Earlier this year, William Dalrymple of the The Paris Review interviewed Tibetan monk Tashi Passang:
INTERVIEWER Can one be both a monk and a resistance fighter? TASHI PASSANG Once you have been a monk, it is very difficult to kill a man. But sometimes it can be your duty to do so. I knew that if I stayed in a monastery under the Chinese there was no point in being a monk. They wouldn’t let me practice my religion. So, to protect the ways of the Lord Buddha, the Buddhist dharma, I decided to fight. INTERVIEWER Isn’t nonviolence an essential aspect of being a monk? PASSANG Yes, nonviolence is the essence of the dharma. This is especially true for a monk. The most important thing is to love each and every sentient being. But when it comes to a greater cause, sometimes it can be your duty to give back your vows and to fight in order to protect the dharma. INTERVIEWER So your desire to protect the dharma ultimately led you to kill? PASSANG It was not that I wanted to murder individual Chinese soldiers. I certainly did not have bloodlust—I took no pleasure in killing. But I knew that the Chinese soldiers were committing the most sinful of all crimes—trying to destroy Buddhism. And I knew that in our scriptures it is written that it can be right to kill a person, as long as your intention is to stop that person from committing a serious sin. You can choose to take upon yourself the bad karma of a violent act in order to save that person from a much worse sin. In our scriptures there is a story about a man called Angulimala who had killed nine-hundred-and-ninety-nine people. He hung a finger from each corpse on a garland around his neck. He hoped the Buddha would be his thousandth victim. But on meeting the Lord he converted and became a monk. Many people opposed this, but the Lord Buddha insisted his repentance was genuine, and that he should be allowed to atone for his misdeeds. I think that if Angulimala could be forgiven, then maybe so could I.
Read the interview at The Paris Review.
Sign up for Tricycle’s newsletters
Thank you for subscribing to Tricycle! As a nonprofit, we depend on readers like you to keep Buddhist teachings and practices widely available.