THE APPLICATION OF RIGHT MINDFULNESS
FOR THE MILITARY
From the moment, men and women join the armed forces they are told to be willing to fight for their country. The military train soldiers to take orders. They train men and women to kill. The lives of the soldiers are not their own. As enrolled men and women, they serve the orders of their commanding officers, right up to the Commander-in-Chief in the White House. They face punishment and court martial if they refuse orders. In such circumstances, there is immense pressure on military personnel to ‘do their duty.’
Hundreds of thousands of men and women in the armed services find they have to pay a very heavy personal price for joining the army and going to war. Teachers of mindfulness for the military would have to address these concerns to make mindfulness, as taught by the Buddha, relevant for the army. MMFT does not want soldiers and drone pilots refusing orders out of compassion for themselves and for those whose lives they target.
In Buddhist language, soldiers would need to be mindful and clearly comprehend the karmic consequences for any harm they find themselves inflicting on others. Soldiers and pilots in the killing fields may lose their life, suffer loss of limbs, blindness while their partner, children, parents, relatives and friends endure despair. Karmic consequences for the military personnel include suicide, attempted suicide, thinking of suicide, depression, anxiety attacks, violent outbursts, including upon partner and children, drug addiction, alcohol addiction, self-hatred, smashing up of homes and abusive behaviour. These reactions show the traumatisation of the inner life through exposure to killing and mutilation.
A wise explanation of karma (the mindfulness teacher may employ other words) can make even the most hardened soldier think twice about deployment. If men and women were truly mindful of the suffering for themselves and others involved in joining the army, they would surely hesitate to sign up. Many, many deeply regret the day they joined the army, whether to escape poverty, to experience solidarity with others or for the so-called glamour of a soldier’s life. Men and women in uniform can find themselves wracked with guilt and remorse.
The Buddha employed Right Mindfulness to explore the causes and consequences for actions. Ideally, such mindfulness courses would explicitly help soldiers find their inner authority to say No to killing and thus safeguard their natural right to peace of mind, happiness and personal safety for their loved ones. They cannot say No without facing heavy retribution from the army. There is neither resilience nor mental armour that can protect soldiers from personal suffering, the horror of combat and varying degrees of traumatisation of their inner life while spending time in the killing fields. By not entering the killing fields, they pay respect to themselves, their families and respect to people in other nations.
After returning from deployment, soldiers can go through waves of unhappiness, terrifying memory recall, nightmares and believing that daily life is pointless. Deep down in their being, they know they have supported or engaged in the wilful support of the violation of life of men, women and children, much like themselves and their families. These military personnel need ongoing support including right mindfulness, counselling, meditation, insights, metta (loving kindness), psychological and spiritual guidance and perhaps medication, as well.
Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction programmes and similar practices can give immense support to soldiers returning home from the killing fields. MBSR can also go to support Arab citizens in cities, towns and villages traumatised by the occupation of foreign troops. To quote Jon Kabat-Zinn, these courses would confirm the “interconnectedness between the seer and the seen. This is a non-dual perspective resting on an ethical foundation.”
Right Mindfulness remains inseparable from wholesome intentions/actions, loving kindness meditations (metta) for the three kinds of people – the friendly, the strangers and the unfriendly. Right Mindfulness includes the dissolution of mental armour to develop wisdom and compassion of the heart. The development of Right Mindfulness ensures the beneficiary shares their experience with others to safeguard others, near and far, from any harm and suffering. It is the responsible of Mindfulness teachers to state explicitly that Right Mindfulness and a wholesome/healing attitude go together like wood and trees.
Right Mindfulness contributes to a depth of inquiry into change, suffering and seeing through “I” “me” and “mine.” Mindfulness supports calmness of being, depths of meditation, empathy with others and peaceful co-existence. Individually and collectively, the mindful ones explore the processes of life to know a liberating wisdom that awakens from the divisive and the false.
QUESTIONS FOR BUDDHIST TEACHERS AND ADVISORS
OF MINDFULNESS FOR THE MILITARY
If certain Buddhist teachers advisors knew that if soldiers refuse to go into the killing fields, it could save them from a terrible death, suicide, a complete mental breakdown or lifelong despairing thoughts, would the Buddhist teacher recommend to soldiers to refuse deployment as an act of self- compassion?
Would Buddhist teachers and advisors strongly urge the soldiers to stop the killing and maiming of Muslims out of compassion for others? If the teachers refuse to offer a mindful counsel in this way, what are their reasons?
If certain Buddhist teachers and advisors knew that the military employed mindfulness practices to enable soldiers to be more effective and precise killers, would the teachers speak out? If not, why not?
Would Buddhist teachers and advisors explain their reasons to their organisations, centres, Dharma students and non-violent activists for endorsing military version of mindfulness?
Do certain Buddhist teachers and advisors believe that it is acceptable for soldiers to kill fewer people, rather than random killing, because their mind is steadier after mindfulness training?
Would the mindfulness teachers and advisors agree that the killing of fewer people, due to training in mindfulness, can still lead to suicide and despair for soldiers and terrible suffering for Muslim citizens who lose members of their family?
Would the same teachers and advisors, from the very beginning, speak to pilots and soldiers about the sacred nature of the first precept of not engaging in killing? If not, why not?
Would they speak to drone pilots and soldiers about the personal and social consequences of taking life including the fact that 320,000 men and women in the military have returned to the United States from Afghanistan and Iraq, or prior to deployment, suffering with PTSD?
If international lawyers proved beyond reasonable doubt that the US President, military leaders, drone pilots and certain soldiers commit international war crimes and war crimes against humanity, would the Buddhist teachers and advisors continue to support military mindfulness training of MMFT for drone pilots and soldiers in the killing fields?
Would Buddhist teachers and advisors who lead mindfulness programmes for the military encourage US citizens to campaign against the US wars on Muslim nations?
Would the Buddhist teachers and advisors join peace demonstrations and encourage soldiers to protest against these wars out of compassion and respect for human life?
Would Buddhist teachers and advisors urge negotiation, inquiry into causes for conflict and compassionate action as the way forward and publicly distance themselves from mindful killing by the military?
The Way Forward
The Buddha offered teachings on the Way to resolve suffering, inner and outer, through inquiry into dependent arising conditions, exploration of the Four Noble Truths (of suffering, its causes, resolution and the way), wise speech, wise action and transformation of consciousness.
Political leaders, military officers and supporters of war delude themselves if they honestly believe that military force will put an end to terrorism. Events since 9/11 show there is no evidence that American military might has ended acts of terror or the terror on US soldiers.
Governments, the military and religious leaders, including Buddhist teachers, must address the underlying causes and conditions that generate violent conflict. Why do people around the world hate the foreign policies of the United States government? Why does the invasion and occupation by the US army of various Muslim countries bring about such violent reaction from the oppressed? What are the grievances of Muslim communities? What ways have the West exploited Muslim nations, Muslim communities and their natural resources?
When we inquire into the variety of causes and conditions, and have an inter-connected vision of the relationship between the West and the Muslim community, we will start the healing process. Wholesome mindfulness, change, negotiation, aid, and wise action belong to the way forward. The use of mindfulness to build resilience, mental armour and team performance belongs to the narrow motivations of the military.
May all beings live in peace
May all beings live in harmony
May all beings live in peace and harmony