Who starts a War?

1413771300000 » Tagged as: war , Tagged as: peace , Tagged as: religion , Tagged as: Buddha Dharma , Tagged as: Sufi Dharma




One of the themes for this years conference is - "Sufism as a way of life, celebrating life through love, compassion, forgiveness, and good neighbourliness."


Unfortunately today this is what is really missing among the seven billion human beings in the world. We talk of peace, when the word only means the absence of war. If we are to bring back love, compassion and good neighbourliness, then we have to eliminate war completely and for that we have to first understand who starts a war and why. It is then that we could use the Sufi Dharma to achieve what we have aimed for.


As I argued last year at this conference, I am not in favour of using the term Sufism. It demeans the great Dharma that is known to us by the term Sufi. All isms today create division, conflicts, hatred, envy, and in the ultimate form of destruction, lead to the most inhuman of human actions, called war.


War is legal murder. State sponsored murder, rape, plunder and destruction, but always justified by the victor. It is the loser who is always wrong, who is the villain. The winner is the hero, and will always have enough reasons, arguments. evidence to justify his mass murder.


"War is the pornography of violence.  It has a dark beauty, filled with the monstrous and the grotesque.  The Bible calls it “the lust of the eye” and warns believers against it.  War allows us to engage in primal impulses we keep hidden in the deepest, most private interiors of our fantasy life." Chris Hedges wrote.


"Tjaden reappears...., wondering just how a war gets started.

-Mostly by one country badly offending another,- answers Albert with a slight air of superiority.

Then Tjaden pretends to be obtuse. -A country? I don't follow. A mountain in Germany cannot offend a mountain in France. Or a river, or a wood, or a field of wheat.-"


The above is from 'All Quite on the Western Front' (1929), by Erich Maria Remarque.


Who really starts a war, is a question that has plagued mankind ever since he began fighting with his own brother.


It is said that one man caused the two world wars in the 20th century, followed by the Cold War. His name was Gavrillo Princip, a 19 year old Serb nationalist, who assassinated Austria's Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, one hundred years ago, on June 28th, 1914. World War I, caused the death of over 13 million of the armed forces. Even when the war ended in November 1918, no one really won the war. The Peace Treaty of Versailles led to the World War II which resulted int he death of over 50 million.


The end of the World War II led to all the subsequent wars int he Middle East, the Far East and most other present day conflicts all over the world. Thus we could blame all these wars on Gavrillo Princip, but in reality even WWI was a result of all the earlier wars by greedy power hungry despots throughout the history of mankind.


If we accept Jared Diamond's argument that 'agriculture is the worst mistake made by mankind', then the first woman who planted her own tree or a few seeds of grain could be considered as responsible for all subsequent wars on earth. When man planted a tree he would have claimed it for his own. Then he has to claim the land on which the tree grows as his own land. When another man planted a tree and it bore fruit, the other man would have coveted it, and grabbed it by force. That would have been Cain and Able's story, and the beginning of all wars since then.


It has always been for land, for the wealth on the land, and for the people to be taken as salves. Man was brainwashed into continuous war by the literature and the other artistic creations which extolled war and the murder and destruction. Made heros of the murderers.


Shaykh Nizam ad-din Awliya believed that possession of private property increased his attachment to them and led to unhappiness. He said that happiness lay not in accumulating wealth but in spending it among the needy.


Many people believe that Asoka waged war against Kalinga because it was his father's dream, or that as he had captured all the sea ports he wanted the last remaining port also to be his own. In that case it was pure greed which resulted in the massacre of thousands, and today people still watch and enjoy films made about this war. But is there any archaeological evidence that Asoka had ever waged a war against the Kalinga? If not, then it was only our ancient chronicles which had created this myth and described all the violence, probably just to show a contrast of the Chandasoka and later Dharmasoka. Then unknowingly perhaps this had contributed for the continuing war-mentality of the South Asian people.


"I vote for war, men who will risk no battles will never leave to their sons a household rich in gold and home-born slaves." says Prokrustes in 'The Bull from the Sea' by Mary Renault. (p. 22). "The House of Minos stood for a thousand years, because Crete had one law'. 'Yet it had fallen'. 'For want of law enough. It stopped with the serfs and the slaves. Men are dangerous who have nothing left to lose'" (p. 38). It is the power hungry rulers who use such men to fight their battles, by inciting hatred in them against their neighbours.


Shaykh Sayf ad-din Bakharzi wrote this poem -


"He who is not my friend - may God be his friend,

And he who bears ill-will against me, may his joys (in life) increase.

He who puts thorns in my way on account of enmity,

May every flower that blooms in the garden of his life, be without thorns"


The Shaykh also had said that forgiveness rather than retribution was the real way to peace and happiness in social relations.


Murshid Inayat Khan said “The religion of the mystic is every religion and all religions, yet the mystic is above what people call their religion. In point of fact the mystic is religion, for it is not any religion, it is all religions. The moral of all religion is reciprocity: to reciprocate all the kindness we receive from others, to do an act of kindness to others without intending to have appreciation or a return for it, and to make every sacrifice, however great, for love, harmony and beauty.”


Chapter 109 of the Quran. "Say: O you that reject faith! I do not worship that which you worship, nor will you worship that which I worship. And I will not worship that which you have been wont to worship, nor will you worship that which I worship. To you be your Way (or religion) and to me mine." (Quran 109:1-6) Then why are we fighting, with people of other faiths, and even with people who are of the same faith, but interpreting their religious beliefs in slightly different ways.?


As Mossarrap H. Khan at the New York University says, War news and books would be considered as 'Pornography of violence'. He has also argued that war in modern times, like festivals in primitive societies, demands human sacrifice. When we see on all news media the tragedy of the children killed in Gaza, it just shows that children are the ones easy to sacrifice or kill. Gaza is the most recent reminder of the ghastliness of war, but it is what has been happening ever since man began to fight his own brother, they kill not only the men, but the women and children, and they rape the women and take them as slaves. The rulers offer all these benefits to their armies, as an inducement, along with whatever wealth they could plunder from the enemy.


Over exposure to news media contributes to further violence and hatred. The tragedy of the children of Gaza increases the hatred of the people, not only in Gaza but of people who feel they are a part of the same community. Such exposure makes the other people, who view these images at a distance, and have no kinship or links with these families, become benumbed, indifferent and even apathetic.


Pankisi is a village in Georgia, close to the Chechen border. Kists, who live here are ethnic Chechens and Muslims and they are Sufis, following the 19th century Sufi mystic and pacifist Kunta Hadji-Kushiev, who preached a doctrine of brotherly love and non-violent resistance. Through song and dance they call for 'Marshua kavkaz', peace in the Caucasus.


Marshua Kavkaz, “No more war! Peace to the world”, is the motto of the organisation established by the Kist women. These women sing and pray since singing, tiredness and sweat purify their sins and generate the energy necessary to confront challenges.


According to Makvala Margoshvili, leader of the female Sufi brotherhood of Kadrija, a lot of challenges are still ahead of her and the other Hadjists (the term derived from the name of Kunta Hadji Kishiev, the founder of the brotherhood). They wish to promote Kist culture, draw people’s attention to the plight of the Caucasus and to prove their people are not terrorists or savages as they are often portrayed in Russia and Europe. The key characteristics of their beliefs are condemnation of war, love of peace, respect for adat (traditional law), forgiveness, abstention from revenge, asceticism and modesty. She is not the first Sufi woman, as Rabia-al-Adawiyyah was a disciple of the 8th century sufi Hasan al-Basri. In her teaching she had emphasized the power of love.


As we found sometimes in our past, and even today, militant Buddhists, who still claim to be following the Buddha who preached loving kindness to all living things in the universe, we also find militant sufi, among the followers of the great Sufi saints who preached peace and love. Probably it had happened as Sufi teachings became trampled upon by Sufism, just as Buddha Dhamma was swallowed up by Buddhism.


When Jamal al-Din al-Afghani called for Muslim-Hindu unity in India to get rid of the British it also created a rift against the Christians, which was the religion of the oppressor and this had affected the sufi universalism generally, laying the groundwork for the sufi-fundamentalist convergence. Rafiq Zakaria said, "It is ironic that the sufis, who were originally so liberal and tolerant towards followers of other faiths, should have been in the forefront of a militant jihad against them. Yet, this was understandable because they feared that the non-Muslims were bent on destroying Islam by taking advantage of the ineptitude and weakness of corrupt Muslim rulers."


Sometimes flags start a war, and are always used in war.


We should do away with all our flags which only divide people. Buddha Dhamma survived around the world for 2400 years without the need of a flag. It is an American, who came to Sri Lanka and claimed to have converted himself to "Buddhism" who decided that the Buddhists needed a flag. Colonel Henry Olcott became a Buddhist by reciting the Five Precepts. This conversion is a part of westernization of Buddha Dhamma. I do not believe that anyone can be converted to "Buddha Dhamma". A person could be converted to "Buddhism" which is so different from Buddha Dhamma, in the same way a person could be converted to Hinduism, but not to Vedic Dhamma. These are all the influence of the western Christian mindset, who always try to convert people. It is this mindset that planted the idea of a Buddhist flag in the minds of Sri Lankans. A flag was designed and later on it was even accepted internationally as the "Buddhist Flag".


I do not understand how and why people should convert from one religion to another. We do not convert from one race to another, or one nationality to another. I admire and love India, but I cannot convert myself to be an Indian.


It is ironic that flags which would have originated in the east, in India and China, had to come back to the east, introducing a symbol of violence and aggression into a culture of peace and non-violence.


I don't know, I have not been able to find out if there is a Sufi Flag. But what I believe is that Buddha Dhamma and Sufi do not need flags. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, a flag is just a piece of cloth, "or similar material displaying the insignia of a community, an armed force, an office, or an individual".


The origin of flags would have happened along with the origin of war, or human-human armed conflicts. When men are fighting against men, it is not easy to identify a friend or foe, unlike if man is fighting another creature. And when they are fighting in hoards, identification becomes still more difficult and that is why they could have used a piece of cloth to identify themselves, specially for the leaders to get their men to follow them. Thus it became a symbol of power and pride. The rulers forced first their own subjects to respect his flag, and then the people they defeated and conquered.


The use of a flag to identify a group of people, and to follow the flag is seen today even among lsrge tourist groups, when they visit overcrowded tourist destinations. The tour leader carries a bright piece of cloth on a stick, for his group to follow him, and the people in the group follow him without asking any question, and would dare not stray and get lost.


In Europe the first “national” flags were adopted in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Many of the leaders of that time adopted the flag of their patron saint to represent their country. In England, for example, the cross of St. George was adopted in the 13th century. Toward the end of the Middle Ages, flags had become accepted symbols of nations, kings, organizations, cities, and guilds. Guild flags bore obvious devices.


Instead of bringing down barriers, wiping out borders, all over the world, we are creating more borders, splitting up the land, from Telangana to Crimea we are hearing of more new borders, while we do not hear of countries merging together.


Today there is confusion even about the number of countries in the world. The United Nations records only 193 countries, because they do not recognize Taiwan. Nor does it include The Vatican and Kosovo. There are also countries which do not have their own identity, like Puerto Rico, and Palestine. When we have so many countries, it is inevitable that there are almost identical national flags of so many different nations. Monaco and Indonesia, Romania, Chad and Andora have identical flags. The only difference between the Indian flag and the Niger flag is that one has the Asoka Chakra while the other has an orange sun.


Even though a flag originated as a symbol of war, the Indian flag is an emblem of peace. Dr. Radhakrishnan had explained the saffron colour denotes renunciation, the white in the center is light, the path of truth to guide our conduct, green shows our relation to soil, to plant life on which all other life depends, and the Asoka wheel is the wheel of the law of dharma. How many, out of the one billion Indians really respect the Indian flag for what it means? And if a people in a country or a people of a faith respect their flag, then they should also show equal respect to the flags of other people. Instead what we see is people trampling on, and even burning the flags of other people, while expecting their own flag to be respected and honoured. Governments take action and punish people who dishonour their own flag, while often they encourage people to do the same thing to the flags of their enemies.


Taking the Indian flag as just one example, there is a Flag Code and also provisions under the Emblems and Names Act and Prevention of Insults to national Honour Act. But such respect and honour cannot be enforced, it has to come voluntarily.


The flag waving only widens the gap between religions and races. A flag is a symbol of superiority, aggression, proclamation of victory over the vanquished. Such behaviour should never be part of any religious movement. Identifying oneself with one group, by flag, language, dress code or political views alienates us from the others outside the group.


When it was labeled as a religion and was named Buddhism, the 'Buddhists' needed a flag. The name Buddhism and the flag separated it from people who were identified as non-Buddhists, whereas Buddha Dhamma could be followed by any person of any faith.


A true follower of Buddha Dhamma does not need a flag, because he is never going into battle against any other human being, he is never going to trod upon the lives of other people, and Buddha would never have carried a flag with him, when he led the Sangha to show the path of Nirvana to the people. In the same manner a Sufi would not need a flag either to go into battle or conquer other people. He would need a flag for his meditation.


I do not believe a true follower of Sufi would need a flag either.


At the Sufi shrine Daftar Jailani in Kuragala in Sri Lanka, where Sheikh Muhiyadeen Abdul Qadir Jailani is believed to have meditated for 12 years in the 12th century, at the annual festival they have a flag hoisting ceremony. I believe the flag hoisting has come through the Chrisianization of our culture, because we see such flag hoisting and flag poles at Christian festivals and also at Buddhist temples in predominantly Christian areas of the country.


I mention this here just to draw to your attention, that all over the world, we adopt, imitate, copy customs, rituals and way of life from other cultures, religions and languages, yet we try to still isolate ourselves within our own man-made barriers and try to fight with those on the other side. To mention just another example, in our country we had a three decades of armed conflict, where most of the people who died and suffered did not have any interest in the conflict. It was all because of the issue of language, Sinhala and Tamil, which is the only difference between the Tamil Hindu and Sinhala Buddhist. We speak two different languages, one Indo-Aryan and the other Dravidian. Yet there are nearly 1000 words of Dravidian origin in the Sinhala language, both people use so many English words in our speech, that there is practically no language barrier between us. And yet we fought each other, or in reality politicians created a division and got the people to fight each other, under two flags.


The only flag we need today is the plain white flag as a symbol of peace, for all humanity.










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