like that it generates the thought to do more practice.

    Explaining the September 11 attacks to children (download)

    • We don’t want to teach our kids that there are inherently “good and bad people”.
    • It’s good to give kids the space to express their feelings and parents need to be aware of what they themselves are feeling in order to help their kids.
    • We need to have compassion for the people who did the bombings and for the victims along with working towards making the world a better place so this kind of thing doesn’t happen again.
    • Why do we find watching violence entertaining and what is that teaching our kids?

    Karma and our environmental conditions (download)

    • The environment is a result of our past actions but also a result of what we’re presently thinking; as societies we need to start questioning our thinking.
    • It’s so easy to react with more anger and more violence because our minds are uncontrolled and mistakenly think more anger and more violence are going to bring us happiness.
    • It’s important to understand that as Buddhists, compassion doesn’t mean we don’t respond and stick our heads in the sand and pretend it didn’t happen.

    Counteracting vengeance (download)

    • If I were a famous religious leader I would speak out more and meet together with other religious leaders and issue joint statements.
    • Some of the Jewish/Muslim dialogue in the US started to disintegrate; it’s real important that they come together and issue a statement on what they do agree on regarding the hijackers.
    • Although many people including some religious leaders are taking sides, it would be nice if the religious leaders who have done some work on themselves came together publicly because that could have a settling affect on the public and more interreligious faith services would be fantastic.
    • Sometimes people who are non-violent lose faith and courage in the face of so much violence, but many engaged in actions such as volunteering to help protect Mosques and having educational forums where we can talk about all religions including Buddhism will help reduce prejudice by giving people accurate information.

    Discomfort with parodies of September 11 (download)

    • Violent cartoons aren’t funny especially when aimed at kids, but when horrible things happen we do need to be able to bring some humor into the situation.
    • In general, humor in life is very important, but there also needs to be some sensitivity.
    • Not all of us may like the same kinds of humor and if it leads some people to tune out reality that’s not so good, but if it helps someone to let go of their fear and anxiety, that’s good.

    Destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas (download)

    • It was a loss to the world as well as to Buddhists that the statues carved into the cliffs at Banyan in Afghanistan were destroyed.
    • It’s a pity that we didn’t know about it beforehand so that more protests could have been organized although at the last minute a group did try to buy some of the relics to preserve them.
    • I’m glad that Buddhists didn’t decide to start killing and bombing Muslim sites whereas several other religions probably would have but we don’t want to because we see that’s not the way to resolve conflicts.
    • In our world we need to make an effort to point out to others that this thing happened and we didn’t react violently because if we don’t point that out, people just space out and don’t notice it.

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