Killing for Inner Peace

Est Reading Time: 2 min

The idea of killing for inner peace isn’t as preposterous as it sounds. Or rather, it IS as preposterous as it sounds but not as uncommon as it seems. A great example comes from that Source of All Worldly Wisdom: the Simpsons. Here, Springfield stumbles onto what looks like an alien:


ALIEN: I bring you love.

DR. HIBBERT: Is that the love between a man and a woman, or the love of a man for a fine Cuban cigar? (He chuckles.)

ALIEN: Uh…I bring you love.

LENNY: It’s bringing love! Don’t let it get away!

CARL: Break its legs!

(Everyone charges for the alien holding bats and crowbars.) [Source]

“What an exaggeration!” I might think. I’d be sorely mistaken. History (especially religious history) has a sense of irony far crueller than could be mustered by any 1 person. The tale comes, of all religions, from Buddhism. Gautama Buddha (the historical Buddha, as opposed to the countless others in the pantheon) dies. Or, achieves the final nirvana to be technical. What happens then?

Word gets out to the 7 neighbouring kings that The One They’ve Been Hearing So Much About has finally achieved enlightenment and shed his earthly shell. Naturally they also want enlightenment, in the shape of his relics (his rotting flesh). Go figure. The Malla kings who had his body in possession weren’t keen to just hand out such spiritual goodness. So the 7 kings took their armies and besieged the Mallas’ walled city. The picture you see [source] is of the troops at the walls, complete with elephants.

Then a monk called Dona negotiated a deal whereby the relics were divided and war was avoided. Now I don’t know what evidence there is for the historical accuracy of the tale. The sentiment certainly rings true. We can all see a zealot willing to send 1000s to kill and die for the finger/ear/toenail of the Buddha! I’ve argued before that mysticism and violence are intrinsically (and not just incidentally) connected. There’s no better illustration, even if it’s a parable. Nothing’s more dangerous than a “spiritual person” in search of enlightenment.