Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Truths to Live By: Never Initiate Harm to Another Human Being

In Ifa we understand that actions cannot be judged out of context. Harming another person must also be looked at in context. This week we’ll explore the implications of this position. I will contrast it to the more absolute rules enforced by other traditions.

With a world-view that expects us to make decisions for ourselves, guidelines make a lot of sense. In Ifa we are forbidden from initiating harm to another human being. We are permitted to defend ourselves, or prevent harm from coming to another. Lethal force is, obviously, a last resort.

The concern with guidelines is that they are subject to interpretation. The biblical sixth commandment “Thou shalt not kill”, has many interpretations and translations. People who say they live by it have been responsible for unbelievable violence.

 The Buddhist prohibition against harming sentient beings has many interpretations. Heated debates rage about what sentience is. The most common definition, is that anything that can move of its own accord, is sentient. Every day we unknowingly murder countless micro-organisms.

Clearly, killing can only be justified if it is required for survival.

Let’s look at war.  Is a soldier making a conscious choice when, and why, to kill?  Trying to turn a human being into a killing machine has serious issues. Following orders does not remove the burden people face for killing. The suffering created for our armed forces personnel has been immense.

Capital punishment is among the most misguided human behaviours. Killing someone to defend yourself is one thing. Killing someone to prevent something they might do in the future, is completely different.  Much like war, killing for the common good, is not good for anyone.

These are questions much too complex to be addressed in a simple post. It is my hope that this post can start a conversation. Please join me in deepening it in the coming months. Where do you stand on this very difficult moral quandary? I’d love to hear.

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