Buddhism and the War on Terror

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 10 2003

From Vulnerability to Virtuosity: Buddhist Reflections on Responding to Terrorism and Tragedy

Peter D. Hershock
East-West Center

Here, I want to reflect on how we—both privately and publicly—have been responding to the horrific events of September 11. The declared war on terrorism—a central part of our public response—has not ended, but has instead spread and intensified. Along with this, our “enemies” have multiplied. Parents, sons, and daughters continue to be killed, sacrificed singly or in small groups, by the dozens, or—as in Bali on October 12, 2002—by the hundreds. My intention is not to analyze the complex geopolitics of the “war on terror.” Neither is it to critically assess either specific policy decisions or their effects on the quality of daily life and civil liberties. Instead, I want to offer some general observations about terrorism and tragedy and then, from a Buddhist perspective, to begin reflecting on our broad strategies for responding to them and to the realization of our individual and collective vulnerability.

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