Do not go to war

The Syrian government has, to all appearances, launched a major gas attack on its own people. It seems the death toll is around 300, with 1000 more suffering severe symptoms of poison gas. This is a monstrosity, and any government that commits such an act has no right to rule.

This act crossed the “red line” that the US has drawn in the sand about intervention in Syria. The attack is inevitable, and only days away. Australia will support the US, as always.

I’m here to say no. Someone has to.

I think it’s likely that the weapons were in fact used by the Syrian government. Maybe we’re just being lied to, like we were with Iraq. But then, the US really wanted to go to war and needed to invent an excuse. Now I don’t think anyone actually wants war. So let’s assume that we’re being told the truth (for once).

The US and allies will decide on a course of action in a few days. This will, in all probability, involve a limited strike with cruise missiles and the like. It’s unlikely that troops will be landed.

So why not go to war?

  • Killing is wrong.
  • Syria has not attacked the US or anyone else, so this action is not self-defense.
  • It will accomplish nothing except killing and destruction. The Syrian government has withstood a long, vicious civil war, and will not be seriously impacted by a few bombs. In fact, fear of an external enemy may have the effect of uniting Syrians.
  • It will breed a new generation of terrorists and haters of the west.
  • The guilty will not suffer. Anonymous workers at the sites attacked will suffer and die.
  • While chemical weapons are abhorrent, they are no more abhorrent than anything else that kills and maims. Over a million people have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. Guns and bombs are the real weapons of mass destruction.
  • There is no strategic outcome. The US is not looking effect regime change, as there is no regime candidate that is remotely acceptable.
  • No-one knows who ordered the gas attack. In the chaos of Syria, it could be a rogue officer or an official policy. The US and allies want to punish without knowing who is guilty.
  • Any attack, even a limited one, will cost billions of dollars, and will send the message, once again, that the world’s most “advanced” nations endorse violence.

So what to do? Just sit there and do nothing? Actually, in some cases that is all we can do. No-one, no country, no army, is omnipotent. A wise person chooses where their action can be used most effectively. Of course, we should condemn the use of chemical weapons. And we should see if anything can be done that is peaceful, that will not result in anyone getting killed, and that has an likelihood of accomplishing something worthwhile. If not, then we simply have to admit that there are limits to our power, and that we are not responsible for things we have no control over. Ultimately, the Syrians will be masters of their own fate.


35 thoughts on “Do not go to war

  1. Dear Ajahn Sujato,

    Being passive in an imperfect world may not bring about the most desired result.

    Hence, often diplomacy combined with force may have a chance in bringing about the lasting peace in an imperfect world.

    However, the force often followed by prolonged hatred and reciprocity.



    28 Aug 2013


  2. Beloved Bhante thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings. It has helped me understand that it is ok to have our own opinions no matter what we feel.

    As far as sitting there and not doing anything…… For some that is not an option but for others Perhaps that is the best thing that we can do. I know the power of sitting in silent meditation particularly in your presence and the presence of Guru is a great service to the world. Thank you for your service.

    Perhaps we could also setup some sort of petition? I have not ever done that. But after recently studying the work of Amnesty International and other human rights movements I feel motivated.

    Blessing upon you

    Pallas Athene

  3. Reblogged this on Many Little Drops and commented:
    It is this writer’s reasons for the U.S. not going to war in Syria are worth reading. They make much more sense than knee-jerk responses — those who automatically call for intervention, OR those which call for automatically not getting involved.

  4. Here is something that you will not see in the mainstream media… need not believe everything said here just as we should not believe what the war mongers incessantly dish out via the mainstream media.

    It is time that ordinary people stand up and say ‘NO’ this madness – it will very soon creep up on us all although we may feel safe at the moment.

    Thanks Bhante for this post.

  5. Totally agree bhante, no one wants the war but most people think it is the answer, I wonder what the question was! I find the sit and do nothing plan to be refreshing. We do more harm by making hate posts and anti whatever/ whomever we are not comfortable with. The diplomatic manoeuvring will make sure the military balance is maintained and the world will go on, suffering and more suffering!

    • Hi Deepika, when you say ‘sit back and do nothing…’ I am sure you did not mean total inaction? But this is a point where Buddhists get blamed for (quite rightly so) and I thought it is important to put across my view on this.
      When an arsonist sets fire to my house, the Buddhist approach of course is not to chase after the arsonist with a view of punishing him/her but would be to ring 000 and get the hoses going as quickly as possible to put out the fire. Not much fun or sense in taking the ‘do nothing’ attitude in a case like this. One does not have the luxury to think that fire fighters will eventually sort it out unless one has lost the plot.
      Some great Buddhists did make very strong statements about war see and irrespective of the technical correctness of that act it did have an enormous impact on bringing the awareness of the horrors of the Vietnamese war to the rest of the world. In fact, the Buddha put himself in the line of fire during the Sakya Koliya war, didn’t he?
      So, while we should not encourage violence, we should encourage Buddhists to take a firm stand against wars – there are many ways of doing such things without anger or hatred rather than simply resigning to non-action in the comfort our dwellings.
      So as Buddhists we should take action but I fully agree, without generating any anger or hatred towards the perpetrators of this war.

    • No Guptika I did not mean total inaction and not even complacency. Just accepting that some things, may be most important things are beyond our control, but our egos make us think otherwise. Under the circumstances it is better to get blamed for not doing things than doing the wrong things. Putting one self in the line of fire is differnt to sitting on the sidelines making comments, if I cant put my words to action one on I’d rather not speak them, I’d rather do metta. Your point is taken and thanks for commenting! xo

  6. I fully agree with you Bhante! After all, what is happening out there is only the reflection of what is happening within us. It is not important the “what to do”, but always is the “how to” that brings real transformation, and in this case, no action is action born from “right view”. This is not a stand of indiference to other’s suffering, or a lack of concern for their wellbeing, on the contrary, it is a stand rooted in the realization of the Four Noble Truths and as such we can see that all the external appearances are nothing else that the play of the conditioned past repeating again and again because of wrong view. It is time to awaken and stop being taken from the nose by other’s hidden intentions. Thank you Bhante for this post.

  7. Strange how there is always a few trillion dollars laying around, waiting to fund the next war (and profits going to military/weapons corporations), however, in regards to hospitals, medical research, education and helping the impoverished, there’s no money. Likewise there’s a nuclear meltdown happening now in Japan, however all attention is focused on where to start the next war.

  8. Dear Bhante Sujato
    with due respect and agreed…… no war is worth fighting … mayb one of the reason why the Buddha never agrees to a replacement…

    … ‘do nothing’ starts with the word ‘do’ …

    Thus have i heard and understand that there are five trades that will bring no benefits to oneself nor ours. they are ……..

    ‘masters of their own fate’ … m curious to know what is the effects on those who processes gives authority consent to chemicals toxins weapons of mass destruction …

    ‘Chemical export licences for Syria – just another UK deal with a dictator
    Britain is in no position to lecture on human rights when Vince Cable’s authorisation follows a long history of arms sales’

    and something closer to some people’s home…

    its interesting how ‘rare earth’ is constantly sold to other countries for energy when Australia puts up solar panel for own energy needs …

    … ‘Lynas Corporation, Ltd. is an Australian rare earths mining company, listed on the Australian Securities Exchange as a S&P/ASX 200 company. It has two major operations: a mining and concentration plant at Mount Weld, Western Australia, and a refining facility now under construction at Kuantan, Malaysia.’…

    and the ‘do something’ by the people of the land …
    …’Since March 2011, the residents of Kuantan have been protesting against LYNAS setting up the world’s biggest rare earths refinery plant in Kuantan’…

    whilst ‘do nothing’ by the owners of the causes…
    … ‘An Australian Greens MP, Robin Chapple, has shot down Lynas Corp’s attempt to ship radioactive waste from Malaysia back to Western Australia state saying that the Western Australia Nuclear Waste Storage (Prohibition) Act 1999 forbids the import of radioactive waste.’ …
    “Lynas Corporation’s Rare Earth Extraction Plant in Gebeng, Malaysia: A Case Report on the Ongoing Saga of People Power versus State-Backed Corporate Power”

    NOTE: m not denying the fact that the current party in government of Malaysia is a rotting corrupted corpse of a party …

    on another note… i learnt something good when i was in Australia…
    “clean up the place and leave it better before we leave…”

    what is metta what is compassion…
    when doing nothing is deemed as compassion whilst others suffer in agony due to causes closer to home…???

    yours in dhamma
    … ???

    summer is coming again…_/\_

  9. Thank you bhante, for making this platform available. I am stunned by the number of times a global debate of this kind has place in my adult life. This is how I see it : The pendulum will rock back and forth between the dynamics and the political actors with many faces, either way bloodshed is inevitable and many will continue to suffer. In the absence of governance and democracy this is considered the norm. The mob rules and the street politicians will dance with the balance of power. At this point should the Western powers intervene to bring those unruly countries to conform to the international norms accepted in the civilised society? This is the award winning question now! If I remember correctly this is the sixth time we are asking this question in the last ten or twelve years. I think the real question should be “Is it time for another psychological massage to feel good as the superior powers of our time?” Regardless of the answer and the series of events after that all parties will fall to their knees eventually. In the end it will be impossible find a distinction between the winners and the losers. Having said all that I still find it encouraging to witness the best aspects of the western politics in action, British rejection and US seeking the approval of the congress are heartening outcomes. Reassuring the legitimacy and the efficacy of the system we have become a part of. One thing is certain. If the mob is ruling suffering will be greater!

    • ….OR we might upset those who are running the Great Democratic Empire..after all the poor sods who get killed and maimed are paying for their previous kamma and these are just illusions to trick us into doing things anyway.


    A roadmap has already been put in motion for a Syrian peace process in Geneva, but this is the first time there could be the political will to overlook all the differences and sit down. Iran is the only country in the world with sufficient influence in Syria to push the regime to the table. And the US, with its Middle East allies, can push the opposition to sit down.

    It took the horror of the Second World War to get the United Nations and the Declaration of Human Rights. Maybe the horror of Syria might finally push the US and Iran, and their moderate presidents, to address longstanding differences and build the basis for a more lasting peace for Syria and the region, with consequences for a host of global issues from nuclear proliferation to peace in Israel and Palestine. Our community has stood by the Syrian people from the very beginning. Now they need us more than ever. Let’s give it our best shot.

    With hope,

    Alice, Luis, Ian, Emily, Bissan, Antonia, Ricken, Lisa, Mais and the whole Avaaz team

    PS – Many Avaaz campaigns are started by members of our community! Start yours now and win on any issue – local, national or global:

    More information:

    Syria Offers Opportunity For US-Iran Talks (Al Monitor)

    Drawing a Line on Syria, U.S. Keeps Eye on Iran Policy (New York Times)

    No, Iran Doesn’t Need Assad (The Atlantic)

    For Syria’s sake, end Iran’s isolation (Guardian)

    Iran ex-president says Syria government launched gas attacks: news agency (Reuters)

    Over 130 Reps. Sign Bipartisan Dent-Price Letter to President Urging Diplomacy on Iran

    Iran’s Rouhani acknowledges chemical weapons killed people in Syria (Reuters)

    Can Syrian Chemical Weapons Issue Lead to US-Iran Opening? (Al Monitor)

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    • Yes, simple things like signing these petitions count – the promoters of wars need to know that the vast majority of people are against wars otherwise the silence of the majority is taken as an endorsement of these brutal wars.

      Another option is to write to the Nobel Peace Prize winning President Obama (the first President to do so, I think) and remind him that there are alternatives to creating peace other than going to war.

      Here is the link

  11. Just received this great link from Ayya Tathaaloka in a peace and 9/11 reflection:

    Unlike the more angry-odd films like Zeitgeist, this one systematically goes through scientific evidence explained (in term understandable to laymen) by experts in architecture and chemical/ civil engineering for explosives used in 9/11. It’s really undeniable if one is willing to evaluate the facts from a scientific viewpoint. So I really hope people take the time to consider that the U.S. gov, and perhaps other governments, may be a bit more greedier than we like to fathom~ thus yet another reason why we should be skeptical about going to war.

    My dad is a retired colonel in the U.S. army was in command of the all the U.S. medical units while deployed in Afghanistan in ’06-07. My brother is a lieutenant and just returned from his second overseas tour, first serving in Iraq, then Afghanistan. So I’m speaking with love and respect for veterans and those involved in 9/11, but we need to bring this issue to the table to help avoid more unnecessary violence. Plus, on a more selfish level, I really don’t want my brother to keep getting deployed!

  12. There is a certain expectation upon the US that they must act as the police of the world; to stand up for injustice, protect the weak and intervene when others are oppressed. The aim of this discussion is not to condone all the various types of military intervention undertaken by the US (and its allies), but to present a balanced view in terms of the pressures faced by the US.

    The US constantly comes under criticism for military action within sovereign states or against foreign governments where it has no business in doing so, or, inaction for not intervening in situations that have lead to conflict, war or other atrocities.

    There are numerous times when the US has come to the aid of foreign citizens. The number of international military operations undertaken by the US is too great to list here, however, Wikipedia has a timeline of such operations at:

    Not every one of these operations may have been acts of pure altruism; however, contrary to what some may say or believe, not all of these acts would have been born from pure self-interest either. I believe the US is capable of acting with at least some wisdom and compassion, if not every time, at least sometimes. There have been occasions when the US military has intervened and saved lives. As distasteful as military operations are, there have been operations carried out by the US that have prevented aggression, invasion and the loss of life.

    Some of the most costly military interventions by the US and allied nations in recent history have been the involvements in the Korean War, Vietnam War and Gulf War. When we look at the threats and consequences of these conflicts, it is difficult to argue whether it would have been better for the US and its allies to stay out of these conflicts or involve themselves and potentially make the situations worse. Had the US and the allies held back, they could have been criticised for not acting when they should have. Similarly, having taken action, they were criticised for escalating aggression and increasing the unnecessary loss of life.

    1. Korean War: 1950 – 1953

    South Korea, supported by the US and 20 other countries of the United Nations, went to war with a communist North Korea, supported by China and Russia. An armistice agreement was signed in 1953 restoring the current border between the Koreas. Currently, North Korea has one of the worst human rights records in the world with reported arbitrary detention, torture and execution. It is believed prison camps exist containing 200,000 political prisoners; however this number could be much higher while the conditions are said to be the ‘worst imaginable’.

    2. Vietnam War: 1954 – 1975

    South Vietnam, supported by the US and other anti-communist countries, went to war with North Vietnam, supported by China other communist allies of the Viet Cong, including the Khmer Rouge and Pathet Lao. The war ended in 1975 with the capture of Saigon, now Ho Chi Minh City, by the North Vietnamese army. Vietnam was ‘reunified’ a year later. Over 1,000,000 South Vietnamese were sent to ‘re-education camps’ where over 150,000 died and approximately the same number were executed.

    The Khmer Rouge, a wing of the Vietnam People’s Army of North Vietnam, came to power in Cambodia in 1975 and ruled for 4 years, during which time up to 3,000,000 Cambodians died or were tortured and executed. The crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge against their fellow country men, women and children were absolutely unspeakable.

    Also in 1975, the Pathet Lao, another wing of Vietnam People’s Army of North Vietnam, took control of Laos after which time an estimated 100,000 Hmong Loa people were wiped out in an attempted genocide by the ruling communist Lao government.

    3. The Gulf War: 1990-1991

    Iraq invaded Kuwait. The UN condemned the invasion and a coalition force, led by the US, set about to remove Iraqi troops from Kuwait. Twelve years later, the US invaded Iraq, with no real, lasting conclusion to the instability and conflict in sight.

    Does a US President come into power so that they may involve their country in conflict? Abraham Lincoln was one of the greatest and most celebrated US Presidents in history, but during the time of his presidency he was dealing with a war that cost more American lives than any other conflict in US history: the American Civil War. He was heavily criticised by many of his contemporaries for his handling of the war, and some argue he had blood on his hands because his anti-slavery policies served to escalate and extend the war unnecessarily, however, history also tells us that he was a man of vision who carefully succeeded in abolishing slavery and re-unifying the nation.

    I wonder how many modern US Presidents have thought about Abe Lincoln when they were faced with the problems and uncertainties that only current-day US Presidents face. Problems that are far greater than most people will ever have to contemplate, let alone be asked to take action upon.

    What would you do, if you were an American President and you had just been advised that Taiwan had been invaded by the Chinese? Current US foreign policy is that US will come to Taiwan’s aid in such an event. But what if it happened on your watch? How would you react As Commander-in-Chief of the largest and most powerful military in the world and with 23 million Taiwanese pleading for you to intercede? What would you do? Would it be responsible to take military intervention and risk war with the Chinese? Would it be responsible to let millions of Taiwanese suffer, even though your policy states that in their hour of need, you will be there to help? These are the types of problems many US Presidents have had to face.

    ‘With power comes great responsibility’. So the saying goes, but the US has not always used its power in the most responsible way, nor in the most effective way either.

    The US’ invasion of Afghanistan was as much a knee jerk reaction to the 9/11 attacks, which lead to almost 3,000 deaths and thousands of more casualties, as what it was a calculated attempt to dismantle al-Qaeda. The poor planning and inability of the US to ‘appreciate’ the difficulty of invading a country like Afghanistan was not fully comprehended and this war continues, to this present day, 12 years after the invasion. The cost to the US and its allies has been high, as have been the costs to the Afghans. The net effect of this invasion with the removal of the Taliban, who was believed to be supporting al-Qaeda, will never be measurable. There have been stories of both hope and hopelessness. I do not believe the question of whether this invasion was justified will never be properly resolved, for as much as I am opposed to war, also, I am loath to condemn those who took what they thought was the right course of action, to make the world a better and more safer place to live.

    But if the invasion of Afghanistan was indeed a mistake, then the US’ invasion of Iraq in 2003 was a monumental disaster. The premise for the invasion was that the Iraqi government had massive stockpiles of WMDs (Weapons of Mass Destruction). A loose connection was formed by the US, and its allies, that these supposed stockpiles could fall into the hands of terrorists like al-Qaeda, even though the ideologies of the Iraqi government and al-Qaeda were opposed. No convincing argument as to how these WMDs might end up in the hands of organisations or states wishing harm upon the US and other western countries were ever properly formulated. But the US was still angry about 9/11 and it used this anger as a basis for justification of its war on Iraq. In an address to the nation (and the world), following the 9/11 attacks, US President George W. Bush made the statement about his self-declared ‘War on Terrorism’: “Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists”.

    Following the invasion of Iraq, however, WMDs were never found. The US and other countries have justified the invasion by other measures such as the removal of the late and cruel leader, Suddham Hussein and the bringing democracy to a country that previously was ruled by a dictator, himself responsible for many human rights abuses. Whilst there are some who were happy to see the end of Suddham Hussein’s rule, many have also suffered greatly as a consequence of this war, whose real purpose appeared to be for the US to sure up of oil supplies out of the middle east and exercise control of Middle-Eastern powers.

    However, before we condemn the US, let us consider the balance of world power, and the US, who, whether for better or worse, holds much of that power in it’s own hands.

    It is not the first time in history that a nation like the US has had such power. The British Empire, 16th-18th century, was the most powerful in the world. England was an influential player in the modernisation and industrialisation of world but also responsible for much suffering. How modernisation and industrialisation occurred is now a matter for the history books, and whilst the England’s means may not have justified the ends, had these powers been exercised by other nation(s), far worse consequences may have prevailed, especially for those countries that it colonised and controlled. Similar things may be said for other empires such as the Ottoman Empire of the 15th-17th century or the Roman Empire of the 1st-2nd century.

    Whilst the US may not control an empire in the traditional sense of the word, it’s power and influence, by military and economic standards, are similar to empires of the past. As such, the US sometimes takes on the responsibility of being the ‘police of the world’ and other times has this responsibility almost forced upon them.

    The US’s latest stance on Syria has been a cause for much concern. Whilst it looks like a US military strike against Syria has been averted, there is still no guarantee that the US will not take action.

    The conflict in Syria has been going on for over two years. There have been over 80,000 deaths, mostly civilian and more that 1,000,000 people displaced, many seeking refuge in neighbouring countries. There have been numerous calls for the UN to take action, but without US support for military intervention, any action seemed remote. When people say, the UN should do something about it, really this means, the US should do something about it, but until now, the US had refused to be drawn into the conflict.

    However, earlier this year the US did say that if the Syrian government was found to be using chemical weapons, then it has crossed a line and the US would consider action. When it emerged that the Syrian government probably did use chemical weapons, killing hundreds of civilians, the US found itself in a position where it was forced to either act upon its words or risk being called hypocritical.

    So what should the US do? This is the questions so difficult to answer.

    What if the Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad is right: that a US strike will contribute to a destabilisation of the whole region, and that counter attacks will be eminent? Is this just propaganda or does al-Assad actually have the resources to launch strikes against US interests?

    What about the millions of Syrians who have been forced from their homes? What types of physical and mental torment are they now facing? Do they have a future? Will they ever be able to return home (without persecution)?

    What about the millions of Syrians still being subjected to the horrors of this war? Who will help them?

    What about the millions of children that are growing up without proper food, shelter or education? What about their future? Is the hurt of this war now so great that, this generation is ‘lost’?

    Can US military intervention achieve anything? Will it makes things worse or give hope to millions who are suffering?

    Might is NOT always right, but inaction may not be the answer either. Is it morally wrong for a person, who has the capacity to act, to stand by and watch someone be abused, but by doing so, risks making the situation worse? This is a question the US must grapple with, and I am not sure if there is a right or wrong answer on this issue.

    When action and inaction both seem morally apprehensible, how do we decide what is the best course of action? It is fortunate I suppose, that most of us do not need to make such weighty decisions, but I feel for those, like President Barack Obama who do. I believe President Obama is a good person and therefore, even though I may not agree with him, whatever decision he makes, I will try to understand.

  13. Stuinthedhamma,

    I found your article very interesting, thanks for that and pointing out both sides. I often feel sad for the men who have earnestly gone to war, to help support their country, women and children etc, for the right reasons, risking their lives etc and because they had to I would assume, but then to be maligned for doing so. as much as I don’t like war sometimes that inaction seems almost as bad – maybe the dhamma will come up with the middle way.

    This is a superficial statement and I might be wrong and I support women in politics but that Julie Bishop here in Australia seems like a women who uses powerful men to get power and a “sexist women” very dictatorial and aggresive, not honest, not a woman’s women at all or supportive of women- and they have made her Minister for Foriegn Affairs – (at least though not Deputy PM) – scarey!

    • Hi Raver. Thanks for your comments. I know what you mean about Julie Bishop. She does give off that sort if vibe doesn’t she? She reminds me a lot of Margaret Thatcher. Now there’s a name you can attach to questionable motives for using excessive violence – ie, Faulklands War!

  14. Hi StuinDhamma,

    I don’t know much about Margaret Thatcher and I am sure like Julie Bishop they do some good things to, but I hope in the future men support women and give leway to women when the world is ready for women leaders, that either aren’t just go-getters or that if it is the case they have to be or feel they have to be to get jobs like that they aren’t blindly supported.

    Who would want to be Prime Minister anyway liek you say in your article – what a job – stresses me out just thinking about it; should we invade such and such today and kill millions or risk not an risk the opposite, should we give billions to this or that or ….. oh headache material!



  15. “Dhanañjani the brahman is also strong & free from illness.”

    “And I trust that Dhanañjani the brahman is heedful?”

    “From where would our Dhanañjani the brahman get any heedfulness, friend? Relying on the king, he plunders brahmans & householders. Relying on the brahmans & householders, he plunders the king. His wife — a woman of faith, fetched from a family with faith — has died. He has fetched another wife — a woman of no faith — from a family with no faith.”

    “What a bad thing to hear, my friend — when we hear that Dhanañjani the brahman is heedless. Perhaps sooner or later we might meet with Dhanañjani the brahman. Perhaps there might be some conversation.”

    Then Ven. Sariputta, having stayed in the Southern Mountains as long as he liked, wandered in the direction of Rajagaha. After wandering by stages, he arrived at Rajagaha. There he stayed near Rajagaha in the Squirrels’ Sanctuary.

    Then early in the morning, Ven. Sariputta put on his robes and, carrying his bowl & outer robe, went into Rajagaha for alms. And on that occasion Dhanañjani the brahman was milking cows in a cow pen outside the city. Then Ven. Sariputta, having gone for alms in Rajagaha, after his meal, on his way back from his almsround, went to Dhanañjani the brahman. Dhanañjani the brahman saw Ven. Sariputta coming from afar. On seeing him, he went to him and said, “Drink some of this fresh milk, master Sariputta. It must be time for your meal.”

    “That’s all right, brahman. I have finished my meal for today. My day’s abiding will be under that tree over there. You may come there.”

    “As you say, master,” Dhanañjani responded to Ven. Sariputta. Then after he had finished his morning meal, he went to Ven. Sariputta. On arrival, he exchanged courteous greetings with Ven. Sariputta and — after an exchange of friendly greetings & courtesies — sat to one side. As he was sitting there, Ven. Sariputta said to him, “I trust, Dhanañjani, that you are heedful?”

    “From where would we get any heedfulness, master? — when parents are to be supported, wife & children are to be supported, slaves & workers are to be supported, friend-&-companion duties are to be done for friends & companions, kinsmen-&-relative duties for kinsmen & relatives, guest duties for guests, departed-ancestor duties for departed ancestors, devata duties for devatas, king duties for the king, and this body also has to be refreshed & nourished.”

    “What do you think Dhanañjani? There is the case where a certain person, for the sake of his mother & father, does what is unrighteous, does what is discordant. Then, because of his unrighteous, discordant behavior, hell-wardens drag him off to hell. Would he gain anything by saying, ‘I did what is unrighteous, what is discordant, for the sake of my mother & father. Don’t [throw] me into hell, hell-wardens!’ Or would his mother & father gain anything for him by saying, ‘He did what is unrighteous, what is discordant, for our sake. Don’t [throw] him into hell, hell-wardens!’?”

    “No, master Sariputta. Even right while he was wailing, they’d cast him into hell.”

    “What do you think Dhanañjani? There is the case where a certain person, for the sake of his wife & children … his slaves & workers … his friends & companions … his kinsmen & relatives … his guests … his departed ancestors … the devatas … the king, does what is unrighteous, does what is discordant. Then, because of his unrighteous, discordant behavior, hell-wardens drag him off to hell. Would he gain anything by saying, ‘I did what is unrighteous, what is discordant, for the sake of the king. Don’t [throw] me into hell, hell-wardens!’ Or would the king gain anything for him by saying, ‘He did what is unrighteous, what is discordant, for our sake. Don’t [throw] him into hell, hell-wardens!’?”

    “No, master Sariputta. Even right while he was wailing, they’d cast him into hell.”

    “What do you think Dhanañjani? There is the case where a certain person, for the sake of refreshing & nourishing his body, does what is unrighteous, does what is discordant. Then, because of his unrighteous, discordant behavior, hell-wardens drag him off to hell. Would he gain anything by saying, ‘I did what is unrighteous, what is discordant, for the sake of refreshing & nourishing my body. Don’t [throw] me into hell, hell-wardens!’ Or would others gain anything for him by saying, ‘He did what is unrighteous, what is discordant, for the sake of refreshing & nourishing his body. Don’t [throw] him into hell, hell-wardens!’?”

    “No, master Sariputta. Even right while he was wailing, they’d cast him into hell.”

    “Now, what do you think, Dhanañjani? Which is the better: one who, for the sake of his mother & father, would do what is unrighteous, what is discordant; or one who, for the sake of his mother & father, would do what is righteous, what is concordant?

    “Master Sariputta, the one who, for the sake of his mother & father, would do what is unrighteous, what is discordant, is not the better one. The one who, for the sake of his mother & father, would do what is righteous, what is concordant would be the better one there. Righteous behavior, concordant behavior, is better than unrighteous behavior, discordant behavior.[2]

    “Dhanañjani, there are other activities — reasonable, righteous — by which one can support one’s mother & father, and at the same time both not do evil and practice the practice of merit.

    “What do you think, Dhanañjani: Which is the better: one who, for the sake of his wife & children … his slaves & workers … his friends & companions … his kinsmen & relatives … his guests … his departed ancestors … the devatas … the king … refreshing & nourishing his body, would do what is unrighteous, what is discordant; or one who, for the sake of refreshing & nourishing his body, would do what is righteous, what is concordant?

    “Master Sariputta, the one who, for the sake of refreshing & nourishing his body, would do what is unrighteous, what is discordant, is not the better one. The one who, for the sake of refreshing & nourishing his body, would do what is righteous, what is concordant would be the better one there. Righteous behavior, concordant behavior, is better than unrighteous behavior, discordant behavior.[3]

    “Dhanañjani, there are other activities — reasonable, righteous — by which one can refresh & nourish one’s body, and at the same time both not do evil and practice the practice of merit.”

    Then Dhanañjani the brahman, delighting & rejoicing in Ven. Sariputta’s words, got up from his seat and left.

    Dhanañjani Sutta: To Dhanañjani

    Heedful …appamada!

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