Are Buddhist Pacifists or can I defend myself?

Question: “I know that when people hurt you emotionally you should learn to sympathize and control that anger and release it from your mind because retaliating and hurting them emotionally is wrong. However if somebody hurts you or a family member physically can you defend yourself? or are Buddhist pacifist?”

Buddhists are technically pacifists. We don’t believe in violence, because the result only leads to more violence. Only love can defeat violence. But the answer to your question differs in some Buddhist schools and traditions. In most cases, for example, if someone was trying to kill you, it’s most likely a karmic debt that you need to pay because maybe you killed someone in one of your past lives. But on the other hand, does this mean we shouldn’t try to survive? Of course we need to attempt to survive!

Many Zen schools will probably disagree and say we need to just let things happen because it’s the effect of a cause we created. Which is true, yes, but for me I’m going to try my hardest to kick some ass without killing anyone to defend myself! If I truly had a karmic debt for my life, then I’d die in some tragic car accident or something, because if someone tries to kill me, they’re going down first!

HOWEVER, it is our responsibility as Buddhist to fight back with love and compassion as much as we can and help make people see that violence is never the answer and that it will only cause them more suffering and pain. If we were angry at a sibling and we physically fought, we get hurt, get bruises and scratches, maybe even drew blood. The emotions and feelings from that heated altercation will only last a blink of an eye, MAYBE even a whole day. But if we took that energy and instead helped our sibling accomplish something, maybe a school or a personal project, helped them build something, or even teach them something new – aren’t those feelings so much stronger, happier, and beneficial? If you did fight and got a scar, a year later you’d probably forget why you even fought in the first place! But you’ll always remember the happy and loving memories and the smiles you got for helping them. Isn’t that a better solution?

Smile and be well!

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