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Reflections on the Invasion of Ukraine

Updated: Mar 12, 2022

It has been disturbing to see the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. To see a country without any provocation be invaded by another country is appalling.

When I think of how large Russia is as a country, it makes me wonder what more Putin wants. Isn’t Russia big enough for him? Why take over a neighboring country, unless it is just a manifestation of the hungry ghost realm in which you never have enough of anything. For such a world ruler — or maybe I should say dictator — there is never enough of anything.

When we look back at the history of the world and of civilization, isn’t this a recurring theme, like a broken record? Conquerors, dynasties, kingdoms, war after war, battle after battle. Where does it end?

In ancient India, there was a ruler named King Ashoka, who helped to build and establish Buddhism. Although King Ashoka was a Buddhist ruler, he did not start out that way. In fact, he was a tyrant, a dictator, a conqueror. He had sent his army into battle to conquer again, and then went to see how the battle went, after the fact. King Ashoka was devastated to see the horrors of war that he had caused by sending his army into battle. Death and destruction were everywhere. “What have I done?” thought King Ashoka.

From that day on, King Ashoka turned to Buddhism and became a ruler of peace, not war.

How Buddhists respond to war is also something to reflect on. Tibet was invaded by Communist China. Temples and monasteries were destroyed. Sutras and ancient texts were destroyed. Monks were killed. But despite the travesty, the Dalai Lama continues to find a peaceful resolution and continues to work to restore his country of Tibet, in which he was both the spiritual and secular ruler.

Perhaps you recall some years ago, the Taliban began to destroy the ancient Buddhist statues in Afghanistan. The ancient statues were huge, carved out of the mountainside. They had been there for centuries, created out of the devout faith of Buddhists. They were like the ancient pyramids of Egypt. Yet, the Taliban saw them as false religion and tried to destroy them. First, they used tanks and artillery to bomb the statues, but they still stood strong. Eventually, they were destroyed.

There were worldwide objections and protests to the destruction of the statues, but Buddhists did not go to war over the issue. I cannot help but think that for Buddhists, the thinking was, “You can destroy the statues, but you cannot destroy the Dharma. The Dharma resides in the hearts and minds of Buddhists as a living teaching, as a living truth. It cannot be destroyed by rockets or artillery. It cannot be destroyed by tyrants and dictators. The Dharma will long outlive dynasties, empires, and kingdoms. Dynasties, empires, and kingdoms will come and go, like the waves that hit the shore. But the Dharma is timeless.”

The Dharma was transmitted across the Asian continent for the past 2,500 years despite opposing rulers and kingdoms. It has been transmitted secretly amidst caves. It has been transmitted during the internment camps. It has been transmitted even in the wake of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

It is my hope and aspiration that the Dharma will flourish, such that there will be more world leaders who have an appreciation of the Dharma, and will find it appalling to invade another country like we have seen in Ukraine.

All the more — there a need for the Buddha-Dharma in this world.


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1 Comment

Mar 22, 2022

Bravo Rev Marv. The most powerful things are ideas stronger than any hammer sharper than any sword. The dharma will endure and grow in the minds of our worldwide Sahnga and tho those who are only starting to learn of it. Thank you. Helps me strengthen my compassion and understanding

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